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Apple unveils new iPhone13 series but no launch date for Watch 7

Smartwatch faces production delays as phones set to ship this month

Apple CEO Tim Cook unveils the new iPhone 13 and Apple Watch Series 7 during a special event at Apple Park in Cupertino, California, on Sept. 14. (Source photos by Reuters)

PALO ALTO, U.S. -- Apple declined to set a specific shipping date for its latest smartwatch at a glossy launch event Tuesday that hinted at production difficulties.

The Apple Watch Series 7 will be available "later this fall," the company said, in contrast to the specific launch dates for a raft of other new products ranging from a 5G-connected iPad Mini to the hotly anticipated iPhone 13, powered by Apple's A15 Bionic chip.

The complex design of the latest Apple Watch has caused behind-the-scenes issues, Nikkei Asia previously reported. Manufacturers began small-scale production in late August and encountered challenges meeting quality standards, leading to delays in the ramp-up in production.

The Series 7, which features a bigger screen with thinner borders, comes in five colors at a starting price of $399, the company said, calling it the most durable smartwatch it has developed.

Apple also unveiled four versions of the iPhone 13, all supporting 5G, with screens of 5.4, 6.1 and 6.7 inches. They will be ready for preorders from customers in China, India, Japan, the U.S., Australia, Canada, Germany, the U.K. and more than 30 other markets on Friday to begin shipping a week later. A dozen or so other markets will need to wait until early October for the smartphones to become available.

"With roughly 20% of upgrades anticipated out of China, we are continuing to see robust demand in this key region which bodes well heading into the iPhone 13 upgrade cycle," wrote Dan Ives, managing director at Los Angeles-based Wedbush Securities, in a note to clients.

With a six-core central processing unit as their brain, the new phones boast faster 5G, longer battery life, better camera function and brighter displays. "Frankly, the competition is still playing catch-up to our chips, not just from last year, but even from two years ago," said Kaiann Drance, Apple's vice president of iPhone product marketing. "And today, we're extending our lead with A15 Bionic."

The iPhone 13 Mini starts at $699, while the 6.1-inch regular iPhone 13 starts at $799. The iPhone 13 Pro and the iPhone 13 Pro Max start at $999 and $1,099, respectively. The base price matches the company's first 5G smartphone, the iPhone 12, which also started at $699 when released last October.

"People will be pleased Apple has resisted the temptation to bump up prices, which it could have easily attributed to rising component costs," wrote Ben Wood, chief analyst at U.K.-based CCS Insight, in an email. "It's even increased the entry-level memory configuration on several products, including the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Mini and iPad." All four new iPhones start at 128 gigabytes, twice as much as the regular iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Mini.

The iPhone 13 Pro and the iPhone 13 Pro Max offer a new 1-terabyte option -- the highest storage capacity of any iPhones to date.

The launch event, streamed from Apple's California headquarters, comes at a time of severe strain in electronics supply chains amid COVID-19 disruptions and a global chip shortage. The company had foreseen supply constraints primarily in Macs and iPads but was able to partly mitigate them, it said on its latest earnings call July 27, and it expects the trouble to spread to iPhones in the current quarter. Supply constraints hit revenue by about $3 billion in the April-June quarter, Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri said on the call.

The new iPad Mini, sped up with the A15 Bionic chip and boasting 5G connectivity, is ready to order and hits stores Sept. 24, with a starting price of $499, Apple said.

The latest version of Apple's iPhone operating system, iOS 15, comes out next Monday and boasts a VPN-like privacy feature to help hide users' IP addresses. But the company has already said that this will not be available in China and certain other markets for regulatory reasons.

Apple shares closed nearly 1% lower at $148.12.

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