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Thursday, September 16, 2021

iPhone launches are no longer a spectacle – but that’s good news for Apple

A smaller notch. A faster processor. A new camera with cinematic mode. In the pantheon of Apple keynote events, Tuesday’s iPhone 13 launch was towards the modest end. “We still see room for innovation,” was one analyst’s rather dry take. Perhaps Tim Cook didn’t want to make any risky moves on an unlucky number.

The unveiling of the iPhone 13 and 13 Pro contained few dramatic flourishes, and no Jobsian “one more thing” moment. But these days, Apple does not need them.

The smartphone wars are largely over. Few switch between Apple and any number of Android rivals based on features such as a bigger screen or a radical redesign. 

One of the more eye-catching inventions in the smartphone market in recent years has been Samsung’s push into foldable phones, but that attention has not been matched by sales. Analysts estimate that sales of the Korean company’s Z Flip line were around 2.3 million in the first half of 2021, around one fiftieth of iPhone sales in the same period.

The average iPhone owner’s demands are more obvious. The first thing most people ask for is a better battery. The iPhone 13 delivers on that front, with up to 2.5 hours of extra life. A close second is more storage. The new models double the capacity of last year’s without raising prices, a feat in its own right, given soaring component costs.

Cameras have been improved almost to absurdity, now able to take microscopic-level photos of things invisible to the human eye. Faster shutter speeds, better zoom and better editing features are enough to convince die-hards to upgrade. 

Most of Apple’s recent iPhone launches have devoted disproportionate attention to new cameras. That is because consumers care about them more than futuristic ideas such as augmented reality, which barely got a mention at Tuesday’s launch.

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