Apple Event: iPhone 12, HomePod Mini

Apple Event

HomePod Mini

Major product announcement 1 of 2. Apple’s latest smart speaker, focusing on:

  1. Amazing Sound: the 360 degree sound via the S5 chip is intriguing, especially if space is limited and you are on the Apple ecosystem. Making it so it allows combining multiple devices into multiple sound sources is nice.
  2. Intelligent Assistant: Siri can’t get it right most of the time on my iPhone or Apple watch. Often times it just brings up a web page. What will it do without a screen? Oh, maybe “deeply integrated” with iPhone means it dumps the problem back to you? The improvement percentages mentioned isn’t that impressive given their current low bar.
  3. Smart Home: This is helpful if you have mobility issues. But Apple demonstrated supporting an inability to talk directly with people or interact directly with objects.
  4. Privacy and Security: This could be its strength (privacy) and weakness.

Its current limit to non-Apple services makes it unattractive right now. $99 is not bad for Apple-base products, with two colors available.

Overall: Meh

iPhone 12

Major product announcement 2 of 2. Early day leaks sort of took away their thunder. Unfortunately.

Security and Privacy was again mentioned as part of their product line.

5G is coming to iPhone, despite the lack of large-scale support from carriers and coverage. They talked about it being super fast, more advanced (including in dense populations), improved privacy and security, and breakthrough innovation. Hans Vestberg, Chairman and CEO of Verizon made a socially distant appearance (good job!). He mentioned 4Gpbs peak downloads (200Mbps ideal conditions peak upload speeds). Who will actually get this and when? Hmmm… Even funnier, during a Pandemic, they demonstrated its features in congested areas (e.g., stadiums). Ummm… 5G Ultra Wideband Network (it will support this part of 5G too) is coming to 1800 cites and towns, 200 million people. It is a start, but still so limited. They didn’t mention if it was carrier specific. Oh, and AT&T wasn’t present. Interesting.

iPhone 12 has iPhone 4 sides (flat edge antennas, hopefully better than antenna-gate ;-)), two cameras, and still has the screen notch at the top of the screen. It is smaller, thinner, and lighter than iPhone 11 at 6.1″. All iPhones 12s have 5G. It comes in 5 colors (Back, white, red, green, blue). The screen has 2M:1 contrast ratio Super Retina XDR with 2x more pixels than iPhone 11. The glass screen has new protection from Corning, called Ceramic Shield (4x better drop performance).

It uses LTE whenever 5G isn’t available to save battery life. 5G have been tested with 100 carriers in 30 regions have been tested (3.5Gbps in ideal conditions). Millimeter wave is also supported (4Gpbs in ideal conditions, 1Gpbs in typical regular conditions).

The A14 Bionic chip, the same one in the new iPad Air announced last month, is now in the iPhone 12. They reminded us that it has 11.8 billion transisters using the 5nm process. It has a 6-core CPU and 4-core GPU. 16 cores (up from 8) with the Neural Engine (11 trillion operations/second). Machine Learning (ML) accelerator are 70% faster.

The seven-element camera comes with a new dual cameras (12MP Ultra Wide, 12MP Wide). This includes improved low light usage. Computational capabilities via ML assist night mode on back and front cameras, front and background contrasts.

Wireless charging improves by making it easier to set it down for optimal charging (unlike now apparently) via MagSafe for iPhone to allow proper alignment (like the Apple Watch). MagSafe wallets are an interesting accessory for those that put the two together (of course with an Apple credit card peeking out of it).

The iPhone 12 excludes headphones and power adapters. They mentioned this move eliminates waste and reduce the packaging size.

Unnecessary overly dramatic moment. Case, in a case, in a case, to an iPhone. Introducing iPhone 12 Mini with a 5.4″ screen but not bigger than the 4.7″ iPhones. It has the same capabilities as iPhone 12.

Overall: iPhone 12 mini is interesting for specific situations. Otherwise, not that excited.

iPhone 12 Pro

Four new finishes: Silver, Graphite, Gold, Pacific Blue. IP68 up to 6 meters for 30 minutes. MagSafe for charger and accessories. Ceramic screen for improved protection. Pro XDR displays for improved viewing. 6.1″ display (6.7″ with Max). The form factors are “nearly” the same as iPhone 11 Pro.

It has significantly improved cameras over iPhone 11 Pro. The Image Signal Processor (ISP) processes multiple images through the Neural Engines with Deep Fusion on all four cameras (includes the front camera). Improved lenses: 12MP Ultra wide. 12MP wide. 12MP Telephoto (4X optical). 87% improvement in low light. New Optical Image Stabilization (Sensor Shift), or IOS (5X faster).

Apple ProRAW will be available later this year, integrating with Computational Photography, to create a deep fusion data-driven image that can be processed via Apple Photos and other professional photo applications.

The Pro Video supports 10-bit HDR video (700M colors, 60X more colors than before), recording and editing in Dolby Vision HDR up to 4K 60fps in realtime. LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) scanner is used for 3D video (which also works for photos) and Augmented Reality (AR).

Overall: meh, except for the camera capabilities (awesome!).

New iPhone Pricing & Availability

iPhone 12 Mini: starting at $729 unlocked, Preorder November 6 and available November 13
iPhone 12: starting at $829 unlocked, Preorder October 16 and available October 23
iPhone 12 Pro: starting at $999 (now 128GB), Preorder October 16 and available October 23
iPhone 12 Pro Max: starting at $1099, Preorder November 6 and available November 13

Initial iPhone Reactions

  1. No touch button. Desirable during pandemic and wearing masks. Bummer.
  2. Battery life wasn’t mentioned at all. Glaring.
  3. No USB-C yet (not surprisingly). Still using Lightning connector. Sigh.
  4. No price reduction on the phone, despite reduced package sizing and eliminating ear buds and power block. Not shocked.
  5. Significant camera improvements (worth the upgrade if this is your jam). Yes!
  6. Glad they are eliminating earbuds and power block (USB-C power to Lightning cable is included) – we can buy what we want (if needed at this point). Yes!
  7. 5G is only marketing hype at this point. 5G is in its infancy (not meaningful in the US) and not likely to improve performance in most situations for quite some time (if ever since there are still major service holes with 4G). Unless one knows they are able to use the service, if this is a primary reason to upgrade, waiting for the next iPhone will make a lot of sense. WiFi has more coverage than 5G, including in dense areas. Or if 5G fails, phone costs can be reduced with the elimination of their expensive radios. Bogus.
  8. For older phone owners, this is likely an attractive upgrade for everything else other than 5G. For existing iPhone XS owners who didn’t upgrade to iPhone 11, it likely isn’t compelling enough. For existing iPhone 11 owners, there is even less compelling reasons to upgrade (I won’t be upgrading – and I upgraded from the XS Max to the 11 Pro Max to get improved battery life and improved camera).

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