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Apple California Streaming Event: iPhone 13, New iPads, and More

Apple announced an abundance of new products on September 14 at the “California Streaming” event. Without further ado, here’s a quick look at the major announcements.

iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini colors
A wide choice of color options is available for iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini. Image via Apple

iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini

As expected, the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini were announced today, with pre-orders beginning on Friday, September 17 and deliveries starting on September 24. The phones are available in pink, blue, midnight, starlight, and PRODUCT(RED),

A flat-edge aluminum frame surrounds a 6.1-inch (iPhone 13) or 5.4-inch (iPhone 13 mini) display covered with Ceramic Shield, a new exclusive material Apple touts as “tougher than any smartphone glass”. Both phones feature a Super Retina XDR OLED display with a 28 percent increase in maximum outdoor brightness at 800 nits and peak brightness for HDR content at 1200 nits. While brighter, the new displays are also more power-efficient than those on the iPhone 12.

Better battery life, of course

Using the A15 Bionic system-on-chip, both devices achieve all-day battery life. The iPhone 13 will run two and a half hours longer than an iPhone 12, while the mini model lives an additional one and a half hours over its iPhone 12 counterpart.

Both models are equipped with a new Wide camera that features the biggest sensor ever included in an iPhone dual-camera system, capable of gathering 47 percent more light. Apple’s sensor-shift optical image stabilization (OIS) that debuted on iPhone 12 Pro Max last year now makes it to the “mainstream” iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini. The other camera is a custom-designed Ultra-Wide camera with a totally new sensor, allowing better image detail in dark areas of photos and videos.

There’s a new Cinematic video mode that records video with a depth effect with automatic focus changes. Apple says “anyone can capture cinema-style moments”. It will be possible to change depth of field in videos after the fact in the Photos app or iMovie for iOS. Once iMovie for Mac and Final Cut Pro are updated, they’ll also provide the video depth of field feature.

Pricing

Prices start at $699 for the iPhone 13 mini and $799 for the iPhone 13. Pricing varies with storage capacity, which comes in 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB. Trade-ins are available, the phones can be purchased on the iPhone Upgrade Plan, and most carriers are offering special deals to entice you to upgrade.

iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max
Four finishes are available for the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max. Image via Apple

iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max

You didn’t really think that Apple was going to announce new iPhones without iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max models, did you? As with the iPhone 13 and 13 mini, you’ll be able to pre-order this Friday (September 17, 2021) and take delivery as soon as September 24.

The phones are available in four colors: graphite, gold, sierra blue, and silver. I already have my eyes on the sierra blue model… The A15 Bionic system-on-chip powers both of these devices, with a 6-core CPU and 5-core GPU, as well as 16-core Neural Engine.

As expected, Apple added many new photographic features to the Pro members of the iPhone 13 family. All three rear cameras have new sensors and lenses, and the image signal processor (ISP) in the A15 Bionic offers better noise reduction and tone mapping than ever before. The Wide camera has larger sensor, now the largest ever on an iPhone. With an f/1.5 aperture, low-light conditions don’t faze the iPhone Pro at all, improving sensitivity by almost 1.5x compared to the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

iPhone 13 Pro / Pro Max macro photograph
For the first time, macro photography comes to the iPhone without the need for an accessory lens. Image via Apple

Have you been wishing for a macro capability on an iPhone? The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max have an Ultra-Wide camera with an f/1.8 aperture and a completely new autofocus system. For macro photography, it’s possible to shoot subjects with a minimum focus distance of 2 centimeters. Macro works in video modes as well, including Slo-mo and Time-lapse. The Telephoto camera is also all-new, with a 77mm lens that offers 3x optical zoom.

Photographic Styles

New to all of the iPhone 13 models are Photographic Styles. Do you have a specific photo preference you’d like on every image you shoot? You can use preset or customized preferences, and the adjustments are intelligently applied to different parts of the photo. This works with Apple’s multiframe image processing (Deep Fusion) as well.

As expected, the iPhone 13 Pro models introduce ProRes. Apple describes ProRes as “advanced video codec used widely as the final delivery format for commercials, feature films, and broadcasts, to offer higher color fidelity and less compression.” Apple also notes that iPhone is now the “only smartphone in the world to provide an end-to-end workflow — capture, edit, and share in Dolby Vision or ProRes.

Super Retina XDR Display with ProMotion

The Pro models of the iPhone 13 also introduce a new display — Super Retina XDR with ProMotion. Rather than using a fixed refresh rate, the display features an adaptive refresh rate from 10 to 120Hz (refreshes per second). The fast frame rates help out in gaming and watching video, while battery life is preserved by slowing down the refresh rate when high frame rates aren’t needed. The display is 25 percent brighter outdoor, at 1000 nits.

Sturdy construction, better battery life, more storage choices

Unlike the aluminum body used on the iPhone 13 and 13 mini, the Pro models use a stainless steel frame. As expected, Apple introduced a smaller notch for the TrueDepth (front) camera on all of the iPhone 13 models. Perhaps the notch will disappear with the iPhone 14? We can only hope. The Ceramic Shield material described in the section on the iPhone 13/13 mini is also included on these Pro iPhones.

Battery life was bumped up as well. Apple says the iPhone 13 Pro Max offers the longest battery life ever for an iPhone. The iPhone 13 Pro Max lasts up to two and a half hours longer per day than an iPhone 12 Pro Max; the iPhone 13 Pro boasts one and half hour more battery life than the iPhone 12 Pro.

For the first time, iPhone owners can get storage that rivals that of a Mac. There are 128, 256, and 512GB options, but power users planning to film epics on their iPhone 13 Pro will want the 1TB option.

iPad mini (2021) finishes
Four finishes are available for the new iPad mini. Image via Apple

iPad mini

There’s a new generation of iPad mini! Apple put the new A15 Bionic chip into this device (with an all-new 8.3-inch display), giving it 80 percent faster performance than the previous mini. It also gets a USB-C port (to replace the old Lightning port), 5G on cellular models, new cameras, support for Center Stage (the wonderful “follow me” FaceTime camera on the iPad Pro), and Apple Pencil 2.

You can actually order one today for delivery or pickup on September 24. The Wi-Fi only versions start at $499, while the Wi-Fi + Cellular versions start at $649. Storage is available in 64 and 256GB capacities. Finishes? You have a choice of four; space gray, pink, purple, and starlight.

Touch ID finally comes to the iPad mini. The top button is enabled with a fingerprint reader, meaning that Touch ID can be used for unlocking the device, using Apple Pay, or log in to websites or apps.

Cameras

The big news on the new iPad mini is the front camera, utilizing the same Center Stage experience that is available on iPad Pro. That camera has a 12MP sensor and a larger field of view.

The back camera also got an upgrade. It has a 12MP sensor with Focus Pixels and larger aperture and a True Tone flash. The image signal processor (ISP) in the A15 Bionic adds Smart HDR to photos, bringing out details in shadows and highlights.

9th-generation iPad
The 9th-Generation iPad improves on Apple’s best-selling tablet. Image via Apple

9th Generation iPad

The venerable iPad has reached its ninth iteration with the introduction of a new model in 2021. You can order one today, and they’ll be available in stores on September 24. Prices start at just $329 for a Wi-Fi only model. It’s the only i-device announced today that doesn’t come with the new A15 Bionic, instead of using the A13 Bionic chip. That still gives it a 20 percent performance boost over the previous generation.

As with the new iPad mini, the 9th generation iPad has a new front camera that provides the Center Stage FaceTime experience only found previously on iPad Pro. This new iPad is the first with a True Tone display, a feature that has been included in Mac and iPad Pro in the past. Storage options include 64 and 256GB.

Apple Watch Series 7
The Apple Watch Series 7 feature a much wider screen. Image via Apple.

Apple Watch Series 7

Available later this fall, the Apple Watch Series 7 is a solid upgrade to the best-selling wearable device in the world. Redesigned, the Always-On Retina display on the newest Watch has more screen area and thinner borders. While the physical dimensions of the watch haven’t change drastically, the screen itself is larger.

While the rumor mill had the Apple Watch Series 7 adopting the flat-sided design of the iPhone, it has softer and more rounded corners. The display uses a refractive edge which makes full-screen faces and apps appear to connect with the case.

The user interface has been optimized for the larger display adding two unique faces — Contour and Modular Duo — that work only with the Apple Watch Series 7.

Battery life hasn’t improved — it’s still 18 hours — but charging is 33 percent faster.

Apps

There’s a new Mindfulness app in watchOS 8, as well as sleep respiratory rate tracking. Tai Chi and Pilates workout types have been added for improving wellness. The Wallet and Home app provide more convenient access to apps based on location (car, workplace, home, and visiting sites). Messages and Photos have also been enhanced for the new Watch.

Apple smartly took advantage of the shape and size of the new display by adding two larger font sizes and a new QWERTY keyboard. That keyboard can be tapped or swiped with QuickPath. On-device machine learning anticipates the next word based on context, which should speed up text entry. watchOS 8 (which ships with the new device) includes larger menu titles and buttons for easier interaction with the watch.

Colors

Apple Watch Series 7 debuts five new aluminum case colors: midnight, starlight, green, a new blue, (PRODUCT)RED. Many pundits thought that the new watch would be incompatible with previous Apple Watch bands, but that is not a concern. Stainless steel models, Apple Watch Edition, Apple Watch SE, and Apple Watch Series 3 will continue to exist, all in their existing color schemes.


Header image screenshot from Apple event.

Steve Sande
the authorSteve Sande
Contributing Author
Steve is the publisher of Apple World Today, a website providing news, reviews and how-tos for the world of Apple, as well as an author on The Rocket Yard. He's an avid photographer, an FAA-licensed drone pilot, and a really bad guitarist.
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2 Comments

  • That’s exactly the kind of “macro photo” I’d expect to get with a cellphone. Considering that their computerized wonder-phone that does “everything in the world” costs about the same as an actual macro lens that attaches to a $2,500-$6,000 camera, it’s apparent that Apple thinks dumbing down crowds to believe they’ve replaced real cameras with junk photography is more important than creating tools for creatives. The more I see what Apple’s cellphones and marketing schemes have become, the more I leave mine in a desk drawer. Clearly Tim Cook is earning his multi-million dollar bonus simply by continuing to tell fans that they need to pay thousands of dollars each year to get LOL texts.

  • Given that I’m happily living with the previous iOS devices, this event, for me anyway, didn’t offer much. It is all great new additions and updates, but I don’t need them at this time.
    What I really would like to see available in Apple Watch is the blood pressure monitoring ability that can get approved here, in Canada.

    What I’m definitely saving my money for is the larger version of the iMac. My 2015 iMac works very well, still, but it is at the bottom of the macOS compatibility list so I’m guessing it won’t take the next macOS after Monterey. I can imagine with the world chip shortage and other materials shortages, getting enough machines ready for a launch must be daunting. Nevertheless, please Tim, have the new one available before Christmas.

    I considered the new 24″ version and am very impressed with it; however, there are some limitations that I don’t wish to deal with.

    Jack