On March 21, Apple held a keynote address in which they unveiled the new iPhone SE, a smaller iPad Pro, and new features and updates for the Apple Watch, AppleTV, and iOS 9.3.
The keynote opened with a video detailing 40 years of Apple history in 40 seconds. CEO Tim Cook then took the stage and announced that April 1, 2016 is the company’s 40th birthday. After mentioning that there are now over one billion active Apple devices in use worldwide, Cook brought up the matter of personal security. Apple affects the daily lives of these billion users, and they deserve a right to privacy. Earlier this year, Cook posted a letter online, outlining a dilemma faced by the company. The FBI wanted the ability to break into the iPhone 5c of one of the alleged San Bernadino attackers, but Apple was uneasy to provide such access. This technology could, once created, allow anyone a way into any iPhone in the world. In the address Cook brought up the “significant responsibility” that Apple has to its users’ privacy. In words that would make Uncle Ben proud, he clearly stated that Apple “will not shrink from this responsibility.”
Cook outlined two important initiatives Apple is currently undergoing: one that affects the environment, and one that impacts the health of its users. Lisa Jackson, VP of Environment, Policy, and Social initiatives then came onstage and discussed Apple’s progress towards its goal to use 100% renewable energy in all office and retail spaces. She stated that they are currently at 93% worldwide, with 100% in 23 countries, including the US and China. The biggest announcement Jackson provided was Liam, a new robot capable of breaking down Apple products to their base components and maximizing the amount of recyclable materials the company can retrieve from its worn down products. Jackson plugged Apple Renew to close out her time, a site for Apple users to get prepaid mailing labels and send old devices back.
Apple COO Jeff Williams took the stage after her to talk about health. He began with a brief review of the accomplishments of Apple’s ResearchKit. The open source framework that brings a variety of medical information to iPhone apps launched last year. “Virtually overnight, many ResearchKit studies became the largest in history and researchers are gaining insights and making discoveries that weren’t possible before,” said Williams. He listed the largest Parkinson’s study in history and assisting in the identification of subtypes of Type II diabetes among the ResearchKit’s accolades. Williams then discussed the launch of Apple’s new medical framework, CareKit. According to Apple, CareKit will build on four modules already designed by Apple. These modules each provide different services. Care Card tracks activities like medication intake, and Symptom and Measurement Tracker allows patients to input status updates. Insight Dashboard shows patients how well treatments are working, while Connect allows for easy information sharing between patients, doctors, or family. CareKit will be available in April.
Tim Cook then returned to the stage and promoted updates for a few of Apple’s products. The Apple Watch gets new band colors and a new type of band, woven nylon. Apple is also making the Apple Watch more available for consumers, with the price now starting at $299. Apple TV similarly got a brief update overview. In a free update for tvOS, users gain the ability to use Siri to navigate the App Store and the Dictation feature. This feature allows for users to enter text, such as usernames and passwords, into fields through speech.
Apple VP Greg Joswiak took the stage to unveil the new iPhone SE and showcased the new phone’s technical prowess and features. The SE has many of the same features as the 6s, but in a smaller 4-inch phone. Giving a reason for the return to the smaller size, Joswiak says “4-inch iPhones are an important part of our lineup” with over 30 million 4-inch iPhones sold in 2015. Orders for the SE begin March 24, and the phone will be available March 31. Before leaving the stage Joswiak also announced the latest update for iOS is now available. iOS 9.3 features improvements for numerous apps, and it adds password or fingerprint protection to the Notes app. It also has the new Night Shift feature, which uses a device’s clock and geolocation to color correct the screen to warmer tones. This feature is said to help aid sleep.
Phil Schiller, Senior Vice President for Apple, unveiled the last new product, the new 9.7-inch display iPad Pro. The iPad Pro features lower reflectivity, a brighter screen, and a wider color gamut than its larger predecessor. The 9.7-inch Pro will also come equipped with the Night Shift mode, and introduces a new display feature, True Tone. This feature “measures the color temperature of ambient light, and adjusts the display to match,” Schiller explained in the keynote. This means the iPad Pro will sense the surrounding color using two four-channel ambient light sensors and adjust the screen accordingly, mimicking what naturally happens with plain white paper.
Apple is also releasing new accessories for the 9.7-inch Pro, including a new keyboard, an SD card reader, and powered USB adapter. The Pro will come in Rose Gold, along with 3 other finishes, and pricing starts at $599 for the 32GB model. There is also now a 256GB model for both the 9.7- and 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Like the iPhone SE, orders begin March 24 with the devices becoming available March 31.
Tim Cook closed out the keynote, looking back once more. He talked about the history of the press room, the place where the iPod and the App Store where both introduced. Cook then said that this is likely the last product introduction to be held in the current Town Hall. The company is moving to a new campus, with a new theater, in 2017.