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Apple enters 5G race with new iPhone 12 range

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The Apple iPhone 12 range will offer faster 5G connectivity to entice consumers to trade in their old phones.

San Francisco

APPLE announced the launch of its next-generation iPhone 12 on Tuesday, with faster 5G connectivity that the California-based company hopes will spur consumers to trade in their old phones 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 - will sell in Singapore for S$1,299, while a "Mini" version with a 5.4-inch screen will be slightly cheaper at S$1,149. The iPhone 12 and 12 mini have the same storage capacities of 64GB, 128GB and 256GB. A "Pro" version with three cameras and a new 3-D "lidar" sensor starts at S$1,649, with the largest "Pro Max" starting at S$1,799. These phones are available in storage capacities of 128GB, 256GB and 512GB.

Pre-orders in Singapore, for the new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro start at 8pm on Friday, and sales will begin on Oct 23. Pre-orders for the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max will begin at 9pm on Nov 6, with availability beginning on Nov 13.

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.

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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."

Apple said all iPhone 12 models in the US will support millimetre wave 5G, the fastest variant of the technology, as well as lower-frequency bands.

Outside the US, however, iPhones will lack millimetre wave compatibility, even in countries like Australia and South Korea where carriers are planning to roll out versions of the millimetre wave technology.

Like some cheaper Android devices, iPhone 12 models in those countries will only support lower-frequency versions of 5G. Apple said it had tested 5G on more than 800 carriers in 30 regions globally.

Verizon Communications Inc CEO Hans Vestberg appeared on Apple's livestream presentation to announce that the phones would work with the US 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 sports stadiums.

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 Oklahoma.

"As the convergence of flu season with Covid-19 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," he said.

Shares of Apple fell by over 3 per cent during the event, erasing US$77 billion worth of stock market value, and closed down 2.7 per cent.

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 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," he said. "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." REUTERS

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