Apple announced the new eSIM-only iPhone 14 series with emergency satellite connectivity at its first in-person event since the pandemic on September 7 in Cupertino, California.
All the phones include improved photo and video capabilities, power and battery efficiency and the Crash Detect feature. The $799 iPhone 14 and the $899 iPhone 14 Plus come with the A15 chip, while the $999 Pro, and the $1,099 Pro Max comes with the A16 Bionic chip. Apple also announced the $399+ Watch 8 series, the $249 Watch SE, the rugged $799 Watch Ultra and the $249 AirPods Pro. The new products will be available to preorder on various dates starting from September 7 and launching from September 16 onwards.
The phones exclude a physical SIM tray, but only for the US, signalling a phased approach to test the waters for a portless phone and easing the switch to 5G services without needing a new SIM card. US carriers have improved their eSIM capabilities, but confusion still reigns at the retail level and consumers need to be educated on eSIM benefits. If carriers are to use eSIM to poach customers, they need to hone their eSIM onboarding process to start with, and make it as smooth as possible. Apple may see carriers dragging their feet on eSIM process simplification, but Apple has been known to get behind a tech and make it mainstream.
The iPhone 14 series comes with an Emergency Satellite SOS feature in partnership with Globalstar, a first on any global mass-market smartphone. Apple is taking advantage of its stellar hardware and software integration with a custom-built user interface for its SOS feature which will aid in satellite location pointing for enhanced connectivity, eliminating the need for expensive sat-com devices with bulky antennas. Apple’s Satellite SOS service will be available by November 2022, a year earlier than a similar service from T-Mobile and SpaceX, which is expected to face regulatory hurdles. Apple’s service will be provided for free for two years for all iPhone 14 users in US and Canada. But Google’s Android 14 is expected to support satellite connectivity soon, taking the competition right to Apple.
The iPhone 14 will be available for $799, the same as last year’s iPhone 13. But this price equilibrium comes with a feature trade-off. The base iPhone 14 and the 14 Plus come with the older A15 bionic chip, with the new, more powerful A16 chip reserved for the $999 Pro and $1,099 Pro Max models. This is a departure from Apple’s usual hardware strategy of including its new chipset on all new phones, likely due to the component shortage as well as COVID shutdowns of its suppliers in China.
Apple fans have long awaited an outdoorsy watch. Most rugged watches do not fit Apple’s sleek design standards, but this year Apple is finally taking the fight to Garmin and Samsung with its new rugged Watch Ultra. The watch is glossy and in line with Apple’s clean design aesthetic, which Apple devotees expect. Active smartwatches are still a niche category of devices, but Apple’s watches are hugely aspirational and will take a good chunk of the rugged wearable market from rivals.
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An estimated 240 million iPhone consumers haven’t bought a new phone in the last three years. The new devices announced today spell a strong fiscal Q1 2023 and holiday period for Apple and will continue its upgrade super cycle that began with the iPhone 12. Apple’s product refreshes are enablers of its services, which have seen high revenue growth in recent times, and make it incrementally harder for iPhone users to switch camps to Android. Massive carrier promotions and discounts will only propel the iPhone 14 onto a solid sales cycle for the holidays. Although a steady price is welcome news as consumers grapple with inflation, not everyone who wants the iPhone 14 will have the disposable income to justify the purchase this time around.