Ear related! 2nd best and more are also interesting
With so many new features on the iPhone 13 Pro models, and with so many of them made possible by iOS 15, the A15 bionic chip, the 16-core Neural Engine, which performs up to 15.8 trillion operations per second, and power features like Cinematic Mode and Smart HDR 4, machine learning and other hard to explain facets of the overall experiential upgrade, sound playback (and recording) are often barely mentioned, it seems.
Ever since there was the biggest Apple success story near the turn of the century there has been a special relationship between the fruit company and music / sound. I’m talking, of course, about the iPod.
Long before the iPhone was even a rumor, the iPod was a huge success, taking over the mp3 player market and, with the iTunes store for music downloads, launching the software and services division, for all practical purposes.
It’s hard to imagine now, but there was doubt that Apple could make it in the competitive cell phone market, with behemoths like Nokia and Blackberry so well established. It was the iPod’s success that made it seem plausible.
There was one thing that the iPod never had, however; speakers. And even the recent iPhones, with speakers for voice and music, if you didn’t use your AirPods for that, had speaker and sound quality that was not on the quality level of the larger iPads.
With a much larger area to hide speakers, the iPad was always an obvious choice for watching movies and listening “out loud” via the built in speaker system. With an iPad pro that could be pretty spectacular with a relatively full frequency spectrum and, more recently via software upgrades, spatial audio.
With iPhone 13 Pro models the audio barrier has finally been shattered
In a tiny, nearly forgotten passage at the very end of a list of new specs and enhancements in the iPhone 13 line, Apple adds one more thing; a stereo speaker at the top where the notch is located and a second stereo speaker at the bottom next to the Lightning port.
What it doesn’t mention is the improvement in the sound quality. Like so many features in the newer generation of devices and software, this unassuming, seemingly simple statement is just the tip of the iceberg and does not divulge what’s really going on.
Once more a combination of all the recent software and hardware upgrades combine to produce an experience that goes beyond what you could expect with these tiny, nearly invisible, speakers.
First, the two stereo speaker sets are, sound wise, equal in quality. So when you are watching a movie in landscape mode there is a distinct stereo effect. This is enhanced by spatial audio and dolby atmos depending on your set up.
The actual experience is noticeably “iPad like” and in some ways even goes beyond. Having the phone relatively near you, due to its size, and listening to a high quality movie score, there’s a feeling that your phone has morphed into a personal theater – as long as you can let the sound out into your local environment.
Try “SharePlay”, once it’s live in iOS 15.1, or just manually sync with your partner, assuming you each have a new iPhone 13 (!) and you will get a glorious room filling surround experience from the 4x stereo output (8 speakers?!) into the room.
And the mysterious mics also hidden in multiple places, are also a big upgrade – the seem to switch roles for video, calls etc and maximize the audio quality in live recording situations.
Apple’s software and service bundles and ambitions are driving hardware and iOS upgrades
As jubilant as this may sound, there is also an ulterior motive lurking. Some of the audio features work best (or at all) with an Apple Music subscription. And having more subscriptions, Apple TV, Apple News, Apple Music, iCloud Extra Storage, along connected devices, with so many available, it becomes an ecosystem of plenty for Apple, already the largest company by market cap.
On the optimistic side there’s always Apple One Premiere, the top of the line for bundled services (see below) and looking more and more like a steal at $29.95 per month.
Perhaps, one day not to far away, there will be a Apple One Premiere plan that also includes all Apple devices and you just trade them in every two years (every year?) or maybe you never own them at all?
The way the upgrades in hardware, software and the rest are becoming more interdependent and how crazy it already is to upgrade various devices (assuming you have more than one or two) yearly or bi-annually it’s an interesting idea to try and imagine.
And with an Apple Car perhaps on the way (self driving and outfitted with all the rest of the tech and service bundles) this could be a whole-house, whole-office (will there still be offices?) all transport bundle too. Apple haters will be in trouble, and have to move to Google Island, but otherwise, hey, why not?
Apple One Premiere example package:
Speakers after tear down by iFixit:
Audio formats supported: AAC‑LC, HE‑AAC, HE‑AAC v2, Protected AAC, MP3, Linear PCM, Apple Lossless, FLAC, Dolby Digital (AC‑3), Dolby Digital Plus (E‑AC‑3), Dolby Atmos, and Audible (formats 2, 3, 4, Audible Enhanced Audio, AAX, and AAX+)
Spatial audio playback
User‑configurable maximum volume limit
Video formats supported: HEVC, H.264, MPEG‑4 Part 2, and Motion JPEG
HDR with Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG
Up to 4K HDR AirPlay for mirroring, photos, and video out to Apple TV (2nd generation or later) or AirPlay 2–enabled smart TV
Video mirroring and video out support: Up to 1080p through Lightning Digital AV Adapter and Lightning to VGA Adapter (adapters sold separately)9
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