Apple unveils new iPhones, Apple Watch and AirPods

By Samantha Murphy Kelly, CNN Business

Apple unveiled its new iPhone 14 lineup at a press event on Wednesday, along with three new Apple Watch models, an update to its popular AirPods product line and a feature that could save lives when cell service is unavailable.

In a closely watched event from its headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Apple showed off four new smartphones, including a larger 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Plus model and an updated iPhone 14 Pro that redesigns the much-maligned notch. In typical Apple fashion, the devices also offer better battery life and camera features than the year before.

The biggest surprise, however, might be the price: the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus will start at $799 and $899, respectively, the same starting prices as last year’s models. The iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max start at $999 and $1099, respectively, also unchanged from the previous year. Analysts have widely predicted that Apple will increase the price of high-end models by $100.

“It’s impressive that Apple has maintained year-over-year price parity on new iPhone 14 devices in the US,” said Leo Gebbie, principal analyst, connected devices at CCS Insight. “We anticipated that inflation, increased production and component costs, and other expenses such as more expensive shipping would have caused Apple to increase retail prices.”

For Apple, the stakes are still high to convince customers to upgrade devices, including the iPhone, which remains its flagship product. That task is potentially made more difficult this year by broader economic concerns, including fears of an impending recession.

Throughout the event, Apple seemed to alternate between presenting its product line as tools for living our best lives and also for avoiding a number of ailments that could befall customers in an uncertain world, ranging from car accidents to stranding in nature.

Apple has announced several new Apple Watch models, including a premium version that retails for $799 and is designed to meet the needs of a rarefied group of outdoor enthusiasts. It also added an option for its watches to detect when a user has been involved in a car accident, as well as a satellite connectivity feature. for phones, which is intended to help people communicate when their cell service isn’t working.

Here are the highlights of the event:

The new iPhone 14 range

Apple unveiled four new smartphones, including the new iPhone 14 with a 6.1-inch screen and the iPhone 14 Plus with a larger 6.7-inch screen.

The new iPhone 14 has a 12 MP main camera with larger pixels, faster aperture and improved sensors. It also uses the same chip as last year’s iPhone 13 Pro model (the A15), the first time it’s repeated a chip in years.

For the first time, however, the new front camera features autofocus, allowing it to focus at multiple distances in low light for better individual and group selfies. It also has a new action mode that allows users to keep videos steady while moving.

Apple’s new Pro line features an always-on display and the ability to receive notifications and activity through what the company calls “dynamic island,” the highly polarizing notch at the top of the phone that’s now considered a feature. The Pro line also comes with the first-ever 48MP camera on an iPhone.

In a notable change, the iPhone 14 line also eliminates the need for a physical SIM card and instead uses a digital “e-SIM” card. Now users can store multiple e-SIMs on the same device and have multiple cellular plans and phone numbers on the same phone. It also prevents others from removing the physical SIM card if your iPhone is lost or stolen. Apple has said that all US iPhone models will no longer have the SIM tray.

The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro will be available in five colors: midnight, starlight, blue, purple and red.

New Apple Watches

Apple unveiled three new smartwatches at the event: the Series 8, SE and Ultra.

At the high end, the Ultra model is designed to help users keep up endurance training, scuba diving adventures and triathlons. The device gets around 36 hours on a single charge, is more water resistant, and has an improved compass that can work at night, in the ocean, and in other conditions.

At the low end, Apple has updated the SE to be up to 20% faster than the previous version. This starts at $249 for GPS models and $299 for cellular models.

And in the middle is the 8 series model, which starts at $399. Like previous versions of Apple’s smartwatch, the Series 8 is meant to motivate users to stay active and fit. Apple has also emphasized the Watch’s features for women’s health, with revamped menstrual cycle tracking tools that can predict ovulation. Tracking data is kept on each device and accessible only through a password or face ID, according to the company. Apple does not have a key for encrypted data and therefore cannot access it without your express permission.

The announcement comes as data security for women has become a major flashpoint following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

New AirPods Pro 2

Apple introduced its latest generation of AirPods Pro, one of its biggest flagships in recent years. The new AirPods Pro will have six hours of listening time on a single charge, better than the original version. Each headset and the case itself is now equipped to make a noise to help you find it. And a slight up and down swipe of the headphones will increase or decrease the volume.

AirPods Pro now feature improved dynamic noise cancellation technology and can cancel double the noise compared to the original version. Meanwhile, a new adaptive transparency mode aims to reduce harsh environmental noise.

The AirPods Pro 2 cost $249 and hit stores Friday.

Satellite connectivity for emergencies

While Apple hasn’t unveiled any groundbreaking new hardware products, at least one new feature could be a game-changer for customers, albeit in rare situations.

The new Emergency SOS via Satellite feature, which Apple says has been in the works for years, was designed and built specifically for iPhone 14 devices to connect to satellites when not near an earth tower. By allowing users to point their device at a satellite, which the phone will help locate, users will be able to send and receive information for emergency assistance.

The company said it created a short text compression mechanism to condense messages that take around 15 seconds to send if a user has a clear view of the sky. (It may take a few minutes longer if something like foliage is in the way.)

Apple said local vendors will be alerted to help call for help.

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