Apple has gone big. Really big. And not just with its three new iPhones.
Apple also went bigger into health care with Apple Watch. The new watch is much more than a sophisticated exercise-tracking timepiece, with a series of notable features for the new ($399 on up) Apple Watch Series 4. Indeed, in some ways the new watch overshadows even the new iPhones.
That’s because these smart timepieces can now detect a low heart rate, atrial fibrillation and even function as an FDA-cleared electrocardiogram. And if you happen to take a spill – a deadly serious issue for many elderly people – the latest Watch can detect that, too. If you’re immobile or nonresponsive after a fall, the Watch can summon emergency assistance. You may be looking at the new future for life-alert systems.
As expected, the company revealed three new iPhones: the iPhone XS, the XR and the XS Max. And yes, the Max has a ginormous 6.5-inch display.
Those of you holding onto the faint hope that Apple might retain the Home button and Touch ID fingerprint system that disappeared on last year’s iPhone X will be disappointed. All of the new phones instead go with Face ID facial recognition, the system introduced with last year’s iPhone X.
In case you were also wondering, each of the new phones, despite otherwise edge-to-edge displays, has a “notch” at the top of their screens that masksthe front camera and sensors. Though I’ve gotten used to the notch on the X, I don’t love it on any of these phones, though at this point it’s more of a quibble than a major complaint.
Ready for a bigger iPhone?
Big phones lead to the big consumer questions I’ll begin to answer when I get my hands on review units. The biggest, at least for the Max, is: Are you ready to shell out $1,099 minimum for the biggest iPhone with 64 gigabyte of storage, or a whopping $350 more if you max out on the new 512 GB option?
A year ago, I might have been more skeptical. But after consumers willingly parted with a grand or more for the X – it only became the best-selling iPhone following its release – you’ve got to believe the answer, at least among the Apple faithful, is, “you bet.”
Meanwhile, the XS starts at $999, and the XR – I hesitate to call it a “cheap” phone –starts at $749, so we’re talking expensive but in line with state-of-the-art flagship handsets. Actually, Apple’s new budget offering becomes the iPhone 7 that stays in the lineup at $449.
Of course, it is not only diehards and fanatics who snapped up more than a billion iPhones through the years — the engine that led to Apple becoming a company worth north of a trillion dollars. And these are the people Apple must reach to continue its phenomenal success with iPhones.
What all of us want the most is longer battery life. Apple says you’ll get a half-hour more on the XS compared to the X and 90 minutes more for the XS Max. You’ll also get 90 minutes longer, Apple claims, on the XR compared to the 8 Plus. So better, but not life-altering.
Now let’s address those bigger screens. The iPhone XS, XR and XS Max with screens of 5.8 inches, 6.1 inches and 6.5 inches, respectively, arrive at an interesting, almost paradoxical, time for Apple and the entire smartphone industry. Huge screens all but demand your attention – and I’m not just talking Apple here, but devices such as a 6.4-inch Galaxy Note9 Samsung recently introduced.
And yet one of the key features in the iOS 12 software at the core of the latest handsets (and older iPhones, too), is Screen Time, which is all about helping you and your family tame digital addiction. In other words, try putting these big-screen phones down.
In my brief hands-on time, the XS Max, indeed, feels large. But no more so than the Galaxy Note9.
And a bigger screen doesn’t always mean a larger physical device. In fact, despite having a 6.1-inch display compared to the 5.5-inch display on the 8 Plus, the XR is actually smaller.
Worth noting: The new iPhones now support dual-SIM technology, which as the name suggests, will let take advantage of two SIMs for two phone plans, perhaps one for work, another for a personal account . In the U.S., that second SIM won’t be a physical SIM but rather what’s known as an eSIM, which requires carrier support. In China, which doesn’t support eSIM technology, two physical SIM cards would be required. Apple seemed to suggest at its event that carrier support is still to be confirmed.
The latest phones have Apple’s new, robust A12 Bionic processors – the brains of the operation – and lean heavily on artificial intelligence and neural networks. The promised consumer payoff: better photography (though, the current models already take really good pictures), augmented reality and overall speed and snappiness.
I’ll have more to say on all the new iPhones and the Series 4 Watch once I’ve had a
chance to put them through the ringer.