Ap­ple starts busy week with new iPhone launch

The Pak Banker - - COMPANIES/BOSS -

Ap­ple is kick­ing off a busy week: To­day the gi­ant tech com­pany will host re­porters and an­a­lysts at its Sil­i­con Val­ley head­quar­ters for a prod­uct launch event. On Tues­day, its lawyers will square off with au­thor­i­ties in fed­eral court over the FBI's de­mand for help un­lock­ing a San Bernardino killer's en­crypted iPhone.

The tech gi­ant's dis­pute with the govern­ment has com­manded head­lines for weeks, but it may get scant men­tion at the com­pany's prod­uct event. In­stead, CEO Tim Cook is ex­pected to show off some new ad­di­tions to the cur­rent fam­ily of iPhone and iPad devices at Mon­day's gath­er­ing. Ap­ple could use a lift. IPhone sales are lev­el­ling off, af­ter surg­ing last year to record lev­els that made Ap­ple the world's big­gest com­pany, by stock mar­ket value. And many are won­der­ing if Cook can come up with an­other big hit.

So far, how­ever, there have been no hints of any dra­matic an­nounce­ments, such as last year's highly an­tic­i­pated Ap­ple Watch de­but, or ma­jor ini­tia­tives like the com­pany's long-ru­mored but yet-to-ma­te­ri­al­ize stream­ing TV ser­vice.

And even though Cook has been out­spo­ken about his op­po­si­tion to a judge's or­der com­pelling Ap­ple to write soft­ware that over­rides iPhone se­cu­rity fea­tures, tech an­a­lysts say he prob­a­bly won't risk over­shad­ow­ing the com­pany's prod­ucts by dis­cussing the case at Mon­day's event.

While Ap­ple has been mum about its plans, sev­eral an­a­lysts ex­pect the com­pany will in­tro­duce an upgrade to its older, four-inch iPhone 5S - aimed at con­sumers who haven't sprung for the big­ger-screen iPhone 6 mod­els that Ap­ple in­tro­duced over the last two years. The new phone may come with fea­tures like Ap­ple Pay and the com­pany's fastest pro­ces­sor, which have pre­vi­ously been of­fered only on ver­sions of the iPhone 6.

An­a­lysts and tech blogs say Ap­ple also may un­veil a new model of the iPad Pro, which the com­pany in­tro­duced last year with sev­eral fea­tures - like a de­tach­able key­board and sty­lus - de­signed for busi­ness users.

A four-inch iPhone isn't likely to see the kind of block­buster de­mand that Ap­ple en­joyed with its large- screen iPhone 6 and 6S mod­els, ac­cord­ing to sev­eral fi­nan­cial an­a­lysts, but it could help Ap­ple boost over­all sales. The smaller phone might also draw some ad­di­tional users into the mar­ket for Ap­ple's on­line ser­vices, in­clud­ing Ap­ple Mu­sic, Ap­ple Pay and the highly prof­itable mo­bile App Store.

While shop­pers bought a record 74.8 mil­lion iPhones in the fi­nal three months of 2015, Ap­ple has sig­naled de­mand in the cur­rent three-month pe­riod will fall short of the 61 mil­lion iPhones sold in the Jan­uary-March quar­ter last year.

Even with new fea­tures, an­a­lysts say the 4-inch iPhone should sell at a lower price than the larger mod­els, which list at $549 or more. That means it may ap­peal to some shop- pers, es­pe­cially in over­seas mar­kets, who want a pre­mium phone at lower cost. It may also draw in­ter­est from own­ers of older iPhone 5 mod­els who find the larger mod­els un­wieldy.

Many an­a­lysts ex­pect Ap­ple will re­lease a more dra­mat­i­cally re­vamped new iPhone 7 in the fall. The pro­lif­er­a­tion of iPhone and iPad mod­els may seem con­trary to Ap­ple's tra­di­tional fo­cus - es­poused by late Ap­ple co­founder Steve Jobs - on pro­duc­ing fewer prod­ucts that it be­lieves are su­pe­rior to com­peti­tors' of­fer­ings. By con­trast, Sam­sung is known for sell­ing a mul­ti­tude of phones and tablets at var­i­ous sizes and prices.

But Ap­ple has grad­u­ally ex­panded its fam­ily of devices in re­cent years to reach con­sumers in dif­fer­ent mar­ket cat­e­gories, which also helps the com­pany sell more on­line goods and ser­vices, said Gart­ner tech an­a­lyst Brian Blau.

"Tim Cook has said he thinks there's a lot of life left in the iPhone prod­uct line, de­spite the me­dia and in­vestor com­mu­nity pres­sur­ing Ap­ple over the po­ten­tial de­cline in pre­mium iPhone sales," Blau said. "I think it's ex­actly th­ese types of things that he has in mind."

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