Today, as you likely know if you're reading this, was Apple's big September event, entitled California Streaming. For years now, Apple has used this time to announce the latest iPhones, often adding other launches to the agenda. This year was no exception. We have iPhone 13, Apple Watch Series 7, and new iPads, plus some new stuff for Apple Fitness Plus subscribers.
You can watch today's event yourself, or find it on their Youtube channel. As usual, audio description is available.
iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro
Yes, it's called iPhone 13. There was speculation about what Apple would call this generation, given that some cultures consider the number 13 unlucky, but 13 is the name. Physically, this generation looks similar to iPhone 12; that is, it has straight sides instead of the curved sides that iPhone 11 used. It has an array of cameras on the back that stick out a bit, it has the usual edge-to-edge display, the back is glass, you get the idea. What changed, you ask?
Display and Camera
Let's get past this part first, since most of the AppleVis audience doesn't care that much about it. The display has the same resolution as that of iPhone 12, though it is up to 28% brighter. The big change is in the refresh rate, which is how many times per second the picture on the screen can change. This number is given in Hertz, so a screen at 60 Hertz (written 60Hz) updates itself 60 times per second.
Android flagship phones have made 120Hz screens more and more commonplace in the last few years, and Apple has now caught up. Using the same Pro Motion technology found in modern iPads, iPhone 13 Pro's display will automatically adapt its refresh rate to fit the situation. If a video you're watching is 30 frames per second, the screen will throttle down to 30Hz; if you're scrolling around the screen, the refresh rate will match the speed of your finger, making the display look smooth and sharp. Not to be left out, iPhone 13 (not Pro) still gets a new, brighter screen that's easier on the battery, though it lacks Pro Motion.
The cameras on iPhone 13 can, to no one's surprise, handle low light situations better than before and take more detailed images overall. This happens every year, but what doesn't happen with nearly so much regularity is the introduction of whole new photo/video modes. I'll summarize what I can, but honestly, I didn't follow a lot of this part of the presentation very well. I expect the videos Apple used to show all this off were far more impressive than the word salad they threw at us when explaining everything.
- Cinematic Mode lets AI automatically adjust the focus when it detects a subject about to enter the frame; the user can manually designate a subject the camera should keep in focus; the user can adjust the focus and depth of the shot in real time
- the advanced optical image stabilization system found in iPhone 12 Pro has been ported to iPhone 13, not just iPhone 13 Pro
- iPhone 13 Pro supports 6X optical zoom, Night Mode on all three rear camera lenses, and advanced recording formats for videography
- Both iPhone 13 models support custom photo styles, which are sets of adjustments pro photographers like to make. Now, iPhone will save these and automatically apply them to each picture.
This new chip, which is at the heart of all iPhone 13 models as well as the new iPad Mini, is faster than anything that's come before it, as expected. The A15 has four efficiency cores, which can handle background and low intensity tasks easily, and two cores meant for serious work. Add to that the four cores meant to handle graphics, and you have a total of ten. That's before you get to the machine learning engine, a separate part of the SoC (system on a chip) that deals exclusively with machine learning and AI tasks. Oh, and to handle the extra features on iPhone 13 Pro, that phone sports an extra graphics core. With double the cache of the A14, the A15 is, as Apple says, a powerhouse. Still, my impression is that you won't notice a huge difference in daily usage going from iPhone 12 to iPhone 13.
The screen and camera were the focus of this year's iterations, it seems, but there is still more to like about iPhone 13. The battery life is improved across the board: iPhone 13 Mini and iPhone 13 Pro have one and a half more hours of battery than their iPhone 12 counterparts, while iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro Max have two and a half more hours than their siblings from last year. Also, the knotch in the top of the screen is narrower, though a bit taller. Speaking of size, the phones overall are very slightly heavier and larger than iPhone 12, but not enough that most people will notice. Still, it means that iPhone 12 cases won't fit.
Colors, Pricing, and Availability
As usual, I am only offering U.S. MSRP prices here, and U.S. availability dates.
iPhone 13 goes up for pre-order on Friday, September 17. Orders will ship, and stores should have devices in stock, on Friday, September 24. Prices start at $699 for iPhone 13 Mini, $799 for iPhone 13, $999 for the Pro, and $1099 for the Pro Max. Note that iPhone 13 now comes with double the storage as compared to last year's iPhone lineup, meaning you get 128GB to start with rather than 64GB. You can also now get a 512GB iPhone 13, and a 1TB iPhone 13 Pro.
For colors, the aluminum iPhone 13 comes in pink, blue, starlight (white), midnight (black), and the usual Product RED. The Pro models, using stainless steel frames rather than aluminum, are available in graphite, gold, silver, and Sierra blue (something like sky blue). Big thanks to this article that briefly describes the new colors!
Apple Watch Series 7
Rumors suggested that this year would see Apple finally give its watch a new design, and that turned out to be completely wrong. The corners are more rounded, or so the presentation suggested, but we didn't get the flat sides the internet was expecting. What the rumors nailed, though, was the screen size--the Series 7 has the thinnest bezels yet. While about the same physical size as the Series 6, the Series 7 fits more screen. Instead of the 40mm or 44mm we've gotten to know, we now get 41mm and 45mm sizes. The screen is also brighter when your wrist is down, making it that much easier to see at a glance. If you can see it at all, that is. I can't.
As usual, there will be a few new watch faces that take advantage of the increased screen real estate. One sports a dial time display that expands off the screen and out of the way when you raise your wrist, leaving the time easily viewable when the screen is not in use, and your complications available when you want to use the watch. The other face offers two large complication slots, in addition to several small ones. Other features for the new screen sizes include a full-blown keyboard (which you can tap or swipe to use), and a general redesign of text and buttons to make things easier to read/activate. Will 40 and 44mm watches get these features as well? We don't yet know.
While the Series 7 has no new medical sensors or processor, it still has some compelling features. First, Apple says that the way they redesigned the screen makes it more resistant to cracking when impacted. Falling off a bike (as was shown in one of the video demos) is less likely to kill your screen, for instance. From what Apple said, this change comes from re-engineering the shape, not the use of a stronger glass. Still, anything that makes my watch less likely to break is good.
Speaking of hardiness, Apple Watch Series 7 retains the same waterproofing as Series 6. Now, though, it can claim IP6X dust resistance. This makes the device much less likely to be damaged by dust or other small particles.
The other big change is in the battery. When charged on the new USB-C cable, the Series 7 can charge up to 33% faster than the Series 6, which itself could charge faster than any Apple Watch before it. Add to that the Series 7's ability to fast charge when it's low on power, and you have a device that is much easier to use all the time. Just eight minutes of charging, claim Apple, will get you enough power to get through eight hours of sleep tracking. A mere forty-five minutes will take you from a dead battery to 80%.
Apple Watch Series 7 is coming, but we don't yet know when. Whenever that day is, you will have some choices. It comes in aluminum, stainless steel, or titanium, either cellular or GPS-only, in 41mm or 45mm screen sizes. The aluminum model is offered in green, blue, starlight, midnight, and Product RED, and starts at $399. If you want an older model instead, the SE continues to be available for $279, and the Series 3 is still--for some reason--being sold as well, for $199. Don't get the Series 3, though. Please don't.
Apple Fitness Plus
Apple Fitness Plus, Apple's paid fitness class option, is expanding. There are now new workout types, including Pilates, snow sport preparation, and mindfulness. The program is also expanding to fifteen more countries and languages. Translation will be done with subtitles, rather than native speakers. Group workouts let users work out together, able to see each other's overall progress. This should allow for more competition, for those who want it. All of this will arrive later this year.
The iPad got some love during the presentation, specifically the entry-level iPad and the iPad Mini. The former is a relatively small upgrade, but the Mini... Well, we'll get there.
The iPad got the fewest updates, so let's hit that one first. Basically, it's the same device, but with a newer chip inside: the A13 Bionic, from 2019. You can now take advantage of faster machine learning, more demanding games can run, and you'll likely get iPadOS updates for a longer time.
The other big change is that both the front and rear cameras are now 12MP, and the front camera supports Center Stage. This is a feature brought over from iPad Pro that lets the camera keep you in focus, even if you move around, during video calls.
The screen now supports True Tone, which will try to adjust the color output to compensate for the color of ambient light. This has been a feature on other iPads and iPhones for years, but it finally arrives on the cheapest iPad Apple sells.
Given that this model is otherwise unchanged, all cases, keyboards, and other accessories should still work. This model also continues to support the first generation Apple Pencil. It will be offered in silver and space gray, starting at $329 for 64GB of storage. As with iPhone 13, this year's model doubles the storage; a $329 iPad from last year would have had just 32GB.
This is where the big news is. iPad Mini 6 is the first miniature iPad to sport the edge-to-edge display that has been so popular on the iPad Air and Pro lately. By thinning the bezels and removing the Home button, Apple has fit an 8.3-inch display into the same iPad Mini chassis that used to hold a screen half an inch smaller. If you're a fan of Touch ID, don't panic--that feature has moved to the power button, just like on iPad Air.
The brighter, larger, True Tone-enabled display isn't the only change. Inside, you'll find stereo speakers (well, stereo when in landscape mode), 12MP cameras on the front and rear, the same A15 chip as in iPhone 13, more battery, compatibility with Apple Pencil 2 (complete with magnetic dock), and 5G cellular support. On the outside, iPad Mini now has a USB-C port in place of a Lightning port, letting you connect a multitude of devices without adapters or bottlenecked speeds.
This is a huge, exciting upgrade for anyone who relies on iPad Mini. You can pre-order today, with deliveries and in-store stock arriving on Friday, September 24. Color options include purple, pink, starlight, and space gray. This iPad starts at $499.
That's it, apart from the announcement that all the software updates (minus macOS) will be released on September 20. What did you think? Were you underwhelmed, or is your wallet already weeping?
Personally, I'm not a huge iPad guy, so am not tempted by the iPad 9 or new iPad Mini. My iPhone 11 still does well, and there's nothing in iPhone 13 that's compelling enough for me to want to upgrade this year. My Apple Watch Series 6 is also great, but I have to admit that the Series 7 is calling to me. I'm curious about the keyboard, I'd love to have a second large complication slot, and the fast charging is very appealing. I'm someone who is mildly irked whenever my Apple Watch isn't on my wrist, which was part of my motivation for getting the Series 6 last year. Being able to have my watch spend even less time on the charger would be nice...
Anyway, let me know what you thought and what you bought in the comments! It seems likely that there will be another Apple event later this fall, so we'll see each other again soon.