Apple’s October 13 event is finally over and it was a spectacular one. If someone knows how to pull off announcements via just a video, it’s Apple. At the event, the Cupertino company announced four new iPhones as a part of its iPhone 12 lineup along with a mini version of the HomePod which it calls, you guessed it, the HomePod mini.
Most products that Apple announced at the event, however, were already leaked beforehand. Still, Apple managed to maintain excitement throughout the event. Here’s everything Apple announced at its October 13 event.
A smaller HomePod—HomePod mini
Ever since the original HomePod that was launched in 2018 flopped because of its obnoxious pricing and relatively fewer features than the competition, everyone expected that Apple would offer a comeback with a better version of the device.
Bob Borchers, Apple’s Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing, says “HomePod mini has everything customers want in a smart speaker — amazing sound for listening to music, a world-class intelligent assistant that delivers a personal experience to each member of the household, and like every Apple product, it’s designed with privacy and security in mind”
The HomePod mini is 3.3-inches tall and looks like a flower pot or a fishbowl depending on your interpretation. It’s smaller size will allow it to be placed anywhere in the house and be inconspicuous, that is if you want it to be. It has a mesh covering similar to the original HomePod and is available in space gray and white.
One of the main selling points of the HomePod is its sound quality. Apple is promising to bring that to the HomePod mini. It has the Apple S5 chip in it that is used to deliver computational audio by applying complex tuning models to optimize loudness, adjust the dynamic range, and control the movement of the drivers.
Apple says the HomePod mini follows the same acoustic principles as the original HomePod. It uses an Apple-designed acoustic waveguide for a “360-degree audio experience.”
With that kind of tech, Apple promises that the HomePod mini will be able to adapt to the environment so that you won’t have to find a suitable surface to place it on.
Siri is still Siri, being quite inconsistent with results. However, Apple touted a lot about it with respect to the HomePod. It works just like how other digital assistants work on other smart speakers. However, one particularly interesting capability Siri on the HomePod has is voice detection. With it, the HomePod mini can detect who in a household is giving commands and respond accordingly.
Weeks before the event, rumors emerged that the HomePod mini will feature Ultra WideBand (UWB) technology using Apple’s proprietary U1 chip. Apple didn’t officially mention the term UWB at the event, however, the new HomePod mini has a cool new feature that takes advantage of UWB. You can bring your iPhone which is playing a music track closer to the HomePod mini and the HomePod will automatically continue playing that track “without missing a beat,” according to Apple.
The HomePod mini supports various third-party music and podcast streaming and radio platforms including Pandora, TuneIn, etc. Interestingly enough, however, the HomePod mini does not support direct Spotify streaming.
Apart from that, the HomePod mini also has this amazing new feature similar to the “Drop-in” feature on Amazon Alexa-enabled smart speakers that lets you establish a system of communication inside your home.
It’s called Intercom and allows you to relay messages from one HomePod mini unit that’s placed in one room to another HomePod mini to another room. Furthermore, you can also drop in messages to the HomePod mini at even when you’re away from it using your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods, and even CarPlay. You can choose which recipients at home can receive the message on their personal devices too.
With smart home speakers, privacy is paramount. While Amazon and Google’s smart speakers are often blamed for risking privacy, Apple says that personal information isn’t “sold to advertisers or other organizations.” If it were Amazon or Google in place of Apple, people would have taken the aforementioned statement with a grain of salt. With Apple, it’s more believable.
The HomePod mini is also capable of playing ambient sounds, which is quite common among smart speakers these days. Although, it’s good to know Apple is on the same page.
There are other minor improvements too. The HomePod mini helps you locate your iPhone in your home using Find My by playing a sound to pinpoint its location. The HomePod now also allows you to set music as alarms, which is something the original HomePod couldn’t do.
iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 equipped with 5G and a new design
The iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 are Apple’s lower-end smartphones that are supposed to compete with other budget phones in the industry like the Pixel 5 and the OnePlus 8.
Pre-orders for the iPhone 12 will begin on October 16 and shipping commences on October 23; it’s starting at $799. Pre-orders for the iPhone 12 mini will begin on November 6 and shipping will commence on November 13; it’s starting at $699.
These phones finally sport an updated design that’s reminiscent of the iPhone 4 and the iPad Pro. The new design consists of flat edges made up of aluminum with glass both on the front and the back. Apple says that the display is made up of a new ceramic shield display formed of tiny crystals irrelevant to the naked eye. The display is meant to provide improved protection from drops.
The display technology itself is new for this price point. Both the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 mini sport an OLED display which Apple calls Super Retina XDR, up from the IPS LCD display on the iPhone 11. This means there’s now one less scope of comparison between the lower-end iPhones and the higher-end iPhones this year.
Both the iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 are identical except for their screen sizes. The former has a 5.4-inch screen and the latter has a 6.1-inch screen. Apple will be selling both in five different colors (which Apple, for some reason, calls “aluminum finishes”) including blue, green, black, white, and red.
One of the bigger marketing strategies Apple is implementing with for the iPhone 12 lineup is 5G. According to Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, Greg Joswiak, “The arrival of 5G marks the beginning of a new era for iPhone and we’re thrilled to bring these impressive new capabilities to our customers with iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini.”
Despite the fact that 5G is not yet ready for mass-market appeal and that both iPhones support the faster mmWave 5G band only in the US, Apple’s putting a big emphasis on the new network technology. Verizon managed to make an appearance at the event video yesterday to announce the benefits iPhone users will get with 5G and threw an indirect shade at other smartphone manufacturers.
Apple says that the iPhone 12 models offer the broadest 5G coverage. However, even though 5G isn’t quite established as robust consumer technology right now, it’s nice that iPhone 12 users will be able to benefit from 5G going forward, if and when it improves.
Unfortunately, only the US models of the iPhone 12 lineup support mmWave 5G, which is the only 5G band that matters as it offers phenomenally faster speeds than 4G. The US iPhone 12 models also have a groove covered with glass on the aluminum frame that is required for the receiver to receive mmWave 5G signals.
Apple has also introduced calibrated 5G features that help running the technology smoothly. It’s common knowledge that 5G is a huge battery drainer. In order to maintain battery life, Apple says that it has included a new Smart Data Mode which will disable 5G when you are not receiving sufficient coverage.
The iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 mini both share the same processor—the new A14 Bionic. Apple says it’s capable of performing 11 trillion operations per second. It’s the world’s first chip that is made from a 5nm manufacturing process. Apple does not compare it to the A13 Bionic chip in the iPhone 11 series on record, but it says that the A14 Bionic’s CPU and GPU is 50 percent faster than the fastest competing smartphone chips.
Furthermore, Apple says the A14 chip also features a 16-core Neural Engine that offers an 80 percent increase in performance. However, it’s unclear what Apple is comparing that with.
The iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 have improved IP68 water resistance up to 6 meters for up to 30 minutes. Regular spills like water and coffee are fine.
The new iPhones also have an improved camera system. According to Apple:
This advanced camera system features the Ultra-Wide camera and a new Wide camera with an ƒ/1.6 aperture, the fastest yet on iPhone, providing 27 percent more light for even more amazing low-light photos and videos.
Computational photography is taken to the next level on iPhone 12 models with Night mode and faster-performing Deep Fusion now on all cameras — TrueDepth, Wide, and Ultra Wide — for improved photos in any environment.
Customers will experience brighter pictures and better contrast for photos shot in low-light settings with Night mode, and more texture and less noise in Deep Fusion photos. Smart HDR 3 uses ML to intelligently adjust the white balance, contrast, texture, and saturation of a photo for remarkably natural-looking images.
What’s interesting here is that Apple is extending Night Mode and Deep Fusion to the front camera too, as opposed to only the back camera in the iPhone 11 lineup.
Apple is also going all-in on videography on the new iPhones. You will be able to record HDR video with Dolby Vision, which is renowned for its extensive 10-bit color profile, and edit it at the same time. There’s also a new Night Mode Time Lapse feature that enabled you to create time lapse videos using the grandeur of night mode, which will probably result in clearer rolls and smoother exposures.
As a part of its environmental conservation initiative, Apple says that it’s not including a charging brick or a pair of EarPods within the box. This adds up to two kinds of benefits. Since Apple assumes that people already have a lot of USB-C port charging bricks lying around at home, it reduces e-waste. And since the iPhone box does not contain a charging adapter and the EarPods, it has allowed Apple to trim down the size of the box, which thereby lets the company ship more boxes per container; thereby reducing its carbon footprint.
iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max offer camera improvements
The iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max aren’t that different from the lower-end iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12. The only considerable difference is in their design aesthetic and the cameras.
The iPhone 12 Pro will be available for Pre-order starting October 16 and shipping will commence at October 23; it costs $999. The iPhone 12 Pro, on the other hand, will be available for pre-order on November 6, with availability starting November 13; it costs $1099.
Apple has also upgraded the base storage for the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max. They now start at 128 GB instead of 64 GB previously.
The Pro models feature stainless steel edges instead of the aluminum edges on the non-Pro models, with the glass groove for the mmWave 5G antenna on the US models. There are four colors including the regular gold, silver, and the new graphite and pacific blue. The graphite replaces the space gray color on the iPhone 11 Pro while pacific blue replaces midnight green.
The Pro models also have a better Super Retina HDR display with 10-bit color depth and better brightness while the non-Pro models feature 8-bit color depth. It won’t make a huge difference to the naked eye, but that’s the difference. The main distinction, however, that’s worth comparing with the non-Pro models is the camera on the Pro models.
First off, the Pro models have three cameras on the back along with a newly added LiDAR that offers improved AR capabilities and aids low-light photography.
Moreover, there are some things within the Pro cameras that both models share and there are some things that are better on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. But first, let’s talk about the common camera features.
There’s a new Apple ProRAW camera mode that allows you to capture RAW photos and edit them right in the Photos app on your iPhone. Apple is also giving third-party apps access to the ProRAW API so that they can inculcate this feature into their apps. However, just like it did with Deep Fusion last year, Apple says that the ProRAW feature won’t be available at launch and will arrive later this year as a free software update. Until then, we do not know how the feature fares.
As for the camera capabilities of the iPhone 12 Pro, Apple explains it best:
iPhone 12 Pro features the new seven-element lens Wide camera with an ƒ/1.6 aperture, the fastest ever on an iPhone, for 27 percent improved low-light performance in photo and video; the Ultra-Wide camera with a 120-degree field of view, perfect for capturing more scene in tight spots or epic landscapes; and a 52 mm focal length Telephoto camera, great for framing portraits, bringing the optical zoom range to 4x.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max offers additional benefits:
iPhone 12 Pro Max takes the pro camera experience even further. The new ƒ/1.6 aperture Wide camera boasts a 47 percent larger sensor with 1.7μm pixels for a massive 87 percent improvement in low-light conditions. It also includes the expansive Ultra Wide camera and a 65 mm focal length Telephoto camera for increased flexibility with closer shots and tighter crops. Combined, this system offers 5x optical zoom range.
The addition of the LiDAR scanner on both Pro models opens up new capabilities. First off, it makes capturing low light photos faster. Then, it also unlocks a new Low Light Portrait mode that captures Bokeh shots in low light.
New MagSafe lineup of accessories
The entire iPhone 12 lineup has an array of circular magnets stuffed behind the back glass. That array of magnets have enabled Apple to introduce a whole new lineup of accessories called MagSafe. Apple’s reinvigorating the old MagSafe brand that was previously associated with MacBooks only and is using it to change the course of wireless technology on iPhone.
MagSafe accessories on the iPhone 12 lineup use magnets to clasp to the back of the phone. Apple has already unveiled its own MagSafe-compatible Silicone cases that simply pop on the back of the phone, a leather pocket that sticks to the back using MagSafe, a MagSafe wireless charger that appears to be an enlarged version of the Apple Watch charging puck, and a MagSafe Duo Wireless charging mat that folds into half and accommodates wireless charging for both the iPhone and the Apple Watch.
Various third-party accessory makers are also coming up with their own MagSafe products for the iPhone. For instance, PopSockets announced yesterday that it will launch MagSafe compatible PopSockets soon which means you won’t have to worry about adhesive residue on the back of your phone or the case you’re using.
That was all that Apple announced at the event. Fortunately, the Cupertino company isn’t done for the year yet. Apple is expected to launch its first ARM Macs in an event in November.
Let us know your favorite moment from Apple’s October 13 event and stay tuned to The 8-Bit for further coverage.
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