Apple often adjusts its iPad and iPhone lineup in March, and this year’s changes make the selection more attractive and affordable while adding a new way to support the (RED) international charity. Let’s take a closer look at what Apple has done and what it means for you.
New iPad replaces iPad Air 2
The most significant of Apple’s changes is the replacement of the iPad Air 2 with a new 9.7-inch iPad model called simply “iPad.” This latest iPad is extremely similar to the iPad Air 2, and although most of the changes are for the better, Apple cut a few features so as to reduce the price to the lowest ever for a 9.7-inch iPad.
Physically, the new iPad is almost identical to the iPad Air 2, apart from being 1.4 mm thicker, which might cause problems for some current cases. More interesting is that Apple swapped the iPad Air 2’s A8X processor for the faster A9 chip, which should improve performance. The cameras remain mostly the same too, though photos taken with the rear-facing camera should be somewhat better, thanks to two improvements over the iPad Air 2’s camera: auto image stabilization to help avoid blurry images and a hybrid infrared filter to improve color accuracy and sharpness.
On the downside, the new iPad lacks the iPad Air 2’s laminated display and anti-reflective coating, which combined to increase screen clarity, particularly in bright light. You’d have to compare the new iPad against the more expensive iPad mini 4 or the much more expensive 9.7-inch iPad Pro to see if the screen change is a major problem for you.
The big win with the new iPad is price, which has dropped $70: it’s now only $329 for the Wi-Fi–only 32 GB model or $429 for 128 GB. The cellular models cost $459 for 32 GB and $559 for 128 GB. It’s now the least expensive iPad and what Apple expects most new buyers to purchase. It’s available starting March 24th.
Apple reduces iPad mini 4 price, drops iPad mini 2
The new iPad takes over the entry-level iPad spot from the iPad mini because Apple simultaneously dropped both the iPad mini 2, which had been priced at $269, and the 32 GB model of the iPad mini 4, which previously sold for $399. That leaves just the 128 GB iPad mini 4, and Apple slashed $100 off its price to bring it down to $399. Despite the price drop, unless you especially want the iPad mini’s smaller size or better screen, it’s probably worth $30 to move up to the new 128 GB iPad.
Paint the town (RED) with new iPhone 7 models
For more than 10 years, Apple has partnered with the (RED) international charity to raise money for the Global Fund to combat AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. By offering products in the licensed PRODUCT(RED) color and donating a portion of the proceeds, Apple has raised over $130 million for (RED), making it the charity’s largest corporate donor.
On March 24th, Apple will start selling the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus PRODUCT(RED) Special Edition models in 128 GB and 256 GB capacities. They’re functionally identical to the existing iPhone 7 and 7 Plus models and are priced the same too, but they come in what Apple calls “a vibrant red aluminum finish.” It’s a strong color that’s a far cry from Apple’s almost pastel rose gold color choice.
And if you’d like a PRODUCT(RED) iPhone, but have a perfectly serviceable iPhone that you don’t want to replace, Apple now offers silicone and leather cases in the (RED) color—they’re not quite as snazzy as the red aluminum finish, but they’re similarly bright.
iPhone SE now holds twice as much
Last, but far from least, Apple has doubled the storage tiers for the 4-inch iPhone SE, so you can now purchase a 32 GB model for $399 or a 128 GB model for $499. This minor change is welcome for two types of iPhone users.
First, if you’re looking for the least expensive iPhone, the 32 GB iPhone SE at $399 is $150 cheaper than the 32 GB iPhone 6s at $549. And second, some people with smaller hands or pockets don’t like the extra bulk of even the 4.7-inch iPhone 6s/7, much less the 5.5-inch iPhone 6s/7 Plus. For them, the svelte iPhone SE is a perfect size, and it’s helpful that buying it no longer requires living with only 16 GB or 64 GB of storage.
If you have questions about which of these products is right for your needs, get in touch!
In theory, it should be easy to move the cursor in text on an iPad or iPhone—just press and hold until the magnifying circle appears over the cursor and then slide it around. In reality, it’s often fussy and annoying. Apple came up with a better solution starting in iOS 9: trackpad mode.
In trackpad mode, you turn the onscreen keyboard into a virtual trackpad. Just as on a Mac laptop, moving your finger around the virtual trackpad moves the cursor around in the text above. How you invoke trackpad mode differs between the iPad and iPhone.
Trackpad Mode on the iPad
On an iPad, open any app that allows text input, like Notes, and bring up the keyboard. Touch the keyboard with two fingers, and you see the letters disappear from the keyboard as it switches to trackpad mode. Immediately swipe your fingers (or just one, you can lift the other up) around to move the cursor within the text.
You can also select text in trackpad mode. Instead of swiping immediately after entering trackpad mode, pause with your two fingers down briefly, which causes iOS to switch to selecting text. Then move your fingers around to change the colored selection.
For easier selection of chunks of text, tap once with two fingers to select the word underneath the cursor, twice to select the sentence around the cursor, and three times to select the entire paragraph. To expand or contract the selection, keep your fingers down and drag the selection cursor. To deselect text, tap once on the keyboard with two fingers.
You can use trackpad mode even if you have an external keyboard attached. Tap in a text field, place two fingers inside the field to engage trackpad mode, and then move your fingers to reposition the cursor. To select text, put the cursor inside a word, release your fingers, and tap once to select the word, twice for the sentence, and three times for the paragraph.
Trackpad Mode on the iPhone 6s and 7
To use trackpad mode on an iPhone, you’ll need 3D Touch, which limits it to the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, and the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus (the iPhone SE does not support 3D Touch, alas). Instead of tapping with two fingers, press firmly on the keyboard with one finger—you’ll feel the iPhone’s Taptic Engine simulate the feel of a click. Keep your finger down to move the cursor around. If you need more room, you can move your finger off the keyboard image right onto the text.
To select a word, relax your finger pressure slightly without removing it from the screen, and then press again. It’s quite similar to the feel of clicking on MacBook trackpad.
You can even double-press—again, with a slight relaxing of the finger first—to select the current sentence and triple-press to select the entire paragraph. Keep dragging after selecting to select more text by the word, sentence, or paragraph.
Trackpad mode takes a little getting used to, but it’s so much better than the previous selection methods that it’s worth forcing yourself to use it a few times until it becomes second nature.
As we anticipated, Apple used its September 7th media event (which you can watch) to announce the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, along with the new Apple Watch Series 2 and a pair of wireless earbuds called AirPods. Apple also announced that iOS 10 and watchOS 3 are due to ship on September 13th. Although Apple didn’t mention the iPad or Mac during the event, the company later modified its iPad lineup with new configurations and pricing and said that macOS Sierra would ship on September 20th. Let’s look at the key details of Apple’s announcements and explore what they might mean to you — there’s a lot to get through!
iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus
It’s what we were all waiting for. Apple announced the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, which are the same sizes as the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, respectively. The company stuck with the silver, gold, and rose gold case colors, but dropped space gray in favor of two black finishes: a matte black and a polished jet black.
As rumored, the new models drop the 3.5mm analog headphone jack entirely, but they come with a pair of Lightning-based EarPods for listening to music and making phone calls, plus a free Lightning-to-headphone adapter so you can continue to use older audio equipment. You can also buy additional adapters for $9.
The new iPhones have notably improved cameras. Along with a 7-megapixel front-facing camera that offers body and face detection plus image stabilization, the main rear-facing camera provides a 12-megapixel sensor with an ƒ/1.8 aperture lens that Apple claims is 60 percent faster and 30 percent more energy efficient than the camera in the iPhone 6s. The flash features four LEDs for 50% more light, plus a flicker sensor to help correct for artificial lighting. Even better, optical image stabilization is now standard on both models, and both can capture raw images with wide-gamut color.
For photography buffs, the iPhone 7 Plus is particularly interesting, because it features another rear-facing camera, which provides a telephoto lens with an ƒ/2.8 aperture. Apple’s Camera app seamlessly combines the two cameras to provide 2x optical zoom (up to 10x digital zoom) and will have a Portrait mode that focuses on people in the foreground while blurring the background. (Portrait mode is due to ship in an update to iOS later this year.)
The Home button takes a page from the Force Touch trackpad; it’s no longer a physical button but instead uses Apple’s Taptic Engine to make it feel as though you’re pushing a button. Apple says it should be more responsive and more reliable.
Losing the headphone jack and making the Home button force-sensitive helped Apple in another way: the iPhone 7 models are now dust and water resistant. Don’t toss your iPhone 7 in the pool, since they’re rated for immersion in only up to 1 meter of water, but it should withstand an errant splash or fall into the waves at the beach.
The iPhone 7 models are powered by Apple’s quad-core A10 Fusion processor, which automatically switches between two cores dedicated to high performance and two that are optimized for power efficiency to prolong battery life. Their screens are improved too, with Apple promising 25% more brightness with a wider color display.
Pricing of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus remains the same, but the storage amounts double from those available for the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. For the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, then, the 32 GB models cost $649 and $749, 128 GB of storage costs $749 and $869, and 256 GB will run you $849 and $969. Oddly, the jet black color is available only in 128 GB and 256 GB sizes. Or you can choose the iPhone Upgrade Program’s payments of $32 to $46 per month for 2 years, depending on which model you want. Preorders for the new iPhone 7 models start on 9 September 2016, with availability coming a week later.
Apple Watch Series 2
Less expected than the iPhone 7 was the Apple Watch Series 2, Apple’s first hardware update to the company’s wrist-based iPhone accessory, adding a much-requested GPS chip and making the watch significantly more water resistant.
From the outside, little has changed, although Apple did discontinue the mega-expensive gold Apple Watch Edition (which topped out at $17,000) in favor of the new ceramic Apple Watch Edition Series 2, which starts at $1249. Apple extended its lifestyle partnerships, updating the Apple Watch Hermès edition and introducing an Apple Watch Nike+, both of which differ from the stock models only in bands and custom watch faces.
The most significant addition is the GPS chip, which enables runners to track their routes and get performance information without carrying a bulky iPhone. When you complete a workout, the Activity app shows a map of your route along with speed data. Third-party apps like Strava and Runkeeper should also be able to take advantage of the GPS chip. Apple also doubled the brightness of the screen to make it easier to see in direct sunlight.
Swimmers, rejoice! Apple made the new watch water resistant to a depth of 50 meters and beefed up the Workout app with Pool and Open Water workout options that count laps and track average lap pace. You still can’t take it scuba diving or waterskiing, but for most standard aquatic activities, you shouldn’t have to worry about water damage.
Finally, those who found the original Apple Watch sluggish will appreciate Apple’s second-generation S2 System in a Package (SiP) chip, which Apple claims is 50% faster and includes a graphics processing unit that can double performance. Of course, the new models come with watchOS 3, which also provides significant speed boosts.
The Apple Watch Series 2 starts at $369 for the 38 mm model. Prices increase with the 42 mm model and with certain bands. You can preorder on September 9th, with availability on September 16th, although the Nike+ version won’t ship until October and the Hermès version ships on September 23rd.
If the Apple Watch still feels a little pricey, you can buy an Apple Watch Series 1 starting at $269—it’s an upgraded original model with the new S2 processor but not the GPS chip, water resistance, or brighter screen.
Although Apple did the right thing and included a Lightning-to-headphone adapter with every iPhone 7, the company also said, “the future is wireless.” To bolster that claim, Apple announced the AirPods, a pair of wireless headphones that eliminate the iconic white wires while still providing high-quality audio output and input.
The AirPods pair simultaneously to your iPhone and Apple Watch with a simple one-tap setup, and you can switch them to work with your iPad or Mac easily. (They act as normal Bluetooth earbuds when used with non-Apple devices—it remains to be seen how well that works.) Thanks to optical sensors and an accelerometer, the AirPods can detect when they are in your ears, turning on and off automatically to save power. Apple claims you can get 5 hours of listening time on one charge; you recharge them in a special case that holds multiple additional charges for 24 hours of life before it too needs recharging via a Lightning cable.
The AirPods include beamforming microphones that can focus on where your voice is coming from and filter out background noise, which should improve phone calls and recognition with Siri. Speaking of which, just double-tap one of the AirPods to invoke Siri to issue commands to whatever device the AirPods are paired with.
Apple says the AirPods will be available in late October for $159.
iPad Lineup Changes
Apple currently sells three standard iPads, the iPad Air 2, the iPad mini 4, and the iPad mini 2, and they just became better deals. Prices remain the same, but for each price point, Apple doubled the base storage, so you can now buy the iPad Air 2 or iPad mini 4 with either 32 GB ($399 for Wi-Fi or $529 for Wi-Fi plus cellular) or 128 GB ($499/$629), and the iPad mini 2 in just a 32 GB configuration ($269/$399).
If you’re instead considering a 9.7-inch or 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the storage options are unchanged, but the 128 GB model dropped in price by $50, and the 256 GB model is now $100 cheaper.
Twitter: Apple has announced the new iPhone 7, Apple Watch Series 2, and wireless AirPods—head over to our blog for details!
Facebook: At its special event on September 7th, Apple unveiled the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, along with the GPS-enabled Apple Watch Series 2 and the wireless AirPods for wire-free audio. We have the key details over at our blog, including pricing and when all these goodies will become available.