Apple Announces New Products, Prices; Reaffirms Commitment to iPhone Security

CEO Tim Cook made the announcements during a Town Hall meeting at Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.

Apple CEO Tim Cook today announced the imminent release of a new iPhone, a new iPad and a price cut for an entry level model of Apple Watch, while reaffirming the company’s commitment to protecting the security of the iPhone from government efforts to create a so-called backdoor.

The announcement came during a  town hall conference this morning at the company’s Cupertino, Calif. office.

Cook took the opportunity to address the controversy surrounding the pending Apple vs. FBI case that has been making waves ever since the federal government demanded the company to develop a “backdoor” into an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernadino shooters. Cook, who wrote an open letter to Apple customers refusing to comply with the government’s request, said the issue is an opportunity to decide as a nation how much power the government should have over our data and personal privacy.

“We built the iPhone for you, our customers,” he said. “For many of us, the iPhone is an extension of ourselves. We will not shrink from this responsibility.”

Much of the town hall, however, focused on products news, including the upcoming launch of the 4-inch iPhone SE and a new version of the iPad Pro with a 9.7-inch screen.

Both the outer design of the iPhone SE and the internal hardware match the design of the iPhone 6S, albeit with a screen more akin to Apple’s early model devices. Under the hood, the iPhone SE runs off of the same A9 64-bit chip found in the iPhone 6S. The iPhone SE also includes a 12MP iSight camera with focus pixels and true tone flash, and will come equipped with iOS 9.3, which also released today as a free download for all iOS users.

The new features make the iPhone SE “the most powerful 4-inch phone ever,” according to the company.

Although the release of a smaller-screen device is in direct opposition to Apple’s recent trend of releasing large devices like the iPhone 6S, Apple execs said the 4-inch screen is still in high demand from customers – the company sold 30 million of the devices in 2015, according to Apple Vice President Greg Joswiak.

Apple also previewed the iPad Pro with 9.7-inch retina display, which is being aimed squarely at Windows users as “the ultimate PC replacement.” Following the launch of the company’s iPad Pro 12-inch device last year, the smaller screen size is meant to afford more portability and ease of use for mobile users, according to Apple (remember, the original iPad also featured a 9.7-inch display, a size which Apple said remains popular among users).

The biggest changes to the new iPad Pro 9.7-inch is the inclusion of a True Tone display. This means your iPad will change the color of the screen to simulate the ambient light in a room to simulate the effects of reading off of a piece of paper.

Like its older brother, the iPad Pro 9.7-inch features a “pro” display complete with custom timing controller and photo alignment features to create sharper image quality. Apple said the new iPad Pro features a screen that is 40 percent less reflective than an iPad Air 2 as well as a 25 percent brighter screen than the iPad Air 2.

In another stab at the Microsoft Surface, Apple announced a detachable keyboard specifically designed for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro as well as included support for the Apple Pencil. Both accessories are aimed at convincing older PC and notebook owners to part with their Windows devices in lieu of an Apple tablet.

Apple will begin selling the new iPhone SE at $399 for a 16GB model or $499 for a 64GB model.  The iPad Pro 9.7-inch will retail for $599 for a 32GB model and $749 for a 128GB model. Apple is also releasing a 256GB model that will retail for $899.

Pre-orders for the iPhone SE and the iPad Pro 9.7-inch begin on Thursday, March 24. Both devices are scheduled to launch in the United States on March 31.

Also today, the company announced the launch of several new band styles for its Apple Watch, and said the entry-level model will now be available for $299, down from $349. 

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