Apple Inc updates
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Apple launched four new 5G-enabled iPhones and unveiled an array of refreshes to some of its most popular devices, including the iPad and Watch, as the world’s most valuable company attempted to refocus the public’s attention after months of antitrust scrutiny.
The new iPhone 13 series features Apple’s new A15 Bionic chip, a system-on-a-chip designed in-house, and a video tool called “cinematic mode”, which allows users to hold focus on a subject even when they are moving.
Tim Cook, Apple chief executive, said the line-up had the “biggest camera system advancement yet”.
“Camera performance has become the main battleground in premium smartphones and it’s no surprise Apple has upped its game, adding 3x optical zoom, macro photography and video features such as cinematic mode to the top-end iPhones,” said Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight.
The more expensive “Pro” and “Pro Max” iPhone models, which have three back-facing cameras, now include a 120Hz display that Apple calls “ProMotion” — meaning the screen updates 120 times per second. Some Android devices already feature 120Hz displays, but Apple has been reticent about the feature because of battery performance issues, according to analysts.
Paolo Pescatore, analyst at PP Foresight, called some of the features incremental but said the tech group still has a chance to drive a “supercycle” of upgrades. “There are millions of users who have yet to upgrade to 5G,” he said.
In place of Steve Jobs’ product focus and “one more thing” surprises, Cook used Tuesday’s event to roll out a range of smaller improvements across the portfolio aimed at opening new lines of service revenue and keeping Apple users from switching to Android devices.
“The more devices a consumer owns, the more valuable the subscription services are,” Julie Ask, analyst at Forrester, said. “Apple continues to build momentum here — and they do so on the strength of their billing relationships and subscription services which we all know are sticky.”
The product launch comes at a challenging time for the company, which has been mired in mixed headlines this year despite blockbuster earnings that have been given its shares a 29 per cent boost in the past year and a market cap of $2.5tn. Apple shares ended 1 per cent lower on Tuesday at $148.12.
In recent weeks the company has contended publicly with labour disputes, the departure of a top executive from its secretive car project and a ruling in an antitrust lawsuit brought by Epic, the maker of online video game Fortnite, which resulted in court order directing Apple to make changes to its App Store.
Tuesday’s event began with two updates to the iPad, including the first redesign of the iPad Mini since 2019 and a ninth generation iPad with improved processors, which Melody Kuna, senior manager of iPad product design, called “a giant upgrade for our most popular iPad”.
Wood said the updates to the iPads had “probably been triggered by the renaissance of tablets as people blew the dust off old devices in the rush to get connected at home during the pandemic”.
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Apple unveiled a new version of its Apple Watch, which “has been completely re-engineered to reduce the borders to just 1.7 millimetres”, Jeff Williams, Apple’s operations chief, said. It also features a larger, thinner screen and can be recharged more quickly.
Apple is also targeting health and wellness through the Watch — an area that Cook has promised will be the company’s biggest legacy.
“The Apple Watch continues to sell in record numbers and dominates the smartwatch market by a distance,” Wood said. “Clearly, users are happy enough with the daily charging routine, and I expect that other improvements to the Watch will be very well received.”
Contrary to widespread expectations, Apple did not reveal a third version of AirPods, its wildly popular wireless headphones.
The latest additions to Apple’s line-up
iPhone: Apple launched four new iterations of its popular smartphone: iPhone 13, 13 Mini, 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max. Geared to gamers and video buffs, the Pro models feature a five-core graphics processor that Apple said is the “fastest” of any smartphone. Prices start at $699 and go as high as $1,499 for a 6.7-inch model with 1TB of storage.
iPad Mini: The new 8.3-inch tablet has smaller bezels and an “all-screen design” that does away with the home button. It is available in four colours, has 5G connectivity, and promises two times the performance over the previous generation models. It also supports Apple Pencil, which attaches to a magnet on the side, and a USB-C port. It starts at $499.
iPad: The ninth generation of Apple’s most popular tablet will start at $329. It features Apple’s A13 bionic chip, which the company said was 20 per cent faster than its predecessor.
Watch: The seventh series Watch is 40 per cent thinner, has smaller borders and a screen that is one-fifth larger. While it still has an 18-hour battery life, it can now be recharged a third more quickly. The screen can display a full keyboard. It will be “available later this fall” starting at $399.