What Apple's new 5G iPhone 12 means for Verizon, brands and media
Apple’s new iPhone 12 is promising 5G speeds through Verizon, and according to some marketing experts, the rollout missed the mark by promoting features consumers can’t truly tap, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. But Verizon still scored a major marketing victory with its Apple-approved high-speed network that promises to upend the mobile media landscape.
On Tuesday, Apple held its annual iPhone event virtually instead of its usual live show, and the phone-maker is still clearly capable of delivering tantalizing hardware upgrades. The iPhone 12 comes in standard, Mini, Pro and Pro Max versions. The Pro models feature sleek metallic colors, including gold and a new pacific blue variety. (The phones cost between $699 and $1,099.)
The real upgrade was on the inside, with chips capable of running on 5G networks, specifically on Verizon.
“Today is the beginning of a new era for iPhone,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook in the virtual presentation. “Today we’re bringing 5G to iPhone.”
Guru Gowrappan, CEO of Verizon Media, said in an interview after the event that the 5G iPhone represents the “next era in mobile.”
“You’ve got to stay ahead of where the consumer is, and for us when you start thinking about 5G and everything we’ve done, and how we announced nationwide [coverage] today,” Gowrappan says. “Apple has clearly endorsed our technology and our Ultra Wideband strategy.”
Still, there were question about the efficiency of 5G wireless speeds while the networks are still being built, and U.S. wireless providers can’t even agree on what counts as super-fast mobile internet. Earlier this year, Verizon tweaked how it talks about the speed of its network while marketing 5G, after the Better Business Bureau claimed the company was confusing consumers. Even if 5G is deployed as widely as hoped, it’s unclear consumers will be around to enjoy it while the coronavirus is affecting people’s plans to go outdoors.
In the presentation on Tuesday, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg highlighted the ability to access Verizon 5G at National Football League Stadiums, for instance, giving fans access to multiple on-field camera angles. Of course many stadiums are closed or operating on reduced capacity because of COVID restrictions. Verizon did announce that 5G Ultra Wideband service would be available in 55 U.S. cities, and that 5G Nationwide covers 200 million people.
Imagine the AR/VR possibilities
In many ways, Apple’s iPhone show was more of a look at what’s possible than what is, says Noah Mallin, chief brand strategist at IMGN Media. “5G is kind of mess,” Mallin says. “I think most consumers glaze over at the phrase because we keep hearing about it but no one actually experiences it. The really good 5G is super-limited right now. It will be years before there is much tangible benefit.”
Gowrappan says that 5G will have a major effect on mobile media, especially with regards to Verizon Media, which has been developing new virtual reality and augmented reality programs. “The media and entertainment business will be the first ones, and in a big way, to get disrupted by 5G,” Gowrappan says. “Within Verizon we are working on those application layers and creating those experiences.”
The speeds will mean fewer issues with lag time and latency when running media like ads and augmented reality. “That goes away in a 5G world,” Gowrappan says.
The Apple association gives Verizon instant credibility and 5G bragging rights over rivals T-Mobile at AT&T. This was the biggest Apple-Verizon team-up since 2010, when Verizon first started carrying the iPhone. AT&T was the first carrier to get the iPhone in 2007. The iPhone 12 is still available through AT&T, but without the same claims to 5G speeds.
More muscle for marketers
There is more to the iPhone 12 than just speed, though. The iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max come with 4K Dolby Vision technology for high-definition recording, which is a new level of creative power, especially for social media marketers and brands.
The new video capabilities and high-speed uploads could be welcome features for the ad world, says Allie Wassum, VP and group director of social strategy at Digitas. 5G is not that important with everyone at home, Wassum says, “but to be honest, when you think about brands trying to create right now, with virtual shoots and the livestreaming boom, 5G on Apple will have more impact than is being expected.”
“The iPhone Pro could be a game changer for social production,” Wassum says.
Charles Etoroma, senior social specialist for retailer Express Inc., says the design upgrades from Apple are impressive. “For content creators, the camera and focus on AR and VR will continue to be important,” Etoroma says. “Those industries now have such an opportunity to positively play and influence our lives with COVID.”
Also, the new iPhones come with MagSafe magnetic strips in the case that will open new lines of accessories. “The design and addition of magnetic surfaces is a huge plus,” Etoroma says.
Apple showed off its new Home Pod Mini devices ($99), as well, which compete with Amazon Echo devices, the Alexa voice-activated speakers. Apple Home Pod will soon include integrations with Amazon for services such as music. Pandora will also come to Home Pod, Apple announced.
Apple is being watched closely for how it accommodates rival services through its hardware because there have been concerns over its market dominance, and whether its ubiquitous devices box out competitors.
For instance, Spotify is still not accessible through Home Pod. Apple also is in disputes with game developers like Epic Games, which makes “Fortnite,” over fees it charges in the Apple App Store. Apple could harm adoption of its own products, though, by excluding big-name services like Spotify, Mallin says.
“Being in hardware and services is beginning to come with compromises that consumers won’t want to make,” Mallin says.