5G iPhones & HomePod Mini – Apple’s October 2020 Event

Apple’s traditional iPhone event was delayed by a month due to COVID-19 however they did give us some new releases in September which consisted of the Apple Watch SE, Apple Watch Series 6, iPad (8th Generation) and iPad Air (4th Gen). But the iPhones were not too far behind with a full launch earlier today.

The first product showcased by the Apple senior leadership team was the compact version of the Homepod which was released back in early 2018, the Homepod Mini. Its spherical shape features the same fabric finish of the original alongside featuring a light array at the top of the unit to display the Siri waveform alongside volume controls. Apple is powering the Homepod Mini with the S5 chip from the Apple Watch Series 5 which was essentially a rebadged version of the S4 found in the Series 4. However, the much more specialised workload of the Homepod Mini consisting of Siri commands and audio enhancement means it should perform well.

Its key features were advertised as including amazing sound playback, an intelligent assistant, full smart home integration and lastly having security and privacy at its core giving you the choice to opt-out of Apple storing the audio recordings. The deep integration of Siri means your Homepod Mini and iPhone communicate effortlessly and the Mini is able to differentiate your voice from other household members.

The new intercom functionality allows you to send a message on a Homepod and this can be broadcast to other Homepods and other Apple devices on the Home app. This feature was already present on the Amazon Echo devices for a while now so Apple is playing catchup to quite some extent. It also boasts a new lower price tag of £99 which is significantly lower than the £279 RRP of the larger model, however, is still significantly more pricey than the Amazon and Google budget counterparts with a nice helping of Apple Tax.

Apple spent a good chunk of the event talking about 5G and how they are working closely with Verizon to bring the UWB 5G MMWave to the masses with up to 4Gbps in ideal conditions which is significantly faster than 4G LTE speeds of yesteryear. The key features of 5G that Apple promoted included the fact that it is now super fast, more advanced than any cellular connectivity that has ever come before it and it is private and secure as users will be much less likely to connect to unsecured public WiFi networks due to slow or patchy 4G coverage which they may have occurred in the past. Verizon claimed their 5G coverage is nationwide with coverage for up to 200 million people in over 1800 cities and towns across the US.

They moved swiftly onto the iPhones which was the largest launch line-up to date with 4 brand new models announced at the October 13th event. Apple boasted that the iPhone 11 was the #1 smartphone in the world in terms of sales and the iPhone line-up has boasted the spot of #1 in terms of customer satisfaction since the iPhone was first released.

The first iPhone hot off the press was the iPhone 12 which is the direct replacement for the LCD based iPhone 11 from last year. The iPhone 12 now features a brand new design which resembles the iPhone 5 and 5S era very closely with a squared-off design with smooth flat edges on all 4 sides. It now features a 6.1 inch OLED Super Retina XDR Display with a much smaller screen to bezel ratio resulting in a larger display in the same size chassis which is always an improvement. The display features a 460 PPI density and a brightness of 1200 nits which now means the iPhone 12 series is HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG compliant. Apple is debuting a brand new coating on their displays called Ceramic Shield, this is made in collaboration with Corning to create a glass that is ‘tougher than any smartphone glass’ which results in a claimed 4x better drop performance which should hopefully result in less smashed glass if you drop your phone.

Apple is powering the iPhone 12 series by the A14 Bionic which was first debuted back in September and will first be seen in the 4th generation iPad Air. The A14 Bionic has the first 5nm process technology for a smartphone chip which is a ground-breaking accomplishment with heavily reduced power consumption but significantly higher processing power. It features 11.8bn transistors on its tiny die and is made up of a 6 core CPU, 4 core GPU, 16 core neural engine and image signal processor. The CPU and GPU are up to 50% faster than any other smartphone chip, with the neural engine up to 80% faster.

The cameras on the rear of the iPhone 12 are made up of a 12MP wide camera which features an f1.6 aperture, a 7 element lens, 26mm focal length and optical image stabilisation alongside a 12MP ultrawide camera with an f2.4 aperture, 5 element lens, 13mm focal length and 120 degrees field of view. The front camera appears unchanged compared to the iPhone 11 but all of the cameras feature night mode functionality with the faster aperture lenses which was a feature previously reserved for the primary wide lens. This means that regardless of which lens you were using, you should be able to get great low light shots.

MagSafe was also brought back to the Apple line-up but not in a way in which has ever been seen before. The entire iPhone 12 line-up features a brand new array of magnets on the rear which allow access to a brand new ecosystem of accessories to the iPhones. The magnets are placed in a circular arrangement which allows for brand new faster wireless charging with a new wireless charging puck which resembles the one used by the Apple Watch but just larger. Apple has also brought out a large line-up of first-party cases which allow the MagSafe functionality to be kept for the wireless charging and other 3rd party accessories through the case.

The Mini moniker also was brought to the iPhone for the first time ever. The iPhone 12 Mini took centre stage in Apple Park and features everything that the iPhone 12 does including its Super Retina XDR OLED display, A14 Bionic, Ceramic Shield glass and MagSafe functionality. It also keeps the 5G capabilities and it’s brand new 5.4″ display in a form factor smaller than the iPhone SE means it is the worlds ‘smallest, thinnest and lightest 5G phone in the world’ so if you want a small phone you don’t lose out in any regards. The iPhone 12 and 12 Mini converting to OLED means that the iPhone SE is the last current-generation iPhone that features an LCD display (Apple still sells the iPhone XR).

Apple has also moved the location of the SIM card from the centre of the right-hand side of the phone to the bottom of the left-hand side of the phone for the entire iPhone 12 line-up which is a big change as the location has been the same since the iPhone 4 which was announced back in 2010. The iPhone 12 Mini starts from £699 and the larger 12 starts from £799.

The iPhone 12 Pro lineup is made up of the newer larger iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. The phones feature a brand new surgical grade stainless steel band around the side in a polished finish with a new colour lineup made up of Silver, Graphite, Gold and Pacific Blue.

The iPhone 12 Pro features a 6.1″ display up from 5.8″ with a 2532 x 1170 resolution resulting in a PPI of 460, whilst the larger model features a 6.7″ display up from 6.5″ with a PPI of 458 from a 278 x 1284 resolution. They both are HDR compliant, feature true tone, P3 colour gamut, haptic touch, 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio, 800 nit max brightness under typical loads with an HDR max of 1200 nits and 5G as standard. All of the iPhones now feature IP68 rating with an enhanced 6-metre depth for up to 30 minutes in freshwater and Apple’s promo video showed lots of various drinks being split however the manufactures warranty does not cover any sort of liquid damage so always take it with a pinch of salt.

The cameras are one of the areas in which Apple has spent a lot of time improving compared to its last generation flagships. The 12 Pro features a new 12MP F1.6 7 element lens with a 26mm focal length, improved low light and optical image stabilisation, a 12MP ultra-wide, f2.4 aperture, 5-element, 13mm focal length lens with 120 degrees field of view and lastly a 12MP telephoto lens with a f2.0 aperture and 2x optical zoom. The 12 Pro Max has a few differences compared to the 12 Pro; the telephoto lens has a f2.2 aperture vs the f2.0 on the Pro and 2.5x vs 2.0x optical zoom on the telephoto lens with 12x vs 10x digital zoom on that same lens. There is also now a LiDAR scanner which is the same one as the one found on the 2020 iPad Pro’s and is used to improve the autofocus in the cameras alongside better depth perception for Portrait mode. AR is also key to Apple as they carried out a demo which showcased how a health firm took weeks to complete an in-person model for outfitting a health centre, and it can now be done in a more efficient method in a matter of hours or days reducing costs by up to 90%.

Apple released their own RAW file format named Apple ProRAW which takes the flexibility of RAW and combines it with Apple’s image processing prowess on the A14 Bionic chip. This is only present on the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max. Apple also allows you to edit the photos directly inside the Photos app on your iPhone which reduces the need for reliance on a secondary device. The iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max are the first phones to record in Dolby Vision HDR with 10-bit colour space, 700m colours which is 60x more than before. Recording at 4K 60FPS is also possible through the lenses on the Pro models.

The iPhone 12 Pro is priced at starting from £999 with the 12 Pro Max starting at £1099 which is the same price as the last generation flagship iPhones so unlike other brands, Apple has absorbed this into the cost of the phone.

One major thing was that Apple is no longer bundling the power adapter or lightning headphones in any of the iPhone boxes now. This results in a significantly slimmer iPhone box and Apple claims this is to be more environmentally friendly as they are aiming for a 2030 net-zero climate impact for their entire supply chain and the usage of their devices. This includes the inclusion of 100% recycled rare earth magnets in the new iPhones, and the reduction of the 2 accessories and reduced box sizes will result in the reduction of 2m metric tons of carbon emissions annually which would have occurred due to the production and transportation of the larger boxes. It does feel like a cost-saving measure as Apple can now charge you for these 2 accessories especially as the Type C to Lightning cable included requires a type C plug which very few people have compared to traditional USB Type-A so it’s a bit of a win-win for Apple however you look at it.

To conclude, whilst the devices announced at today’s event weren’t a revolutionary change, they were necessary to bring Apple back to the top of their game as their competitors have had 5G for months now with more daring design choices resulting in them standing out. We hope to cover these phones shortly so stay tuned to our social channels and the site for updates and reviews!

About Siddu Munjal

Reviewer & Partner Outreach for MobileTechTalk - Tech is a key part of my everyday life and I would probably be extremely lost without it.

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