Apple Unveils Budget-Friendly iPad, Dresses iPhone in Red

Apple announced an iPad update, a red iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, and a new video-editing app for iOS.

The iPad upgrade has a 9.7-inch, 2048 x 1536-pixel Retina display with 264 pixels per inch, and Apple’s A9 64-bit processor.

The unit will come in silver, gold and space gray with a starting price of US$329 for 32 gigabytes of storage and Wi-Fi only support. It will cost $459 for a 32-GB unit with Wi-Fi and cellular support.

As with prior models, the battery life for the new iPad is 10 hours. It has an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera and 1.2-MP front-facing FaceTime unit.

The new iPad is available for order on Mach 24 from Apple’s website and will be in Apple Stores next week.

With the latest upgrade, Apple’s iPad lineup looks like this: iPad Pro 12.9 inch ($799); iPad Pro 9.7 inch ($599); iPad 9.7 inch ($329) and iPad mini 4 ($399).

Not Quite an Air Replacement

Although the latest iPad replaces the iPad Air 2 in Apple’s tablet lineup, it doesn’t quite supplant it.

“It falls somewhere between a new device and the old device,” said Carolina Milanesi, a principal analyst at Creative Strategies.

Pricing is also an outstanding feature of the new iPad, Milanesi said, noting that “$329 for a 9.7-inch device is very aggressive.”

Prying Old iPads from Users’ Paws

Attractive pricing may tempt some iPad owners to upgrade their old hardware.

“The replacement cycle for iPads is getting really long,” said Mikako Kitagawa, a principal research analyst with Gartner. “If you have a 3- or 4-year-old iPad, you may want this upgrade.”

The pricing also could attract some new users into the Apple universe.

Competitive pressure also may play a role in Apple’s new entry-level tablet pricing.

“It’s an interesting strategic move for Apple,” said Rhoda Alexander, director of tablet and notebook research at IHS Markit.

The lower price point for the iPad could gin up some additional iPad sales, “but not as much as many believe,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy.

A Red iPhone

Apple introduced red versions of its iPhone 7 and 7 Plus to celebrate the company’s 10-year partnership with (RED), an organization that funds programs to help prevent the transmission of HIV from mothers to unborn babies.

A portion of the sales of the RED iPhone will go to the organization, to which Apple has contributed more than $130 million during the partnership.

Slated for availability in Apple Stores on Friday, the RED iPhone pricing will start at $749 for a 128-GB model.

Video Editing With Clips

Apple also announced Clips, a new video-editing app. The software is designed to combine photos, video and music without timelines or complicated tools.

Its LiveTitles feature lets you use your voice to create animated titles and captions. As you speak, titles appear on the screen perfectly synced to your speech. You can edit titles with a tap.

Comic book filters are included, as well as support for speech bubbles and shapes. You can use the software to create full-screen posters with animated backgrounds too.

Dozens of music soundtracks are available for the content you create with the app. What’s more, the app automatically trims them to fit your production.

Available in April, Clips runs on iOS 10.3 and is compatible with the iPhone 5s or later, all iPad Air and Pro models, the iPad mini 2 and above, and the iPod touch 6th-generation model.

Apple May Alter the AR Competition

Apple is stockpiling resources to make a splash in the augmented reality market.

The company is not only marshalling internal resources behind its AR efforts, but also hiring talented outsiders and acquiring companies with expertise in AR hardware, 3D gaming and virtual reality software, Bloomberg reported Monday.

The new outsiders include a former Dolby labs executive, engineers who worked virtual reality headsets for Google and Microsoft, and some Hollywood digital effects experts, the report notes.

“We’ve been waiting for Apple to launch something in AR after its acquisition of a number of AR companies, including Metaio and FlyBy Media,” said David MacQueen, executive director for apps and media at Strategy Analytics.

Apple Likes Fat Margins

Those higher price tags for AR products could be an attraction for Apple, which is fond of high prices and the high margins that often accompany them.

While shipments of virtual reality headsets will outpace their AR counterparts from 2016 to 2021, the market for AR headsets will be larger, growing from $2.1 billion to $18.6 billion, according to a five-year forecast IDC released last week.

“With all the technological enhancements, there will be a wide range of products and price points,” said Jitesh Ubrani, a senior research analyst at IDC.

“VR setups already range from sub-(US)$100 to more than $1,000, and though it’s too early to tell, the low-cost experiences may prove to be inhibitors rather than promoters of the technology as they can potentially disappoint first time VR users,” he continued.

“On the other hand, due to the sophistication of the hardware, most AR headsets are expected to cost well over $1,000,” Ubrani explained. “This makes the technology far less accessible to consumers initially, though that’s probably for the best as the AR ecosystem and wide social acceptance are still a few years away.”

Mainstream Reality

Augmented reality makes sense for Apple on another level, too, noted Bob O’Donnell, chief analyst at Technalysis Research.

With AR, a user remains present in the real world and there’s an opportunity to interact with people and real-world objects, said Ross Rubin, the principal analyst with Reticle Research.

Augmented reality also is better suited for a mobile environment.

“VR has the user completely immersed in a virtual environment,” noted Strategy Analytics’ MacQueen.

“It’s inherently an immobile technology, which most people would prefer to use while in a safe environment,” he pointed out. “AR is much more suited to on-the-go use cases, such as enhanced navigation, so it suits mobile better than VR does.”

The Next Big Thing

Augmented reality also could be the next big thing for smartphones — even though the form factor might be a bit clumsy for AR purposes.

“Holding the phone up and scanning the world around you is quite a clunky experience compared to using smartglasses,” MacQueen pointed out.

“However, paired with smartglasses — using the iPhone for processing power — could be an interesting proposition,” he suggested.

A bold move into AR could deflect a few brickbats thrown Apple’s way for not being innovative enough since the passing of Steve Jobs.

“Apple has been regularly criticized for failing to deliver on ‘next big thing’ technologies and products,” observed Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

Up to now, VR and AR have generated more hype than consumer interest. Apple could change that for AR.

“It is a safe bet that given Tim Cook’s strong position on AR that Apple will play a major role in bringing AR to the masses,” predicted Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies.

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