Apple Reveals iPhone SE, and New iPad Pro With Chameleon-Like "True Tone" Display

The company introduced technology that automatically adjusts the color of a screen to blend with the ambient light of its surroundings.

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Apple Reveals iPhone SE, and New iPad Pro With Chameleon-Like "True Tone" Display
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Image

At Apple’s latest press event in Cupertino, Calif., on Monday, the company revealed a new Retina display that automatically adjusts its color to match the light of its surroundings.

The first-of-its-kind technology, called the True Tone display, makes its debut on a smaller iPad Pro with a 9.7-inch screen. True Tone measures the brightness and temperature of the lighting in the immediate area (such as the oranges and yellows in a warmly lit room or the bluish hues of a cool summer night) through ambient light sensors. Then, it adjusts the hues on the screen to match.

The company says this chameleon-like quality should make reading or working on the iPad easier on users’ eyes. A separate function built into the iOS 9.3 update, called Night Shift, uses the internal clock and GPS system in a device to automatically move the colors on the screen away from the blue end of the spectrum as the sun sets. Artificial light from electronic devices is known to make it difficult to fall off to sleep. Blue wavelengths, say scientists, appear to affect sleep the most.

At the same event, Apple announced a new rose gold iPhone SE that it says melds the compact size of the iPhone 5 with the high performance of the iPhone 6. However, there was little about the underlying technology that breaks from the mold of its predecessors. Before the announcement, some analysts were already calling it “underwhelming.”

The new phone’s screen measures four inches diagonally, compared with the 4.7-inch screen for the iPhone 6 and 5.5-inch screen for the iPhone 6 Plus, which both debuted in 2014. That makes the iPhone SE very similar in appearance to the iPhone 5s.

In the U.S., there’s at least some evidence to suggest that a segment of customers may simply prefer a smaller device. Apple says that 60 percent of iPhone users who owned an iPhone before the launch of the iPhone 6 and 6s have neglected to upgrade.

Despite its iPhone 5–like size, the iPhone SE packs the same 64-bit A9 chip and M9 motion coprocessor as the iPhone 6s, enabling the “Hey, Siri” function to always remain on. It also comes equipped with Apple Pay and incorporates Touch ID, which allows a user to unlock their phone with their fingerprint.

As for price, the iPhone SE will cost $399 for 16GB, compared with $549 for the iPhone 6. That lower price, as well as the inclusion of Apple Pay, is likely part of Apple’s strategy to encourage customers in fast-growing cellphone markets such as China and India. CEO Tim Cook has said that China will eventually be home to the company’s largest customer base.

Overall, sales growth for the iPhone has already slowed worldwide. In January, the company said for the first time it expects iPhone sales to decline in the current quarter compared to the same period a year ago.

It’s a big week for Apple in several arenas. Tomorrow, the company faces the FBI in a U.S. federal court hearing over its refusal to build a new operating system that could break into the phone of a gunman from last year’s San Bernardino, Calif., mass shooting.

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