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Apple sets March 21 for iPhone, iPad event

The iPhone and iPad maker is expected to release new products at the event in California.

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Apple has marked an event in the calendar for March 21.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based technology giant is expected to release new hardware at the event.

The company, notoriously secret ahead of its product announcements, is expected to announce a new, smaller 4-inch iPhone, and a new business-focused 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

The smaller iPhone is one of the more anticipated products. The so-called iPhone SE is rumored to be a 4-inch iPhone equipped with Apple Pay designed as an alternative to the big-screen "phablets" flooding the smartphone market.

It's also possible that the company may release an updated Apple Watch with new bands and software. Odds for an Apple Watch 2, however, are slim. Apple could also announce software updates for Apple Watch, Apple TV and iOS.

For Apple, the event is more than just another hyped up product reveal -- it's also an opportunity to shift the public conversation back to its consumer electronics rather than its public feud with the U.S. government over encryption.