Apple unveils smaller iPad Pro, iPhone at California event
Apple released downsized versions of the iPad Pro and iPhone at an event yesterday, along with a number of updates for iOS and OS X ranging from the plugging of security holes to a reinvention of several of its own apps.
On an evening overshadowed by a pending court hearing – since adjurned – to rule on Apple’s legal requirement to unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, CEO Tim Cook stressed the importance of encryption and restated the company’s commitment to preserving the rights to privacy of its customers. On a lighter note, here is a digest of what was revealed.
9.7″ iPad Pro
Rumours about the specifications and prices for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro (which the rumour mill called the iPad Pro mini) floated prior to Apple’s event, and they’ve held up, for the most part.
The 9.7″ iPad Pro is essentially a smaller version of the 12.9″ iPad Pro. Like the 12.9″, the 9.7″ iPad Pro has a 64-bit A9X processor with an embedded M9 motion coprocessor, 4Gb of memory, and four speakers (dual stereo speakers).
The 9.7″ iPad Pro’s Retina (2048×1536) screen is an improvement over the iPad Air 2’s. According to Apple, the 9.7″ iPad Pro screen is 40% less reflective than the iPad Air 2’s. It’s also 25% brighter (500 nits of light) and has has 25% greater colour saturation, with support for the DCI(P3) colour gamut.
The screen has a new feature called True Tone, which adjusts the display’s colour temperature on the fly. True Tone measures the light of the room you are in, and then tweaks the display to make sure colours are consistent.
The new iPad Pro has support for the Apple Pencil, and as with the iPad Pro, you can plug the Pencil into the iPad’s Lightning port for charging. And again, just like the previous model, the 9.7″ iPad Pro doesn’t have 3D Touch support.
It wouldn’t be an iPad Pro without a Smart Connector, and the iPad Pro mini has one, too. The three-pronged connector is located on the side and it allows you to connect the new Smart Keyboard.
One feature where the iPad Pro mini outdoes the original iPad Pro is the iSight camera. The 9.7″ iPad Pro has a 12MP camera that’s capable of capturing 4K video, while the original iPad Pro has an 8MP iSight camera and has a top video resolution of 1080p. The FaceTime camera is 5MP on each model.
At time of writing there was no word on Irish pricing or pre-order dates.
The 12.9″ iPad Pro will gains a 256Gb version for €1,299 Wi-Fi only and €1,449 Wi-Fi plus mobile connectivity.
There’s a new iPhone in town, and it looks pretty familiar. The iPhone SE, which is available to preorder on Thursday, is nearly identical to the iPhone 5s but has 6s guts, which makes it a compelling buy for people who love 4″ phones but want the latest hardware features.
The ‘6s mini’ has an A9 chip and M9 co-processor, which means it has double the speed of a 5s and is three times faster when it comes to graphics performance. The SE has always-on fitness-tracking, hands-free Siri, a 12MP camera that can shoot 4K video, a front-facing camera with Retina flash, and supports Apple Pay with built-in NFC and Secure Element for secure mobile payments. It also has matte chamfered edges, like the 6s, though it definitely resembles the 5s.
Apple sold more than 30 million 4″ iPhones last year, so clearly there’s a market for smaller phones.
The iPhone SE launches in stores and online on 29 March and will be available in 110 countries by the end of May at €499 for a 16Gb model, and comes in silver, gold, rose gold, and space gray. The 64Gb version is €599.
Apple’s update to the Apple Watch was mostly about style, but a price cut offered a nice bit of substance, too.
During an Apple press event on Monday morning, Tim Cook revealed a line of new Apple Watch band colors, and an all-new band made from woven nylon.
According to Cook, the new colors for the leather and Sport bands are for the one-third of Apple Watch wearers who regularly change up their bands. In addition, Apple Watch wearers will be able to get a Milanese Loop in Space Black, which Cook called “stunning”.
Apple is also cutting the price of the Apple Watch line. The 38mm version of the Apple Watch Sport, formerly €429, will drop to €379.
One of the biggest problems with Apple TV is that in order to log into applications, users have to enter usernames and passwords into their set-top box one letter at a time using a remote control.
Apple is aiming to fix that with a forthcoming update to tvOS, the operating system powering the Apple TV. Users will soon be able to dictate text to Siri, including usernames and passwords, so they don’t have to hunt and peck out long strings of text.
What’s not clear is how Apple will secure users’ spoken password data; Apple TV will have to record and process people literally speaking out their passwords.
The company will release tvOS 9.2 (which was previously in beta) late Monday, the company said. The update also includes support for putting tvOS apps in folders, so users can clean up their home screens. In addition, Siri will also be updated to support searching the tvOS App Store, allowing people to find applications without typing out their titles or relying solely on Apple’s curation to suggest new apps.
Search is important because there are now 5,000 tvOS apps in the store for people to choose from, including games and educational tools.
IOS 9.3 officially drops Monday. But before we get into any new features (including the security patch for iMessage and iCloud). Here are the main ones:
Some apps like Tweetbot, Kindle, Waze, and Instapaper have a night mode so you don’t harsh your eyes trying to read a stark-white screen in a dark room. Apple’s all-new Night Shift feature works differently but has the benefit of being system-wide.
Night Shift doesn’t change screens of black text on a white background to white text on a black background. Instead, it starts adjusting the colours shown on your iPhone or iPad screen to the warmer end of the spectrum, cutting down the bright blue light that supposedly messes with your internal clock, fooling you into thinking it’s daytime when it’s not. Apple says Night Shift will automatically turn on at sunset in your location, and revert to the regular display settings in the morning.
If this sounds like something you’d like on your Mac too, check out the third party app it’s based on, F.lux. It’s available for the Mac for free, as well as Windows and Linux.
New Quick Actions
IPhone 6s and 6s Plus users will get additional Quick Actions to take advantage of those devices’ 3D Touch feature. Deep-pressing the Settings icon, for example, will let you jump to the settings for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Battery, or new wallpaper. That really helps, since Control Center has buttons to toggle Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on or off, but if you want to switch Wi-Fi networks or pair with a new Bluetooth speaker, for example, those controls were always several taps away.
The Health app gets a new Quick Action to show the dashboard or your Medical ID info, where you can store crucial in-case-of-emergency information, such as what drugs you’re allergic to. The App Store app has an Update All action, and both that app and the iTunes Store app will also let you jump to the Purchased screen with a Quick Action too. Peek and Pop have been added to the App Store too. Peek lets you preview apps from the Featured and Top Charts screen without opening them fully, and Pop opens them the rest of the way.
Apple’s database for HealthKit info has never been much to look at – it’s more a clearinghouse for all the health-related data you’ll collect and interact with in third party HealthKit-enabled apps, like RunKeeper, Withings Health Mate, and MyFitnessPal. In iOS 9.3, the Health app will help you discover new HealthKit apps to install, adding a side-scrolling list of relevant apps to the bottom of the category pages for Weight, Workouts, and Sleep. The Health app will also show the move, exercise, and stand data collected by your Apple Watch, which right now is mostly locked into the Activity app. That’ll make it easier to share, say, the stand data with other HealthKit apps.
Apple’s Notes app gets more secure in iOS 9.3, letting you set a password or use Touch ID to keep your notes under wraps. Other security-minded apps such as Evernote, Day One, and 1Password already let you use Touch ID to log in, keeping your information private without your thumbprint or a master password to unlock it. Those apps also have a alphanumeric passcode associated with them, and Notes will too – that way you can still access your password-protected notes on your Mac running OS X 10.11.4 or later.
To password-protect your Notes, go to Settings>Notes and look for the Password Protection feature. Turn it on, then tap Set Password. Enter a good password and verify it, and you can optionally enter a hint to remind you too. If your iPhone or iPad has Touch ID, there will be a switch to Use Touch ID too. If you ever forget your passcode and can’t use Touch ID (say, because you just restarted your iPhone), you won’t be able to access your protected notes. And if your iOS device is running iOS 9.3 but your Mac is still on Yosemite or earlier, your password-protected notes won’t show up on your Mac at all. You need El Capitan (OS X 10.11.4 specifically) to be able to see them on both platforms.
Apple’s News app is having trouble catching on, and tweaks in iOS 9.3 aim to make it easier to use, so you’ll keep coming back. Additions include inline video you can play without leaving your feed, landscape support throughout the iPhone version of the app, and a supposedly better-tailored For You section.
If you connect your iPhone to a CarPlay stereo, you’ll get a couple new features in iOS 9.3. The Apple Music app will finally show the New and For You sections, instead of just your collection and playlists. And the Maps app will finally support the Nearby feature that was added in iOS 9, way back in September. Nearby helps you find businesses in your vicinity by category, like gas, parking, coffee shops, and restaurants.
IOS 9.3 has some features aimed at schools as well – Apple has more details on a separate Education Preview page. Regular users probably won’t benefit directly from these features, but schools that deploy multiple iPads will get a new Apple School Manager portal to manage them. Teachers and admins will be able to create Managed Apple IDs and assign them to students. And a Shared iPad feature will let those students log in to any iPad in the school and pick up where they left off. Teachers also get a Classroom app that lets them peek at any student’s screen, launch specific apps and sites on every screen at once, and lock them in place so the kids can’t spend all day Snapchatting instead.
OS X 10.11.4
Apple also updated OS X. Version 10.11.4 is available though the App Store app.
The update mostly consists of bug fixes and performance tweaks, but there are a few new features you’ll want to use:
The Notes app now has support for password protection and can also import notes from Evernote; Live Photos can be shared between OS X and iOS through the Messages app and through AirDrop; iBooks can now store PDFs in iCloud, which makes them accessible across all devices; and Safari’s inability to load Twitter t.co links is now fixed.
Before installing the update, you should back up your Mac’s data. You can revert to the backup in case the update causes problems on your Mac.
Finally, Apple has developed a new tool that deconstructs iPhones after they are returned.
The robotic cutting tool, Liam, removes the valuable materials from iPhone parts so they can be repurposed into other products. Some of the materials removed include cobalt, gold, silver, platinum and tungsten. For example, Tungsten is repurposed in precision cutting tools.
Liam was developed as part of Apple’s larger initiative to be more environmentally friendly, the company said. Apple has focused on using renewable energy, and Liam helps put more recycled materials back in the global supply chain.
The tool is also a good way for Apple to save money because the company doesn’t need to buy those expensive materials again.
In a way, Liam is a mechanised version of metal recycling professionals who scrape off gold and other precious metals from products that have been thrown away.
The Liam tool is used on iPhones returned to Apple for recycling. iPhones can be returned at Apple stores.
IDG News Service