Apple’s big bet on 5G iPhones
Apple has revealed a huge bet on 5G this morning, unveiling plans to introduce the next-generation technology "across our entire line-up of new iPhone models" this year, with support for download speeds more than four times as fast as the fastest broadband in Australia.
The company revealed four 5G smartphones in pre-dawn hours, ranging from its largest smartphone yet with a 6.7-inch screen to a Mini model the company called "the smallest, thinnest and lightest 5G phone in the world".
Major upgrades were also announced for some of the iPhone cameras, as well as a new charging system, a screen that promises to be four times as tough as its predecessor, and what could be a highly controversial omission: leaving a charger out of the box.
Apple chief executive Tim Cook revealed the changes in a livestream announcement filmed at the company's spaceship-shaped Cupertino, California headquarters, impressing the importance of adding high-speed downloads to the company's best-selling device.
"Every decade there's a new generation of technology that provides a step change in what we can do with our iPhones," Mr Cook said.
"The next generation is here. Today is the beginning for a new era for iPhone. Today we're bringing 5G to iPhone. This s a huge moment for all of us and we're really excited."
Below is everything you need to know about the four new iPhones landing in Australia over the next two months.
HI SPEED? HIGH SPEED
A next-generation smartphone connection had been widely tipped for this Apple announcement but the company went further than many analysts had expected.
Mr Cook quickly announced that 5G would not just be introduced to one or two of its flagship smartphones but "across our entire line-up of new iPhone models".
The new 5G iPhones will support so-called "sub 6" or sub-6GHz 5G broadcasts currently used by Telstra - with the company receiving a shout-out on screen during Apple's presentation.
But the new iPhones also promise to support the next wave of 5G transmissions called mmWave.
That technology could significantly boost download speeds on smartphones, though Australians are not expected to get access to the technology until next year when the spectrum is allocated.
Apple wireless technology and ecosystems vice-president Arun Mathias said the company had already seen speeds of up to 3.5Gbps possible on an iPhone "in ideal conditions" under the 5G already seen in Australia.
That peak download speed could jump to over 4Gbps in ideal conditions and 1Gbps in "typical conditions" with mmWave technology, he said.
The 5G reception will arrive in iPhones 18 months after 5G transmissions arrived in Australia last year, and as competition between major carriers Optus and Telstra has started to simmer.
Telstra this week announced it had boosted its coverage to 20 new regional centres since June, and added 60 5G sites during one week in September alone.
Just days earlier, Optus launched a "5G price match guarantee" for smartphone purchases, and released its 5G network to wholesale carriers.
EVEN MORE MODELS
Apple first introduced an extra, larger model back in 2014.
This year, the company doubled down again, launching four iPhone editions: a regular iPhone 12, an iPhone 12 Mini, an iPhone 12 Pro, and an iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Each smartphone comes with its own set of unique features and selling points, though some share DNA.
The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini are very similar, for example, except for the iPhone Mini's 5.4-inch screen and smaller body.
The iPhone Pro and Pro Max also come with different screen sizes - 6.1 and 6.7 inches respectively - but feature different camera additions.
To confuse things slightly, they will also be shipped at different times this year.
The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro will be available for preorder on October 16 and ship on October 23.
Those wanting to buy an iPhone Mini or Pro Max will have to wait until November 6 to preorder and November 13 to buy one.
Pricing for the new iPhones will be pleasingly similar to last year, however, with the top model iPhone 12 Pro Max costing as much as $2369 for a 512GB model, and the iPhone 12 Mini starting at $1199 for a 64GB model.
SHOOTING FOR MORE
The smartphone camera experience on the iPhone 12 will depend on what model you buy, ranging from four cameras down to just two.
At the top end of the range, the iPhone 12 Pro Max will feature a larger camera sensor, a more powerful telephoto lens with 5x optical zoom, Dolby Vision high-dynamic range processing for video and, for the first time, RAW capture.
Called Apple ProRAW, the new format promises to deliver much more detail in a photo, from highlights to shadows, by using the phone's neural engine to process its elements, but also retaining the details for photographers to edit themselves.
Both iPhone 12 Pro models will also see a third camera lens on the back of their smartphones this year: a LIDAR sensor that will help find focus in photos quickly, improve focus in lowlight situations, and deliver new augmented reality features.
A similar LIDAR sensor was added to iPad Pro models earlier this year.
But Apple executives regularly mentioned that "computational photography" would be introduced across the iPhone range this year, using machine learning to produce better images.
In shades of what Google introduced with the Pixel 5 recently, Apple's new iPhone 12 handsets will add a new night mode, while the Pro models will also add Night Mode Portraits.
The iPhone 12 and 12 Mini will both feature two rear cameras, with a choice of wide and ultra wide lenses, and slightly bigger apertures this year for better lowlight shots.
RETRO FACELIFT, MODERN FEATURES
Apple's newest iPhones will look a little like some of its older models this year, with metal bodies and more angular corners than last year.
All the iPhone 12 models will come with a metal body reminiscent of the iPhone 5 - the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini will arrive in aluminium, while the Pro models will feature stainless steel.
The screens of all four smartphones will also get an upgrade with a new type of hardened glass called Ceramic Shield, which promises four times the drop protection of the last model.
Also added this year will be a new MagSafe charging system, named after the chargers once popular with Apple MacBooks.
The circular, magnetic charging port built into the back of the phones won't just wirelessly charge the devices, however, but they could be used to attach accessories to the iPhone, like a mini wallet.
The most controversial announcement from Apple today was not what the company put into the new iPhones but what it took out of them: there will be no headphones and no charger in the box with these devices.
Apple environment, policy and social initiatives vice-president Lisa Jackson said the company made the decision to cut its carbon footprint.
"Just like we did with Apple Watch, we looked for ways to cut waste and use less material," she said.
"Customers already have over 700 million Lightning headphones … there are also over two billion Apple power adaptors out in the world and that's not counting the billions of third-party adaptors so we're removing these items from the iPhone box."
Ms Jackson said the change was equivalent to removing 450,000 cars from the road for a year.
The iPhones will still come with a charging cable, however, with a USB-C connector suited to the new generation of Macs.
ONE MORE THING
There's often "one more thing" unexpectedly unveiled at Apple events, but Mr Cook kicked off the company's something extra immediately this morning: a miniature HomePod speaker.
Much smaller than its chunky predecessor and orb-shaped, the HomePod Mini is designed to be more about smarts than music playback.
The small speaker, which will cost $US99 at launch in the United States, will respond to Siri queries, let users make announcements across all Apple devices in a new feature called "Intercom," and offer voice recognition to respond to individual requests.
The HomePod Mini will also recognise others of its kind in one room and automatically create a stereo effect, and can play music simultaneously with others attached to its network.
The new miniature speaker will likely compete with the likes of Google Nest Audio and Amazon Echo devices in Australia, but will not replace Apple's existing HomePod.
Originally published as Apple's big bet on 5G iPhones