As it struggles to match the success of its big-screen iPhones, Apple is now contending that small can be beautiful, too.
The giant tech company showed off downsized versions of its signature iPhone and iPad Pro tablet on Monday, hoping they'll appeal to first-time buyers and those who have shied away from the bigger-screen models Apple has sold in recent years.
At a time when overall smartphone sales are slowing, Apple touted its new four-inch iPhone SE as the “most affordable” new phone the company has offered. While it comes with an upgraded camera, faster processor and other features, the SE has a starting price of $400, or $50 less than the older iPhone 5S that it’s replacing. By contrast, the iPhone 6S Plus, which had been Apple’s newest and biggest phone, starts at $750.
The company also knocked $50 off the price of its Apple Watch, showed off some new bands for the wearable gadget, and announced some software enhancements for its mobile devices and the Apple TV system.
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We’re at a point, in a mature market, where it’s about having niche products that satisfy different needs,
veteran tech industry watcher Bob O'Donnell
Few of Monday’s announcements surprised industry experts. Analysts say Apple clearly hopes the new devices will broaden its appeal and get more people to use the latest versions of its lucrative online services — such as Apple Pay, Apple Music and the mobile App Store — at a time when overall sales of Apple’s sleek iDevices are leveling off.
“We’re at a point, in a mature market, where it’s about having niche products that satisfy different needs,” said veteran tech industry watcher Bob O'Donnell of Technalysis Research.
Apple is packing some new features into these smaller packages. The new SE, for example, has the same four-inch screen as the iPhone 5S that Apple began selling in 2013. But the new phone has the company’s latest A9 processor, a 12-megapixel camera and a secure chip that allows the use of Apple Pay, the company’s digital payment service. Apple Pay was previously only available with iPhone 6 and 6S models.
Apple hopes the phone will appeal to first time buyers as well as those who find larger models cumbersome, said Apple executive Greg Joswiak. He said the company sold 30 million 4-inch iPhones last year.
But most analysts expect the new phone to sell modestly compared to the company’s other models. And while they may give Apple a boost during the historically slow spring and summer months, analysts say the new devices may not be new or different enough to command the excitement Apple’s other recent releases have enjoyed.
“It’s not going to be a big blockbuster,” said O'Donnell.
Apple also showed off a new version of its iPad Pro, with a 9.7-inch screen and many of the features Apple offered with the 12-inch iPad Pro tablet that Apple introduced last year — including the ability to work with a detachable keyboard and stylus. The smaller screen Pro has a starting price of $600 without cellular capability, while the bigger Pro starts at $800.