Apple unveiled four iPhones equipped with technology for use with faster new 5G wireless networks, hoping that demand for higher data speeds will spark demand for new phones.
That might not happen as quickly as Apple would like.
In a virtual presentation Tuesday, the company announced four 5G-enabled versions of the new iPhone 12 ranging in price from almost $700 to roughly $1,100. Apple also announced a new, less expensive version of its HomePod smart speaker.
Smartphone sales have been slowing for years as their technology has matured. That has meant far fewer gotta-have-it innovations that can drive demand. Apple, however, is betting that 5Gspeeds could push many users off the fence.
5G is supposed to mean much faster speeds, making it quicker to download movies or games, for instance. But finding those speeds can be a challenge. While telecom operators have been rolling out 5G networks, significant boosts in speed are still uncommon in much of the world, including the U.S. So far, there are no popular new consumer applications that require 5G.
Updates in the phones mostly amount to “incremental improvements” over predecessor iPhones, technology analyst Patrick Moorhead said.
Apple's new models include the iPhone 12, which features a 6.1-inch display and starts at almost $800, and the iPhone 12 Mini, with a 5.4-inch display at almost $700.
In a move that may annoy some consumers, Apple will no longer include charging adapters with new phones. It says that will mean smaller, lighter boxes that are more environmentally friendly to ship. Apple, however, separately sells power adapters that cost about $20 and $50, depending on how fast they charge phones.
The iPhone models unveiled Tuesday will launch at different times. The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro will be available starting Oct. 23.
That compresses Apple's window for building excitement heading into the key holiday season.
Although other parts of Apple's business are now growing more rapidly, the iPhone remains the biggest business of a technology juggernaut currently worth about $2 trillion, nearly double its value when stay-at-home orders imposed in the U.S in mid-March plunged the economy into a deep recession.
The pandemic temporarily paralyzed Apple's overseas factories and key suppliers, leading to a delay of the latest iPhones from their usual late September rollout.
The company also closed many of its U.S. stores for months because of the pandemic, depriving Apple of a prime showcase for its products.