Apple Wants to Replace PCs with iPads. World asks, “What’s New?”

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Tim Cook defends personal privacy at Apple's press event.

Tim Cook defends personal privacy at Apple’s press event.

Today in Apple’s own Cupertino HQ the company managed to champion personal privacy, promote ways to manage your health, and alienate both potential and current iPad owners, all while unveiling the newest iPad Pro and the new iPhone SE.

The special press event started in typical Apple fashion with Tim Cook on stage energizing the crowd while highlighting 40 years of Apple’s many successes, including the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch. Apple’s CEO then jumped right into the recent debate over Apple’s refusal to help the FBI crack iPhone security. “We built the iPhone for you, our customers,” Cook said. “And we know that it is a deeply personal device. For many of us, the iPhone is an extension of ourselves.”

The primary concern for Apple is clear, if the company creates a backdoor security hole in the iOS software for the FBI and other Federal agencies to access private data on Apple devices used by criminals then hackers will inevitably take advantage of it to compromise the privacy of more than 1 billion users.  “A month ago we asked Americans across the country to join in a conversation,” Cook said. “We get to decide as a nation how much power the government should have over our data and over our privacy.”

Lisa Jackson highlights Apple's efforts to recycle old devices.

Lisa Jackson highlights Apple’s efforts to recycle old devices.

Cook quickly transitioned from respecting and defending personal privacy to respecting and defending the environment.  Lisa Jackson, Apple’s Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives highlighted that 93 percent of Apple’s facilities run on renewable energy worldwide and 100 percent of Apple’s facilities in the U.S. and China run on renewable energy. Apple has likewise taken extreme measures to reuse and recycle Apple products; Jackson showcased “Liam,” a robot that disassembles old iPhones into their individual components to recycle the raw materials. And, thanks to a new initiative called Apple ReNew, consumers will soon be able to ship their old Apple products directly to Apple for recycling instead of searching for a local recycling center that might not be equipped to handle electronics.

Of course, the “biggest” news from today’s event was the release of new, smaller iPads and iPhones.

What’s New is Small

Apple's new 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

Apple’s new 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

Apple now offers the iPad Pro in both the original 12.9-inch version and the new 9.7-inch model. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro weighs less than one pound (437 grams) compared to the 1.57 lbs of the larger iPad Pro. The smaller screen comes with a slightly lower resolution; 2048 x 1536 on the 9.7-inch version compared to 2732 x 2048 on the original.

Both iPad Pro models are powered by Apple’s A9X chip with M9 coprocessor, but the smaller iPad Pro actually has a rear-facing 12-megapixel iSight camera capable of 4K video recording compared to the lower resolution 8-megapixel iSight camera on the larger iPad Pro which is limited to 1080p video. The smaller iPad Pro also gets a front-facing 5-megapixel FaceTime HD camera compared to the 1.2-megapixel camera on the 12.9-inch model.

The new 9.7-inch iPad Pro features a smaller 27.5 watt-hour lithium-polymer battery compared to the 38.5 watt-hour battery in the original iPad Pro, but the smaller screen also means this iPad consumes less power and that should mean roughly equivalent battery life.

Apple offers the same storage capacities (32 GB, 128 GB, and 256 GB) for both the 9.7-inch iPad Pro and 12.9-inch iPad Pro with Wi-Fi only. The cellular version of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro isn’t available in the 32 GB capacity but the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro will have a cellular version with 32 GB of storage. The smaller iPad Pro will also be available in “rose gold” color in addition to the silver, gold, and space gray colors that are already available for the larger iPad Pro.

iPadProSizeComparisonNot everyone wants an expensive tablet

Apple’s Phil Schiller declared the iPad Pro is “the ultimate PC replacement” during the press event, and then he pointed out that there are more than 600 million PCs in use today that are more than 5 years old. “This is really sad,” Schiller said. “It really is.” Perhaps it was his obviously sarcastic tone, but we failed to understand why Schiller (and perhaps the rest of Apple) doesn’t understand why people are still using old PCs.

Schiller might be dismissive of the more than 600 million PCs that are over 5 years old that are still in use today, but that’s something Apple needs to examine in greater detail. One of the major reasons that so many old PCs are still in use today is that a 5-year-old PC is still capable of running most of the Windows software that is available today. Try running the current Facebook app for iOS in all its glory on a first-generation iPad … spoiler alert: you can’t.

Product life cycles might not matter to people who can afford to buy a latest device every year. But there are more than 600 million users out there who clearly aren’t buying the newest and most expensive tech. Apple wants gain market share among both education and enterprise clients. Guess which customers tend to hold onto their PCs the longest … education and enterprise clients. There are schools today that are only now starting to deploy electronic devices that were originally released two years ago. Many school districts and businesses purchase PCs and other compute devices just as the manufacturers are “phasing out” those products. Old stock means lower prices and more devices for students or employees.

If a school or business doesn’t even buy a “new” iPad until it’s 12-18 months old and doesn’t deploy the device for another 4-6 months after purchase, that means roughly half  (or more) of the life expectancy of that iPad is gone before anyone ever uses it. If Apple wants those customers to stop using PCs then Apple needs to work with developers to make sure more apps in the App store continue to work with older iPads.

You can’t expect everyone to buy a new iPad every year or two … even if the prices continue to fall.

A smaller, cheaper iPhone

iPhone SE

iPhone SE

We’re surprised that Apple doesn’t appear to understand the issues surrounding the continued use of old PCs when the company clearly understands why people continue using old iPhones. In 2015, Apple sold roughly 30 million 4-inch iPhones worldwide. All those iPhones were older, “outdated” devices, yet customers are still using them because of the smaller size, the Apple brand along with iOS apps, and the lower price.

Apple took all of those elements and developed the iPhone SE, a phone with the same dimensions as the iPhone 5 and 5s, but packed with current-generation hardware and priced starting at $399 or free with a 2-year contract. That’s even better than the cheapest launch price for the iPhone 5C, which started at $549 or $99 on contract. The smaller size and lower cost of the iPhone SE will not only help promote sales here in the U.S. but also in growing markets like China and India where consumers are even more motivated by price.

The 4-inch iPhone SE is powered by the same 64-bit A9 chip with M9 coprocessor used inside the iPhone 6s. The new 12‑megapixel iSight camera captures both high-resolution still images as well as 4K videos. The screen features a resolution of 1136 x 640 pixels (326 ppi) and the Home button includes a built-in fingerprint sensor … meaning the cheapest iPhone now fully support Apple Pay for retail transactions. U.S. carriers include Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint.

We’ll have full reviews of the new iPad Pro and iPhone SE as soon as we get our hands on these latest devices. Apple starts shipping the 9.7-inch iPad Pro on March 31, 2016 and the Apple Store will take orders for both the new iPad Pro and the iPhone SE on March 24, 2016.



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  1. gillies

    The Intel microprocessor has gotten NO faster in the past 5 years, maybe that’s why consumers are intelligent enough not to buy new ones. The only thing driving improvements are higher-capacity memory buses (DDR2, DDR3, DDR4) but they are just trading away some latency for a tiny bump in throughput & a huge bump in marketing terms (DDR at 1866 Mhz sounds a heck of a lot better than DDR at 100 Mhz but it’s hardly better.) The only useful change in the past 5 years has been in the area of energy efficiency, with Haswell. Broadwell was a downgrade. Skylake is where Intel remembered how to build Haswell. We are still looking for something better than Haswell.

  2. mrmobileperformance

    I love the analysis in this article. more devices for more students that don’t need to be replaced as often is the right call.