Apple held a virtual event on September 14, 2021, during which they announced new iPhones, iPads, and an updated Apple Watch. Many of you have likely read about what they covered, but I thought I’d give a quick rundown of what’s new along with some of my thoughts.
The highlight of Apple’s annual September event is usually the iPhone, and this year was no different. Apple announced the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro which replace last year’s iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro.
These updates are fairly incremental over last year’s phones, as has been the case for some time. Phones, and really most computing devices, have reached a level of maturity in their feature sets where innovative breakthroughs are uncommon. That said, there are compelling updates this year, especially if you use your phone to take photos. And, since most people keep their devices for several years, the cumulative updates over that period of time are more substantial for those ready to upgrade.
The iPhone 13 comes in two sizes: the regular iPhone 13 and the iPhone 13 mini. Both of these models are the same height and width as last year’s iPhone 12 models, but are slightly thicker (.25 mm) and slightly heavier (10-11 grams). The main updates to these phones are:
- Camera There are two cameras in these phones: wide and ultra-wide. Both have been updated to capture more light, which means better all-around photos, especially when shooting at night or in low-light situations. The wide camera also has an improved image stabilization system, which helps counteract slight movements while you’re snapping a photo. Finally, the phone can do a better job automatically analyzing and correcting photos for color, exposure, contrast, and sharpness.
- Video: The video camera adds Cinematic mode, which focuses on a subject while blurring the background or foreground. Even more, it can automatically change the focus when people move into or out of a scene. This looks pretty interesting for the aspiring videographer.
- Battery Life: We all could use a little more battery life from our devices, and the new iPhones deliver. Compared to the iPhone 12, the iPhone 13 provides up to 2.5 hours more battery life, while the iPhone 13 mini provides up to 1.5 hours more.
There are many more things Apple highlighted for these phones. You can read about those here.
iPhone 13 Pro
The Pro version of the iPhone 13 comes in two sizes: the regular size, which is the same size as the iPhone 13, and the iPhone 13 Pro Max, which is the largest iPhone. These Pro models are similar in size to last year’s iPhone 12 Pro models, though slightly thicker and heavier as well. The main updates are:
- Camera: The Pro models have three cameras: wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto. All three of these cameras get significant updates compared to the iPhone 12 Pro. The wide and ultra-wide capture dramatically more light than before, allowing for better photos, especially in low-light situations. Night mode has been improved and added to all three cameras. There is a new macro mode, which allows close-up photos within 2 cm of the subject. The telephoto lens now zooms in at 3x, compared to either 2x or 2.5x before. Additionally, all the camera features I mention above for the iPhone 13 apply to the Pro line as well.
- Pro camera and video formats: The iPhone Pro models support more storage formats for photos and videos that professionals rely on to support high-end editing software. This allows faster editing and better retention of color and image quality.
- Display: ProMotion allows the display to adjust the way it refreshes, or animates, based on the content being shown. This allows for a smoother experience when scrolling through a web page or playing a game, and a more cinematic look when watching a movie. It also saves battery life. The new display is 25% brighter, which makes it easier to read in bright sunlight.
- Battery Life: Similar to the iPhone 13, the Pro models improve battery life over their predecessors. The iPhone 13 Pro gains up to 1.5 hours, while the iPhone 13 Pro Max gains up to 2.5 hours.
I think that these are the top updates, but again, Apple highlights more on their website. Read the details here.
The iPad has become a very capable device, able to handle productivity tasks, movies and music, as well as games, and even serving as the only computer for many people. Apple refreshed their iPad Air late last year and the iPad Pro earlier this year. Now, they’ve also updated the regular iPad and iPad mini.
The new iPad mini is quite an upgrade from previous models. It features a new all-screen design with support for Apple’s 2nd general Pencil. It’s similar in style to the latest iPad Air. Here are the main features:
- Design: The all-screen design fits a larger screen into a device that’s about the same size as the previous models. The top and side bezels have been reduced, and the home button has been removed, with Touch ID now on the top power button.
- Apple Pencil: The new iPad mini supports Apple’s 2nd generation pencil, which magnetically attaches to the side of the iPad. While attached, the iPad charges the pencil so it’s always ready to go.
- Faster: The processor and graphics are improved, providing a big improvement in performance while still maintaining all-day battery life.
- Camera: The rear camera is improved, offering more resolution for sharper photos, and also now includes a flash. The front-facing camera supports Center Stage, which allows the camera to pan and zoom automatically to keep everyone in the frame during video calls. I’ve used this feature on my iPad Pro, and it’s pretty great — in fact, better than I thought it would be.
- 5G Cellular: The cellular models now support 5G cellular networks for faster connections while on the go.
To read more about the new iPad mini, tap here.
The regular iPad has also been updated with a faster processor, improved wireless support, and a better front-facing camera. I think the biggest improvement is that the front camera supports Center Stage, which I discussed above. It’s a great feature for video calls. Read more about the new iPad here.
Apple also introduced Apple Watch Series 7. In my mind, this is not a big change from the previous Series 6 watch. It has a larger, brighter display and offers faster charging. The front crystal is also stronger than before. But, there are no new sensors, health features or other updates compared to last year’s model. Read more here.
Time to Upgrade?
As always, the question whether to buy a new device is not straightforward. While some people like to always have the latest phone or newest watch, most are happy using their devices until they no longer serve their purpose. Here are some things to consider when deciding whether to buy a new device.
- Security: To me, the most important decision point is whether your current device is still getting regular security updates. Given how much we depend on our devices for so many aspects of our lives, it’s important to make sure they are secure. If your current device is too old to get updates, then it’s probably time to upgrade.
- Functionality: If your current device does everything you need it to do, then there is likely no reason to replace it. Certainly, there may be features in a new device that you want or need. If so, then perhaps it’s time to upgrade. But remember, the marketing of new devices is designed to make you feel as if you’re missing out on something if you don’t upgrade, even if your current device works for you.
- Battery Life: All batteries lose capacity over time. If your device no longer lasts as long as you’d like on a charge, it might be time to either have the battery replaced, or to upgrade to a new device.
- Storage: If you’re running out of storage space on your device, it might be time to upgrade. You could increase the amount of iCloud storage to offload photos, videos and music, and this might free up enough space to allow you to keep your current device. However, if you need more space for apps, or you want to keep more movies, photos, and files locally on the device, then it’s time to upgrade.
- Trade In: Apple offers pretty decent prices on trade-ins. They allow you to trade in old phones, iPads, and Macs when purchasing a new device. While you can probably get a better price by selling your old device on eBay or some other service, often that’s more trouble. You can check the trade-in value of your old device on Apple’s website.
Just as the seasons change, the yearly release of updated iPhones has become part of our digital life. I hope this post gives you a good overview of the latest Apple products, and also helps you decide if it’s time for you to upgrade to a new device.
There will likely be more Apple product announcements before next fall, as new Macs are expected. As those releases happen, I’ll cover them here.
What will you do? Is it time to upgrade, or will you hold on to your current devices? Let me know in the comments below, and as always, let me know if you have questions.