Apple unveils a cheaper iPhone and pricing for streaming TV

CUPERTINO, Calif. — Apple unveiled new iPhones that are largely unchanged from previous models and accompanied by an unexpected price cut for the cheapest model, underscoring the company’s efforts to counteract a sales slump of its flagship product.

The company’s new models are so similar to last year’s lineup they may be upstaged by Apple TV Plus, the company’s upcoming video service, which is rolling out on Nov. 1

Apple, in fact, is already using the video service to promote iPhones, offering a free year of Apple TV Plus with new device purchases.

IPhone shipments are down 25 per cent so far this year, according to the research firm IDC, putting more pressure on Apple to generate revenue from services such as music and video streaming, games and its App Store.

Revenue from services rose 14 per cent to nearly US$23 billion during the first half of this year.

It is cutting the U.S. price of the iPhone 11 to $700 from $750, the price of last year’s XR. The lower prices reverses a trend in which premium phones get more expensive as people upgrade them less often.

In Canada, the iPhone 11 will be priced at C$$979 while models of the iPhone 11 Pro and the iPhone 11 Pro Max will be priced beginning at C$1,379 and C$1,519, with discounts on new phones available with trade-in in some cases.

Apple CEO Tim Cook didn’t have much new to say about the TV Plus service beyond service date and pricing (C$5.99 per month in Canada), although he did show a trailer for a new Jason Momoa-led series called “See.”

Like Netflix and similar services from Amazon and Hulu, Apple has been lavishing billions of dollars for original programs featuring stars such as Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. The service will launch with nine original shows and films, with more expected each month. It will only carry Apple’s original programming, and will be available in 100 countries at launch.

Apple also announced a new videogame subscription service will cost $5 a month (C$5.99 in Canada) when it rolls out on Sept. 19. Called Apple Arcade, the service will allow subscribers to play more than 100 games selected by Apple and exclusive to the service.

The company’s new phone models resemble last year’s iPhone XR, XS and XS Max. And they have the same design — with more display space, less bezel and no home button — that Apple switched to with the iPhone X in 2017.

New iPhone cameras are intended to appeal to the growing number of people who use phones to take pictures of themselves, friends, family and the places they go. The phone’s “portrait mode” now also works with pets, not just humans.

With little change, many customers who bought models in the past two years may hold off upgrading this year, analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights said.

The biggest difference is the phone’s camera, an area that Apple and its rivals have all been trying to improve as consumers snap more pictures on their devices. Even there, improvements from year to year have been small.

This year, Apple added an extra camera lens to each model. The two pricier models already have a telephoto lens for better zoom. Now, they will sport a wide-angle lens to capture more of a scene than regular shots.

Even with those additions, the new iPhones may still be catching up with the improvements that rivals such as Samsung, Huawei, Lenovo and Google have been making to their latest phones.

Unlike some of the other devices coming out this year, the new iPhones won’t support upcoming ultrafast cellular networks known as 5G. Apple paid billions of dollars to settle a royalty dispute with chipmaker Qualcomm in April to gain the technology it needs for 5G iPhones, but those models won’t be ready until next year.

Besides iPhones, Apple also showed off new versions of its internet-connected watch and iPads.

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