Apple unveils 5G versions of iPad Air and low-end iPhone SE

The Apple iPhone SE smartphone is unveiled during the Peek Performance virtual event in New York, on March 8, 2022. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

CUPERTINO (BLOOMBERG) - Apple introduced 5G versions of its low-end iPhone SE and iPad Air tablet, as well as a redesigned Mac desktop computer and a new processor, kicking off what is likely to be its biggest year yet for new product releases.

Apple unveiled the devices during a virtual event Tuesday (March 8) that it called "Peek performance". Chief executive officer Tim Cook also announced plans to bring Major League Baseball games to the company's TV+ streaming service.

The presentation included a new Apple chip named M1 Ultra that the company called the most powerful personal-computer chip ever. The product is part of Apple's years long shift away from using Intel processors in favour of its own components.

The new desktop computer, called the Mac Studio, features the M1 Ultra chip and is aimed at app developers, photo editors and video creators. Apple also unveiled a separate monitor.

Apple shares gained less than 1 per cent to US$160.50 (S$218.85) at 1.32pm in New York. They have fallen about 10 per cent this year, in line with a broader slump.

The event was the first of what is expected to be several product launches this year, with Apple also readying additional Macs and iPads, as well as the iPhone 14 and new smartwatches. And the company may preview its first mixed augmented- and virtual-reality headset later this year.

The new iPhone is Apple's first update to the SE line since 2020. The model, which will continue to come in black, white and red, will have a slightly higher price: starting at US$429 (from S$699 in Singapore), up from US$399 (S$649 in Singapore). But it has 5G network support, a faster A15 processor and other features.

The iPhone SE continues to look similar to the iPhone 8 from 2017, including a home button with Touch ID - rather than the Face ID used by higher-end models. It has a 4.7-inch screen, making it the smallest iPhone available.

But the addition of 5G makes the device far more competitive in the marketplace and may help the company to lure Android users and consumers with older iPhones.

Apple does not break out sales of individual iPhone models, but the smartphone represents its biggest moneymaker overall, bringing in over half of its revenue in the last fiscal year, or about US$192 billion. The SE first debuted in 2016 amid calls for a smaller and cheaper iPhone, and was previously updated at the beginning of the pandemic.

On Tuesday, Apple also added new green colour options to the iPhone 13, helping keep that model in the news until the iPhone 14 with an updated design arrives later this year.

The new iPhone SE and US$599 (from S$879 in Singapore) iPad Air, which sports an M1 chip, will be available for ordering on March 11, before reaching stores a week later.

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