Just shy of one month after their last event, Apple was back today with another one. Everyone had a pretty good feeling this would be the one where they announced this year’s new iPhone… instead, Apple announced four new iPhones, plus a new HomePod, for good measure.
Didn’t have time to follow along live? Here are the highlights:
Apple kicked things off by announcing the HomePod Mini — which, as you’ve probably gathered from the name, is a smaller version of its HomePod speaker.
Apple’s focus with the HomePod Mini definitely seems to be getting you to buy multiple units and spreading them around your house — they started off by recapping Siri’s smart home capabilities, then introduced a new feature called “Intercom,” which lets you broadcast a message to all of your HomePods from your iPhone, Apple Watch, CarPlay or another HomePod. Put two HomePods in the same room, Apple says, and they’ll automatically become a stereo pair.
HomePod Mini will cost $99, and, like its bigger counterpart, will come in two colors: white and space grey. Pre-orders will start on November 6th, with the first units shipping “the week of November 16th.”
Four new iPhones
Why would Apple announce one new iPhone when they could announce four?
With a lineup that will probably lead to a bit of confusion, Apple today announced the iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. The devices get a little bigger, a little fancier and a bit more expensive as you go down the line. Want a deeper look at how the specs on the four new models compare? Find our side-by-side here.
The big focus here is on improved displays, improved cameras (night mode on the wide and ultra-wide cameras!) and the introduction of 5G support across the lineup. The form factor borrows some angles from iPhones of yesteryear, with flat sides that’ll probably remind you of the iPhone 4 or 5.
The iPhone 12 Mini will start at $699 and come with a 5.4″ display, while the iPhone 12 will start at $799 with a 6.1″ display. The iPhone 12 Pro will start at $999 with a 6.1″ display, but polishes up the spec sheet with a stainless steel body (versus aluminum on the non-pro models) and the addition of a 12MP telephoto lens. The iPhone 12 Pro Max will start at $1,099, but packs a massive 6.7″ display. The Pro models also pack lidar sensors, allowing them to do things like ultra-fast focusing in low-light situations, or 3D room scanning.
The displays on all of the new iPhones will feature a new “Ceramic Shield” technology that Apple built in partnership with Corning, which the company says improves the odds of your device surviving a fall by 4x. The iPhone 12 and 12 Mini will come in blue, green, red, white and black; the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max, meanwhile, will come in blue, gold, black and white.
All four phones will run on Apple’s A14 Bionic chip — the same one that powers the iPad Air the company just announced last month.
So when will these things actually start shipping? The pre-order/ship dates are a liiiiittle bit tangled — so if you’ve got a model picked out already, make sure you’ve got the right date marked on your calendar: the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro go up for pre-order on 10/16, shipping on 10/23. The iPhone 12 Mini and the 12 Pro Max, meanwhile, go up for pre-order on 11/6 and ship on 11/13.
(Apple also noted that it will continue to sell the iPhone 11, dropping the base price by $100 down to $599.)
“MagSafe” is back! Sort of. Well, in name, at least.
Borrowing a name from the charging system of Apple laptops past, the new iPhone’s MagSafe system allows it to automatically snap into the optimal place on a wireless charger, while also allowing for snap-on accessories like magnetic cases or credit card holders.
The company also announced the MagSafe Duo Charger (a folding setup meant to allow you to charge both an iPhone and an Apple Watch) and noted that MagSafe-compatible accessories from third parties like Belkin were on the way.
No more power adapter or headphones in the box
It’s been rumored for months, but now it’s official: Apple will no longer be including headphones or a wall power adapter with the iPhone. The company cites the potential environmental impact as their reasoning, noting that there are already “billions” of compatible chargers out in the world. The new iPhones will ship with a USB-C to Lightning cable — just not the bit that plugs into the wall.
Mophie introduces a modular wireless charging module – TechCrunch
Here’s a clever addition for Mophie, one of the longstanding battery case makers, which is now a part of the same smartphone accessory conglomerate as Zagg, Braven, iFrogz and InvisibleShield. The Juice Pack Connect is a modular take on the category, with a battery pack that slides on and off.
For $80 you get a 5,400mAh battery (that should get you plenty of additional charge time) and a ring stand that props the phone up. Mophie may offer additional models at some point, but right now, the biggest selling point is less about add-ons and more the fact that you can slip the battery off the device when not needed and still use the case.
It’s not entirely dissimilar from the modular uniVERSE case OtterBox introduced a bunch of years ago, but the big advantage here is that the charging works via Qi, so you don’t have to plug it into the phone’s port.
It’s not cheap (Mophie isn’t, generally). And, no, it’s not a MagSafe accessory. Instead, the add-on attaches to your case (needs to be one thin enough to support the charging, mind) using adhesive. The upside is that it works with a much larger number of phones, including multiple generations of iPhones and wireless-capable handsets like Samsung Galaxies and Google Pixels.
TCL announces a $400 5G handset – TechCrunch
What’s most remarkable about the push for 5G is how quickly the prices came down on handsets sporting the next-gen wireless technology. The push toward affordable 5G devices is clearly as much an indicator as the current state of the smartphone space as anything — people just aren’t upgrading devices as quickly as the used to. And even more to the point, they’re reluctant to pay $1,000 when they do.
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G has been a piece of that puzzle. And unsurprisingly, the mid-tier chip in found in TCL’s new $400 5G handset. Of course, TCL is positioning it as “under-$400” with that $399.99 price tag, which is technically correct — the best kind of correct.
It’s also not really right to say that the TCL 10 5G UW’s a”premium blend of performance, power, stylish design and 5G connectivity that until now has only been available on more expensive flagship smartphones.” Affordable 5G handsets isn’t an entirely new phenomenon — nor are affordable 5G handsets with decent specs and design. But even so, the price point is still notable at this stage in the 5G upgrade cycle — which, frankly, is why we’re writing about it here.
The price/5G combo is the main thing to like here, coming in at even less than, say, the OnePlus Nord, a recent high water mark in the 5G/price point combo. And there are a few other things that should appeal to potential buyers, as well, including a 4,500mAh battery coupled with reverse charging for other devices. There are three rear-facing cameras: a 48-megapixel main, an eight-megapixel ultra wide and a five-megapixel macro, the latter of of which is starting to appear on more phones.
It arrives October 29, and is, notably, a Verizon (TechCrunch’s parent company) exclusive here in the U.S., using the carrier’s mmWave technology.
Linktree raises $10.7M for its lightweight, link-centric user profiles – TechCrunch
Simple, link-centric user profiles might seem might not seem like a particularly ambitious idea, but it’s been big enough for Linktree.
The Melbourne startup says that 8 million users — whether they’re celebrities like Selena Gomez and Dua Lipa or brands like HBO and Red Bull — have created profiles on the platform, with those profiles receiving more than 1 billion visitors in September.
Plus, there are more than 28,000 new users signing up every month.
“This category didn’t exist when we started,” CEO Alex Zaccaria told me. “We created this category.”
Zaccaria said that he and his co-founders Anthony Zaccaria and Nick Humphreys created Linktree to solve a problem they were facing at their digital marketing agency Bolster. Instagram doesn’t allow users to include links in posts — all you get is a single link in your profile, prompting the constant “link in bio” reminder when someone wants to promote something.
Meanwhile, most of Bolster’s clients come from music and entertainment, where a single link can’t support what Zaccaria said is a “quite fragmented” business model. After all, an artist might want to point fans to their latest streaming album, upcoming concert dates, an online store for merchandise and more. A website could do the job in theory, but they can be clunky or slow on mobile, with users probably giving up before they finally reach the desired page.
So instead of constantly swapping out links in Instagram and other social media profiles, a Linktree user includes one evergreen link to their Linktree profile, which they can update as necessary. Selena Gomez, for example, links to her latest songs and videos, but also her Rare Beauty cosmetics brand, her official store and articles about her nonprofit work.
Zaccaria said that after launching the product in 2016, the team quickly discovered that “a lot more people had the same problem,” leading them to fully separate Linktree and Bolster two years ago. Since then, the company hasn’t raised any outside funding — until now, with a $10.7 million Series A led by Insight Partners and AirTree Ventures.
“We had the option to just continue to grow sustainably, but we wanted to pour some fuel on the fire,” Zaccaria said.
In fact, Linktree has already grown from 10 to 50 employees this year. And while the company started out by solving a problem for Instagram users, Zaccaria described it as evolving into a much broader platform that can “unify your entire digital ecosystem” and “democratize digital presence.” He said that while some customers continue to maintain “a giant, brand-immersive website,” for others, Linktree is completely replacing the idea of a standalone website.
Zaccaria added that Instagram only represents a small amount of Linktree’s current traffic, while nearly 25% of that traffic now comes from direct visitors.
Black Lives Matter has also been a big part of Linktree’s recent growth, with activists and other users who want to support the movement using their profiles to point visitors to websites where they can donate, learn more and get involved. In fact, Linktree even introduced a Black Lives Matter banner over the summer that anyone could add to their profile.
Linktree is free to use, but you have to pay $6 a month for Pro features like video links, link thumbnails and social media icons.
Zaccaria said that the new funding will allow the startup to add more “functionality and analytics.” He’s particularly eager to grow the data science and analytics team, though he emphasized that Linktree does not collect personally identifiable information or monetize visitor data in any way — he just wants to provide more data to Linktree users.
In a statement, Insight Managing Director Jeff Lieberman said:
As the internet becomes increasingly fragmented, brands, publishers, and influencers need a solution to streamline their content sharing and connect their social media followers to their entire online ecosystem, ultimately increasing brand awareness and revenue. Linktree has successfully created this new “microsite” category enabling companies to monetize the next generation of the internet economy via a single interactive hub. The impressive traction and growing number of customers Linktree has gained over the last few months demonstrates its proven market fit, and we could not be more excited to work with the Linktree team as they transition to the ScaleUp phase of growth.
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