Apple introduces iPhone 12, jumps to 5G

Iphone 12

Apple has confirmed its iPhone 12 handsets will be its first to work on faster 5G networks.

The company has also extended the range to include a new "Mini" model that has a smaller 5.4in screen.

The US firm bucked a wider industry downturn by increasing its handset sales over the past year.

But some experts say the new features give Apple its best opportunity for growth since 2014, when it revamped its line-up with the iPhone 6.

The iPhone 12 has an OLEDshielded by a new material that should be harder to damage. Photos courtesy of Apple

"5G will bring a new level of performance for downloads and uploads, higher quality video streaming, more responsive gaming, real-time interactivity and so much more," said chief executive Tim Cook.

There has also been a cosmetic refresh this time round, with the sides of the devices getting sharper, flatter edges.

No charger

The higher-end iPhone 12 Pro models also get bigger screens than before and a new sensor to help with low-light photography.

However, for the first time none of the devices will be bundled with headphones or a charger. Apple said the move was to help reduce its impact on the environment.

"Tim Cook [has] the stage set for a super-cycle 5G product release," commented Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities.

He added that about 40% of the 950 million iPhones in use had not been upgraded in at least three-and-a-half years, presenting a "once-in-a-decade" opportunity.

Ceramic shield

Apple said the iPhone 12 has the same 6.1in (15.5cm)-sized screen as its predecessor, but it now uses OLED rather than LCD technology for richer colours. This has also helped the firm make the device 11% thinner and have smaller bezels.

It added that the screen was also higher resolution and used a "ceramic shield" to protect its display to offer "four times better drop performance".

A new A14 Bionic chip - the first to be built on a five nanometre process - is being used to carry out more advanced enhancements to photos.

The firm said it would deliver night-mode selfies without using the flash, as well as better deal with colour, contrast and noise in challenging settings.

It showed off a forthcoming mobile version of League of Legends as an example of the "console-quality games" it could now run smoothly.

The addition of a magnet array inside the phone's back will allow compatible chargers to "snap on" and renew the battery more quickly, as well as accessories including a wallet to be held in place.

Depth sensor

Two steel-sided higher-end models have also been redesigned to feature bigger displays - the iPhone Pro goes from 5.8in to 6.1in, while the Pro Max goes from 6.5in to 6.7in.

They carry over the improvements made to the lower-end devices.

But they also gain a Lidar (light detection and ranging) scanner.

This creates depth-maps of the immediate environment, making autofocus in dim settings "up to six times faster". It can also be used for augmented-reality tasks, although these were given less emphasis.

The Pro Max's wide-angle rear camera lens has also been given a bigger sensor to improve low-light performance.

5G follower

Samsung first launched a 5G-enabled Galaxy S10 phone back in February 2019 , and Huawei, OnePlus and Google are among others to have added the capability too.

But experts say there has only been limited interest in the feature to date.

"Apple is rarely the first to launch new technologies but waits for a technology to be mature enough to build new customer experiences on top of it," commented Thomas Husson from the research company Forrester.

"I think we're slowly reaching this tipping point."

Apple said it had tested its devices at peak 5G speeds of 3.5 gigabits per second - which means a 20 gigabyte 4K movie could be theoretically downloaded in about 45 seconds.

However, it warned that users' experiences would vary by network and region, and the 5G facility would not always be switched on.