Apple did launch the iPhone 13 yesterday, despite the naming possibilities, updated the Apple Watch to the Series 7, and gave the iPad Mini and the base iPad a refresh as well. 

  • That means the rumors were mostly on point, though Mark Gurman tipped the iPad refresh for a later October release, and the hotly anticipated Apple AirPods 3 release didn’t happen.
  • They could emerge, along with new laptops, during an October event.
  • Other rumored elements, like astrophotography modes, satellite communication (no band n53 support!), and always-on screen, didn’t transpire at the event.
  • It feels like Apple didn’t take a risk in 2021, which may be understandable given the last 12 months?
  • Catch-up: If you didn’t watch, catch up with the iPhone 13 specs, release date, pricing, and all the bits and pieces of Apple’s new iPhone 13 series.

Apple’s iPhone 13 approach:

  • The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro both have similar designs to the iPhone 12 series. Apple purposely retained a similarity on that front.
  • What did change was a smaller notch thanks to a more compact FaceID sensor array, a new display, with the Pro models getting a 10-120Hz refresh panel for a mix of ultra-smooth scrolling and gameplay and battery savings, an A15 Bionic chip, better camera, bigger battery, and some new colors.
  • Another change is a boost to the entry-level memory specs, with the wretched base-64GB iPhone no longer in existence — and, to Apple’s credit despite supply chain concerns and issues facing all manufacturers, it didn’t increase pricing.
  • The areas Apple focused on have been Apple staples: incremental improvements towards a better than ever iPhone, though in this release it’s clearer than ever.

A15 Bionic:

  • There’s loads of detail to come on everything Apple announced as details trickle out and we go through the review process (e.g. late news as I write is that the iPhone 13 models are the first to support dual eSIM).
  • But one interesting thing about Apple’s new processor is that the new 5nm A15 Bionic wasn’t giving the usual billing of x% faster than last year’s CPU/GPU/AI, and so on.
  • We did see from Apple that it has 15B transistors, over the A14’s 11.8B. 
  • But the gains have slowed dramatically. Apple clammed up about its own internal comparisons and talked about competitors.
  • Meanwhile, Qualcomm, Samsung, Google’s first SoC, and so on, are a few short months away from playing catch-up.
  • First hints are that Apple doesn’t see significant CPU gains, with speculation it’s a refined CPU design, not a new design. GPU details aren’t as elaborated on. 
  • It’s possible Apple focused on performance per watt over boosting performance when it’s already a leader over the field.
  • My colleague Gary Sims is already crunching numbers and wondering how close Qualcomm et al. can get.

iPads:

  • I’m out of time other than to say: The new larger display 8.3-inch 2021 iPad Mini is expensive at $499, but has the A15 Bionic chip (meaning 5G) and USB-C support, and retains Touch ID relocated to the sleep/wake button. It’s like a big ol’ iPhone, but it runs iPadOS.
  • The new 10.2-inch 2021 iPad, Apple’s entry-level option, steps up to the A13 Bionic processor, and remains stuck on Lightning. It’s meager but good enough for an entry-level device, which starts at $329.
  • More on those, here.

I have new Apple Watch Series 7 thoughts for you in Weirdness Wednesday down below!

🔜 Of course there was Pixel 6 news during the Apple event, with Pixel 6 Pro leaks based on a “real” unit suggesting high-end features like UWB support, 12GB RAM, 5,000mAH battery, and more encouraging details (Android Authority).

👉 Fairphone’s first 5G smartphone leaks with new design (Android Authority).

📌 Personal tracking tech is headed towards a precise — and dangerous — new era (Android Authority).

🤯 Nintendo finally adds Bluetooth audio to the Switch in new software update. The detail here is interesting: when you add a headset, you can connect fewer controllers. That sounds like Nintendo had to work some hardware magic or deal with some compromise. Anyway, it’s here now, finally (The Verge).

📺 LG’s new 325-inch Direct View 8K LED TV is an answer to Samsung’s The Wall. No price is given, but what’s fun is LG is charging $30k for setup and support (Engadget).

🔜 New emoji incoming: bubbles, melting face, some kind of biting lip emoji which feels very thirsty (The Verge).

🔋 In a first, New York passes law banning new fossil fuel vehicle sales after 2034 (Ars Technica).

🚀 SpaceX Inspiration4 mission, the first ever all-civilian flight to space (with a cancer-survivor and the first-ever person to go to space with a prosthesis) is ready for take-off tonight at 8:02pm ET (ABC News).

🚲 This is a wondrous read — Greg LeMond and the Amazing Candy-Colored Dream Bike: “The Tour de France legend and anti-doping crusader is building an ultralight ebike that he hopes will be fun as hell to ride—and jumpstart a US carbon-fiber boom.” (Wired).

😢 The frustration with productivity culture (New Yorker).

😿 A sad day yesterday with Norm McDonald dying of cancer, too soon. My friend who’s seen approximately all comedy, ever, rates his Moth Joke as his most beloved (YouTube).

🤝 “Which product would improve humanity most if its cost were lowered to $1?” (r/askreddit).

The weirdness of the day is the Apple Watch Series 7. It just doesn’t really make sense.

  • First the details: a new design at 41mm and 45mm sizes, 20% larger and brighter display with slight curve edge, faster charging, and dust resistance, but no big new hardware features for fitness or “wellness,” though some software updates will now help with tracking biking workouts and falls from a bicycle. That’s just about it.

But what’s interesting:

  • The Series 7 hasn’t gone for the hotly-anticipated flat or square-edge frame with a big Apple Watch redesign.
  • It was mentioned by multiple reports, including the big hitters of Mark Gurman at Bloomberg and Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.
  • Add another scoop to the weird heap: the Series 7 uses the same chipset as the Series 6, and software details don’t show a new model number. 
  • Final clue along the path: no release date! Apple just said it’d be coming “later this fall.”
  • That all leadsd to speculation that Apple pulled the pin on the well-reported “complex production issues” that were “resolved” at the last minute with the expected more radically changed Series 7. 
  • It means Apple might’ve shifted to a different design at the last minute, with a more minor chassis and display tweak.
  • Who knows, it’s a fun narrative at least.
  • But it means Series 6 owners will find almost nothing to upgrade for, and those waiting in the wings for a big new model might continue waiting.

Makes you think!

Cheers,

Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor