Apple Unveils 5G-Capable iPhone SE and iPad Air

The upgraded M1 chip paves the way for a new high-powered Mac Studio mini desktop and display, too

New iPhone SE
The new 5G-compatible iPhone SE starts at $429.
Photo: Apple

On Tuesday, Apple introduced a new version of its lowest-priced smartphone, the iPhone SE, along with an updated iPad Air and a new Mac Studio mini desktop and Studio Display monitor. The devices are more powerful and energy-efficient than their predecessors, according to the company, thanks to Apple’s homegrown processors. 

The iPhone SE and iPad Air now support the speedy and secure 5G wireless standard, making them more competitive with other iOS and Android devices. 

At $429, the iPhone SE’s entry-level price is its biggest selling point. The smartphone will cost only $30 more than the 2020 SE, which performed reasonably well in CR’s tests. The next lowest-priced iPhone, the 13 Mini, starts at $700.

The iPhone SE, iPad Air, Mac Studio, and Studio Display arrive in stores March 18. The iPhone SE and iPad Air are available for preorder on Friday; you can preorder the Mac Studio and Studio Display right now.

CR will be testing the new devices as soon as they’re available for purchase at retail. In the meantime, here’s a closer look at what to expect.

iPhone SE

The iPhone SE sports the same size and design as the 2020 model, with a 4.7-inch LCD display (measured diagonally). It also keeps the retro-ish Touch ID home button, for logging onto sites and making purchases with Apple Pay.

Along with adding 5G connectivity, the main improvement for the phone is the upgrade to the A15 Bionic chip created for iPhone 13 models. This should make scrolling and tapping away on the SE faster than before. The company says the graphics performance should be up to 1.2 times faster than that on the second-generation iPhone SE.

Apple also credits the processor with improving battery life and camera performance. 

The iPhone SE is available with 64GB of storage for $429, 128GB for $479, and 256GB for $579. Your color options are black (“Midnight”), white (“Starlight”), and red (“(Product) Red”).

iPad Air

Like the iPhone SE, the iPad Air gets its first refresh since 2020. The improvements include optional 5G capability, Apple’s more powerful M1 chip, and a thinner, lighter design.

A stalwart in the middle of Apple’s tablet lineup—more expensive than the regular iPad, but less powerful than the iPad Pro—the Air will be an even more formidable option for consumers who want a premium set of features with a less intimidating price. 

The new Apple iPad Air
The new 5G-compatible iPad Air starts at $599.

Photo: Apple Photo: Apple

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The new iPad Air is powered by Apple’s powerful M1 chip, the same one that runs the iPad Pro, and the company promises a 60 percent increase in performance, thanks to an 8-core CPU. That should make the Air well suited for more taxing computing tasks like graphics-heavy gaming—and far more powerful than you’d need for browsing the web or watching movies. 

The new Air features a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display. That’s the same size as the last model, but Apple says the display is revamped for richer colors and a better viewing experience. The Air will keep the sharp edges that set it apart from the company’s other tablets, but comes in a slew of new colors. Some observers anticipated that Apple would add Face ID, but the company stuck with a fingerprint reader on the power button.

In keeping with its focus on features that improve collaboration, Apple has outfitted the iPad Air with a 12MP ultrawide front-facing camera and the Center Stage feature that keeps you centered during video calls. 

The new iPad Air starts at $599. 

Mac Studio Desktop and Studio Display

The all-new Mac Studio desktop is a hugely powerful cross between the Mac Mini and Mac Pro. It can be configured with either the M1 Max processor introduced in last year’s MacBook Pro or a brand new M1 Ultra processor that Apple claims is up to 28 times faster than the M1 Pro designed for the MacBook Pro.

All-new Mac Studio and Studio Display
The all-new Studio Display ($1,599) and Mac Studio desktop ($1,999 and up).

Photo: Apple Photo: Apple

That raw power will no doubt be useful for highly demanding workloads—Apple used apps like Ableton Live (music production) and Adobe After Effects (video post-production) to demonstrate the Ultra’s capabilities—but may be overkill for consumers more accustomed to Google Chrome, Microsoft Word, and Spotify.

The pricing confirms that point, with the M1 Max-powered Mac Studio starting at $1,999 and the M1 Ultra-powered Mac Studio starting at $3,999. 

The compact, boxy desktop can fit under most monitors, at about 4 inches tall, and it offers a wealth of connectivity options, including four Thunderbolt 4 ports, two USB-A ports, a 10-gigabit ethernet port for fast internet connectivity, and HDMI. On the front of the computer, you’ll find two more USB ports and an SD card slot for easy transfer of photos and video clips.

The 27-inch 5K Studio Display ($1,599) features a 12-megapixel camera, six speakers, and spatial audio.

Correction: This article, originally published on March 8, 2022, has been updated to indicate that the iPhone SE has a liquid crystal display (LCD).