Somehow it’s September already, which means it’s time for new iPhones. Today, as it’s done for the past year and a half, Apple streamed a virtual launch event from its spaceship headquarters in Cupertino, California. (These remote functions could go on for a while, since Apple has pushed back its plan to make employees return to the office until next year.)
In addition to four new iPhone models, Apple also showed off some other glittering gadgets—including a new Apple Watch and a revamped iPad Mini—and gave updates about its growing services business and the software that runs on its many devices.
Here’s everything Apple announced.
Hello, iPhone 13
There are four versions of iPhone 13 to choose from. They range from the inexpensive Mini’s 5.4-inch screen to the chonky and feature-packed 6.7-inch Pro Max. Designwise, the visual differences on the new models are minor. At least the notorious notch is a teensy bit smaller.
Inside, each phone runs on Apple’s new A15 Bionic chip. It allows for enhanced features like live text analysis, advanced map animations, and instant visual identification of plants and animals, all of which is processed on the device with no help from the cloud. Storage options have gotten a boost too. All the new iPhones start with 128 GB of storage, but for the first time, the Pro phones can be maxed out to 1 terabyte of space.
You can read our report on the iPhone 13 for a full look at its new capabilities. The iPhone 13 Mini starts at $699, the regular iPhone is $799, the Pro is $999, and the Pro Max starts at $1,099. Preorders open up on Friday, and all phones will be available on September 24.
Apple only briefly touched on the privacy features of the new iPhones during today’s event, perhaps because it was eager to avoid wading into the recent photo-scanning controversy it’s found itself in.
Perhaps the most eye-popping update of the whole event was Apple’s new video feature for iPhones called Cinematic Mode. It’s a sort of video portrait mode that automatically changes focus and blurs backgrounds for an adjustable bokeh effect. On Pro-model phones, you can adjust the depth of field and focus even after filming. There’s also the option to film in Apple’s high-quality ProRes format.
The iPhone Pro models received updates to their three lenses: telephoto, wide, and ultrawide. There are also some new advanced options for on-device color correcting and photo enhancements that automatically adjust the images based on the colors and skin tones of the subjects.
New iPad and iPad Mini
The tiniest of iPads got a sizable update. Apple has brought the aesthetics of the iPad Mini more in line with its other recently redesigned tablets. It’s thinner, with more softly rounded corners. The screen is now slightly bigger, at 8.3 inches across. To accommodate this wider format, the Touch ID sensor has been moved to the outer rim. The home button is gone, and there is a USB-C port at the bottom now. It really looks like a giant iPhone!
It comes with a 5G modem, and cameras that can record in 4K. It’s also compatible with the 2nd-generation Apple Pencil, which charges wirelessly on the side of the tablet. The Mini costs $499, and it will be available next week.
Apple has also updated its base-model iPad. The cheapest iPad gets an A13 Bionic chip, which the company says gives it a 20 percent performance boost over the past model. The cameras have been updated, particularly the front-facing lens. It’s now a 12-megapixel ultrawide that supports Apple’s Portal-esque Center Stage feature, which keeps you tightly in the frame as you move around on a video call. Weirdly, the camera is still placed in an awkward position along the side of the device when you’re in landscape mode. This simplest of iPads only works with first-generation Apple Pencils. It starts at $329 with 64 GB of storage.
New Apple Watch
The standout feature of Apple’s newest smartwatch, the Apple Watch Series 7, is its enhanced display. Otherwise, the updates to one of the world’s most popular health trackers feel iterative this year. Also: Apple hasn’t yet announced a release date for this new watch, which suggests that earlier reports of production delays were accurate.
The Apple Watch Series 7 (whenever it ships) will have a Retina display, as well as 20 percent more screen area than the previous Series 6 watch. This is due to the reduced size of the bezels, as well as slightly more rounded corners on the watch. The display is also brighter—Apple claims it’s 70 percent brighter indoors when your wrist is down, which allows for more discreet time checks—and supposedly the whole watch is much more durable and dust-resistant.
The enlarged screen allows for easier reading of texts on the watch and some other potentially fun input mechanisms. Some of the onscreen buttons in native apps are larger. And there’s now a full keyboard on the watch. Unfortunately, battery life is still the same—about 18 hours per charge—which is one of the biggest drawbacks of the Apple Watch. The company does claim that it charges faster now, however.
This is not the dramatic redesign of the Watch that had been rumored. But considering how well the Watch has sold, maybe it didn’t really need the overhaul. It will sell starting at $399 when it ships this fall, while the Series 3 and Series SE watches will sell for $199 and $279. RIP, Series 5 and 6?
Get More Fit
When it launched last year, Apple’s subscription service Fitness+ took advantage of Apple’s complete hardware integration: Start a workout on your Apple TV; track it on your Apple Watch; check your stats on your iPhone. But it lacked one major feature that competing fitness services like Peloton and Fitbit offered: group classes, as well as large social networks that let you easily invite your friends and sweat in unison.
Today, Fitness+ announced group workouts. If you’re in a group message thread or FaceTime call, you can simply navigate over to the Fitness+ app and start a class together. Not only can you see your own workout metrics, but you can also see your friends closing their rings or their Burn Bar. You can invite up to 32 “friends”—or casual acquaintances, if you don’t know that many people anymore after a year and a half in pandemic lockdown.
FItness+ also added new workout categories, including Pilates and workouts for snow sports (guided by Ted Ligety, who, as a retired two-time Olympic gold medalist in the combined event and giant slalom, knows quite a bit about core strength and hip stability).
Soothing, pandemic-related features include new guided meditations to Fitness+ with themes like Calm and Kindness. You can also find the same meditations in the Mindfulness app on your iPhone. If you’re a new subscriber to Fitness+, you get one trial month free—but if you buy an Apple Watch, you get three months free (natch). Fitness+ is also bundled with the Apple One subscription, which includes up to six Apple services for one price.
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