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Apple event 2021 highlights: everything you missed from new iPads to the A15-powered iPhone 13

Apple's new phones has been revealed, plus exciting new updates to the iPad mini. Here's a summary of everything that was announced.

iPhone 13 camera module

The iPhone 13 series is here. 

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Apple unveiled the new family of smartphones alongside the Apple Watch 7, iPad and iPad mini at the “California Streaming” event on 14th September, after weeks of speculation about what updates the new line-up would bring. 

Much like last year’s reveal, Apple unveiled four brand new handsets: the iPhone 13 mini, the iPhone 13, the iPhone 13 Pro and the iPhone 13 Pro Max. 

While the design changes were ultimately minimal – the 13 series phones have a smaller notch, a super-fast A15 Bionic chip and impressive new cameras. 

There was more good news for Apple fans, as the event confirmed the iPhone 13 release date, Apple Watch Series 7 release date and the new iPad and iPad mini 6 pre-orders. There was no mention of the AirPods 3 during the showcase. 

Before you delve straight into the iPhone 13 deals, be sure to read our in-depth iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12 buyer’s guide or try our iPhone 13 features page for a full breakdown of specs. 

Here’s a summary of everything that Apple announced during the September virtual event, what’s new in the hardware this year and when you can expect pre-orders to go live. 

Apple event highlights: products announced at the ‘California Streaming’ event

Read on for a recap of the latest Apple event launches:

Apple TV+ 

After a musical intro, Apple kicked off the show with a focus on Apple TV+, noting it had received 35 primetime Emmy nominations, with a whopping 20 for its show Ted Lasso alone. It unveiled a reel of shows that will premiere this autumn: including The Morning Show, Foundation, The Problem with Jon Stewart, Invasion, Swagger, Finch and The Shrink Next Door. It was an impressive showing for the Netflix rival.

iPad (9th generation) 

New iPad

Next up, Apple officially unveiled its 9th generation iPad, which starts from £319 and is available from next week – keeping a similar price as the prior model. 

The entry-level tablet has a 10.2-inch retina display, and an A13 Bionic chipset, which Apple says has up to 20% faster performance than its predecessor. 

The new iPad 9 is up to “six times faster than the best selling Android tablet” and features the Centre Stage video capabilities that debuted on the iPad Pro – which detects people in the frame and dynamically follows them if they move. The front camera uses a 12 megapixel (MP) ultra-wide lens with a 122-degree field of view.

The new entry-level tablet supports the 1st generation Apple Pencil and the smart keyboard accessory. It also now has True Tone, a feature that adjusts screen content to the brightness of the surroundings. It starts with 64GB of storage – which is double that of the previous generation – but a 256GB version is also available.

Pricing and availability: The new iPad 9, which will ship with iPadOS 15 software, will be available from 24th September. Pre-orders opened on 14th September.

iPad mini (6th generation) 

Apple_iPad-mini_hero_09142021

The iPad mini is also getting a major refresh this year, a move being described by Apple as the model’s “biggest upgrade ever.” It now has a larger 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display with 500 nits of brightness, and – like the modern iPad Air – the touch ID fingerprint system is now placed on the top right of the body. 

The tablet may be small and ultra-portable – but it’s also housing a powerful A15 Bionic chip that has resulted in an 80% jump in its graphics performance since the previous iteration. The specs don’t stop there: it has 5G connectivity, support for the 2nd generation Apple Pencil, a 12MP ultra-wide front camera, and comes in multiple colours – pink, starlight, purple, and space grey.

For more on the new iPad mini including how to buy it, head to our iPad mini 6 pre-orders page.

Pricing and availability: The new iPad mini 6 is being priced from £479, and it will be available from 24th September. Pre-orders are open now via Apple. 

Apple Watch Series 7

Apple Watch 7 release date

The Apple Watch 7 was also confirmed at the launch event. Compared to the previous model, the new smartwatch has an always-on display that provides close to 20% more screen real estate and borders that are 40% thinner. 

The new design has softer but more rounded corners than prior models, and it now has an “all-day” 18-hour battery life and charges 33% faster than the Series 6 – going from 0 to 80% charge in approximately 45 minutes.

In theory, it will offer a sturdier build quality, too. According to Apple, it’s the first device in its smartwatch line-up to have an IP6X certification for resistance to dust, while it also retains a WR50 water resistance rating. It’s available in two sizes upon release, confirmed to be 41mm and 45mm. 

Pricing and availability: Available in five new colours – midnight, starlight, green, blue and Product (RED) – the Apple Watch Series 7 starts from $399 and will be available later to pre-order and buy this Autumn. Check out our full Apple Watch Series 7 release date page for more information on the new smartwatch. 

iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini 

iPhone 13 release date

The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini feature Apple’s new A15 Bionic chip and a dual-camera system with the lenses placed diagonally. According to Apple, it’s the fastest CPU in any smartphone – up to “50% faster than the leading competition.”

The camera setup now includes a feature that was first introduced by the iPhone 12 Pro Max, sensor-shift image stabilisation, alongside a new “cinematic mode” that lets you change the focus on subjects live while you are recording. 

Both the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini handsets retain the flat edge design found on the previous model and come with a Super Retina display that Apple says is 28% brighter than last year’s series – with a peak brightness of up to 1200 nits. 

The new iPhones will come with 5G as standard, with Apple saying it’s working with more carriers to enhance call quality, performance and battery life. 

Thankfully, battery life is getting a boost. Taking advantage of the A15 Bionic chip – which helps with power optimisations – the iPhone 13 lasts 2.5 hours longer than the iPhone 12, and the 13 mini lasts 1.5 hours longer than the 12 mini. 

Pricing and availability: The iPhone 13 mini starts from £679, and the iPhone 13 is priced from £779. Starting storage capacity has been upgraded to 128GB, with a new 512GB option also available. They come in five colours: pink, blue, midnight, starlight, and (PRODUCT) Red and will be available from Friday, 24th September. If you want to get your hands on the new iPhone first, iPhone 13 pre-orders are now live. 

iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max

iPhone 13 Pro

The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max have each received a slew of upgrades – including a newly designed front that makes the selfie camera notch system 20% smaller than previous “Pro” models. Apple said its flagship phones have been “completely redesigned” on the inside, now including an A15 Bionic chipset that offers “up to 50% faster graphics performance than the leading competition”. 

The new Super Retina XDR display has up to 1000 nits peak outdoor brightness, while the two phones now come with “ProMotion” variable refresh rates that range from 10Hz to 120Hz depending on the needed performance. They have IP68 water resistance and retain close integration with the MagSafe line-up of accessories. 

The iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max have a triple camera setup with the lenses in a different positioning to the iPhone 13 and 13 mini, which Apple said was its “biggest camera advancement ever.” The phones have a telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom, a wide-angle lens and – for the first time on iPhone – an ultrawide lens. 

There was a large focus on the Pro video capabilities. With a new cinematic mode and “ProRes” video, it can shoot 4K video at 30 frames per second from the app and better mimic professional cameras with focus tracking and bokeh effects – which is when the background of a recording is artistically blurred. 

Battery life has also been enhanced, with the iPhone 13 Pro lasting 1.5 hours longer than the 12 Pro and the 13 Pro Max lasting 2.5 hours longer than the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The Pro models have a 1TB storage option, which is great if you are indeed shooting large videos, alongside 128GB, 256GB and 512GB variants. 

Pricing and availability: The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max are available from September 24. The Pro is priced from £949, while the Pro Max is priced from £1,049. Colours are graphite, gold, silver, and Sierra blue. Pre-orders go live on 17th September, and the phones will become available from 24th September. 

Where to buy the Apple iPhone 13 

The new products can be pre-ordered and bought via the Apple website.

The iPhone 13 won’t only be available to buy via Apple’s website. The major UK mobile networks and retailers such as Sky, Mobile, EE, Carphone Warehouse, O2 and Three are likely to start stocking the handsets as soon as possible. 

When can you download iOS 15 software update?

iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 will be available on 20th September 2021.

Apple first previewed iOS 15 software updates in June, showing off changes to how it displays notifications, a re-designed Safari app that will make it easier to scroll the internet with one hand and new versions of multiple apps, including Maps, Weather and Notes. It will introduce a new “Focus” mode that only shows the notifications you want, and the bar that displays those notifications has also been totally revamped to show contact photos and have larger app icons.

You will be able to download the new software for free via Apple’s website.

iPadOS 15 will be available as a free software update for iPad mini 4 and later, iPad Air 2 and later, iPad 5th generation and later, and all iPad Pro models.

Apple iOS users can currently participate in a free public beta, but the release date was confirmed at the 14th September iPhone launch event.

The big Apple iOS updates typically go live shortly after the September event. In 2020, iOS 14 came out on 16th September, one day after the event. In 2019, it released iOS 13 on 19th September, nine days after its showcase. In 2018, iOS 12 came out on 17th September, which was five days after that year’s event.

What has Apple already released in 2021?

Apple has held multiple events in 2021 – the Spring Loaded showcase in April that was used to unveil iMac, iPad Pro updates, alongside a WWDC event in June that detailed fresh software: iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey and watchOS 8.

Last year, the COVID-19 health crisis pushed back the launch of the iPhone 12 series from the typical mid-September slot to October 13th, when Apple showed off its current phone series – iPhone 12, Mini, Pro and Pro Max – for the first time.

But Apple has already had a busy 2021, with two previous virtual events used to show off updates to its premium tablet, desktop computer and mobile software. On 14th June, Apple unveiled the £99 MagSafe battery pack for the iPhone 12 series.

On April 20, the “Spring Loaded” event revealed:

  • M1 iPad Pro
  • M1 iMac
  • Apple TV 4K
  • AirTags
  • iPhone 12 in purple

On June 7–11, the WWDC 2021 event revealed:

  • iOS 15
  • iPadOS 15
  • watchOS 8
  • tvOS 15
  • macOS Monterey
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Want an Apple device but not sure which to buy? Read our full guide to the best iPhone. Got an iPad? Don’t miss our breakdown of the best iPad accessories.