5 things to expect at Apple's March event: Apple to go 'smaller' with iPhone and iPad Pro range

A man looks at his iPhone 6 Plus outside the Apple store in Pasadena, California, in this Sept 19, 2014, file photo.
A man looks at his iPhone 6 Plus outside the Apple store in Pasadena, California, in this Sept 19, 2014, file photo.PHOTO: AFP

CUPERTINO - It is like clockwork these days with Apple events. Come March, June and September, and Apple will have an event.

Apple sent an invite to selected journalists last week with a simple "Let us loop you in" message. However, the venue stated is 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino or Apple Campus.

This means the event is most likely to be a pretty small affair, as the Apple Campus Town Hall can take only 300 people. By comparison, the Yerba Buena Centre in San Francisco, where many iPhones had been announced before, has a seating capacity of up to 750 people.

So what can you expect? We scoured the rumour mills, looked at our crystal ball and came up with what we think Apple will be announcing at the event at 1am on Tuesday (March 22, Singapore time).

New 4-inch iPhone

A man takes pictures as Apple iPhone 6s and 6s Plus go on sale at an Apple Store in Beijing, China. PHOTO: REUTERS

This rumour has been around for years, but it seems that Apple is finally coming up with a new 4-inch iPhone. Apparently, there are people who are resisting the upgrade to iPhone 6s or 6s Plus, as they find that the 4.7-inch or 5.5-inch displays to be too big.

The "iPhone SE", as the rumours say it will be named, is thought to be essentially an iPhone 6s with a 4-inch display. It is said to feature the A9 processor, an 8-megapixel front-facing camera, Touch ID fingerprint sensor and Near Field Communication (NFC) for Apple Pay support. It will only be missing the 3D Touch that is found in the latest iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.

Apple could earn up to US$5.5 billion (S$7.5 billion) in revenue from a 4-inch iPhone this year, according to RBC analyst Amit Daryanani.

New 9.7-inch iPad

A user working on some graphics on the Apple iPad Pro using its touchscreen display. PHOTO: APPLE

The iPad Air 2 was launched in Oct 2014 and has not been updated since. So it is highly likely that Apple will launch a new 9.7-inch tablet this time round.

However, the rumours are saying it will not be called iPad Air 3. Instead, it will be a smaller 9.7-inch version of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

This version will feature the same design and processor as the iPad Pro but in a smaller form. Like the iPad Pro, it will have four speakers and comes with the new Smart Connector. Thus, it will have its own Smart Keyboard Case and supports the Apple Pencil stylus.

Again, Apple is going "small" for this event.

New Apple Watch straps

A customer tries on an Apple Watch displayed at an Apple Inc store in New York, on Sept 10, 2015. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Given the smaller scale of this event, it is unlikely we will see an Apple Watch 2 announcement.

Instead, we might see only new Apple Watch straps, such as a black Milanese Loop to complement the Space Black Apple Watch or some other straps with new materials. I'm still waiting for a Nato strap for Apple Watch.

Or maybe we will finally see the smart straps that can be connected to Apple Watch's bottom strap connector slot? These smart straps can add functionalities, such as an extra battery and blood pressure sensor.

If not, we might see another line of fashion brand Apple Watch tie-ups, similar to the current Hermes Apple Watch series. Burberry Apple Watch, anyone?

New iOS 9.3

An Apple logo is seen at the Apple store in Munich, Germany, in this Jan 27, 2016 file photo. PHOTO: REUTERS

It is only three months to Apple's annual WWDC developer conference in June. Apple would want the incremental update of iOS 9.3 to be out soon before iOS 10 debuts in WWDC.

So, Apple might just take this opportunity to launch iOS 9.3 with the new smaller iPhones and iPads.

One of the new features in iOS 9.3 is Night Shift. This allows users to control the amount of blue light being emitted from the iOS devices' screen. Blue light is said to affect sleep, as it prohibits the growth of the hormone melatonin that helps us sleep.

In addition, Apple Notes will be password protected in iOS 9.3 too. So you can now store your sensitive information in your iPhone, and only you can unlock it with Touch ID or passcodes.

Along with iOS 9.3 is the new watchOS 2.2. The new watchOS allows you to pair multiple Apple Watches to an iPhone. Now, you can  pair only one Apple Watch to one iPhone. Maybe, this is in anticipation of Apple Watch 2?

New MacBooks

An Apple MacBook Air. PHOTO: ST FILE

The Apple MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro are all due for a refresh, thanks to the delay in the availability of Intel's latest sixth-generation Skylake processors.

However, Intel has finally released the Skylake processors in recent months. So we might see updated Apple laptops during this event.

Or maybe we can finally have a MacBook Air with Retina display?

The Straits Times will be at the event in Cupertino to bring you the latest Apple announcements.

You can also catch the live stream of Apple's event on Tuesday (March 22) from 1am Singapore time, at Apple's website.