Three new iPhones are here but stealing the spotlight is the new Apple Watch

On Wednesday night, three new iPhones made their debut at the Steve Jobs Theatre in Cupertino. ‘Outstanding’ will be the word that describes the technology inside them but ‘confused’ would be an apt choice of word for the consumer. Here’s how the night unfolded in case you missed the showcasing.

By Mathures Paul
  • Published 14.09.18
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The new iPhones on display at Steve Jobs Theatre in Cupertino, California, on Wednesday night

On Wednesday night, three new iPhones made their debut at the Steve Jobs Theatre in Cupertino. ‘Outstanding’ will be the word that describes the technology inside them but ‘confused’ would be an apt choice of word for the consumer. Here’s how the night unfolded in case you missed the showcasing.

The most expensive iPhones

Apple has always played the game of making iPhones bigger, faster and costlier. And it works. The new iPhones — XR, XS, XS Max – start at $750, $1,000 and $1,100. Compare this to last year’s prices — $700, $800 and $1,000. The increase comes even though unit sales of the iPhone were almost flat in the latest quarter compared with a year earlier. Yet, iPhone revenue rose 20 per cent and that’s quite a gain.

But what we like is the XR, the cheaper iPhone... and also the more colourful iPhone. It has the same form factor as its elder brothers, including the Notch, but it skips a few details to keep the price down. Unlike the OLED displays on the XS and XS Max, this one has an LCD display, a single camera (rather than dual lenses) and the case is made of “7000 series aerospace grade aluminum” instead of stainless steel. Even though lacking in polish, the XR comes in white, black, blue, coral, yellow and red.

The XR may very well turn out to be the one to give iPhones a big push because it will keep attracting those who use an iPhone but are willing to switch over to other brands while, at the same time, it tempts some Android users to switch over to the Apple ecosystem.

It’s evolutionary but not radical

Disagree if you are an Apple loyalist but except for a new chip (A12 Bionic) under the hood there is little to hold interest. In way of technology, the chip is amazing. Produced using a 7-nanometer process, the smallest features on the chip are just 7 nanometers across; the size of a glucose molecule is around one nanometer. The chip can process 5 trillion operations per second which will make your iPhone feel faster. Here’s the dilemma: Last year, when the iPhone X launched, we were told it was super fast and now Apple’s Phil Schiller (senior vice-president of worldwide marketing) tells consumers that this is the “the smartest, most powerful chip ever in a smartphone”. Are you willing to upgrade every year?

In way of the snapper, there are two rear cameras on the XS and XS Max, both 12MP. One is a wide-angle camera while the other is a telephoto lens and both now have optical image stabilisation. The main wide-angle camera has an f/1.8 aperture and the telephoto is f/2.4. The new cameras will, of course, take better pictures and are smarter, with zero shutter lag. And the front-facing camera is twice as fast.

The screens on the two expensive models have an OLED display, which offers richer colours and infinite blacks. The display on the Max is 6.5 inches compared to Samsung Galaxy Note9’s 6.4-inch. In Asia, people like big screens and this works. Also, by going bigger, Apple will make customers use their devices more. Customers with larger smartphones watch more movies and play more games on the mobile. This is a good move because people will be watching more of Netflix and Amazon Prime Videos on the phone.

Apple chief design officer Jony Ive (left) and Apple CEO Tim Cook

eSIM support

The new iPhones support dual-SIM technology. But the second SIM won’t be a physical SIM but rather what’s known as an eSIM, which requires carrier support. This is important. At the moment, you have to manually insert a SIM to buy which you have visit a shop or have it delivered. The eSIM is virtual and that means by simply changing your phone’s settings you can theoretically switch carriers. Northstream telecoms consultant Bengt Nordstrom has told Los Angeles Times: “From a user perspective, if you ask what service they’re using, they’ll say they’re an iPhone or Samsung user, not the operator.

The fingerprint scanner is dead

The iPhone X had ditched finger scanning and opted for FaceID but the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus kept the old design and features. This year’s phones don’t have space for a fingerprint scanner so it’s FaceID all the way. One can always trust Apple to set trends.

Apple Watch is not only the No. 1 smartwatch in the world, it’s the No. 1 watch, period
— Tim Cook

The big surprise

The Apple Watch Series 4 is here and it’s a game-changer. As expected, the new watch is thinner and the display area is larger. “Apple Watch is not only the No. 1 smartwatch in the world, it’s the No. 1 watch, period,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the event.

Improvements in the Watch’s accelerometer and gyroscope means now the device can predict if the person wearing it is falling. In an accident, the Watch can prompt a call to emergency services. “Fall detection is a feature that we hope you never need but it’s really nice to know it’s there,” Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer said.

But the feature that won us over is the electrocardiogram (ECG), which allows wearers to have a heart sensor on their wrists. Apple said that the new watch would be the first over-the-counter ECG device offered to consumers and that it had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. We are not sure if it’s the first one but it certainly is an important feature.

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, has told CNBC: “The biggest feature add to Watch besides the larger viewable image area was its heart health features, in particular, its ability to perform an ECG and also can detect AFib. Add that to fall detection and notification and I can see kids buying one for their parents and grandparents.”

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