UPDATE – John Gruber confirmed on his Daring Fireball blog that March 15th is indeed the date for Apple’s next event.
While not directly being confirmed by Apple themselves – the rumour mill is in full force today with sites such as 9to5Mac and TheVerge citing that Apple have earmarked March 15th as the date for the unveiling of the iPad Air 3, new Apple Watch accessories, and most importantly, a replacement to the iPhone 5s. Why would Apple do such a thing you may ask? Let’s find out.
4″ Smartphones Are Still in Demand
As much as most of the tech industry have moved on from the 4″ screen crowd, moving on to literally bigger and better things. Apple obviously see a market in 4″ Smartphones. With the sales of the iPhone in Q1 of 2016 coming to fruition, it’s easy to see that sales of the iPhone have haltered ever-so slightly. Now 74.78 million devices sold in a single quarter is by no means a bad thing, but it’s effectively the same amount of sales made from the same period last year (Q1 2015). Apple must have carried out some trend analysis on these figures to find that people are still buying the iPhone 5s/c, and at a higher rate than last year meaning that an overhaul of the current mass of their 4 inch devices is in good taste.
Using a 4 inch smartphone adds a comfort ability factor, and when it comes to Apple users, the iPhone 5 design was one of Apple’s most popular hardware designs – and people struggled to stray away from that. Apple made a smart choice to re-vitalize the 5s and bringing it back to 2016 with up-to-date technologies to boost sales even more. As much as people want to move on from an older phone, they see no need to because using a familiar design and feel keeps them in a comfortable position until they have no choice but to move on to the likes of the 6 or the 6s. With the rumour iPhone 5se, this means they don’t have to move away from their comfort zone.
What is the iPhone 5se?
From the rumours cited from 9to5Mac, the iPhone 5se is going to take you back to 2012 with an all too familiar design to the original iPhone 5, with what is described as ‘iPhone 6s internals’. While the features are yet to be leaked, 3D Touch-enabled displays aren’t planned to make an appearance. But Apple’s live photo feature will be implemented, which was introduced with the iPhone 6s launched in late 2015. Below is a list of specifications and features to be expected:
- Apple A9 Chip
- V2 iteration of Touch ID
- Apple Pay Support (Which means NFC)
- 8-megapixel rear-facing camera (similar to the one in the iPhone 6)
- Metal casing
- Bluetooth 4.2 specification
- Either a 1,624 or 1,642 mAh battery
- $400 rumoured price
As you can tell from the list of specs listed above, the 5se isn’t something to pass up if you were thinking it was going to be a low-end device and high on the affordability scale.
iPad Sales Are Down
Another figure announced by Apple in their quarterly earnings call is the fact that iPad sales are down by 20%, with 16.1 million sold this quarter.
Tablets are vastly different from smartphones in both stature and use-case scenarios, but also the fact that the average consumers do not upgrade their tablets as often as they do smartphones. The average lifecycle for a smartphone before upgrading is 24 months, which is usually around the time a person’s contract is up. With a tablet, you usually never need to upgrade or replace your device it until you have to. This ultimately boils down to the sheer fact that iPads have been more of the same for a couple of years now. The iPad Air and Mini lines haven’t brought much to the table since their original incarnations. The original iPad Air still hold its own to this day, handling the latest versions of iOS and no signs of the performance dwindling even in the highest of intensive games created through Apple’s ‘Metal’ gaming engine which was launched in 2014. The only real contender for replacing your current iPad would have been the iPad Pro with its gorgeous display, quad strereo speakers, and the use and launch of the Apple Pencil alongside it. The only major downfall of the iPad Pro is its size, as well as the price accompanying it. The average consumer who generally browse the web from their couch do not need a 12.9 inch tablet just for this necessity. If anything, the average consumer are more than happy using an iPad Air or Mini for the convenience of it.
Here Comes the iPad Air 3
The iPad Air 3 has been heavily rumoured since the launch of the iPad Air 2. Without being too blunt about it, the iPad Air 2 brought largely the same features and specifications as the original. The only big bump in the spec sheet which had the Air 2 going for it was a bump from 1GB to 2GB in the RAM department, and the all-new (for the time) Apple A8x processor. It also has a fingerprint sensor if that took your fancy.
From what I have seen and heard through the grapevine, the iPad Air 3 will be more like an iPad Pro Mini, which is a smart move from Apple. The iPad Pro is an excellent device for what you get, which I skimmed over above. Here’s what is meant to be coming in the iPad Air 3:
- Retina HD Display with a bump up to 401 PPI (Resolution: 3112×2334)
- Apple Pencil Support
- Apple A9x Processor
- 8MP iSight Camera
- 2.1MP Front-Facing Camera
- 4-speaker setup
- No 3D Touch Support
From what is described above, the iPad Air 3 could be the saving grace of iPad sales, as Apple are in desperate need to get their percentages up. This should give it a hefty boost, as it stomps all over the Air 2’s spec sheet, which ironically the Air 2 failed to do to the Air 1.
New Apple Watch Accessories
Apple are rumored to be unveiling a few new watch strap designs alongside a few ‘tweaks’ to the higher-end Apple Watch specifications. While the Apple Watch is still a reletively new product – sales of the device seem to have had a fantastic start, with Apple grossing $4.3 billion. These aren’t exact figures for the Apple Watch, as the Watch falls under the category of ‘Other Devices’, which also includes the Apple TV which had a major refurbishment in October of 2015.
Smartwatches are yet to mature due to the whole concept being a work in progress since 2013/14. The market still has a long way to go before it ever reaches its peak potential, and with the launch of products such as the Moto 360 2, G Watch Urbane and the Huawei Watch, it’s certainly getting there and fast. A smartwatches first incarnation was very much the case of “Function first; looks later”, which lead it to start off quite slowly. And it wasn’t until mid-2014 that smartwatches started looking like…well..watches. A watch is something you wear. It’s a piece of jewellery that is there to look good as well as tell you the time. It’s great having all the bells and whistles and more features than you can shake a stick at, but at the end of the day, looks are what matter most when it comes to any type of jewellery. As I’ve stated with the aforementioned devices above — smartwatches are becoming less like a novelty product and more in-line with what the main USP of a watch really is.
Good Start to 2016
As much as people like to ‘bash’ Apple for all they have done in the past, it’s no secret that they’re on the right track to making even bigger leaps and bounds in sales for this year with their upcoming product line: The iPhone 7, 5se, iPad Air 3 etc. I think Apple knew deep down that they had to make changes, and fast to keep the sales trend on the up and up. This is business at the end of the day, and the most important part of business is keeping afloat and staying profitable. Apple are 2nd most valuable company in the world right now, and the way 2016 is looking for them, they’ll probably be in that spot for a long time to come.