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Apple Special Event: iPhone XS, iPhone XR, Apple Watch S4

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Everything you need to know from this year’s big Apple event

Apple’s yearly September extravaganza has just wrapped up, and though a series of leaks robbed the presentation of any big surprises, that unquantifiable X-factor shone through – thanks in part to three new X-flavored iPhones. Oh, and there’s a new Apple Watch to gawk at, too.

We’ll dive into the details in more depth in due course, but for the moment let’s recap the key announcements from the near-two-hour keynote speech. Without further ado, here’s everything you need to know about the four new products announced at Apple’s 2018 Special Event.

iPhone XS

As expected for a ‘tock’ year, Apple is iterating on last year’s iPhone X rather than reinventing anything. You know what they say: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and if it’s the bestselling smartphone in the world with a 98% satisfaction rate, don’t change a thing.

If you’re short on time, here’s the headline: it’s the iPhone X, but more so. Harder, better, faster, stronger; but lacking any must-have new features. If you already have an iPhone X, there’s little to tempt you into an early upgrade – but make no mistake, this is Apple’s best iPhone ever.

As demonstrated by Apple’s Phil Schiller, here are a few reasons why the Apple XS – pronounced “ten-ess” officially, but surely doomed to be known as the iPhone Excess – is so darn good.

  • Made of surgical-grade steel and the most durable glass ever seen in a smartphone
  • Waterproofed to IP68 standards, meaning it can survive a 2m submersion for 30 minutes
  • Features a 5.8-inch Super Retina OLED display, much like the iPhone X before it
  • The new A12 Bionic chip is a hugely powerful processor with a 6-core CPU and 4-core GPU
  • Improved neural engine means much faster machine learning processes for Animoji, Portrait mode etc.
  • Same basic dual camera setup (12MP wide-angle and 12MP telephoto) but with improved image signal processing
  • New camera features include Smart HDR and post-shot depth-of-field adjustments
  • Available in 64GB and 256GB configurations, plus a whopping 512GB storage option for the first time ever
  • Improved battery life, said to last 30 mins longer each day than the iPhone X
  • Dual SIM capabilities for multiple phone plans thanks to a virtual eSIM as used in iPad and Apple Watch
  • Comes in a flashy new gold color in addition to silver and space gray

iPhone XS will be available for pre-order this coming Friday, September 14, and available from September 21. It will start from $999, much like the iPhone X before it – which, incidentally, has been discontinued to make way for these new models.

iPhone XS Max

People like big phones, and Apple just unveiled its biggest phone ever. The iPhone XS Max is around the same overall size as the iPhone 6/7/8 Plus, but with a much bigger display – 6.5 inches on the diagonal, as opposed to the 5.5 inches of Apple’s previous Plus models. As such, explains Schiller, it’s outgrown the “Plus” moniker entirely.

Here are a few essential facts about the iPhone XS Max:

  • It’s the same as the iPhone XS in more or less every way besides size
  • Unlike previous Plus models, there are no exclusive features here
  • Like, seriously, it’s the same device scaled up, ok?
  • Oh, wait, one thing – the larger battery grants it an extra hour of usage compared to iPhone XS

You guessed it, iPhone XS Max will also be available for pre-order this coming Friday, September 14, and available from September 21. It will start from $1,099.

iPhone XR

A third iPhone has entered the arena! This is where things get a little more confusing; iPhone XR is Apple’s mid-range model, rocking the same design as the iPhone XS and XS Max but lacking a few things to help keep the price down.

At no point in the presentation did anyone at Apple explain what the ‘R’ in ‘XR’ stands for, but we’re about done getting our heads around Apple’s marketing strategies at this point anyway. Whatever the answer, iPhone XR looks to be a surprisingly capable device; here’s everything you need to know about it.

  • Rocks a 6.1-inch display – that’s more screen than the iPhone 8 Plus in a smaller shell
  • The display uses LCD technology rather than the superior OLED of the other ‘X’ models
  • Its casing is made from aluminum instead of steel to keep costs down
  • There’s no 3D Touch, but a similar feature called Haptic Touch replaces its functionality
  • Includes the same impressive TrueDepth camera system as its siblings, meaning Face ID compatibility
  • Also features the exact same A12 Bionic chip as the XS and XS Plus for super fast processing
  • Just a single-camera system on the back; the same 12MP wide-angle lens found in the XS
  • However, it includes optical image stabilization, True Tone flash, and single-lens Portrait mode
  • 90 minutes longer battery life than last year’s iPhone 8 Plus
  • Comes in a range of colors: white, black, blue, coral, yellow, and (PRODUCT) RED

This lower-powered iPhone will arrive slightly later in the year on October 26. It’ll start at $749, a full $250 less than the iPhone XS.

Meanwhile, the iPhone 8 range now starts from $599 and the iPhone 7 range is now the most affordable option, starting from $449.

Apple Watch S4

iPhone wasn’t the only product category to get an update today. The fourth-generation Apple Watch is now upon us with a suite of improvements – most notably a much bigger display.

We’ll have more detail for you soon, but for now, dig into these salient facts.

  • The display is more than 30% larger without increasing the device size, thanks to smaller bezels
  • Every part of the interface has been redesigned to take advantage of the extra space
  • That includes new watch faces with up to eight customizable complications
  • Black ceramic and sapphire crystal make up the backside of the device
  • The Digital Crown now includes haptic feedback for an authentic mechanic feel
  • 50% louder speaker, with a relocated microphone for reduced echo
  • A new dual-core 64-bit processor to speed everything up
  • Next-generation accelerometer and gyroscope for 8x faster sampling
  • Fall detection notices if you have an accident, calling emergency services after a minute of inactivity
  • New optical heart sensor features for heart rate checks and atrial fibrillation warnings
  • A secondary heart sensor allows for ECG tests to be taken at home in 30 seconds
  • The same 18-hour battery life as before, despite all these new features and sensors

Apple Watch S4 will be available for pre-order this coming Friday, September 14, and start shipping from September 21. The base GPS model will start from $399, while the cellular model will set you back at least $499. Watch OS 5 is released on September 17.