Apple’s three new iPhones: no 5G but a powerful new A13 chip

Tim Cook launched new products, including three new iPhones that run on the new A13 chip and the iPhone Pro that has three rear cameras. (Apple)

Apple launched three new iPhones on Tuesday that run on its newest A13 Bionic chip, offering what Apple called the fastest CPU performance of any smartphone.

The A13 runs inside the new iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, priced respectively at $699. $999, $1,099. All three go on pre-sale Friday and will ship on Sept. 20. An improved, bigger screen iPad and Apple Watch series 5 were also announced.

The chip is designed with 7nm channels and includes 8.5 billion transistors. It runs a CPU, GPU and logic engine that are 20% faster than the A12, with the GPU power reduced by up to 40%, Apple said.

CEO Tim Cook headlined Apple’s annual September product reveal from Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California. It was webcast this year on YouTube for the first time, running about 1 hour and 45 minutes.

None of the various Apple presenters discussed anything other than new products and apps. That includes no mention of 5G wireless capabilities that analysts expect to appear in iPhones in 2020. 

Nobody expected Apple to discuss 5G at the event, explained IHS Markit analyst  Gerritt Schneemann. "Intel's modem was not going to be ready, so that's why analysts expected this and why Apple entered into an agreement with Qualcomm earlier this year," he said. "I don't think [absence of 5G] will be a big issue for Apple. They are not known to run to be the first to integrate a new technology anyway. So this is normal behavior." 

Analysts at IDC said this week that the presence of 5G in smartphones will prop up overall smartphone sales slightly in 2020. Many models of Android phones already include the 5G capability. For three years, smartphone sales have declined globally, including recently for Apple, which commands about 13% of the total smartphone market globally, IDC said.

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The A13 chip incorporates machine learning with 1 trillion operations per second, also making it the best machine learning platform in any smartphone, according to Sri Santhanam, vice president of Apple’s silicon engineering group.

With a total of four CPU cores, the chip relies on a low-power design technique that lights up only the sections of the chip needed for any computation.

The iPhone Pro models include three rear cameras that can work together to provide still images and video for use by professionals, said Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing. The addition of a third rear camera "will be a clear reason for updates" by customers, "moreso than more incremental updates," Schneemann said.

In a sneak peak of an upcoming software update, Schiller said the Pro devices will rely on a neural engine in the A13 chip for a Deep Fusion image. Deep Fusion works by shooting nine images then picks the best combined image for proper lighting and detail. “It’s computation map science. It is way cool,” Schiller said.

A FilMic app for video coming later this year to the App Store will allow videographers to shoot from multiple cameras at the same time, including the three Pro cameras on the rear for wide, ultra-wide and telephoto, and the front-facing camera. All three rear cameras shoot in 4k with 60 frames per second.

The iPhone 11 comes with a 6.1-in display while the Pro models come in 5.8-in. and 6.5-in. display sizes.  Schneemann said it's interesting that the standard iPhone 11 will come in at an entry price lower than last year's model, at $699 versus $749. 

The new Apple Watch series 5 includes an always on retina display that dims to conserve power, offering 18-hour battery life. It includes a new compass feature and an updated maps app. GPS-capable models will cost $399 and cellular models will run $499 beginning Sept. 20 in stores.

The new iPad enlarges the traditional 9.7-in iPad to a larger 10.2-in Retina display, which Apple said has three times the number of pixels as the top-selling laptops on the market. It runs on the A10 fusion chip. It will sell for $329 or $299 for educational users

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