Apple launches new iPhone SE with 4-inch screen

Another badly kept secret was let out of the bag in California today, as the Apple iPhone SE was made official. The new iPhone sports a smaller, 4-inch screen, and a more affordable price, but promises a level of performance to come close to the flagship iPhones.

The iPhone SE will go on sale with a starting price of £359/$399, and will be available to preorder from Thursday 24th March before hitting shops on Thursday 31st March.

Apple also announced a new 9.7-inch iPad Pro tablet, new bands for the Apple Watch, an imminent update for the Apple TV, and the release of iOS 9.3.

MORE: Apple iPad Pro 9.7 hands-on review

MORE: Apple iPhone SE hands-on review

Smaller, cheaper iPhone

Apple claimed the iPhone SE was "the most powerful 4in-screen phone ever made", promising specs to rival the flagship phones but with a smaller screen and a lower price.

Replacing the iPhone 5 phones in the iPhone line-up, the new SE model has the same 64-bit A9 chip as the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, the M9 motion coprocessor and an improved battery life.

The SE claims double the processing power of the iPhone 5S, and a three-times-faster gaming processor. The iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S have been discontinued.

The iPhone SE can capture and edit 4K video and comes with a 12-megapixel iSight camera. It also supports Apple Pay.

The small-screen iPhone comes in 16GB and 64GB storage options and is available in space grey, silver, gold and rose gold. It will cost £359 for the 16GB model and £439 for the 32GB model.

Apple will be hoping a cheap iPhone will boost faltering sales - the company reported in January that Q2 2016 iPhone sales were likely to be down year-on-year for the first time in over a decade.

Smaller, cheaper iPad Pro

Apple also announced a new 9.7-inch iPad Pro, taking many of the features from the existing, 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and bringing it to a smaller-size tablet - the screen size that Apple says is the most popular for iPads.

The new iPad Pro is 6.1mm thin and weighs just under one pound, it uses the A9X chip with third-generation 64-bit architecture, and promises to be the "ultimate PC replacement". It also comes with a new four-speaker audio system that claims to be twice as powerful.

iOS 9.3 also adds support for playing video encoded with Dolby Digital Plus audio, and there's support for multichannel output using an Apple Lightning Digital AV Adapter.

The Retina display claims to be 25 per cent brighter and 40 per cent less reflective than iPad Air 2, which should improve viewing in bright light and outdoors.

Using the same display as the original iPad Pro, it has a 40 per cent less reflective screen than the iPad Air 2 but promises to be 25 per cent brighter - 500 nits, no less, the brightest tablet on the market, according to Apple. Supposedly, this screen is up to digital cinema spec.

It has the A9x chip and M9 processor, and supports the Apple Pencil and the smart keyboard.

Elsewhere it's a 12-megapixel camera, which can shoot and edit 4K video, plus a 5-megapixel FaceTime HD camera.

It comes in four finishes, with rose gold for the first time, and comes in 32GB, 128GB and 256GB storage capacity options. The original iPad Pro is now available in 256GB, too.

MORE: iPad Pro review

Apple also dropped the price of the iPad Air 2 - it's now available from £349 instead of £399 for the 16GB model.

iOS 9.3 is also available to download from today, promising a new Night Shift feature, which adapts the screen's colours based on the time of day - warmer colours and reduced blue light to help you sleep better, for example.

The Apple Watch - the number-one selling smartwatch in the world - now has a woven nylon band and a new price of $299.

An update to the Apple TV software, tvOS, was also announced, promising to bring folders, dictation, voice search via Siri on the App Store and more. It's available from today.

Tim Cook began the Apple keynote with a stern defence of the company's stance on privacy in light of the ongoing debate with the FBI in the US.

Cook also trailed the imminent 40th anniversary of the company, which is due later this year, while announcing there are now more than one billion Apple devices in use around the world.

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Andy Madden

Andy is Deputy Editor of What Hi-Fi? and a consumer electronics journalist with nearly 20 years of experience writing news, reviews and features. Over the years he's also contributed to a number of other outlets, including The Sunday Times, the BBC, Stuff, and BA High Life Magazine. Premium wireless earbuds are his passion but he's also keen on car tech and in-car audio systems and can often be found cruising the countryside testing the latest set-ups. In his spare time Andy is a keen golfer and gamer.