Apple Announces the iPhone SE (Still Expensive) and iPad (Air 3) Pro, Because You’ll Buy It

We were all glued to the Apple event today; unfortunately, it wasn’t with the usual pulse-pounding excitement we’ve had in the past. Some of us walked away a little disappointed … here are our thoughts!

iphone SE

Greg: So the only thing about the “Let Us Loop You In” metaphor that I got from Apple is that they always go backward in their products to appease customers who honestly refuse to be progressive. Oh and yes, the fact all of the materials used in their products are recyclable and environmentally friendly (I see you Apple).

As I write this, I’m currently waiting for a pop-up alerting me about upgrading to iOS 9.3, so I can (hopefully) jailbreak it soon thereafter to once again get some excitement from an Apple product which I honestly haven’t had since they announced 3D Touch for iOS 9, only to confirm it would not work on my iPhone 6 Plus from 2014.

It’s actually become rather boring these Apple events as a result of the leaks that come prior to the actual event, to the point that nothing is surprising anymore. Did they announce any new MacBooks? No, which was interesting because Phil made it a mission to mock PC owners for using 5+ year old desktops, when there are people who have 2011 MacBooks (although they do hold up), wanted SOMETHING of an update. Instead we are pretty much left to assume that the new iPad Pro Mini, or iPad Pro Jr, whichever you want to call it is the perfect PC replacement. This same device however runs on iOS, not Mac OS which is honestly a slap in the face for someone willing to pay $1099 for a tablet with smartphone capabilities.

Did I mention the fact that if you purchased an iPad Pro a few months ago, you only had the option of 32GB or 128GB, whereas now they offer you 256GB? Anyone else feel robbed? Now to be fair, there’s an almost certainty that the iPhone 7 will end up receiving a 64/128/256 tiered system to match, but my money is on that only being the case with the iPhone 7 Plus model, and not the smaller iPhone 7 model.

I honestly don’t know what to feel other than empty from this Apple event. It just seems Apple is way behind schedule on all of their products, so their way of biding their time is taking the larger devices that folks clamored for and making them smaller again because it’s the last product presentation in that particular hall.

But hey, at least we get new watch bands right?

TL;DR version:

1.       The iPhone SE (Still Expensive) is honestly that three-year-old iPhone 5 sitting in your drawer with minor updates.

2.       The Apple watch gets a $50 price cut, receives funky nylon bands.

3.       The iPad Pro is the future of personal computers. Who needs MacBooks, or wired headphones?

Carly: How do I say this nicely? Today’s Apple event was a total yawner, but once I realized it’s generally frowned upon to sleep at my desk I noticed a few troubling undercurrents. I have one foot in the iOS world and one foot in the Android world (and maybe a toe in Windows…and another in ChromeOS…hang on, I’m running out of lower limbs), so I watch the Apple world carefully to see if there’s anything that can lure me back. If anything, today’s announcements make me think I should be looking elsewhere for any future tablet upgrades.

First, I’m a bit worried about Apple’s priorities. The Apple Watch honestly could have been skipped over entirely today, or only mentioned in the context of the minor price drop; they don’t need to announce every time they release new watchbands. It felt like they wanted to make sure they shoved the Apple Watch in up front, so no one would forget it existed. Yes, it’s great they dropped the price, and that there’s new watchbands, but seriously, it’s a damn watchband…do we really need a giant powerpoint about it? The iPhone SE was actually somewhat impressive, but I think the price is still a touch too high, especially for 16GB. But the iPad updates felt less earth-shattering, and more like “PLEASE WE NEED TO SELL MORE IPADS BUY MORE IPADS MORE IPADS”. Sneaking in a $100 price jump doesn’t help, since the cynical part of me thinks that was just a way to raise profits on the iPad without actually justifying it.

Second, it feels very much like Apple’s software is stagnating badly. They now have two “Pro” monikered iPads, but the only things that seems to make them “Pro” are the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard. Screen improvement is great, but that’s evolution at turtle pace; just about every new device has a better screen than the prior one. The issue, and Greg pointed this out as well, is that Apple seems to think they can position the Pro lines as replacements for PCs, and that sounds good on paper until you run head-first into iOS limitations.

I use my iPad Mini for 80% of my computing needs. It’s great for editing posts on the go, reading books and websites, and of course for games and movies. On the other hand, what happens when I need to work remotely? In theory, I can work remotely on an iPad, but it’s sort of like how I can get a cavity filled without novocaine. It’s painful but it won’t kill me. If the “Pro” iPads ran software that included a full, user-accessible file system, along with limited support for a Bluetooth mouse, I could absolutely see the argument that they’re PC replacements. Effectively, it would make them the flipside of the Surface tablet line; where the Surface is a PC stuffed into a tablet form, the iPad Pro could be a tablet stretching to just enter PC-land.

However, that’s never going to happen if you can’t access files across apps easily, and especially if you can’t use it like a true blue laptop with a mouse once in a while. The fact that there is almost no software difference between an iPad Air and an iPad Pro is insane, and further highlights why the price discrepancy feels like a slap in the face.

Over the weekend, my son and I were in the mall and we stopped by the Microsoft Store [I swear he decided on his own that it was his favorite store-I think it’s all the bright colors]. Since no visit is complete without peering at/poking every single computer there, I spent a lot of time skimming prices and specs along the way. Yes, you could drop a lot of money for a computer there, but you could also get a pretty decent computer for far less than an iPad, Pro or otherwise. If you had $1,000 to outfit your entire computing needs, from tablets to computers to phones, you could easily do that within the Microsoft ecosystem. While it’s not as unified, you could do the same with Google’s as well. Both companies offer laptops for under $500, phones in the $200-400 range, and if you’re feeling a bit masochistic you can throw in tablets from them too. It’s a lot harder to buy 100% into the Apple ecosystem for $1,000 unless you opt for the Mac Mini+an iPhone, or just a Macbook Air.

There’s no way to get a bit of everything without spending 50-100% more than you do with their competition, and while it was always somewhat justifiable, it’s getting harder to say that. I can’t point to anything that was announced today that isn’t replicated for less by Apple’s competitors, but more importantly I can’t say that Apple is doing it better than the competition. Though I am relieved to hear Apple cares about yak farmers, that will certainly help me sleep better tonight.

I look at it like this: If Apple is coasting along on the benefits of being successful, content to tweak and adjust rather than innovate, that puts them in line with their predecessors. Palm, Microsoft, Nokia, and Motorola were all tops in the mobile computing and smartphone worlds, and they all plateaued when they hit their apex. How’d that work out for them?

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About the Author

Greg Alston
Diehard Apple fanboy, and lover of all things tech. Born and raised in Washington, DC, Greg enjoys spending time with his wife, family, and friends, live sporting events, good bourbon, Tetris, and pizza. In that order.