Apple announces new era for 5G with iPhone 12

Apple has announced the long-awaited launch of the 5G-compatible iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini.

The 6.1-inch iPhone 12 and 5.4-inch iPhone 12 mini are said to feature the most 5G bands on any smartphone and offer the broadest 5G coverage worldwide. US models support millimetre wave – the higher-frequency version of 5G – allowing the iPhone 12 to reach speeds up to 4Gbps.

iPhone 12 models also feature Smart Data mode, which extends battery life by intelligently assessing 5G needs and balancing data usage, speed and power in real time.

At the heart of the devices is an Apple-designed A14 Bionic, claimed to be the fastest chip in a smartphone. Said to be pushing the limits of machine learning, A14 Bionic features a 16-core Neural Engine – for what Apple says is an 80% increase in performance – that is capable of completing 11 trillion operations per second.

The iPhone 12 features edge-to-edge Super Retina XDR displays for what is said to be a brighter, more immersive viewing experience, offering what Apple says is the highest-quality video in a smartphone with system-wide colour management for industry-leading colour accuracy.

Both models deliver a two million-to-one contrast ratio for true blacks, and an immersive HDR viewing experience for high-definition video, photos with more detail, and nearly twice the peak brightness of iPhone 11. iPhone 12 also features the first camera to shoot HDR video with Dolby Vision and is the first and only device in the world to enable an end-to-end Dolby Vision experience, says Apple.

“We are once again pushing the boundaries to deliver incredible computational photography advancements, Super Retina XDR displays, and the biggest leap in durability in iPhone history with the new Ceramic Shield front cover,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice-president of worldwide marketing. “iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini take design to a new level in a new form factor that is as beautiful as it is durable, and makes it easier than ever for customers to find the perfect iPhone to fit their lifestyle.”

iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max will be available in 128GB, 256GB and 512GB models starting at $999 and $1,099, respectively.

Industry analysts have placed great expectation on a 5G-enabled iPhone. Recent research from CCS Insight said the new phone range will deliver a major boost to adoption of 5G technology in markets where Apple traditionally commands a significant share, such as Europe and North America.

The analyst said the abundance of 5G smartphones that cost significantly less than was widely expected a year ago will mean that by the end of 2020, there will be nearly 250 million 5G connections worldwide, and that this number is on track to more than triple in 2021. It also expects 60% of all phones sold in Western Europe and North America in 2021 to support 5G connectivity, growing to 85% in 2024.

Meanwhile, analyst Canalys noted that Apple has already performed “exceptionally” in 2020, driven by the cheaper iPhone 11 and the budget-friendly iPhone SE. At the end of the first half, Apple had a 14.8% share of the worldwide smartphone market, which was three percentage points up on the equivalent period in 2019.

Looking at the opportunity for Apple with 5G phones, Canalys found that just 13% of smartphones shipped in H1 2020 were 5G-capable. Of these, 78% were shipped in China and 55% had a screen between 5.5 and 6.4 inches. It also said that amid Covid-19, sales of ultra-premium smartphones have been weak.

Canalys senior analyst Ben Stanton said: “Smartphones with larger screens continue to show rapid momentum, driven by the increasing quality of mobile gaming, and social media’s lurch towards video content. Increasingly, customers are sucked down into competitive sub-premium devices between $600 and $799.

“Those customers who might have made a purchase decision based on luxury have delayed that decision due to the crisis. But those making a purchase out of necessity are still a stable part of the market. People now tend to keep their phones for longer, so Apple will finally be able to target stubborn upgraders at the high end who are looking to future-proof their next device.”