As you know, Apple has scheduled a media event on its Cupertino campus on this coming Monday, March 21. Earlier this month, the company sent out its predictably cryptic invites with the “Let us loop you in” tagline to select members of the press.
It looks to be a pretty significant event.
On top of an all-new four-inch iPhone model, we’re expecting other announcements like a smaller 9.7-inch iPad Pro, new Apple Watch bands—including a black edition of the Milanese Loop—and a bunch of enhancements for Apple’s operating systems.
iPhone SE steals the show
Arguably the biggest star of the show, the iPhone SE shall represent Apple’s first major revision to the four-inch iPhone lineup since the iPhone 5s introduction two and a half years ago. The new phone, internally code-named “N69,” is expected to be marketed under ‘iPhone SE’ branding.
Conflicting reports have suggested that, as far as the exterior goes, the iPhone SE might look like a refined iPhone 5s with a 2.5D cover glass curved at the edges like the iPhone 6, or it will adopt Apple’s design language for the iPhone 6/6s series.
While the screen size will stay at four-inches and resolution should be intact versus the iPhone 5s, the rumor-mill and analysts agree on one thing: on the inside, the new phone will use Apple’s latest technologies as the iPhone SE is said to be powered by the A9 processor, Apple’s third-generation 64-bit mobile chip which debuted in the iPhone 6s.
It will also pack in Apple’s M9 motion coprocessor, embedded into the A9 application processor for even lower power consumption than before. The addition of that particular chip likely indicates the phone supports a tetherless ‘Hey Siri’ function.
Moreover, the iPhone SE should have a twelve-megapixel, slightly protruding camera on the back with support 4K video capture and Live Photos. Here’s a fun video of a surprisingly believable iPhone-like device.
The iPhone SE includes NFC for Apple Pay and supports LTE on both GSM and CDMA networks around the world. It’s expected to come in 16 and 64GB variations, each provided in the same Space Gray, Silver and Gold colorways like the current-generation iPhones —with the possibility of a brand new Pink/Rose Gold version.
The only thing missing from the iPhone SE in terms of recent technology is 3D Touch, which will remain an iPhone 6s-exclusive, at least until the iPhone 7 hits.
- Leaked ‘iPhone SE’ packaging confirms 16GB baseline model
- March 21 event wallpapers
- Case renderings suggest iPhone SE indistinguishable from iPhone 5s
- KGI: iPhone 5s to go half price after iPhone SE arrives
- iPhone SE to run A9 chip
Smaller iPad Pro: just don’t call it iPad Air 3
First rumors pertaining to Apple’s iPad refresh pointed to a third-generation iPad Air with support for the Apple Pencil. Later on, various credible sources started calling the device basically a smaller 9.7-inch iPad Pro with the same powerful A9X processor, Smart Connector and ultra high-resolution screen.
Leaked designs schematics have suggested a slightly-thicker-than-iPad-Air-2 type of device with quad speakers arounds its sides, like the iPad Pro.
The new tablet should come outfitted with Apple’s most powerful A9X mobile chip with four gigabytes of RAM to drive its sharp screen and enable smooth multitasking in Split View and Slide Over modes—again, just like the iPad Pro.
The gizmo is said to sport a noticeably brighter screen than that of the iPad Air 2, and without 3D Touch. Other rumored internals of the smaller iPad Pro: a twelve-megapixel rear camera with LED flash, 4K video capture and Live Photos support.
By comparison, the iPad Pro has a previous-generation eight-megapixel sensor.
The last unanswered question pertains to the look and feel of the device, with many sources adamant that the device looks just like an iPad Air. According to some people, Apple is preparing to remove the ‘Air’ suffix from iPad branding.
In terms of accessories, there should be a smaller version of the iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard and possibly other Smart Connector-enabled accessories for the tablet.
The smaller iPad Pro is said to start at $599 for the 32GB Wi-Fi-only version. It’s reportedly going to be offered in the same 32/128GB tiers as the iPad Pro and come in the same Space Gray, Silver and Gold colorways.
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro and iPad mini 4 won’t be updated at the event.
- 7.9-inch iPad Pro to start at $599
- Design schematics suggest Smart Connector for smaller iPad Pro
- New 7.9-inch iPad to have 4K screen, 4GB of RAM and stronger battery
- Leaked iPad case has cutouts for quad speakers and Smart Connector
- Upcoming iPad refresh to include 12MP camera
- Smaller iPad Pro to run A9X chip
- New iPad won’t have 3D Touch
Apple Watch: strap on that black Milanese Loop
Apple’s wrist-worn device will not be refreshed before fall, but Monday should see some new Apple-designed accessories, band styles and colors for the spring. For starters, watch buyers will soon be able to purchase a black-clad version of the Milanese Loop, which may wind up costing a tad more than its silver counterpart.
Apple is also expected to expand its portfolio with additional branded straps, such as a new set of NATO-style Nylon bands (as seen in James Bond movies), fresh new strap colors from Hermès and possibly additional band design partnerships, including one with a well-known case maker—Incase.
- Apple.com leaks unreleased Black Milanese Loop
- New Apple Watch bands expected in March
- Exclusive Apple Watch bands released for Chinese New Year
iOS 9.3: your sleep, improved
A third major revision to Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 9.3 brings an all-new Night Shift Mode that reduces blue light during night to help you fall asleep faster. The companion Watch app in iOS 9.3 supports pairing of multiple Apple Watch devices, and automatically toggles between them as soon as you put one on your wrist.
Furthermore, your notes can now be protected with a passcode or Touch ID.
The Health app now integrates move, exercise and stand data from your Apple Watch along with your goals. The News app gets more personalized and Maps for CarPlay now supports Nearby places. Your data usage numbers are available for the Wi-Fi Assist feature on iOS 9.3 while accessory firmware updates can now be deployed via the iPad Pro’s Smart Connector.
iOS 9.3 also unbricks devices affected by the January 1, 1970 bug and prevents users from moving the time on December 31, 2000 past 7pm to prevent the bug entirely.
Lastly, new 3D Touch shortcuts are available in Settings, App Store, iTunes, Stocks, Weather and Compass. For instance, Settings now provides access to popular toggles like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Battery right in the 3D Touch shortcuts menu.
iOS 9.3 should release for public consumption after Monday’s event has wrapped up.
tvOS 9.2: your Apple TV exits beta
In my personal opinion, this is the software update I’m most excited about.
With tvOS 9.2, Apple has addressed a bunch of pain points that have been plaguing customers since the new Apple TV released in October 2015. You can now organize Home screen apps in folders just like you would on your iPhone and iPad.
tvOS 9.2 improves navigation throughout the user interface because wireless Bluetooth keyboards can now be paired with your fourth-generation Apple TV.
Moreover, user names, passwords and more can be dictated into fields via Siri. There’s even a brand new Remote app in the works, described as a full-on replacement for the Siri Remote with support for tilt-based gaming, microphone input and more.
Next, tvOS 9.2 introduces a revamped app switcher, resembling that on iOS 9.0, and brings out support for Live Photos and iCloud Photo Library in the Photos app, smoother Siri Remote performance, maps in third-party apps and other tidbits.
OS X El Capitan: share Live Photos like a pro
A fourth major revision to OS X El Capitan sports various improvements for Messages, Notes, Photos and other stock apps. The most important headlining new features include sharing of Live Photos via the iMessage platform, full support for Live Photos in Messages, the ability to protect notes in the Notes app with a password and more.
In terms of under-the-hood tweaks, the software update implements support for Verizon Wi-Fi Calling, fixes secure https “t.co” short links not resolving properly in Safari and improves the stability, compatibility and security of your Mac.
As OS X El Capitan 10.11.4 is needed to allow Mac owners to send and receive Live Photos via iMessage and share them in Photos, we are fully expecting the software update to hit Apple’s update servers soon after the event.
watchOS 2.2: browse Nearby places on your wrist
A minor release, watchOS 2.2for the Apple Watch brings a much-improved Maps application with the Nearby feature to your wrist along with the ability to pair multiple device to a single iPhone. Nearby in Maps lets you browse points of interest in your vicinity and find local business organized by type, powered by Yelp’s database.
The Maps glance is also improved on watchOS 2.2 and the Maps app now has buttons for travel directions from your current location to home/work addresses.
We’re also expecting watchOS 2.2 to release on Monday.
And it’s a wrap-up, boys and girls!
Apple’s event will be held on Monday, March 21, 2016, at 10:00am PT.
The company will live-stream the presser on the web, using HTTP Live Streaming technology, and iDownloadBlog will be covering everything there’s to know about about new products in the hours, days and weeks following the event.
So, which product announcements are you most looking forward to, and why?
Is it the iPhone SE, the iPad Pro in a smaller package, new Apple Watch bands or something entirely different that we haven’t even mentioned?