With all the speculation about Apple’s Special Event, much of what was announced did not come as a surprise.
Apple announced an extension to its medical research open source software framework, ResearchKit, called CareKit – a new way for Apple customers to use data to manage their health better. The access to patients’ data and the ability to track progress of diseases like Parkinson’s Disease, without the need for specialist equipment required in the past and share this data with doctors, shows the immeasurable potential of these platforms for the future of Healthcare.
As part of its environmental initiative Apple announced Liam, a robot, to separate old iPhones into components for reuse and recycling; the cheapest Apple Watch is now cheaper and there are over 5000 Apple TV apps available. Some very welcomed tvOS updates were announced as well. Siri Remote can be used to dictate text for search queries, usernames and passwords; support for Bluetooth keyboards has been introduced; along with support for viewing live photo and video collections on the big screen.
However, it is the announcements on hardware that are likely to get the most amount of attention. With a return to a 4-inch model, the iPhone SE is as powerful as the iPhone 6S and the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro is a smaller version of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The Apple Special Event has been about small packages, packing some punch!
With the launch of the iPhone SE and 9.7-inch iPad Pro it is interesting to see Apple cater for the varying needs of the different segments of its target audience. Apple sold 30 million 4-inch iPhones last year and recognised that the smaller formats suited many users as their first introduction to iOS. However, Apple’s A9 chip powers the iPhone SE, which means the new iPhone SE will be 2 times faster, with 3 times better graphics performance than its iPhone 5S predecessor.
The iPhone SE has better battery life, includes a 12-megapixel camera and supports live photos.
9.7-inch iPad Pro
It is, however, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro’s impact on the market, which will be the most interesting to watch. While the iPad has been accepted as one of the most successful consumer products ever created, sales for iPads have been trending downwards for years now. Will the new 9.7 inch iPad Pro encourage a reversal of this trend for Apple?
While it remains to be seen whether the new iPad offers enough of an incentive for current iPad owners to upgrade, it is current PC owners that Apple expects to be make up the biggest share of the market for the 9.7 inch iPad Pro. Apple invented a new niche and created a new product line in computing with the iPad. However, the iPad is being launched today as ‘the ultimate PC replacement’. Apple is hoping to target Windows PC users. According to Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, the majority of iPad Pro customers are former Windows PC owners.
The 9.7-inch iPad Pro’s screen is 40% less reflective than the iPad Air 2, delivering 25% more brightness and sporting a new technology called True Tone display. True Tone can adjust the colour temperature of the display to match the light in the room.
The new iPad Pro comes with an A9x processor, an integrated M9 motion coprocessor for ‘Hey Siri’ support and the most advanced camera system Apple has ever used for the iPad. The new iPad Pro also comes with a more advanced speaker system, Smart Keyboard support and support for the Apple Pencil. A 256GB storage option is available, on both 9.7 and 12.9-inch models, which is an important step forward for a PC replacement.
As consumers across the world consider the new iPad Pro as their primary computing device, it is the business market that may be key for Apple. As the smartphone is increasingly being used for consumer entertainment, we are seeing a shift to tablets being recognised more as business devices. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is the ideal size for use in the enterprise, where field agents can use it to complete tasks more easily on the move. This, coupled with the lower price point (in comparison to the original 12.9-inch iPad Pro) will make the new iPad Pro particularly appealing for businesses.
iOS 9.3 is the most notable, incremental update to the OS announced in several years. The long awaited Night Shift feature is available to help improve sleeping habits by softening light exposure in the evenings. The option to use a passcode or Touch ID for protecting Apple Notes has been enabled, along with updates to Health, News, CarPlay and multi-user support for students.
Of the updates the multi-user support has the most potential benefit for the enterprise. The new iOS in Education app suite enables students to log into iPads used in a classroom and pick up where they left off. While it’s strictly for classroom iPads only, there are positive signs for a similar experience potentially becoming available sometime in the future across the OS. For businesses this could help facilitate field workers use shared devices, making the iPad a much more desirable tool in the workplace.
With 1 billion active Apple devices, over 1 million apps in App Store designed for iPad, 200 million 9.7 inch iPads sold, 30 million 4-inch iPhones sold last year – there have been some pretty impressive numbers to have come from Apple’s Event and we look forward to seeing how the latest host of announcements stack up over 2016.