In less than a month, for the second time, Apple has made a splashy announcement. In its “Hi, Speed” event, the company unveiled a new HomePod Mini as well as four iPhone 12 models.
First, let’s get the HomePod mini out of the way, just as Apple did in its event. The HomePod mini is easy to explain—it’s just a smaller, cheaper HomePod. For $99, you get a sphere that is flat-topped, and it’s that about half the height and two-thirds the width of the HomePod, which currently lists for $299. It works just like a HomePod, accepting commands via Siri and integrating tightly with the rest of your Apple and HomeKit devices. You can create a stereo pair by combining two HomePod minis, though you can’t connect a HomePod and a HomePod mini in this way. This is similar to how Sonos works; you can create a stereo pair out of the same speaker models, but not across different models.
The HomePod mini does have a technical advantage over the HomePod – Apple’s U1 chip. Later this year, Apple says the U1 chip will improve the handoff experience when transferring audio playback to or from an iPhone by holding it near the HomePod mini. Otherwise, as you might imagine, the larger HomePod has better sound thanks to its additional speaker hardware and spatial awareness capabilities.
Apple is also introducing an Intercom feature that makes it easy for family members to send voice messages from any HomePod to another. Intercom also works with the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods, and even vehicles equipped with CarPlay.
It may not be world-changing, but I think this is a good move for Apple thanks to the HomePod’s lower price of $99. I plan on getting one myself, and it will be my first HomePod, as I have a Sonos setup, so I did not buy into the HomePods. It will be available for pre-order on November 6th, with delivery and general availability starting the week of November 16th.
Apple pulled out all the stops with the iPhone 12 lineup, which isn’t surprising given how important the iPhone is to Apple’s business. Apple introduced the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Pro. Within these new models, there are four different models. They incorporate support for the emerging 5G cellular networking standard, they introduce the MagSafe wireless charging and accessory ecosystem, and they deliver the most advanced camera systems Apple has ever introduced. And all that comes in a flat-edged industrial design, last seen in the first-generation iPhone SE, that many people thought prevented accidental drops. I was pleased to see this design come back. If you were to drop it, Apple also introduced a new Ceramic Shield front glass promises that cracks will be up to four times less likely.
For those with smaller hands and pockets, the biggest news may be the iPhone 12 mini, with a 5.4-inch diagonal screen. It’s the smallest iPhone we’ve seen in years, measuring in just a bit bigger than that first-generation iPhone SE. It’s joined by the larger iPhone 12 with a 6.1-inch screen, the similarly sized iPhone 12 Pro, and the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which boasts a 6.7-inch screen. It’s too small for my hands, but it is something my wife may order.
The Super Retina XDR OLED screens are gorgeous, and they all incorporate a notch for the Face ID cameras. Alas, although it would have been nice while we’re all wearing masks in public, there’s no Touch ID.
Apart from the size differences, camera systems, storage options, and battery life, the four iPhone 12 models have very similar specs. Battery life will be fine for all of them, but, of course, the larger the phone, the longer the battery life.
All the new iPhones support 5G cellular networking, which promises significantly faster speeds than today’s LTE. However, what counts as “5G” varies between cellular carriers, coverage is weak in many parts of the world, and the real-world performance may be significantly less than promised. That’s not to say that 5G is bad, just that it may not make any difference to you in the near future. Further out, it will likely be a big deal, so it’s good that the iPhone 12 is hopping on the bandwagon.
Apple also reintroduced MagSafe. For those who have had older MacBook Airs and MacBooks Pros, the charger connected magnetically to the Mac. With the iPhone, MagSafe comprises a circular magnetic coupling and wireless charging technology built into the back of each iPhone 12 model. A $39 Apple MagSafe Charger snaps on to the back for wireless charging at 15 watts, and Qi wireless charging is still supported as well, at up to 7.5 watts. MagSafe also enables an entire ecosystem of accessories, including chargers, cases, car mounts, and wallets. Apple even briefly showed a charger that could charge both a MagSafe iPhone and an Apple Watch. You can still charge with a Lightning-to-USB cable, but Apple no longer includes a charger and EarPods in the box, given that we all have so many of them around. At least I do.
As you can imagine, regardless of which iPhone 12 model you pick, you won’t be making any performance trade-offs. That’s because they all rely on Apple’s newest chip, the A14 Bionic, for the utmost in performance and the most advanced computational photography.
So what separates the iPhone 12 models? It’s all in the camera. The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini have a dual 12-megapixel rear camera system with ultra-wide and wide cameras with 2x optical zoom. They have optical image stabilization and support Night mode and Deep Fusion, which provide better photos in low-light situations. They offer 1080p and 4K video recording at up to 60 frames per second and introduce HDR video recording with Dolby Vision at up to 30 fps, which provides higher quality video in challenging lighting.
That sounds impressive enough, but the iPhone 12 Pro models go further. Their triple 12-megapixel camera system has ultra-wide, wide, and telephoto cameras that provide better optical zoom among much else. A new LiDAR Scanner gives them faster autofocus in low light and Night mode portraits. They also support a new Apple ProRAW format that provides professional photographers with the benefits of Apple’s computational photography combined with a raw image format’s flexibility. In terms of video, the Pro models enhance HDR video with Dolby Vision to 60 fps. What about the iPhone 12 Pro Max? It also features something Apple calls “sensor-shift optical image stabilization” for both photos and video—it promises better optical image stabilization than the iPhone 12 Pro. According to Apple, instead of stabilizing through the lens, the iPhone Pro Max stabilizes the sensor, providing better performance.
If you’re a pro photographer or videographer, or even a hobbyist who’s already invested in the iPhone as a working camera, the iPhone 12 Pro models will provide the ultimate in camera capabilities. For others who are curious about how these new iPhones stack up against previous models, the photography sites will undoubtedly be publishing head-to-head comparison shots soon.
When can you get your hands on one of these iPhone 12 models, and for how much? You can pre-order the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro starting at 5 AM Pacific on October 16th, with delivery and in-store availability beginning on October 23rd. They come in five colors: black, white, Product(RED), green, and blue. In contrast, the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max will be available for pre-order at 5 AM Pacific on November 6th, with delivery and in-store availability on November 13th. Their colors include silver, graphite, gold, and blue.
Here’s how the costs break down by storage level:
- iPhone 12 mini: $699/$729 (64 GB), $749/$779 (128 GB), $849/$879 (256 GB)
- iPhone 12: $799/$829 (64 GB), $849/$879 (128 GB), $949/$979 (256 GB)
- iPhone 12 Pro: $999 (128 GB), $1099 (256 GB), $1299 (512 GB)
- iPhone 12 Pro Max: $1099 (128 GB), $1199 (256 GB), $1399 (512 GB)
Apple hasn’t said why, but there are two prices for each storage level of the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 because AT&T and Verizon customers pay $30 less than everyone else.
To sum it up, Apple has once again released new iPhones that advance the state of the art. The diminutive iPhone 12 mini is particularly welcome for smaller people, and the iPhone 12 Pro Max boasts the most capable camera systems available on any smartphone.
I personally haven’t decided on which one to get. I am torn between the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the iPhone 12 Pro. I currently have the iPhone 12 Max, and I was looking forward to ordering the smaller iPhone, as the Max is just a bit large for me. But I also take a lot of photos, and the iPhone is my primary camera, so I was leaning towards the Max, but is the new stabilization and better sensor worth the trade-off for the size? My guess is I will also be completely happy with the photos from the iPhone 12 Pro. So I am leaning towards the smaller iPhone 12 Pro. Either way, I won’t be disappointed. 🙂
(Featured image by Apple)