Live Apple Event Updates: Should You Buy a New iPhone or Not?

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Oct. 13, 2020, 2:40 p.m. ET

Oct. 13, 2020, 2:40 p.m. ET

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The iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. Apple’s entry-level phones will start at $700 and the higher-end phones will start at $1,000.
Credit…Apple

So what will these latest iPhones cost you?

Many of us can breathe a sigh of relief. Apple stuck with a proven pricing model for the new devices, releasing the entry-level phones for $700 and up and higher-end phones starting at $1,000 — both prices in line with previous years.

What is different this year is that Apple will sell four iPhone models, up from its typical three in recent years.

At the entry level, the iPhone 12 Mini will start at $700 and iPhone 12 at $800. Last year, the iPhone 11 started at $700, meaning the flagship iPhone 12 device will start at $100 more. People will still have a $700 option, but it will be smaller.

On the higher end, the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max will start at $1,000 and $1,100, identical to last year.

Apple might have been able to hold prices mostly steady this year by no longer including headphones and a power adapter. The company said it was an environmental decision but it also likely saved it money and will cause many customers to buy extra accessories from Apple.

Analysts and investors have long anticipated the new iPhones as a boost to flagging sales of the company’s main product. A larger than normal share of existing iPhone owners are due for an upgrade, and many have held out for a 5G iPhone, not wanting to invest in a device that didn’t work with the faster wireless speeds.

Whether Apple was able to capitalize on the swelling demand for a 5G iPhone was something of a question this year when the coronavirus disrupted its supply chain in China. But its Chinese manufacturing partners quickly rebounded and the iPhone event was delayed by only about a month past its usual September date.

Most important for Apple, it will start shipping the new devices before the crucial holiday sales season.

The iPhone 12, the successor to last year’s iPhone 11, has arrived with an improved screen and faster chip, among other improvements.

Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, took the wraps off the new device on Tuesday and emphasized that it has the capability to run on 5G next-generation cellular networks, for much faster speeds.

The new iPhone is also 11 percent thinner, 15 percent smaller and 16 percent lighter than its predecessor. It has smooth, flat edges, unlike the round corners of past models. The screen uses OLED, a brighter display technology that replaces the older LCD technology in the last entry-level iPhone. Apple said it also toughened the glass of the touch screen, making it four times more likely to survive a drop.

The iPhone 12 will also come in two screen sizes: 5.4 inches and 6.1 inches. The smaller model, called iPhone 12 Mini, may appeal to people who prefer smaller phones.

Apple also introduced upgrades for its iPhone Pro models, its more expensive smartphones. The premium models have an extra camera lens, and their processors are slightly more powerful for taking special photos with extra high-resolution, which Apple calls “deep fusion.” They also include a Lidar scanner, which is a depth sensor that uses lasers to scan 3-D objects, which could improve augmented-reality applications.

Mr. Cook talked at length about the speed improvements of 5G, calling it “super fast” and offering a “new level of performance for downloads and uploads.” But notably, his description lacked specificity: He did not say how much faster 5G was than current 4G phones, which many would already consider to be super fast.

Hans Vestberg, chief executive of Verizon, joined Apple to talk about 5G, highlighting its peak speeds. But those peak speeds will not be available in most of the nation. The current nationwide 5G coverage is only incrementally faster, if at all, than what we have with 4G.

So here’s the upshot: The design changes to the newest iPhones are, in the near term, more remarkable than the addition of 5G.

Nonetheless, Apple, and other handset makers including Google and Samsung are working emphasizing 5G in their new phones to help carriers communicate the network shift to consumers.

As an aside, Apple said it would stop including headphones and power chargers with its iPhones. It framed the move as an environmental decision, which also will likely save it money and spur people to spend more for those accessories. Apple said iPhones would instead come with a USB-C cable, which will enable faster charging.

Oct. 13, 2020, 1:50 p.m. ET

Oct. 13, 2020, 1:50 p.m. ET

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Kaiann Drance, vice president of iPhone product marketing, introduced the iPhone 12 on Tuesday.
Credit…Apple

’Tis the season for new gadgets of all kinds, including new smartphones. So how do you figure out if you really need one?

There are three easy questions to ask yourself to figure out the answer.

  • Can I still get software updates on my current phone?

  • Is my device beyond repair?

  • Am I unhappy with my phone?

The new HomePod mini stands at 3.3 inches tall and will be priced at $99.
Credit…Apple

First up from Apple in its new product lineup on Tuesday was a HomePod Mini, a smaller and cheaper version of its HomePod smart speaker, which hasn’t been as successful as the products it emulated, the Amazon Echo and Google Home.

To distinguish the HomePod, Apple has emphasized the speaker’s ability to fill a room with high-quality sound. The original device was not popular, largely because of its higher price tag of $350. In addition, Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant, is not as capable as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant. In our tests, Siri on HomePod was dumber than Siri on other products, including the iPhone.

Apple said on Tuesday that Siri was continuing to improve.

Regardless, the HomePod has a long way to go. The company hasn’t disclosed its sales, but the market-research firm Strategy Analytics estimated that in the fourth quarter of 2019, Apple had less than 5 percent of the global market share for smart speakers, well below the 28 percent share for Amazon and 25 percent share for Google.

The HomePod Mini will be priced at $99, Apple said. That compares with Amazon Echo at $99 and the mini Echo Dot at $49. Google Home, which is now called Nest Audio, costs $99 and its mini version, Nest Mini, is priced at $49.

Oct. 13, 2020, 12:00 p.m. ET

Oct. 13, 2020, 12:00 p.m. ET

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Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple, speaking about the new iPhone and 5G on Tuesday.
Credit…Brooks Kraft/Apple

Many of us are eagerly anticipating Apple’s new iPhones on Tuesday because they are expected to include a major new feature: 5G, for the fifth-generation cellular network.

Phones with 5G capability have been positioned as far better than our current devices. That’s because carriers like AT&T and Verizon have hyped 5G as a life-changing technology capable of delivering data speeds so fast that you can download a feature-length movie in seconds.

But tamp down your expectations, at least for now. In the near term, the new cellular technology probably won’t be a big leap forward from its predecessor, 4G. Instead, in most cases, 5G will only be incrementally faster, if at all.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The much-hyped, ultrafast variant of 5G is known as “millimeter wave.” But its reach is limited right now. This flavor of 5G lets carriers transmit data at incredibly fast speeds. The catch? Its signals travel shorter distances, covering a park in New York but not a broad swath of the city, for example. It also has trouble penetrating obstacles like walls. So for now, the carriers are focusing its deployment in large spaces like sports stadiums and outdoor amphitheaters.

    That’s good news if you enjoy livestreaming concerts or games. But it’s unlikely we will be attending those types of events anytime soon in this pandemic.

    And because of the technical limitations, we are unlikely to see this ultrafast 5G deployed nationwide anytime soon, meaning we won’t be getting its incredible speeds in the vast majority of places.

  • Our cellular networks are broadly shifting to a version of 5G that is less exciting. Let’s call this vanilla 5G. Vanilla 5G will have speeds that are only slightly faster (roughly 20 percent faster) than current 4G networks. Its main benefit is that it will reduce a lag known as latency. When you do a web search on your phone, for example, the results show up after a lag that can often last hundreds of milliseconds. In theory, 5G technology will shave latency down to a few milliseconds.

    That said, 5G networks are still in their early stages. So in some areas, it can be even slower than 4G to start.

That’s not to say 5G is not exciting. It’s expected to have a significant impact in the long term on how our technology works. The reduction in lag times could make virtual reality applications and online gaming work better. If all goes well, 5G could lay the groundwork for self-driving cars, which will need to be able to instantaneously talk to one another to avoid collisions.

(The New York Times on Tuesday announced a tech partnership with Verizon to explore how 5G connections could aid its journalism; The Times maintains editorial control of its storytelling.)

In the meantime, there may be improvements in Apple’s new iPhones that will affect you more than 5G. The devices are expected to be sped up with new processors and have a brand-new design and improved cameras. Those, along with the side benefit of 5G, would deliver a significant upgrade for people who have older 4G iPhones.



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