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What to expect at Monday's big Apple event

Apple sent a cryptic invitation for a special event Monday, March 21.

CNET

Last Updated Mar 21, 2016 9:06 AM EDT

Today's event starts at 1 p.m. Eastern time, 10 a.m. Pacific. You can watch a live stream on Apple's website and follow CNET's live blog of the event. CBS News and CBSN will have coverage of all the highlights.


On Monday, March 21, Apple will hold its next big product event at its Cupertino, California headquarters. While there has been no official announcement of what will be unveiled, industry analysts and consumer tech reporters say all evidence points to a smaller, 4-inch iPhone as well as a new iPad.

Apple's invitation for the event revealed no details, simply teasing: "Let us loop you in."

Apple's annual spring product announcements tend to be somewhat less splashy affairs than the fall events where the company has traditionally unveiled its next generation of iPhones. The products expected to be shown off on Monday are modifications on existing products, with the iPhone specifically answering a consumer demand for smaller, more pocket-friendly phones. The highlight of last year's spring event was the arrival of the Apple Watch, although the company had first shown it off the September before.

Smaller iPhone

CNET and other tech sites report that the new iPhone with a 4-inch screen, likely dubbed the iPhone SE, is expected to be the main attraction. The website 9to5Mac reports that sources close to Apple say employees "refer to the 'SE' designation in two ways," with some calling it "an 'enhanced' version of the iPhone 5s" and others calling it a "special edition" variant for "those looking for a new 4-inch iPhone model."

The smaller model may fill a niche in the market left behind as popular phones from Apple, Samsung and other manufacturers grew bigger. The iPhone 6s has a 4.7-inch screen and the iPhone 6s Plus is a supersize 5.5-inches.

Originally, Apple planed to call the new model the iPhone 5SE, but instead decided to drop the "5," sources told 9to5Mac. This phone will look pretty much identical to the regular iPhone 5s and will fit with cases for that phone. The phone will also have a headphone jack.

But for those concerned that a device resembling the iPhone 5, which first debuted in 2012, might be outdated, have no fear -- many newer features are expected to be incorporated into the iPhone SE. Like the iPhone 6s, this smaller phone will be able to take animated Live Photos, still images that can transition to short video clips. However, industry insiders suggest it will not have the 3D Touch feature that was added to the larger phones last year.

Analysts expect the new phone could be priced in the $350 to $450 range, making it a less expensive alternative to the top-of-the-line iPhone 6s (priced at $649) and iPhone 6s Plus ($749).

New iPad

What about the iPad? The new device with a 9.7-inch screen will apparently be a smaller version of the iPad Pro, according to CNET. There have been conflicting reports about what it will be called, with some referring to it as the iPad Air 3, while 9to5Mac reports that the company is expected to drop the "Air" label from its tablets.

It would join a growing array of iPad options and sizes, including the iPad Pro with a 12.9-inch diagonal screen; the iPad Air and iPad Air 2 with a 9.7-inch screen; and the 7.9-inch iPad Mini 4 and cheaper iPad Mini 2.

One more thing...

Beyond the iPad and iPhone announcements, Apple is also expected to usher in new Apple Watch sports bands in new spring-friendly colors, and some software updates are possible too. Many will also be watching to see what, if anything, CEO Tim Cook has to say about the company's ongoing dispute with the Justice Department over encryption technology.

We'll have to wait and see if the rumors prove to be true. Apple will live-stream the event. And you can follow CNET's live coverage online. The event is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Eastern time, 10 a.m. Pacific.

Also follow coverage of the Apple 2016 event live at CBSNews.com and on CBSN.

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