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Apple’s no-win situation

Anthony Caruana | March 23, 2016
Apple announced the launch of the iPhone SE and 9.7in iPad Pro, but they are hardly revolutionary or groundbreaking.

As the dust settles on yesterday's product announcement from Apple - contrary to what the invitation or the internet hype machine says, I can't bring myself to call these announcements 'events' - something clearly stands out.

No matter what Apple announces, it can't win.

Apple announced something really important yesterday - CareKit. With the support of software developers and the makers of medical equipment, this new framework has the capacity to deliver more timely information to health professionals and patients.

Naturally, the internet focused on two relatively minor, but higher profile, announcements: the iPhone SE and 9.7in iPad Pro.

That's not to say both products aren't great pieces of hardware. But, and I say this as a long-time Apple user with a bunch of Apple kit in my office and around my home, they are hardly revolutionary or ground-breaking.

When you look closely at the iPhone SE, it's merely a speed bump on the almost four-year-old iPhone 5s. That's it. No 3D Touch, the same camera and the same form factor as the iPhone 5s.

There's no doubt the iPhone SE will appeal to many buyers - my partner has been holding on to her iPhone 5s because the iPhone 6 and it's successors were too big in her view.

But calling the iPhone SE a new product is, quite frankly, a marketing trick. It may technically be a new product, but that's like a car maker putting a larger window washer bottle under the hood and telling us it's an all-new vehicle.

The 9.7in iPad Pro, similarly, is a shrunken version of the original 12.9in iPad Pro. I'm writing this article on my iPad Air 2 with a Belkin Qode Keyboard. Pen input using the Apple Pencil would be nifty, particularly when manipulating images, but it's not a showstopper for me.

That aside, the technology in the new, smaller iPad Pro is not revolutionary.

None of this is to say Apple has lost its design chops. But these two new products are a reflection of Apple reacting to the commercial realities of the market.

Smartphone sales have been contracting and people are holding on to their smartphones for longer. The iPhone SE is a reaction to that as many Apple customers, looking for a smaller device, have moved over to the Android world where they have far more choice when it comes to the size and shape of their phone.

Tablet sales have been falling. Apple, and almost every other tablet manufacturer, overestimated the market's appetite for regular upgrades. I know many people still using the iPad 2. And, my observations in airport lounges is Windows 10 tablets and convertibles are winning over enterprise users.


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