Each new iPhone has a highlighting feature that Apple focuses on in its new product announcement. In recent years, Apple has repeatedly highlighted improvements to the camera system and spent most of its time on its new product presentation that shows the beautiful photos the phone can take. While the camera in the iPhone 12 gets a bump, this year’s tent function is a new mobile technology that most people will not be able to take advantage of: 5G.
The iPhone 12 also has a new design, with narrower frames and a new, more robust type of glass, in addition to being “the fastest iPhone ever”, which is the case every year. Apple also announced the HomePod mini, which is more of a smart speaker with Siri features than an audio device, like the older sibling.
As the ability to improve pocket computers continues to wane, this year’s model has a new (old) design, three sizes, a new, faster processor, and which Apple spent a lot of time pointing out, support for the 5G mobile phone standard. Much of the presentation seemed like an advertisement for Verizon, with the company’s CEO Hans Vestberg spending several minutes talking about the Verizon 5G network.
Unfortunately, most users will not have access to 5G networks, and those who do not see much of a speed improvement unless they are very close to a mast. Unlike 3G and 4G technologies, 5G comes in several versions, depending on a number of factors. One limitation of the 5G implementation is that in order to get the blisteringly fast speeds that Apple spied on in the presentation, a user needs to access the fastest of three different types of cell towers, those that use millimeter waves. But mmWave 5G has a very limited range, and requires cells to be very close together, so this speed will only be available in dense, urban areas. Currently, most 5G accesses that users want are similar to 4G, and in some cases may even be slower. hence the ability of the iPhone 12 to fall back on 4G when it is more efficient.
What users will see, however, is a redesigned iPhone that goes back to the iPhone 4, the first model without rounded sides. The sleek new design comes in five colors for the standard iPhone 12 and the new iPhone mini, with 6.1 “and 5.4” screens respectively. Think of the larger iPhone 12 which is similar to the iPhone 11; while the screen is the same size, because if the reduced frame, the total unit is a little smaller. The iPhone 12 mini is significantly smaller than today’s iPhone SE (2nd generation), but with a much larger screen, partly due to the removal of the Touch ID button.
The iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max, with 6.1 “and 6.7” screens, have stylish “surgical” metal sides, come in four colors (silver, graphite, gold and Pacific blue), and also have an extra camera. In addition to other hardware, the Pro models will allow users to take pictures with a new format called Apple ProRaw. Raw image files record raw image data taken by a camera sensor, allowing photographers to make their own edits, instead of depending on the appearance imposed by the manufacturer. Apple’s new format provides both a raw file and a file that contains the information used by iPhone’s computational photography, allowing photographers to edit using some of Apple’s looks and adjust adjustments as desired. These phones can also shoot in Dolby Vision, and have LiDAR cameras (which detect depth information), which provides better night pictures.
All iPhone 12 models have new Ceramic Shield glass, which Apple says will provide better protection against damage, and a new MagSafe system that allows magnetic induction Qi charging with Apple and third-party accessories. There will also be MagSafe cases and a leather credit card wallet that can be attached to an iPhone. This new system opens doors to innovative bags and charging products.
Prices have risen this year, in two ways. Last year’s base iPhone 11 model started at $ 699, and this year’s iPhone 12 started at $ 799. In addition, Apple has removed the charger and earbuds for environmental reasons; which cost $ 19 each if you buy them as accessories. So you pay more and get less. The iPhone 12 mini starts at $ 699, and the Pro and Pro Max are available from $ 999 and $ 1099. Orders for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro begin Friday, the 16th. October, and the phones are sent October 23; Mini orders on iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 begin on November 6, and the devices ship on November 13.
It is worth noting that the base model of the iPhone 11 is now available from $ 599, and the iPhone SE (2nd generation) is still a bargain at $ 399.
Apple’s HomePod has not been very successful; the company tried to combine quality sound with the features that have proven to be popular in smart speakers, especially those powered by Amazon’s Alexa. Although it provides better sound than most smart speakers, it is overpriced and has not found its place in the market. Still, you can do a lot with HomePod.
Apple has announced the HomePod mini, which at $ 99 is an attractive price for a much smaller device. The HomePod mini is a small device – 3.9 “wide, 3.3” tall – and has both voice and touch controls. The goal this time is less those who want to listen to music, but rather people, especially families, who want to take advantage of Siri. Most of the presentation of the device focused on the Siri features, shows how it works with multiple voices, and highlights its role as a HomeKit hub for controlling a smart home.
It is the smart home feature that can make the HomePod mini a compelling device. At the moment, you need either a HomePod, Apple TV or iPad that acts as a HomeKit hub to take full advantage of HomeKit smart devices. Introducing a $ 99 device to do this means more people can begin to see the interest in smart home devices.
An interesting feature is Intercom, where anyone can send voice messages to other users registered in the home group, which can be sent to other HomePods, but also to iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, AirPods and even CarPlay. This is a convenient way to communicate with people elsewhere in your home, or even outdoors, and the feature will soon roll out to all Apple devices.
As with the original HomePod, you can combine two to create a stereo pair (but you can not combine a HomePod mini with an original HomePod), and connect them to an Apple TV for audio use.
What was missing
So far this fall, we’ve seen announcements for the Apple Watch, iPad Air and AppleOne service pack, iPhone and HomePod mini, but we’re not heard of any new Macs, or a release date for macOS Big Sur. Absent was also something about Apple TV, if it is really to be updated this year (the last update was late in 2017). With Apple due to release new Macs with its own processors before the end of the year, maybe Apple will introduce these devices and macOS Big Sur next month.
About Kirk McElhearn
Kirk McElhearn writes about Mac, iPod, iTunes, books, music and more on his blog Kirkville. He co-hosts Intego Mac Podcast and PhotoActive, and is a regular contributor to The Mac Security Blog, TidBITS and several other websites and publications. Kirk has authored more than twenty books, including Take Control books on iTunes, LaunchBar, and Scrivener. Follow him on Twitter at @mcelhearn. View all posts by Kirk McElhearn →