Apple’s ‘Hi, Speed’ event: The word beyond the Street

Excerpts of reactions from some of my favorite Apple watchers. More as they come in.

John Gruber, Daring Fireball: Thoughts and Observations on Apple’s ‘Hi, Speed’ iPhone 12 Event. I asked around, and a little birdie confirmed that Lisa Jackson really went up on the roof of Apple Park for her segment of the show. It looked breathtaking. This stunt reminded me of (now-disgraced) Steve Wynn’s introduction of Wynn Las Vegas in 2005 (which he reprised three years later for its sibling Encore).

Neil Cybart, Above Avalon: An Evolving Apple “Event.” Based on Tim Cook’s comments at this year’s WWDC, a new Mac powered by Apple silicon still has to be unveiled between now and the end of the year… Is there enough there for Apple to hold another virtual presentation next month? Possibly… If Apple is embracing a more diffused product unveiling strategy, the threshold for holding an event is lowered. This draws into question the very definition of what would constitute an in-person Apple event. Said another way, Apple is deep in uncharted territory from a product unveiling perspective. It’s not clear at the moment where things are headed. One wonders if Apple even knows.

Ben Bajarin, ThinkTank: Apple’s Patient Strategy in the Home. Apple’s strategy for the smart home has been one of the areas I’ve been most critical. Mostly out of frustration when I see Amazon and Google flooding the market with options for smart home control centers. At Apple’s fall launch event yesterday, their smart home strategy becomes more clear and quite differentiated.  For as far behind as Apple has seemed in the home, the caveat in our analysis was always that Apple owned the pocket more than Amazon, and even Google to a degree. I always felt if Apple could better leverage its end computing devices, mainly the one you have with you at all times, they could catch up quickly. I use these words catch up somewhat lightly because, in Apple’s mind, they were never behind, but that’s a different story.

Ben Thompson, Stratechery: The iPhone 12 event. For the record, the new phones look stunning, which is good, because that is almost certainly going to be a far more compelling reason to upgrade than 5G. In fact, I wouldn’t even put 5G second: the iPhone’s ever-improving cameras, particularly in the top-of-the-line Pro Max model, are a compelling upgrade as well. Actually, all of these reasons are likely subservient to the primary reason people upgrade: because it’s time to get a new phone, whether because they are on a yearly schedule, an every-other-year schedule, or simply because their old phone can no longer hold a charge.

Carolina Milanesi, TechPinions: The iPhone 12 Family Future-Proofs Apple’s Lineup. I was asked several times whether Apple would see a super-cycle with the iPhone 12, and the answer I gave was honest but not very helpful: it’s complicated. All things equal, Apple has the perfect product lineup: new design, four products that span a wide enough price range, and a new technology, 5G. However, the reality is that the iPhone 12 models are hitting the market during an economic downturn and, in the US, a time of considerable uncertainty. There is a high degree of reliance on technology that we all have experienced during the pandemic, which might counter this market negativity by encouraging an upgrade cycle for the device that we still all turn to the most: the smartphone.

Martin Peers, The Information: Tech briefing. Apple brought all its usual marketing hyperbole to today’s unveiling of its latest iPhones, with breathless exclamation for new colors, chip speed and the ceramic cover that Apple promises will be less breakable. And if you thought Lidar was something in a self-driving car, think again! The Pro line of new iPhones also have it, to beef up augmented reality.

Alexei Oreskovic, Business Insider: Tim Cook summons the magic of iPhones past to unleash the long-awaited ‘Super Cycle.’ Perhaps in a bid to summon the magic of past upgrade cycles, Apple gave its latest gadget a retro-look with flat, metallic edges that harken back to the iPhone 4. (That model, released in 2010, was, incidentally, the last iPhone to be unveiled on stage by Steve Jobs.) Wall Street wasn’t feeling it. Apple shares tumbled as much as 4% in regular trading, losing $81 billion in market value.  (True, Apple’s stock is up 66% for the year and had risen 6% on Monday ahead of the event).

Jason Snell, Six Colors: Apple fibs about iPhone 12 pricing to promote wireless carriers. Here’s one of the weirdest aspects of Tuesday’s iPhone launch event: Apple has been less than forthright about the real prices of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini. At the event, Apple referred to these products as starting at $699 (iPhone 12 mini) and $799 (iPhone 12), but those prices are not actually accurate unless you slap a big asterisk on there. (As Apple does on its marketing pages, because it must.) Here’s what’s actually happening, at least in the U.S.: Apple has cut deals with AT&T and Verizon that give existing customers of those carriers $30 off their purchases. The actual prices of the two models are $729 and $829, and that’s what you’ll pay if you’re a U.S. subscriber to Sprint, T-Mobile, any smaller pay-as-you-go carriers, or if you want to buy a SIM-free model with no carrier connection at all. (The 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max are the same price on all carriers.)

Lance Ulanoff, The Medium: Apple iPhone 12 is Retro Chic Meets the Future. First, we finally have our 5G iPhone. Apple clearly waited for the right moment to do it: when it appeared as if there was finally 5G for everyone… The short story on this is that 5G UWB is kind of like pure, uncut 5G that blasts you with incredible speed but can run out in a hurry if you move too far away from a cell or turn a corner and put a building between you and the 5G UWB tower. The best way to think of this situation is that early Nationwide 5G may feel like the early days of 4G, which was spotty and inconsistent, but it will quickly get better. Buying a 5G iPhone 12 now may not feel like the glorious high-speed mobile broadband experience it’s intended to be today, but in 12-to-24 months, it probably will be.

Any I missed?


  1. John Butt said:
    I fully agree with Ben Thompson. 5G on iPhone is a starting line event for the carriers, but not for consumers. Most will be like me upgrading because it is time. However I am going to look at the 12 pro max to see if I can accept it’s size so I don’t feel like upgrading my iPad as well – that may be others response since the camera is a big driver for the top model

    October 14, 2020
    • David Drinkwater said:
      I just wanna put that amazeballs camera in my pocket if it’s not too big. I suspect that it will dwarf my iPhone X.

      October 15, 2020
  2. Gregg Thurman said:
    The actual prices of the two models are $729 and $829

    The math skills of the average “journalist” is abhorrent. Last year the base price got you 64Gb of storage. 128Gb cost you $100 more.

    This year the base price gets you 128Gb of storage along with 5G, greatly improved cameras, screens, cases and features.

    The iPhone 12 is not your grandmother’s iPhone and costs far less.

    So much for journalistic balance, but then, the reviews that really matter are those of the consumer and I haven’t heard anything negative from them. Apple’s end of October guidance for the December quarter (assuming they provide it) will be the tell, not some dime a dozen hack.

    October 14, 2020
  3. John Konopka said:
    I thought the prominent positioning of the League of Legends game was a slap at Epic. Fortnite is history, here is the future. Ha!

    I love the little technical details they drop. Like how they are depositing other materials in a high energy process into the aluminum and stainless steel bands to obtain colors. Or how they are growing nanocrystal in the glass cover to give it strength. Kudos to the scientists and engineers who have been working on this for the past several years.

    The intercom feature they discussed regarding the Home Pod mini is very cool, and technically interesting. Somehow in a home all of our devices will be talking to each other making this sort of thing possible. That can’t be simple to implement.

    How does that work in an office? If I put a Home Pod on my desk does it know that none of the hundreds of other Apple devices nearby are part of my bubble?

    Before I setup the right passwords my neighbor would sometimes inadvertently play music through my iMac or Home Pods using Airplay. It was weird at first. Where is this odd music coming from?

    October 15, 2020
    • David Drinkwater said:
      As a materials scientist by training and a semiconductor manufacturing engineer by profession, I think that your observations on Apple’s process developments are fantastic.

      “depositing other materials in a high energy process into the aluminum and stainless steel bands to obtain colors. Or how they are growing nanocrystal in the glass cover to give it strength”

      October 15, 2020
  4. David Drinkwater said:
    I’d like to see Robert Paul Leitao on this list (not to be overly forward).

    October 15, 2020
  5. Bart Yee said:
    What I see from this is Verizon and other carriers will be blitz marketing the iPhone 12 and maybe even giving generous trade-in values or (horrors) partial subsidies or advantageous financing plans to try to lock in users and carrier defectors looking for “better” data plans and/or better 4G LTE or 5G coverage, now and in the future.

    Each carrier will (sometimes falsely) promote their 5G coverage and speeds trying to gobble each others’ subscribers. This again proves how Apple, despite it not being the first 5G phone, defines and validates a technology as “(almost) ready for mainstream prime time”. By partnering with all the major carriers in major countries, I predict Apple will have a helpful tailwind from carrier promotion.

    Whether the consumer has the patience to wait for real and useful 5G local coverage or is content with an excellent LTE experience (status quo) remains to be seen. I suspect the vast majority of iPhone 12 users are not holding their breath on 5G for now but rather are more interested in the iPhone 12 totality as reasons to upgrade.

    October 15, 2020

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