The September 2018 Apple Event brought upgrades to the iPhone X line in addition to introducing a new mainstream model. Given that this was an iPhone focused event, it was surprising to see the standout star was not a new iPhone, but the next model of the Apple Watch. Here are my impressions of the keynote below!
Apple Watch Series 4
Let me start by declaring my love for the previous generation Apple Watch albeit with a few pet peeves. Between keeping me on track with fitness goals, allowing me to discretely reply to a message or reminding me to breathe there was not much more Apple could add to this device to impress me. But Apple delivered (again) with the Apple Watch Series 4, including a screen that is 30% bigger compared to previous models and slimming down the profile of the watch itself.
Using my Apple Watch for phone calls was fun the first couple of times, but the novelty soon wore off when I could barely hear the person I was talking to and at times they would complain of an echo on my end. It appears that Apple has resolved both of these issues by moving the microphone to other side of the watch and making the speaker louder, both of these together should increase the quality of phone calls made on the watch.
A key enhancement to the hardware of this watch is the advancements that were made with the heart rate sensor. The sensor has been upgraded and reworked to now essentially act as an EKG sensor and alert you of irregular heart beats. The ability to now detect Atrial fibrillation with a device on your wrist and not having to go to the hospital is a huge leap in identifying issues with your body. I love where Apple is going with the Watch, it’s not just a fitness device but a device that could identify issues with your heart early. An ECG can be performed within 30 seconds with the new hardware that has been added to the watch.
Finally the mundane, but expected spec bumps including the new on board S4 processor and an enhanced accelerometer to better detect workouts and activities.
Phone Xs & Xs Max
Gone are the days of headphone jacks, home buttons and small screens. With the release of these 2 new phones, Apple is doubling down on big screens. The iPhone XS and XS Max come in at screen sizes of 5.8” and 6.5” respectively, sporting resolutions of 2436×1125 and 2688×1242. Both of these new OLED screens pixel dense at 458 ppi. I can only imagine how beautiful 4K content looks like on the iPhone XS Max. The engineers at Apple were able to fit these screens into phones that are essentially smaller than the previous iPhone 8 Plus, fitting a larger display into a smaller package. As a previous iPhone 6 Plus owner this is great news, the previous iPhone “Plus” models felt unruly to hold and needed some type of case/skin so they wouldn’t slide completely out of your hand due to the size.
As usual new hardware has also been included in the 2 phones. Apple discussed the A12 chip which includes ‘enhanced machine learning’. What does that mean? In a practical sense this will allow the phone to launch applications faster with the added ability to organize your photo library by faces, scenes and event and allow some innovation in augmented reality applications. In addition to the new hardware Apple focused a lot on photography with these phones. Both include upgraded dual rear lens cameras with an upgraded front facing camera. The focus on photography using advanced depth of field techniques to create those beautiful bokeh effects was a highlight of the show. The “portrait” effect was shown and now has the ability to adjust depth of field dynamically after a picture has been taken. Truly amazing.
Similar to last years iPhone event, Apple released a flag ship device and a ‘mainstream’ device. Mainstream is a very subjective term as the XR starts at over $1,000 (CAD) without a contract! The phone is similar in many ways to the iPhone XS (identical internal hardware) except for the screen. The iPhone XR has a larger 6.1” LCD liquid retina screen (compared to an OLED screen on the XS) and has a single rear camera instead of a dual camera.
The XR also comes in 6 bright pastel colours similar to the old iPhone 5C. This phone will definitely be the volume seller given its internals and colour options, but with its release Apple has officially killed off the home button for all new phones. The switch to Face ID and new gestures for switching between applications may be a challenge for some, but as always the Apple UI is fairly intuitive. It will be interesting to see the sales numbers of the iPhone XR vs the iPhone XS play out over the coming year as both these devices are so similar.
The iPhone XS Max is an amazing device which is aesthetically pleasing paired with advanced hardware that should be relevant for the next 2 years, or more. On that note, you would hope that these devices some of which are pushing $2,000 CAD will be relevant for the next several years. After the most recent ‘battery-gate’ scandal (software throttling due to battery deficiencies) Apple should be more customer focused and ensure its consumers are getting the most bang for their buck year over year.
All of the phones still come with a 5W charger, which is the same charger that has been included with all iPhones for years! Several flagship android phones include wireless Qi chargers and fast charging base stations, Apple needs to include these types of accessories. Also Apple has discretely excluded the lightning to headphone jack adapter, this is a cheap small device which has been a life saver for me several times over. The fact that this is not included anymore is just outright shameful. Finally the iPhone XR has been criticized as an expensive less capable device compared to android counter parts. I would agree the price for this phone does not reflect it’s capabilities, the $1,000 starting price point is high in my opinion and should be lower to better compete with android devices.
It’s clear, Apple owns the smart watch, fitness band environment. Now with their most recent advancements in the Series 4 watch I wouldn’t be surprised to see many seniors adorning these tech enthusiast devices. The iPhone XS and XS Max have pushed the needle forward of what we can expect in high resolution displays in small form factors. What a great event! Now if only we can get the prices down 🙂