The Latest on Apple: New iPhone, iPad highlight event

AP News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2016 2:45 PM
The Latest on Apple: New iPhone, iPad highlight event

The Latest from Apple's product announcement in California (all times local):

11:45 a.m.

The main takeaway from Apple's product event Monday: Apple is retooling its iPhones and iPads in an effort to generate more excitement about a product lineup that has been losing some of its pizazz.

The hour-long event in Cupertino, California, had few surprises, given media leaks in recent weeks.

Apple introduced a fancier replacement to a 4-inch iPhone that has been on the market since 2013. It also unveiled a slimmed-down version of the 12.7-inch iPad Pro tablet that it began selling last year.

The iPhone SE is equipped with the same processor and camera built into the iPhone 6S that came out six months ago. The iPhone 6S's 4.7-inch screen, though, didn't appeal to many consumers who prefer a device that's easier to put in their pockets.

Prices for the iPhone SE will start at $399 for a model with 16 gigabytes of storage.

The smaller iPad Pro boasts most of the same features as the largest model except its screen is 9.7 inches, the same as the iPad Air 2. Apple is trying to broaden the iPad's appeal at a time its tablet sales have been mired in a prolonged slump.

Prices for the smaller Pro begin at $599, a $200 markdown from the cheapest version of the larger Pro. The iPad Air will now sell for $399, a $100 price cut.

Apple also announced a price cut and new bands for its Apple Watch, along with various software updates.

— Michael Liedtke, AP Technology Writer, San Francisco.

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11:15 a.m.

Apple is refreshing its slumping line of iPad products by slimming down its larger "Pro" model.

The new 9.7-inch iPad Pro announced Monday is a successor to the iPad Air 2 from 2014. It's also alternative to the 12.7-inch iPad Pro that Apple introduced last year as part of its attempt to gain more corporate customers.

Apple is hoping the iPad Pro — with a more powerful processor and camera — will give more consumers an incentive to buy a new tablet. It is hitting the market as Apple's iPad sales have been falling for several years.

The new, smaller Pro tablet starts at $599 with 32 gigabytes of storage, a $200 savings from the larger Pro model. The price for an iPad Air with 16 gigabytes of storage is being cut by $100 to $399 in another attempt to spur sales.

Apple will begin accepting orders for the smaller iPad Pro Thursday. The device will start shipping a week later, on March 31.

Both sizes of the iPad Pro compete with several Windows 10 tablets, including Samsung's Galaxy TabPro S, which started selling last Friday for $900.

— Michael Liedtke, AP Technology Writer, San Francisco.

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11:05 a.m.

Apple has enjoyed record iPhone sales since the company introduced models with bigger screens in late 2014. But analysts say it's becoming harder for Apple and other smartphone manufacturers to come up with dramatic improvements to differentiate their products.

UBS analyst Steven Milunovich estimates Apple has sold more than 265 million newer iPhones with larger screens — at 4.7 inches or 5.5 inches. But almost as many iPhone owners were still using older models with smaller, 4-inch screens.

Apple says it sold more than 30 million 4-inch iPhones just last year, even though the last model came out in 2013.

Analysts say those customers could be candidates to buy the new iPhone SE, either because of its lower price or because they find it easier to hold a smaller phone.

— Brandon Bailey, AP Technology Writer, Cupertino, California.

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10:55 a.m.

Apple is rolling out a fancier 4-inch iPhone to replace a similar-sized model released in 2013.

The iPhone SE will rely on the same processor and have many other features in the larger 4.7-inch iPhone 6S, which came out six months ago. That's something that was missing from Apple's older 4-inch iPhone 5S.

The new iPhone comes as sales taper off for the device that generates the bulk of Apple's profits. Some iPhone users prefer the smaller size and have resisted upgrading to the larger models that Apple has shifted to in recent years to compete against Samsung.

Like the iPhone 6S, the iPhone SE will be able to take pictures at 12 megapixels. By comparison, the iPhone 5S's camera is limited to 8 megapixels.

The iPhone SE will also be equipped with a longer-lasting battery than the iPhone 5S and have faster wireless connections. It will also work with Apple Pay, the company's digital wallet.

Prices for the new iPhone will start at $399 for a model with 16 gigabits of storage. That's less than the $450 price tag for the 5S. It will be free if customers commit to a two-year contract with their wireless carrier, as was the case with the 5S.

Orders for the iPhone SE will start Thursday. The phone will begin shipping March 31 in the U.S. and several other countries.

— Michael Liedtke, AP Technology Writer, San Francisco

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10:40 a.m.

Apple is cutting the price of its smartwatch and introducing an array of new bands in an attempt to spur more sales of a gadget that hasn't won a big following yet.

Prices for the Apple Watch will start at $299, down from $349. Apple is also releasing a new type of wristband made of woven nylon, along with more colors for existing types of bands.

The expanded variety is designed to appeal to the roughly one-third of Apple watch owners who like to switch bands.

The highly anticipated Apple Watch was released a year ago, but sales haven't met some of analysts' more bullish predictions. While Apple hasn't released figures, IDC's analysts estimate the tech giant shipped 11.6 million watches last year.

— Michael Liedtke, AP Technology Writer, San Francisco

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10:20 a.m.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is reiterating his pledge to resist the U.S. government's demands for the company's help to unlock an encrypted iPhone used by one of the killers in the San Bernardino mass shootings.

Cook opened a product event in California on Monday by saying that Apple owes it to its customers to protect their privacy and the personal information they store on iPhones. He says he is "humbled and deeply gratified" by the outpouring of support he has received.

He has vowed to fight a federal magistrate's order requiring Apple to create special software that would override the iPhone's security features and allow the FBI to hack into the device used by the San Bernardino killer in a suspected case of terrorism.

Apple says that doing so could leave all iPhones vulnerable to future hacking attempts, although federal prosecutors contend they're only asking Apple to write code that would work with one phone to protect national security.

Federal magistrate Sheri Pym, who issued the order, will hear arguments from both sides in a Riverside, California, courtroom on Tuesday.

— Michael Liedtke, AP Technology Writer, San Francisco

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9:30 a.m.

Apple product events typically spark anticipation among tech bloggers and the company's hard-core fans. Monday's event, though, is drawing less excitement than some previous product launches.

Apple is expected to announce a smaller, 4-inch iPhone and a smaller version of the iPad Pro tablet.

But there's been no hint of any blockbuster developments, such as last year's highly anticipated Apple Watch debut. Despite speculation that Apple is working on a self-driving car or some new virtual-reality device, those are likely years away.

The event starts at 10 a.m. PDT at Apple's Cupertino, California, headquarters.

Gartner tech analyst Brian Blau says it's not unusual for Apple to save major announcements until the fall. He says the company's spring events are often focused on products that Apple considers important, but which may not be its biggest sellers.

— Brandon Bailey, AP Technology Writer, Cupertino, California.