'Good morning and thanks for joining us."

When Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook began his company's tri-annual product launch Monday with a refrain any Apple fan or well-versed critics knows by heart, it was a sign they were in for the usual drill.

For years, the formula has worked, turning ordinary press conferences into objects of international fascination and Apple releases into can't-miss events. But with Apple confronting declining annual sales growth of the iPhone for the first time since it launched in 2007, are even its iconic product unveilings in need of a refresh?

The tech press has jumped on Apple in the last two years, repeatedly blasting the company's increasingly predictable media events in headlines as "boring." And social media commentators have piled on.

The rhetoric continued Monday as Apple announced a new 4-inch-display iPhone, called the SE, aimed at consumers whose small hands, tight pockets or thin pocketbooks couldn't handle the big-screened iPhones unveiled last year. IPhone SE starts at $399, making it the most affordable iPhone ever by $150.

The Cupertino, Calif., company also released an iPad Pro that doesn't have a giant screen; colorful wristbands for the Apple Watch; and minor software updates for the Apple TV, iPhone, iPod and iPad. Nothing was a big surprise.


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Not even the scheduling. During the last four years, as winter gives way to spring, spring to summer and summer to fall, Cook has taken to a Northern California stage. First, he trumpets Apple's growth. Then, he and other executives run through demos of new hardware. Faster processors. Better cameras. More battery life. For the biggest announcements, there's a celebrity or two -- maybe a U2 appearance. You get the gist.

Couldn't a company that heralds itself for being innovative find a way to spice things up? Say, holding media spectacles in a country where Apple is still winning over hordes of first-time customers, including India, Brazil and Russia? Maybe partnering with a media company or moving the event to prime time to help gain new attention?

It's all possible, but close followers of Apple say nothing is likely to change soon. Though the mere words "Apple event" suggest a highly choreographed performance, starring middle-aged white men in front of gigantic illustrations in a darkened auditorium, the event still draws attention. Just as it did Monday.

The only alterations on the horizon would be slight ones when Apple starts holding events at its new ring-shaped headquarters, expected to open early next year.

For all the talk of the demise of the iPhone, it's still the single bestselling phone on the planet next to Samsung's offerings, accounting for more than $155 billion in revenue last year. That's more than companies like Intel Corp. and General Electric make from everything they sell. And Cook, pointing to Apple's image as a luxury brand in countries just starting to see a middle class develop, has said he's not concerned about the iPhone falling out of favor.