Apple’s new iPhone 13 touts faster 5G, sharper camera

Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook unveils the new iPhone 13 during the Apple Special Event in Cupertino, California. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

CUPERTINO, CALIFORNIA (REUTERS) - Apple unveiled the iPhone 13 and a new iPad mini on Tuesday (Sept 14), expanding 5G connectivity and showing off faster chips and sharper cameras without raising the phone's price.

The Cupertino, California-based company did not announce any blockbuster features or products, but analysts expect customers hanging onto older models like the iPhone X will be eager to upgrade.

To encourage trade-ins, participating wireless carriers in the United States are offering incentives ahead of the year-end holiday season that make the new phones free to some customers.

The iPhone 13 will have a new chip called the A15 Bionic that enables features like automatically translating text. The phone also has a better display, longer battery life and a Cinematic mode for automatically changing focus while taking videos.

Apple said the iPhone 13 will have custom 5G antennae and radio components for faster speeds, and will come in five colours.

The US prices are unchanged from last year, but some carriers such as AT&T will offer the devices for no additional fee if customers trade in a previous model and sign up for an instalment plan.

Mr Ben Bajarin, head of consumer technologies at Creative Strategies, said he expects aggressive subsidies and trade-in policies will increase as a way for Apple and carriers to hold on to customers.

"You don't have to put a downpayment and you keep paying what you were paying," Mr Bajarin said. "That offer is unique to Apple and it's a strength they have to keep these sales cycles going for them and for the carriers."

The iPhone 13 will retail from $1,299 while the 13 mini starts from $1,149 in Singapore. The iPhone 13 Pro starts from $1,649 in Singapore, while the 13 Pro Max starts from $1,799. The phones will be available next Friday (Sept 24).

The iPhone is Apple's most important product, but Apple has rolled out a web of services and other products. The move is seen as locking customers into a system they enjoy - and would find expensive to leave.

The Series 7 smart watch will feature a larger display and faster charging.

It will start at US$399 (S$535) and be available later this autumn. The Singapore price for the device is not available yet.

A handout photo shows the new Apple Watch Series 7, featuring a larger, more advanced display in silver, graphite and gold stainless steel. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

The company also updated its iPad mini with 5G connectivity and a reworked design that makes it look like the higher-end iPad Air and Pro models.

Mr Bob O'Donnell, head of TECHnalysis Research, said the small tablet was Apple's most surprising announcement of the day and could lure in customers who want a device with 5G that can handle more powerful apps than a phone.

"I don't think it replaces any other device, like we've seen Apple try to position some of the bigger iPads as PC replacements," Mr O'Donnell said.

Apple also updated its base-model iPad with a new camera for working and learning from home.

The base model iPad starts from $499 in Singapore, and the mini starts from $749. Both will be available next week.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook introduces the latest iPad and iPad Mini. PHOTO: AFP

Apple shares were down 1.2 per cent, a sharper fall than a slight downturn in broader markets.

"It seems like there's nothing really revolutionary announced but, of course, as usual, they announced enough improvements to at least generate some enthusiasm among consumers," said Mr Rick Meckler, partner at family investment office Cherry Lane Investments.

Apple's biggest product launch of the year comes as some of the shine comes off its stock - its business practices such as charging software developers commissions on in-app payments have come under regulatory scrutiny.

Apple shares were up about 11.6 per cent year to date as of Tuesday's close, trailing the Nasdaq Composite Index, which was up 16.7 per cent over the same period.

Ms Kim Forrest, founder and chief investment officer at Bokeh Capital, said she was not concerned by the lack of splashy, unexpected products, as Apple's upgrades would keep customers. "I think the consumer, once he gets the Apple chip in his head, it's very hard to dislodge," she said.

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The Apple Watch has become a cornerstone of its US$30.6 billion accessories segment, which was up 25 per cent in Apple's most recent fiscal year even as its iPhone revenue declined slightly.

Analysts widely believe that Apple users who buy more than one product - such as an Apple Watch and iPhone - are more likely to stick with the brand and spend on the company's apps and services.

Apple focused on fitness features such as improving how the watch tracks bicycling workouts and dust protection for hiking.

The watch is paired tightly with Apple Fitness+, a paid service offering guided workouts with Apple instructors. The company added pilates, skiing-oriented workouts, and a group workout function designed to let users exercise together. The company also bundled three months of free service with its watch devices.

Shares of exercise bike and online training company Peloton were down about 1.6 per cent.

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