Apple's "Let us loop you in" media event on Monday, March 21 isn't expected to feature any big surprises, according to most observers. Instead, it's likely to provide Apple fans with a first look at several long-anticipated product updates: a 4-inch iPhone, a new iPad model and some new features for the Apple Watch.
And -- although the event in Cupertino, California, takes place just one day before a major court hearing for Apple -- we're not likely to hear anything about the company's response to an iPhone decryption order being sought by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The FBI wants Apple to write special code so that it can access the contents of the iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of two gunmen responsible for the San Bernardino, Calif. shootings. Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people and injured numerous others at a holiday party attended by Farook's co-workers on December 2.
Of course, there's always the possibility that Apple CEO Tim Cook (pictured above) could reveal something surprising when he starts speaking at 10 a.m. Pacific Time. As usual, the company is offering few hints beyond its event headline of "Let us loop you in." A spokesperson told us, "We have no other details to share."
Maybe a Stripped-Down iPhone
One new device expected to emerge on Monday is the iPhone SE, which will likely feature a 4-inch screen that's a bit of a throwback for a company whose newest iPhone models -- the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus -- are more phablets than phones, with their respective 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screens.
Ramon Llamas, research manager for wearables and mobile phones at the analyst firm IDC, told us he refers to this newest iPhone as a "GE" (good enough) model rather than a "SE" (special edition) model.
"It's kind of a stripped-down iPhone for people who don't want every single bell and whistle," Llamas said. He said the phone is likely aimed squarely at people who -- until now -- haven't wanted to give up their older, smaller iPhones because they don't find all the newest features very compelling.
Llamas said Apple has a good idea about how many such iPhone owners are out there, and is probably coming out with the SE to boost a niche market and prove wrong anyone who's predicting a decrease in iPhone unit sales this year. He said that he doesn't believe this is a device that's aimed at buyers in emerging markets, however. While Apple hasn't yet revealed a price for the SE, the device will no doubt still cost as much as two low-end Android smartphones put together, reducing its appeal to lower-budget buyers, he said.
New Apple Watch Bands (Loops?)
Another device that's expected to appear in Monday's event lineup is a new iPad Pro with a 9.7-inch screen. Fortune today described the new iPad as a "smaller, slimmed-down version of the enterprise-focused" iPad Pro, a device with a 12.9-inch screen that rolled out last year.
The "Let us loop you in" event will also likely introduce some "very small, incremental" changes for the Apple Watch, things like new styles of watch bands (the "loop" reference, could be a hint about this) and maybe some updated functionality. However, "I don't think we're going to see an Apple Watch 2," Llamas said.
Image credit: Apple; iStock/Artist's concept.