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Opinion: Thoughts on the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch upgrades

14 min read
  • Apple unveiled the iPhone 13, iPad mini 6, iPad 9th-generation and Apple Watch Series 7 at an online event on September 14.
  • Apple Scoop Editor Ben W. gives his thoughts on the latest Apple announcements.

Apple's latest updates to the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch have been somewhat controversial. They have been received poorly by Apple fans, with many drawn in to expect more from the refreshed products.

I think some of the criticism is unfair, considering the impact that COVID-19 has had on Apple, and the industry as a whole, but the event didn’t have that “wow” factor of previous events.

iPad 9th-generation

The cheapest iPad remains one of the best value devices that Apple currently offers. This year's upgrades aren’t huge, but added polish to what is already a superb productivity and multitasking device. It appears to me that Apple has something bigger planned for the tenth-generation model, but the A13 Bionic and upgraded 12MP front camera are welcome. I think the display could’ve been improved — think thinner bezels and laminated glass — but there’s no doubt that the iPad 9 remains brilliant value.

iPad mini 6

I loved the compact design of my first-generation iPad mini, but Apple has neglected the smallest iPad for over nine years. However, I can’t help but think that the iPad mini 6 has been overshadowed by last year’s redesigned iPad Air, with the same features, albeit in a more compact form factor. Despite being completely overhauled, it hasn’t had the level of excitement that Apple probably wanted.

The new iPad mini has had a major redesign, with a larger 8.3-inch Super Retina display, flat design, USB-C and support for the second-generation Apple Pencil. Touch ID in the top button is also a handy feature to have, but the mini lacks the ProMotion display and Face ID of the pricier iPad Pro models. Overall, it’s better in every way than the previous generation, and allows Apple to remain leaders in the tablet market, with multiple price points and sizes.

The iPad mini will certainly please some people, but for me, the 11-inch iPad Pro is the perfect sized tablet. This upgrade is very much needed, but the use cases will probably remain limited to casual browsing, a smart home dashboard, and an e-book reader.

iPhone 13

This year’s update to both the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro was always going to be incremental. Both iPhone 13 models have a smaller notch and much-improved cameras, tweaked with larger sensors. The colors are boring, but maybe the whole update is. I think it’s more about iterating on last year’s advancements than introducing breakthrough changes that obscure next year’s iPhone, and that’s reflected in the vast similarities between the iPhone 12 and 13.

It’s rumored to be the last year for the iPhone ‘mini’, so small devices enthusiasts should reach out with open arms for the device. I’m one for improvements to battery any day. I think the polish that Apple has added to the iPhone 13 is nice, but there’s no denying that these upgrades are dull, and the iPhone 13 improves on what was already a world-class device.

iPhone 13 Pro

The 6.1-inch iPhone 13 Pro has received more love this year, also with a smaller notch and larger battery, but with the addition of ProMotion and significant camera upgrades.

I’ll be upgrading to the iPhone 13 Pro Max, as I want the device with the greatest screen and battery life. This upgrade is tempting to me. Coming from iPhone 11, I’ll get the flat design, 5G, OLED panel, improved back glass, MagSafe, additional telephoto camera, ProMotion, and the latest and greatest camera sensors in an iPhone.

Feature wise, I look forward to trying Cinematic Mode and the Photographic Filters, and I’m longing for the greater zoom and additional camera abilities.

iPhone 12 and 12 Pro users won’t be excited by the update, and customers that upgrade each year will see it as yet another minor update. But iPhone 11 owners, or people on older devices, should be tempted by the larger batteries, displays, and cameras on all models. There is no reason to put off upgrading any longer.

Apple Watch Series 7

This was an awkward upgrade announcement. The promised flat design never emerged, and Apple barely touched on what’s been updated. The website is scarce in comparison to other product pages, and no release date is in sight.

But the updated 41mm and 45mm displays are welcome, and the 40% thinner bezels create the illusion of an all-new Apple Watch, despite the rounded design surviving for at least one more year. The update is minor, but I’ve come to expect only a few breakthrough updates to the Apple Watch, and the rest as iterative advancements.

There’s not much else to say — the Apple Watch Series 7 has the same performance, health features, and design as the Series 6. But I think it’s a tempting upgrade for Series 3 and 4 users. You also get the always on display, upgraded performance, expanded health monitoring and increased storage from the Series 5 and Series 6.

The event felt rushed, and the poorest of all seven of Apple’s virtual events. Apple quickly launched product after product, scrapping on key details and specs or each new release. But I think there was a meaning behind this event — more than any other one. It’s about the place we call home, celebrating the relaxed coronavirus restrictions, and having the ability to travel once again. But for me, the novelty has worn off. I’d like to see a return to in-person, or that style of events, where Apple can discuss its new products without the need to rush.

Overall, the products that Apple unveiled this month have been ‘nice’. Nothing is state-of-the-art, but every new iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch improve further, and will be significant for customers looking to upgrade or purchase an Apple product for the first time.

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