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iPhone 12 launch ushers in 5G, Magsafe charging, and ‘mini’ iPhone

Image credit: reuters

Apple has launched the iPhone 12 bringing new features including 5G capability and MagSafe magnet technology for charging.

The line up now includes four devices with the addition of the smaller iPhone 12 mini, which has a 5.4” screen and will start at £699. Apple described it as the “smallest, lightest and thinnest 5G phone in the world”.

It is also joined by successors to the previous generation models in the form of a 6.1” screen iPhone 12, the iPhone 12 Pro which also has a 6.1” display and the 6.7” iPhone 12 Pro Max.

While maintaining very similar form factors to last year’s iPhone 11, the new products will test whether consumer appetite for 5G networks is enough to convince people to upgrade.

The CEO of US network Verizon was present at Apple’s launch event explaining that his firm could now boast “nationwide” 5G coverage in the US. However, with its 5G implementations primarily running on 4G spectrum bands, customers are likely to only see small speed upgrades at first until broader rollout of 5G mmwave is achieved.

For the iPhone 12, Apple has gone for “Super Retina XDR” OLED screens across its entire range, not just the higher-end models, and the devices also support video capture in up to 4K resolution.

The introduction of MagSafe magnet technology, which was previously only found on MacBooks, allows for charging via a magnetic disc attached to the back of the iPhone. Alongside this Apple introduced a new MagSafe Duo charging pad, which allows a user to charge both their iPhone and an Apple Watch at the same time.

The camera specifications have been improved across the board, including better low-light performance and upgraded Night Mode photography capabilities, while video can now also be recorded in high-quality HDR and Dolby Vision for the first time.

The company also confirmed rumours that it will not include a charging brick or headphones in the package, citing environmental concerns and the fact that most consumers will already have these accessories from their older models.

This move has received criticism for not coming with a price decrease despite the elimination of these components, although reports from industry insiders suggest that the 5G chips included in the new phones have pushed the cost of manufacturing up by at least $75 (£58).

Apple also expanded its smart speaker range at the event with a new, smaller and cheaper version of its HomePod that could compete with Google’s Nest Mini and Amazon’s Echo dot.

The new HomePod mini will cost £99 and includes the same voice control features as the full-size HomePod, carried out through virtual assistant, Siri. At just under 8.5cm tall, the device boasts a new Intercom system which allows users to send voice messages from one HomePod to another around a home, as well as to other Apple devices such as the iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods.

A hand-off feature also enables iPhone users to bring their smartphone close to the HomePod to hand over audio playing on the phone to the speaker.

Several mini units can also be paired together around the home and play audio in multiple rooms, while placing two HomePod mini speakers in the same room will create a stereo pairing.

Ru Bhikha, mobiles expert at Uswitch.com said that bringing 5G technology to the iPhone 12 is likely to make many more people aware of the new network standard.

“Before this launch, 16 per cent of consumers said they were planning to upgrade to a 5G smartphone in the next year,” he said. “The industry will be hoping that this iPhone will spur thousands more people to make the leap to 5G.”

Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, agreed that Apple’s embrace of the technology was a crucial landmark in the rollout of 5G: “Although 5G devices have been available from pretty much every other smartphone-maker for over a year, there’s a strong argument that this line-up of 5G-enabled iPhones will be the market-maker for the technology,” he said.

“Inevitably, the iPhone 12 will mark the real start of 5G for the consumer mass market.”

“Samsung and several Android phone-makers may have had an 18-month head start, but the limitations of early 5G devices, coupled with the time needed to expand network coverage, have meant momentum is still building. Apple is following its playbook by timing this launch for when the market is ready, rather than the technology.”

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