Everything Apple launched today at its Sept. 2021 ‘California Streaming’ event
New iPhones and Apple Watches were just the tip of the iceberg for Apple's fall press event.
Even if you’re a diehard Android phone fan, it’s impossible to ignore Apple’s annual fall iPhone event, when it sets the stage for the smartphone market to come. Of course, Apple usually reveals more than just iPhones — here’s what you need to know from September 14’s “California Streaming” showcase.
Apple announced four new iPhone models: the iPhone 13, 13 Mini, 13 Pro, and 13 Pro Max. These start at $799, $699, $999, and $1,099, respectively, with sizes ranging from 5.4 inches on the Mini to 6.1 inches on the 13 and 13 Pro, and finally 6.7 inches for the Pro Max. 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB storage options are available across the board, but Pro models have access to an additional 1TB tier.
As anticipated, Apple has also reduced the size of the controversial front camera notch. The displays on the 13 and 13 Mini are said to be 28% brighter than before, with 1,200 nits of max HDR brightness and 800 nits outdoors. The Pro and Pro Max are equipped with Super Retina XDR panels, which are not only brighter outdoors (up to 1,000 nits) but represent the first iPhones with 120Hz refresh rates. For battery life and performance, refresh adjusts dynamically to as low as 10Hz.
See also: Apple iPhone buying guide
Inside the phones is Apple’s six-core, 5nm A15 Bionic processor, further enhanced by doubled system cache and a new image signal processor (ISP). Unusually, GPU design differs between Pro and non-Pro iPhones. The latter have a four-core GPU, whereas the Pro and Pro Max have five cores.
The 13 and 13 Mini are equipped with 12-megapixel wide and ultra-wide rear cameras, the former having an ƒ/1.6 aperture and sensor-shift stabilization. Sensor-shift was previously limited to the 12 Pro Max. The new ultra-wide shoots at ƒ/2.4. The Pro and Pro Max have ƒ/1.8 ultra-wides, letting in more light, along with 3x optical telephoto cameras. All of the cameras on Pro models support Night Mode shooting, and there’s now also a macro mode, which captures extreme detail as little as 2cm away from an object.
Other recording improvements include customizable Photographic Styles, which are applied in real-time via the new ISP, and a Cinematic mode for video, with manual and automatic focus changes applicable in real-time or in post. The phones have new video encoders and decoders, and will get support for 4K30 Apple ProRes video “later this year.”
The 13 Mini and 13 Pro have 1.5 hours of added battery life over their predecessors, and those figures jump 2.5 hours on the 13 and 13 Pro Max. Apple credits an internal redesign of the phones enabling more battery space.
The 13 and 13 Mini are shipping in blue, pink, Midnight, Starlight, and Product Red colors, while the Pro and Pro Max are getting silver, gold, Graphite, and Sierra Blue options. As usual, an assortment of cases and other accessories are on their way, including a $59 leather MagSafe wallet with Find My location tracking.
Preorders for all of the new iPhones start on September 17 ahead of a September 24 launch.
Apple Watch Series 7
Marking the first significant (external) redesign of the Apple Watch since the Series 4, the Apple Watch Series 7 now has just under 20% more screen area than the Series 6, with thinner borders and softer, more rounded corners. Don’t fret if you have a large band collection — everything is still compatible. Series 7 owners do get additional watch faces, however, and a better UI experience, such as more text onscreen and even a full QWERTY keyboard. Its always-on display is said to be 70% brighter indoors when a wearer’s wrist is down.
The 7’s case is now IP6X dust-resistant on top of waterproofing and comes in five aluminum colors, three for stainless steel, and two for titanium. While the battery life is unchanged from the Series 6, charging is said to be 33% faster thanks in part to a new USB cable. Eight minutes of charging is enough for eight hours of sleep tracking.
See more: Apple Watch buyer’s guide
The Series 7 is shipping sometime this fall, with prices starting at $399 for aluminum models with basic bands. An assortment of new band colors and styles are on their way, naturally, including Nike and Hermes variants.
Apple’s most neglected iPad model has upgraded to an 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display, and thinner bezels, made possible by ditching a home button like the iPad Air and Pro. Indeed like the Air, Touch ID has been relocated to the Mini’s sleep/wake button, and it uses a USB-C port instead of Lightning.
Other upgrades include an A15 processor, stereo speakers, a 5G option, and second-generation Apple Pencil support. The back camera is a 12-megapixel, ƒ/1.8 wide shooter, while the selfie camera is an ƒ/2.4 12MP ultra-wide, most significantly supporting the Center Stage technology introduced with the latest iPad Pros. This automatically zooms and pans to follow people during video calls, much like the Facebook Portal.
Orders are already live for the new Mini for a September 24 release. Only 64GB and 256GB storage options will be available, starting at $499 and rising to $799 for a decked-out model with 5G.
Apple’s most basic, 10.2-inch iPad is getting bumped up to the A13 Bionic processor. Its rear camera is an unremarkable 8MP unit, but on the front is a 12MP ultra-wide, enabling Center Stage like the new Mini.
Unfortunately for artists, Apple Pencil support is still limited to the first-generation stylus, but that might not be such a big deal given a $329 entry price. Also, like the Mini, it’s coming in 64GB and 256GB sizes with optional cellular, though the latter is limited to 4G. The 10.2 is on sale now with a September 24 ship date.
Apple Fitness Plus
Apple spent a surprising amount of time talking about Fitness Plus, its Peloton-style video subscription with Apple Watch integration. The service is coming to 15 more countries this fall, but the headline additions are new Pilates and Guided Meditation sessions, the latter available in audio-only mode through the watchOS 8 Mindfulness app. Also coming soon are Group Workouts using SharePlay, with support for up to 32 people. These will be viewable on iPhones, iPads, and Apple TVs via AirPlay.
iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, and tvOS 15 will finally reach the public on September 20, having been in beta since this summer. iOS and iPadOS are gaining features like Live Text scanning, redesigned notifications, and Focus modes, which can switch up the OS based on tasks or the time of day. Conspicuously missing from Apple’s news was macOS Monterey, but that will probably launch alongside new Macs later in 2021.