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Apple unveils first budget 5G iPhone

<i>Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg/Getty Images</i><br/>Apple iPhone 13 Pro smartphones inside a shopping bag at an Apple store in New York
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Apple iPhone 13 Pro smartphones inside a shopping bag at an Apple store in New York

By Samantha Murphy Kelly, CNN Business

At its first product event of the year on Tuesday, Apple unveiled an upgraded iPad Air, a new desktop computer and a powerful new Mac chip. But the standout product was a new budget iPhone with access to 5G networks.

Apple’s new iPhone SE, only the third version since the model launched in 2017, runs on the company’s faster A15 Bionic chip, the same in-house processor that drives the iPhone 13 line. It also features an updated camera and a longer-lasting battery, packed into the same 4.7-inch display as the previous model.

But it’s the added 5G capability that could be the ultimate draw for customers, by giving them access to the faster wireless network at a more affordable price point. However, the bump up to 5G comes with a price change. The device will cost $429 — $30 more than the previous model.

When Apple released its second version of the iPhone SE in April 2020, the budget smartphone seemed well-suited for the moment. The global pandemic was in its early days. Millions of households were grappling with job loss and financial uncertainty. And consumers were largely stuck at home, with less use for some of the bells and whistles that come with higher-end smartphones.

“Consumers were uncertain about the outlook and an affordable iPhone was ideally placed to take advantage of that,” said Ben Wood, an analyst with market research firm CCS Insight. “In 2022 things have improved but the iPhone SE franchise still fills an important role as an affordable iPhone for consumers still cautious about splashing out on a top-of-the-line iPhone or who just don’t feel the need to spend more than is necessary.”

For Apple, the new SE offers the promise to further boost demand for its core smartphone business by luring away Android users and convincing more iPhone owners to upgrade. In January, Apple reported record revenue during the all-important holiday quarter fueled in part by demand for its latest lineup of iPhones.

Dan Ives, an analyst with Wedbush Securities, said there is “pent up demand for this next SE” globally. In an analyst note after the event Tuesday, Ives said the new SE “will be the fastest and most powerful phone at these price points by a wide margin.”

Colors for the new SE include midnight (black), starlight (white) and red. Pre-orders start today and the device starts shipping on March 18. Separately, Apple announced it would add two new shades of green to its iPhone 13 lineup: The iPhone 13 will now be available in a bold new green and the iPhone 13 Pro will come in an alpine green.

Here’s a closer look at what else Apple announced at its virtual event on Tuesday:

A 5G iPad Air

Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled the “new, even more amazing, iPad Air,” which features its M1 chip, the same in-house processor used in the iPad Pro, as well as 5G capabilities and a revamped front-facing camera.

The new iPad Air is available for pre-order starting Friday and will be available in stores on March 18. The price starts at $599.

A new Mac chip

Apple’s in-house M1 chips have improved the speed and performance of its devices. Now, the company is adding a new chip, the M1 Ultra, to the lineup. The latest processor joins its existing family of chips, including the M1, M1 Pro and M1 Max.

The M1 Ultra will make some Mac desktops faster, more powerful and more power efficient. It has 114 million transistors (seven times more than the M1), 128 GB of unified memory for big workloads, and is nearly eight times faster than the M1.

The Mac Studio and Studio Display

Apple unveiled new desktop computers — the Mac Studio and Studio Display — that will use its M1 Max and M1 Ultra chips.

Thanks to Apple’s in-house chips, the Mac Studio has a strikingly small form factor — just 7.7 inches by 3.7 inches. It will also be quieter, faster and more energy efficient than other high-end Macs. The Mac Studio with the M1 Ultra is expected to be 90% faster than the company’s powerful 16-core Mac Pro.

Meanwhile, the Mac Studio with M1 Max will have up to 64 GB of unified memory, and the M1 Ultra will have up to 128 GB of memory.

The Mac Studio comes with four thunderbolt ports, two USB-A ports, ethernet and HDMI ports and a pro audio jack on the back. The front of the device will feature an SD card reader and either USB-C or thunderbolt ports on the front, depending on the model.

The Studio Display comes with a 27-inch screen and a 5K retina display. It also boasts a 12 megapixel camera that supports Apple’s Center Stage feature for improved video calls, as well as spatial audio capabilities.

The Mac Studio with M1 Max will start at $1,999 and the device with the M1 Ultra will start at $3,999. The Mac Studio Display will start at $1,599. The line is now available for pre-orders and will be available March 18.

Apple TV+ updates

Cook kicked off the event by previewing some new content coming to Apple TV+ later this year and reviewed some of its existing popular content, including the film Coda, which has been nominated for the Oscar in Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor.

Friday night baseball is also coming to Apple TV+. Each Friday, two Major League Baseball games will be streamed exclusively on Apple TV+, Cook said.

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