The biggest takeaways from Apple’s tiniest keynote in years

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A size for every hand.
A size for every hand.
Photo: Apple

Evolution, not revolution, was the tone of today’s low-key Apple event. Smaller is better, says Apple, with two big product “reveals” that show off compact new devices with impressive internals.

While most of the announcements today have already been discussed and dissected, like the 4-inch iPhone SE, new Apple Watch bands and a smaller 9.7-inch iPad Pro, there were a couple of surprises.

Here are the biggest takeaways from Apple’s oddly low-key “Let us loop you in” event.

iPhone SE: badass as iPhone 6S

The iPhone SE packs a ton of great stuff into a tiny body.
The iPhone SE packs a ton of great stuff into a tiny body.
Photo: Apple

The new 4-inch iPhone SE aims to meet the needs of two demographics — those that want a smaller iPhone and those that are coming to the iPhone family for the first time. Apple sold more than 30 million iPhones in this form factor (iPhone 5 and 5s) last year, showing us all the demand for an iPhone at this size. It may be small, but boy is it powerful, with the same internals as the iPhone 6S, Apple’s newest (and largest) iPhone in the lineup.

The price, too, is on the small side, with a 16GB iPhone SE coming in at an affordable $399. It’s free with a two-year contract or $17 per month without. You’ll be able to preorder this Thursday, and it’ll ship on March 31.

New iPad Pro: smaller and better

Size does matter, says Phil Schiller.
Size does matter, says Phil Schiller.
Photo: Apple

Phil Schiller couldn’t be more excited to tell us about this super-powered, right-sized iPad during today’s event. “People love the iPad Pro,” he says. This new, smaller iPad Pro is entirely new and based on a 9.7-inch Retina Display; it also weighs less than 1 pound. The internals are badass as well, with a four-speaker audio system that gives the new Pro twice the volume of an iPad Air 2. There’s a new, smaller Smart Keyboard, and the smaller iPad Pro will support the Apple Pencil, just like it’s big brother.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro boasts a higher-end camera like the iPhone SE, and will cost a little less than expected, coming in at $599 for a 32GB model. The biggest surprise for those who read every rumor prior to the event: There’s a high-end storage option (256GB) for $899. Orders start this Thursday, March 24, and the device will ship on March 31.

iOS 9.3 just keeps getting better

iOS 9.3 continues to get better and better.
iOS 9.3 continues to get better and better.
Photo: Apple

iOS is the most advanced mobile operating system in the world, says Apple, and it runs on 80 percent of active iOS devices. That’s compared to a 2 percent install rate of Android’s latest OS. Innovative new features like Night Shift to reduce your nighttime exposure to blue light, and password (and fingerprint) protection for Notes, make iOS 9.3 the best mobile operating system around. Health, News and CarPlay get evolutionary advancements, too, in this new “dot” release. The best news: iOS 9.3 is available for everybody right now.

Apple doubles down on its FBI fight with the FBI

Tim Cook gets serious about privacy.
Tim Cook gets serious about privacy.
Photo: Apple

Tim Cook took to the stage and immediately brought up Apple’s fight against the government. Calling the iPhone an extension of ourselves, Cook reminded us that “we built the iPhone for you, our customers.” While he sounded a little nervous at times, Cook took a strong line against creating a special GovtOS to allow the FBI into a single iPhone. This is a heavy stance for Apple, and it shows.

“We need to decide how much power the government should have over our data and our privacy,” Cook said.

Apple really cares about the environment

Renewable energy is the Apple way, says Lisa Jackson.
Renewable energy is the Apple way, says Lisa Jackson.
Photo: Apple

Lisa Jackson, the head of Apple’s environmental team, took a goodly amount of time to show us what Apple does to preserve our planet. Apple uses renewable energy in 93 percent of its operations worldwide, with 100 percent green energy used in the United States, China and 21 other countries around the globe. Apple built solar panels that don’t disturb the yaks in China, and 99 percent of its packaging comes from recycled paper or from sustainably managed forests.

Jackson introduced us all to the coolest recycling robot ever, Liam, who detects the parts in your old iPhone and then pulls them all out for reuse later in other iPhones or industrial products. Hi, Liam!

Apple brings people to Health

CareKit will change the way we recover from surgery.
CareKit will change the way we recover from surgery.
Photo: Apple

Jeff Williams is proud of the research studies that Apple has helped. One study became the largest Parkinson’s study in history, with over 10,000 participants, thanks to the accessibility of the iPhone and HealthKit/ResearchKit, which make it easy for iPhone users to participate even if they don’t live near a research institute. The technology has helped researchers find subtypes within Type 2 diabetes, and helps parents and educators diagnose autism earlier than ever, which leads to much better outcomes with earlier intervention, Apple says.

CareKit, a new initiative, lets patients manage their own care in concert with teams of doctors, including an app from Texas Medical Center that makes post-surgery recovery easier and more dynamic.

“We can do this science, we can do this medicine, with a phone,” said a researcher in the short film about all the new research.

Apple Watch gets new looks

There are some pretty neat Apple Watch bands here.
There are some pretty neat Apple Watch bands here.
Photo: Apple

Apple Watch is, according to Tim Cook, the top-selling smartwatch in the world — and No. 1 in customer satisfaction. That’s why they’re dropping the price to $299, right?

Even if a price-drop isn’t a response to decreased demand, Apple’s decided to add new, colorful Watch bands to the mix, with a new woven-nylon band, new Sport and Leather band styles, and a brand new space black Milanese loop for the black Apple Watch.

Apple TV gets dictation and folders

TV evolved.
Apple TV’s evolution continues.
Photo: Apple

Apple brought all-new capabilities to the biggest screen in your house with the Apple TV App Store and Siri Remote. They sold the largest amount of Apple TVs after the intro of the fourth-generation Apple TV, which now can use a whopping 5,000 Apple TV apps. Cook walked us through some of the biggies, like HBO Now, NCAA March Madness Live, AG Drive, BrainPop, GrubHub and Solar Walk 2.

The big new features here are that you can now organize your Apple TV home screen into folders, just like on iOS, and now you’ll be able to enter text, usernames and passwords with Siri, because boy does that onscreen keyboard suck on the Apple TV.

Need a video recap? Here you go:

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  • AJ5790

    It says a lot about this event that the thing I’m most excited about is the black stainless steel Milanese loop band. lol! Although I already have an iPad pro so that didn’t really catch my eye, and I don’t want a smaller phone. For me this was a yawner of an event, but there’s something there for different folks I guess.

  • iMac Lovin

    to be honest, Im baffled apple even considered having an event for this. The new phone is not new at all, the ipad is the same as the pro, only in the size of the air, and thats it!! even they guys presenting it seemed to be about to fall asleep. YAWN! Guess they are having an extended xmas holiday at apple.

  • RRB6

    Tim said this is the last product introduction in the Town Hall. If the next product introduction will be in the new space ship, but that won’t be open till 2017, doesn’t that mean that the iPhone 7 will not be introduced until 2017?

  • http://www.feastofbeast.com DJBabyBuster

    Boo tiny iPhones, but yay for 9.7″ iPad pro. But yes yawn

  • rfr1

    When it starts out with initiatives, you know there isn’t going to be much in the way of announcements. Apple continues to hire people, buy and build space, and tells us it is like Christmas Morning, but what are all of these people and space being used for? I like the new iPhone, considering the new iPad, and appreciate the operating system upgrades, but what about the other software. FCPX was just a minor upgrade after a year, Pages still does not do things the order version did before the rewrite to just name a couple. There is so much that Apple could do with there current product line, both hardware and software, that I just don’t get what Apple is trying to do any more. Apple now has more resources than they have ever had but ….