Apple introduced four new iPhones that aim to capitalize on the emergence of 5G wireless networks, with the technology maker promising that its iPhone 12 will offer higher upload and download speeds and be more durable.
Apple is also rolling out an updated, and more affordable, version of its HomePod smart speaker. Here's what we learned from the company's annual tech showcase.
4 iPhone 12 models
The iPhone 12 has a 6.1-inch display, the same as the iPhone 11 but lighter and thinner, and costs $799. The iPhone 12 Mini has a 5.4-inch display and costs $699. It comes in black, white, red, green and blue.
The higher-end iPhone 12 Pro, which has a 6.1-inch display and costs $999, has more powerful cameras and enhanced image- and video-editing capabilities. The 12 Pro Max, with a 6.7-inch display, costs $1,099.
The 12 Pro is water-resistant and comes with a lidar sensor on the phone's rear camera that Apple said enables better focusing in low light and is a game-changer for augmented-reality applications. All three cameras on the Pro are now equipped with Night Mode, allowing for better focusing and low-light details in selfies and wide-angle photos.
Apple said all four phone models promise to be more durable, with a display made by glassmaker Corning that is more resistant to breaking. The new covering, which Apple dubbed Ceramic Shield, helps devices survive accidental drops, executives said. The phones also come with a magnetic back, allowing for snap-on accessories and better positioning on chargers, according to the company.
iPhones will no longer come with accessories such as wired earbuds or a charger. Lisa Jackson, the company's head of sustainability, pitched the change as an environmental move, citing the millions of Apple customers who already own such accessories and the product's lighter shipping weight without accessories.
The iPhone models will launch at different times. The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro will be available for purchase starting October 23, while the Mini and Pro Max will be available on November 13.
Perhaps the new iPhone's most intriguing feature is its 5G compatibility, which is why Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg was on hand during the launch event to tout the carrier's network. 5G is supposed to translate into souped up internet access for consumers, making it quicker to download movies, games or other services over a mobile network.
However, finding those speeds could be a challenge. While telecom operators have already been rolling out 5G networks, for now, most users aren't see a huge improvement in performance, and a killer app for 5G has yet to emerge. Also, as many of Apple's higher-income consumer base are working and shopping from home during the pandemic, they are most likely relying on their home Wi-Fi for internet connection.
Still, faster connection speeds mean the potential to get Apple's existing customers using and buying more services, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a research note. The phone's 5G capabilities will eventually "unleash significantly upgraded speed and performance for the company's golden installed base," Ives predicted.
HomePod mini speaker
Apple is also shrinking the size and price of its HomePod smart speaker as it competes with Amazon and Google. The new HomePod mini will cost $99, a third of the price of the older HomePod. The 3.3-inch tall speaker will integrate Apple's own music service — of course — with Pandora and Amazon's music service being added in "coming months," Apple executives said.
The new HomePod will be able to distinguish between the different voices in a household to give different family members individual updates, Apple said. Another feature demoed on Tuesday was the spherical speaker's ability to be used as an intercom. The HomePod will start shipping the week of November 16.
Competitors Amazon and Google are trying to position their speakers, the Echo and Nest, respectively, as low-cost command centers for helping people manage their homes and lives. Those speakers cost as little as $50. Amazon will offer 60% off its Echo Dot (3rd Gen), which will retail for $18.90, during its two-daysales event on October 13-14.
According to eMarketer, about 58 million Americans use an Amazon Echo, while 26.5 million use a Google Nest speaker. About 15 million use a HomePod or smart speaker from other manufacturers, such as Sonos and Harman Kardon.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.