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5G iPhones and more at Apple’s October Event

Posted on October 14, 2020

Tuesday’s Apple Special Event introduced the iPhone 12 line and some cool new accessories as well. Here’s an overview of the new and upcoming product releases announced at the event:

iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini

The look of the new iPhone is reminiscent of past models: flat sides and a boxier appearance overall.

Technically speaking, probably the biggest change is compatibility with 5G wireless networks, which are currently being rolled out around the world. The 5G standard has two basic flavors: sub-6 5G and millimeter wave 5G. Apple says that the new iPhone can work with both 5G variants, but that only models sold in the United States will support the faster (though less common) millimeter wave 5G. The new mobile devices will also include a “Smart Data” mode that only uses 5G speeds when necessary, thereby conserving battery life.

All of the devices in the iPhone 12 family will be powered by the A14 Bionic chip, which debuted at last month’s Special Event as the brain of the new iPad Air. The A14 is the first Apple Silicon processor to use 5-nanometer process technology, and Apple claims that it can achieve speeds that exceed the competition’s chips by as much as 50%.

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini will have OLED screens, just like their higher-end iPhone Pro and Pro Max counterparts. In terms of size, the iPhone 12’s screen comes in at a familiar 6.1”, but the iPhone 12 mini has a compact 5.4” screen. All devices in the iPhone 12 line will also feature a new type of screen glass called Ceramic Shield, which is manufactured using ultra-tough nano-ceramic crystals that Apple and Corning have found a way to make transparent. According to Apple, this will result in 4x better drop performance than before.

iPhone 12 miniiPhone 12
Storage64GB, 128GB, 256GB64GB, 128GB, 256GB
Pricestarts at $699starts at $799
Availabilitypre-order 6 November; available 13 Novemberpre-order 16 October; available 23 October

iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max

Apple’s high-end iPhone 12 offerings contain the same enhancements as the base models (5G support, A14 Bionic chip, Ceramic Shield glass), but have some additional bells and whistles as well. 

All of the new iPhone 12 models have upgraded camera systems, but the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max seem designed to woo serious photography enthusiasts. The iPhone Pro Max in particular has a dramatically larger sensor that Apple says will provide an 87% improvement when it comes to low-light photography. In addition, both the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max will support Apple’s forthcoming ProRaw image format, which combines the benefits of computational photography with the editing and processing control afforded by RAW image format. 

The iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max will also contain LiDAR scanners. LiDAR is a method of measuring distance and mapping surroundings by emitting laser light and measuring the time it takes to reflect back to the source (think radar, but with lasers). It’s used extensively in autonomous driving systems, but Apple has a different end in mind here: LiDAR will be used to improve Augmented Reality (AR) functionality, and it will also enhance low-light photography by improving autofocus speed (up to 6 times faster) and allowing Night Mode portrait shots. Hardcore photophiles can check out the full tech specs of the new camera systems for themselves on Apple’s website.

This year’s higher-end iPhones are also bigger than the last time around: the iPhone 12 Pro has a 6.1” display (significantly larger than the iPhone 11 Pro’s 5.8” display), while the iPhone 12 Pro Max boasts an outsized 6.7” screen.

iPhone 12 ProiPhone 12 Pro Max
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB128GB, 256GB, 512GB
Pricestarts at $999starts at $1099
Availabilitypre-order 16 October; available 23 Octoberpre-order 6 November; available 13 November

About those accessories

The new iPhone 12 family was obviously the main attraction at the October event, but there were also some other announcements worth mentioning here.

Starting with what’s not included: the new iPhones will no longer ship with chargers or earbuds, which Apple says often go unused and contribute to the growing environmental problem of electronic waste. The new, more compact iPhone packaging will only contain a simple USB-C to Lightning cable for charging. 

Apple is also bringing back MagSafe, but with an emphasis on mobile this time: MagSafe wireless mobile chargers that click perfectly into place with the new iPhones for faster, more reliable charging. There’s also a range of MagSafe cases that can be fitted with accessories like a magnetic leather wallet that snaps onto the back on an iPhone and is shielded to protect the credit cards inside.

Last but not least, Apple introduced the HomePod mini, a 3.3” tall smart speaker that marks the latest addition to Apple’s HomePod line. Pairing with an iPhone, the HomePod mini allows users to play music, podcasts, and more in room-filling audio. HomePod mini can be used to control smart home accessories, and can even be used as a family intercom, relaying messages from one room to another if multiple HomePod devices are spread throughout the house. HomePod mini can also be used with Siri as a productivity tool, reading messages, answering calls, or providing calendar reminders to users. 

From a security and privacy perspective, perhaps the most significant thing about the HomePod mini is its $99 price tag, which makes it competitive with similar offerings from Amazon and Google. This means that budget-conscious buyers can now purchase a smart speaker that comes with Apple’s focus on privacy: HomePod mini doesn’t send any data to Apple’s servers until Siri is activated; all requests are disassociated from the user’s Apple ID; and user data is never sold to third parties. 

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