SAN FRANCISCO: Apple on Tuesday (Oct 13) launched its next-generation iPhone 12, with faster 5G connectivity that the Cupertino, California company hopes will spur a wave of upgrades and keep its sales booming through the end of the year.
The core of the line-up, the iPhone 12 with a 6.1-inch display, comes in several colours, with prices in Singapore starting at S$1,299. The iPhone 12 mini, with a 5.4-inch screen, will be slightly cheaper and starts at S$1,149.
Both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini will be available in 64GB, 128GB and 256GB in blue, green, black, white and red.
The iPhone Pro comes with three cameras, and starts at S$1,649, with the largest iPhone Pro Max starting at S$1,799.
The iPhone Pro and iPhone Pro Max will be available in 128GB, 256GB and 512GB models in graphite, silver, gold and pacific blue.
Customers in Singapore, Australia, China, Germany, Japan, the UK, US and some other countries and regions will be able to pre-order the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro from 8pm this Friday (Singapore time), with availability beginning Oct 23.
They can also pre-order the iPhone mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max from 9pm on Nov 6 (Singapore time), with availability beginning Nov 13.
Apple said the phones will be available through Apple authorised resellers and "selected carriers".
The new products will test whether Apple can ride a wave of consumer excitement around 5G wireless data networks, whose speediest variants outstrip their predecessors' data rates multiple times over.
Apple said the iPhone 12 models will support millimetre wave 5G, the fastest variant of the technology, as well as lower-frequency bands. Some rival Android devices support only the lower-frequency versions of 5G.
But whether iPhone buyers see a dramatic speed boost will depend heavily on where they are and which carrier they use - what Bob O'Donnell, head of TECHnalysis Research, called "lots of little niggly details that get in the way of delivering on the promise of 5G".
He said Apple may be setting some customers up for disappointment when phones ship but offer only modest speed increases until carriers build out networks.
"I don't feel like Apple clarified that as much as they could have," O'Donnell said.
Verizon Communications CEO Hans Vestberg appeared on Apple's livestream presentation to announce that the phones would work with the carrier's "ultrawideband" 5G network, designed to alleviate bottlenecks in major cities like New York and Los Angeles, as well as in crowded areas like NFL stadiums. Apple said it had tested 5G on more than 800 carriers in 30 regions globally.
The devices will arrive about a month later than is usual for Apple's annual launches.
Apple may face a lukewarm holiday season due to the coronavirus pandemic, said Jake Dollarhide, chief executive officer of Longbow Asset Management in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
"As the convergence of flu season with COVID and colder weather forces everyone indoors, I think it's going to be harder to sell iPhones this Christmas. As much as Apple is a technology company, it's not known for its online sales, it's known for its in-store experience," Dollarhide said.
Shares of Apple fell more than 3 per cent during the event, erasing US$77 billion worth of stock market value.
Users on Chinese social media platform Weibo complained that the livestream of Apple's event on online platforms Tencent and Bilibili had been cancelled, but they said they were still able to watch it on Apple's own website. Tencent and Bilibili did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Apple also announced a HomePod Mini smart speaker that will cost US$99 and be shipped from Nov 16. Many of the features serve as a catch-up to similar offerings from Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet's Google.
But Ben Bajarin, principal analyst for consumer market intelligence at research firm Creative Strategies, said Apple had fleshed out its vision for how its devices could interact more directly with its own speakers than rivals had. For example, Apple customers can speak into their iPhone or iPad to use the HomePod Minis like an intercom system.
"That's not something that Google or Amazon, particularly Amazon, can do so cleanly," said Bajarin. "The advantage Apple has that they pressed on is that a good portion of those (Google and Amazon) customers have iPhones. They leveraged the fact they own the pocket."