Good morning! I'm off to a phone launch in person for the first time in a very long time later today, as Xiaomi gets set to announce new things! But first, what happened at Apple...
Apple's day out
Apple did launch the iPhone 13 yesterday, despite the naming possibilities, updated the Apple Watch to the Series 7, and gave the iPad Mini and the base iPad a refresh as well.
- That means the rumors were mostly on point, though Mark Gurman tipped the iPad refresh for a later October release, and the hotly anticipated Apple AirPods 3 release didn’t happen.
- They could emerge, along with new laptops, during an October event.
- Other rumored elements, like astrophotography modes, satellite communication (no band n53 support!), and always-on screen, didn’t transpire at the event.
- It feels like Apple didn’t take a risk in 2021, which may be understandable given the last 12 months?
- Catch-up: If you didn’t watch, catch up with the iPhone 13 specs, release date, pricing, and all the bits and pieces of Apple's new iPhone 13 series.
Apple’s iPhone 13 approach:
- The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro both have similar designs to the iPhone 12 series. Apple purposely retained a similarity on that front.
- What did change was a smaller notch thanks to a more compact FaceID sensor array, a new display, with the Pro models getting a 10-120Hz refresh panel for a mix of ultra-smooth scrolling and gameplay and battery savings, an A15 Bionic chip, better camera, bigger battery, and some new colors.
- Another change is a boost to the entry-level memory specs, with the wretched base-64GB iPhone no longer in existence — and, to Apple’s credit despite supply chain concerns and issues facing all manufacturers, it didn’t increase pricing.
- The areas Apple focused on have been Apple staples: incremental improvements towards a better than ever iPhone, though in this release it’s clearer than ever.
- For me, the addition of 3x optical zoom to the Pro models and 120Hz variable refresh makes them much more buyable than the base iPhone 13, or the iPhone 13 Mini, which is likely to be stifled by its battery again.
- I also liked that, from what I could see, the Pro Max is just a bigger display, battery, and generally a bigger, heavier phone. But there’s no differences in cameras or other features you need to pay more for with the Pro Max.
- On the downside, the addition of a macro lens, in my experience, is really fun for a day or two. And then you stop using it unless you see a weird bug. At least you have options at no extra cost. The 1TB storage option is egregiously expensive over the lower storage options, too.
- On the camera front, Apple really emphasized the high-end camera capabilities, saying the word Pro a million times, and retained the 12MP sensor which aids video capture, as Android smartphones go for megapixel counts that can be up to 10 times higher.
- But there are some Apple-y legacy issues: Apple still won’t bring USB-C to its iPhone. So, if you do capture recorded videos that Apple talked up, like 4K ProRes video, it can only be shared from your new iPhone using AirDrop or USB 2.0 via Lightning, which is 10x slower than even modest USB-C 3.0 specs. At this point, if you’re importing 4K video into an Adobe suite, surely you own a camera with actual physical lenses and glass?
- Everyone likes a better camera, so no points off, but Apple is stuck squeezing a form factor down to the last nth feature, unless phone design radically changes to support more serious glass. As Wired said, “the iPhone 13 wants to shoot your next feature film,” but for those of us not in filmmaking or YouTubing, it may not have much appeal?
- Also: Apple dropped the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone XR from its lineup, remaining iPhone 11 and 12 phones saw $100 price cuts, with the iPhone 11 now sitting at $500 (The Verge).
- There’s loads of detail to come on everything Apple announced as details trickle out and we go through the review process (e.g. late news as I write is that the iPhone 13 models are the first to support dual eSIM).
- But one interesting thing about Apple’s new processor is that the new 5nm A15 Bionic wasn’t giving the usual billing of x% faster than last year’s CPU/GPU/AI, and so on.
- We did see from Apple that it has 15B transistors, over the A14’s 11.8B.
- But the gains have slowed dramatically. Apple clammed up about its own internal comparisons and talked about competitors.
- Meanwhile, Qualcomm, Samsung, Google’s first SoC, and so on, are a few short months away from playing catch-up.
- First hints are that Apple doesn’t see significant CPU gains, with speculation it’s a refined CPU design, not a new design. GPU details aren’t as elaborated on.
- It’s possible Apple focused on performance per watt over boosting performance when it’s already a leader over the field.
- My colleague Gary Sims is already crunching numbers and wondering how close Qualcomm et al. can get.
- I’m out of time other than to say: The new larger display 8.3-inch 2021 iPad Mini is expensive at $499, but has the A15 Bionic chip (meaning 5G) and USB-C support, and retains Touch ID relocated to the sleep/wake button. It’s like a big ol’ iPhone, but it runs iPadOS.
- The new 10.2-inch 2021 iPad, Apple’s entry-level option, steps up to the A13 Bionic processor, and remains stuck on Lightning. It’s meager but good enough for an entry-level device, which starts at $329.
- More on those, here.
I have new Apple Watch Series 7 thoughts for you in Weirdness Wednesday down below!
Of course there was Pixel 6 news during the Apple event, with Pixel 6 Pro leaks based on a “real” unit suggesting high-end features like UWB support, 12GB RAM, 5,000mAH battery, and more encouraging details (Android Authority).
Fairphone's first 5G smartphone leaks with new design (Android Authority).
Personal tracking tech is headed towards a precise — and dangerous — new era (Android Authority).
Nintendo finally adds Bluetooth audio to the Switch in new software update. The detail here is interesting: when you add a headset, you can connect fewer controllers. That sounds like Nintendo had to work some hardware magic or deal with some compromise. Anyway, it’s here now, finally (The Verge).
LG's new 325-inch Direct View 8K LED TV is an answer to Samsung's The Wall. No price is given, but what’s fun is LG is charging $30k for setup and support (Engadget).
New emoji incoming: bubbles, melting face, some kind of biting lip emoji which feels very thirsty (The Verge).
In a first, New York passes law banning new fossil fuel vehicle sales after 2034 (Ars Technica).
SpaceX Inspiration4 mission, the first ever all-civilian flight to space (with a cancer-survivor and the first-ever person to go to space with a prosthesis) is ready for take-off tonight at 8:02pm ET (ABC News).
This is a wondrous read — Greg LeMond and the Amazing Candy-Colored Dream Bike: “The Tour de France legend and anti-doping crusader is building an ultralight ebike that he hopes will be fun as hell to ride—and jumpstart a US carbon-fiber boom.” (Wired).
The frustration with productivity culture (New Yorker).
A sad day yesterday with Norm McDonald dying of cancer, too soon. My friend who’s seen approximately all comedy, ever, rates his Moth Joke as his most beloved (YouTube).
“Which product would improve humanity most if its cost were lowered to $1?” (r/askreddit).
The weirdness of the day is the Apple Watch Series 7. It just doesn’t really make sense.
- First the details: a new design at 41mm and 45mm sizes, 20% larger and brighter display with slight curve edge, faster charging, and dust resistance, but no big new hardware features for fitness or “wellness,” though some software updates will now help with tracking biking workouts and falls from a bicycle. That's just about it.
But what’s interesting:
- The Series 7 hasn’t gone for the hotly-anticipated flat or square-edge frame with a big Apple Watch redesign.
- It was mentioned by multiple reports, including the big hitters of Mark Gurman at Bloomberg and Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.
- Add another scoop to the weird heap: the Series 7 uses the same chipset as the Series 6, and software details don’t show a new model number.
- Final clue along the path: no release date! Apple just said it’d be coming “later this fall.”
- That all leadsd to speculation that Apple pulled the pin on the well-reported “complex production issues” that were “resolved” at the last minute with the expected more radically changed Series 7.
- It means Apple might’ve shifted to a different design at the last minute, with a more minor chassis and display tweak.
- Who knows, it’s a fun narrative at least.
- But it means Series 6 owners will find almost nothing to upgrade for, and those waiting in the wings for a big new model might continue waiting.
Makes you think!
Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor