Smartphone marketing is an artform. Most of us don't need devices that start at $1349 and go up to $2700, especially since smartphones a few years old are really good still.
That sacrilege apart, Apple this year went hard with the next-gen mobile network tech, 5G, as an upgrade and buy-new magnet for customers.
Other vendors such as Samsung have had 5G devices for a while now, and now we have Apple's take on 5G across four iPhone 12 models. Being first doesn't always mean being the best, and Apple's 5G implementation looks solid but ... I wouldn't buy a new iPhone 12 because of it.
I have a question in with Apple about whether or not the iPhone 12 supports the upcoming standalone mode (SA) for 5G.
This is a bit deep geek, but the complex first generation non-standalone (NSA) tech as deployed by Vodafone New Zealand uses 4G for signalling and calls, and turns on the new network that operates in higher frequency bands for very fast data transfers when in 5G coverage.
NSA was developed so that telcos could maximise existing 4G Long Term Evolution investment while having the 5G data overlay marketing carrot for their networks to wave around.
Commercial SA 5G service should start to pop up in networks around the world mid-2021.
For telco subscribers it brings that super-low latency as phones and cellular networks communicate with each other, which means improved responsiveness and even faster data speeds.
SA 5G promises lower costs for telcos, and the ability to run 5G in existing 4G frequency bands with Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS). It's end-to-end 5G and is, if you get excited about these things, a singalong technology upgrade worth waiting for.
Future-proofing your pricey new phone with SA support would be nice in other words.
How often 5G will kick in on the new iPhone 12s remains to be seen as they feature a Smart Data mode that favours 4G to save battery.
It'll be interesting to see what type of modems Apple have used for 5G and 4G, as the new iPhones support an impressive range of frequency bands.
That's good for roaming overseas if Covid-19 ever allows it again, and to be able to easily switch between mobile providers (whom I hope get better with eSIM support so that you can have two telco accounts on one phone). But, the iPhone 12s support only two very high frequency millimetre wave bands, the n260 (39 gigaHertz) and n261 (26 gHz) for the United States. There's no sign of the 29 gHz N257 band that's earmarked for the Asia-Pacific region.
Spark and Vodafone talked mmWave for 5G in 2018, but have gone quiet about it since.
The reason mmWave is cool is that it can encode a huge amount of information for super high data speeds.
At the same time, mmWave requires lots of small base stations close to each other as it has very short range compared to 3.5 GHz 5G for example. Laws of physics and all that, but if you're in mmWave coverage you'll probably get the fibre-like gigabit-per-second speeds that 5G marketers go on about.
If and when mmWave and SA arrives in NZ with handsets that support the new standards of course.
The photography geek in me is more keen on the new three-camera system, especially in the iPhone 12 Pro Max which doesn't use extremely high-resolution sensors like Android vendors.
No 108 megapixels for the iPhone 12, not even 48 Mpixel sensors, just 12 Mpixel with big photo-diodes for better low-light performance and a stabilised sensor, and 5 times optical zoom for the top-end Max model, new recording modes for video and stills, and more.
There's a light detecting and ranging (LiDAR) sensor that bounces laser beams off objects for depth and distance measurements so you get night-time portrait mode with blurred backgrounds.
It'll be interesting to see how the iPhone 12 camera system compares to others using extremely high-res sensors with "pixel binning" algorithms, as it's a different tack to what Android device makers have taken.
I'd be happy with an iPhone 11 ½ Pro Max with the new camera system and the A14 Bionic chipset, and without 5G, only (the still very good) 4G support to save money. Oh well.
This is why I'll never get a job as a smartphone marketer.