What to Expect From Apple’s March 21 iPhone Event
Apple has finally made it official: the company has set the date for the spring product event that the rumor mill has been speculating about for months. This is the event where Apple is expected to launch a brand-new iPhone, a smaller iPad Pro, plus a new assortment of Apple Watch bands. Apple has announced that the event will be held on March 21, when the keynote will begin at 10 a.m. Pacific time, and while invitations to the event don’t offer any details about the devices that Apple intends to unveil — widely expected to include the 4-inch iPhone SE, a 9.7-inch iPad (possibly an iPad Pro), and new Apple Watch bands — they do feature the tagline “Let us loop you in.” So what can you expect to see when you tune in for the livestream?
A new 4-inch iPhone
The new 4-inch iPhone, referred to first as the iPhone 6c, then the iPhone 5se, then simply the iPhone SE in the months of rumors that have preceded the event, is expected to largely mimic the design of the iPhone 5s, but to incorporate the curved edges of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s. Leaked case designs seem to indicate that the power button will be placed at the top of the phone, with the mute switch and volume buttons on the side.
The phone is expected to integrate a 4-inch Retina display, the A9 processor used in the iPhone 6s, the M9 motion coprocessor that enables more accurate motion tracking and always-on “Hey Siri” support, and 1GB of RAM. The base model of the iPhone SE is expected to feature just 16GB of RAM, a storage tier that’s long frustrated users, and Apple will likely also offer a 64GB model. The iPhone SE is expected to integrate the same camera sensor found in the iPhone 6 instead of the upgraded sensor used in the iPhone 6s. While the phone isn’t expected to feature 3D Touch, it is rumored to be capable of capturing and viewing Live Photos, and to integrate an NFC chip and the TouchID fingerprint sensor.
Jan Dawson reports for Re/Code that Apple may be releasing a smaller iPhone to appeal to owners of smaller iPhones, many of whom have chosen to stick with those models instead of upgrading to larger models like the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6s. A new 4-inch iPhone would give those customers a reason to upgrade, and could also bolster sales during the off-peak period of the year. Dawson speculates that the iPhone SE could have a launch price of $550, which would preserve the $100 price differential between new phones based on their size, or $450 which would enable the iPhone SE to replace the iPhone 5s immediately instead of waiting until September.
A smaller iPad Pro
It’s recently been rumored that the iPad that Apple will unveil on March 21 will be a scaled-down version of the iPad Pro instead of a new iPad Air. Leaked photos of cases built for the new iPad seem to indicate that this 9.7-inch iPad will feature the same quad speaker setup as the larger version, plus the triple-dot Smart Connector that’s used to connect to the Smart Keyboard. (Apple is also expected to introduce an appropriately scaled-down version of the Smart Keyboard.)
A number of recent reports suggest that the new iPad will include the A9X processor and could even support the Apple Pencil. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is likely to be priced closer to the iPad Air 2 line than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro line, though new models of the smaller iPad Pro are likely be equipped with higher storage capacities than those found in the iPad Air line.
New Apple Watch bands, plus software updates
While Apple isn’t expected to launch a new version of the Apple Watch until the fall, it’s rumored that the March 21 event will bring new Apple Watch bands, including new Sport bands, a black Milanese loop, and NATO-style nylon bands. Another possibility is that Apple will announce another partnership with a luxury brand, like the one it announced with Hermès last year. It’s also likely that the company will make some announcements about the watchOS platform that powers the device, and Mark Gurman reports for 9to5Mac that Apple is likely to make some announcements about the final versions of iOS 9.3, tvOS 9.2, watchOS 2.2, OS X 10.11.4, plus an iTunes update.
Because the event is scheduled for the day prior to Apple’s first hearing against the government over an order that would compel it to help the FBI access the data stored on the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino suspects, you can also expect to hear about encryption during the event. Apple chief executive Tim Cook is likely to take the opportunity to make his case to the public, ahead of a high-profile hearing in a high-stakes battle against the FBI.
To stream the event on March 21, you’ll need an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch with Safari on iOS 7.0 or later, a Mac with Safari 6.0.5 or later on OS X 10.8.5 or later, or a PC with Microsoft Edge on Windows 10. If you want to stream the event on an Apple TV, you’ll need the second or third-generation set-top box with software 6.2 or later or the fourth-generation Apple TV.