Apple is expected on Monday to take the wraps off what will be its next 4-inch smartphone — the iPhone SE. The smaller device could appeal to consumers who want a pocket-size phone that can easily be used with one hand. But if it's too pricey for emerging markets, it may do little to reverse what's expected to be the first year-over-year decline in iPhone sales that Apple is facing in 2016.
While the handset is likely to be the centerpiece of the event, there should be plenty else in store of Apple fans. And there's also the elephant in the room: Apple's ongoing war with the FBI and Justice Department over iPhone encryption. CEO Tim Cook may use Monday's forum to plead his case to the public.
Beyond the iPhone, Apple is expected to have a number of other products to show off, including a new iPad Air, possible new Apple Watch bands or maybe a few surprises. We won’t know for sure until Cook takes the stage at the Apple campus in Cupertino, California. But in the meantime, here’s a look at what you’ll likely see at the event.
The trend for smartphones over the past couple of years has been bigger and bigger screens. But this time around, Apple may take the opposite approach with its next smartphone — likely dubbed the “iPhone SE.”
The 4-inch handset is expected to take on a design similar to the 2013 iPhone 5S it will replace. But when it comes to features, it’s all about upgrades. Among some of the anticipated additions is an A9 processor, upgraded camera, Apple Pay mobile payment support, live photos and always-on support for the "Hey Siri" voice-activated assistant. But it isn’t expected to come with a feature unique to the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus — the pressure-sensitive 3D Touch display.
The iPhone SE may come in the same gold, rose gold, silver and space gray color options as its larger siblings, but its storage options are expected to be limited to 16GB and 64GB.
It’s a handset that may be pointedly aimed at customers who have stuck with older iOS devices 4-inches or smaller. That’s about 30 percent of total iPhone users, according to Mixpanel. Over the course of the year, it’s also expected to contribute about 10 to 15 million additional iPhone unit sales for Apple, according to a research note by RBC Capital Markets analyst Amit Daryanani. However, it isn't expected to prevent Apple from seeing its first year-over-year decline in iPhone sales. With iPhone SE prices that may also be similar to the $400-$500 iPhone 5S, it may also be a tougher sell to customers in emerging and price-sensitive markets.
“If the iPhone SE costs between $400 and $500, that's still significantly more expensive than a majority of the popular smartphones that can be purchased for less than $100 in countries like India,” said Mark McDonald, Co-CEO of app development company, Appster. “Depending on the reception, Apple might need to drop the price point further.”
iPad Air 3
Apple’s 9.7-inch tablet is expected to be a whole lot like its larger sibling, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. One way Apple may do this with the iPad Air 3 is by including a smart connector, a physical connector located on the side of the iPad. This could enable the tablet to use smart keyboard covers developed by Apple or third-party accessory makers, such as Logitech.
Among some of the other iPad Pro-like features expected for the tablet is four speakers to produce louder stereo sound and support for the Apple Pencil, a $99 pressure-sensitive iPad stylus that can also be used to shade drawings, based on how it’s tilted.
Apple may also bump the resolution of the tablet from 2048x1536 pixels up to 4K resolution, about four times as many pixels as a 1080-pixel display, according to Taiwan news website Digitimes. Apple could additionally include up to 4GB of memory and a chip based on the A9 chip found in the iPhone 6S.
It’s been nearly a year since the Apple Watch first went on sale, but don’t expect any big revamps. Apple may be holding off on that until the second half of 2016, according to 9to5Mac. In the meantime, Apple instead is anticipated to have some new watchbands and materials to show off onstage.
Officially, Apple has kept quiet about how many Apple Watches were sold since last April. But they’re thought to have sold anywhere from 8-12 million units so far, according to analyst estimates.
Apple is also expected to release its next update to iOS 9 at the event. The software upgrade will bring a number of new features to iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches, including Touch ID fingerprint protected notes and a Night Shift mode, which shifts the color of an iOS display to the warmer end of the color spectrum to take some strain off users’ eyes during the evening.
Apple will kick off the festivities on Monday at 10 a.m. PDT/1 p.m. EDT. Spectators will also be able to watch a live stream of the event from a Mac, iOS device, Apple TV or PC running Windows 10 and the Microsoft Edge browser.