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18th of November 2018

Gadgets



Apple announces iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR, coming September 21

Three new iPhones.Three new iPhones.Valentina Palladino

CUPERTINO, Calif.—Apple executives took the stage at the Steve Jobs Theater today to announce the company's new iPhone lineup: the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. The company's newest phones look a lot like last year's iPhone X.

The iPhone XS and XS Max will arrive first, with pre-orders starting September 14 and shipments starting September 21. The XS will start at $999 for its 64GB model, and the XS Max will start at $1,099 for the same capacity. The iPhone XR will arrive later, on October 26, and will start at $749 for the 64GB model. All three phones will also come in 256GB and 512GB storage options.

Apple has said that the iPhone X was the top-selling smartphone after its launch, and the new phones adopt its same basic design. That means edge-to-edge displays and TrueDepth, a 3D sensor array that allows for gesture-based controls, advanced facial recognition, and new augmented reality applications.

iPhone XS

Apple's flagship phone, which Tim Cook calls "the most advanced iPhone we've ever created," is the iPhone XS ("ten-ess"), a direct followup to the iPhone X. It has a similar design to that of its predecessor, with rounded edges, a 5.8-inch display, a notch at the top (which Apple simply calls the sensor housing) for the front-facing camera and the TrueDepth array, and a glass back to enable wireless charging.

Apple wants us to feel convinced that its phones' notches are there for a good reason, as evidenced by this iPhone XS dissection.Apple wants us to feel convinced that its phones' notches are there for a good reason, as evidenced by this iPhone XS dissection.Valentina Palladino

The display reaches nearly—but not quite—to the edges of the device on all sides. It's an OLED screen—an emissive display technology that allows for perfect black levels and, thus, infinite contrast ratio, as well as more accurate and vibrant colors than most LCD displays.

The body, made of "surgical grade stainless steel," will ship in gold, silver, and space gray colors.

Rear-facing sensors. Valentina Palladino Forward-facing sensor (the selfie cam).

Two back-facing cameras will ship in the iPhone XS, both rated 12 megapixels: a wide-angle camera (f/1.8) and a telephoto camera (f/2.4). Additionally, an improved 7-megapixel sensor will serve as the XS' front-facing camera. In expected fashion, Apple advertised new camera features, driven by machine learning and image analysis, to improve the phones' photo quality, including a software feature dubbed "Smart HDR."

A new bokeh-friendly feature has been introduced in the new iPhones' gallery as well. iPhone XS will store additional image captures and use photo analysis to let users adjust a photo's depth-of-field effect, at a range from f/1.4 to f/16, even after it has been taken. If this works anywhere near as smoothly as it looked on the Steve Jobs Theater stage, users will be in for a treat.

iPhone XS Max Enlarge

The iPhone XS has a bigger sibling: the iPhone XS Max. Its internals are mostly the same as those in the iPhone XS, but its OLED display measures at 6.5 inches, making it the largest iPhone display ever. Apple emphasized that the XS Max's size may look familiar because its body is nearly identical to the iPhone 8 Plus, only with pretty much zero bezels surrounding the screen.

iPhone XS Max's speaker placement across the wider body guarantees "wider stereo sound," Apple says, but we'll have to wait to see exactly where and how these speakers are placed. This model will have the "biggest battery we've ever put in an iPhone," Apple VP Phil Schiller said on stage, and he promised "an hour-and-a-half longer" performance in an average work day. (Specific battery figures for both phones have not yet been announced.)

According to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal, Apple is moving to larger screens because it can charge higher prices and achieve better profit margins on them, and because consumers who use large phones are more likely to engage with apps and spend more money on content and applications from Apple's growing services business.

Apple's notes on the A12 Bionic. First, CPU. Then, GPU. And finally, Neural Engine.

Both the XS and XS Max are advertised as "HDR displays," meaning they support the Dolby Vision and HDR-10 specs popular with 4K television sets. They also both ship with a new SoC dubbed the A12 Bionic. This 7nm chip includes a six-core CPU, a four-core GPU, and a neural engine (similar to the so-called neural engine that shipped in the A11), and it's packed with 6.9 billion transistors. Apple claims that the performance jump from the A11 to the A12 is a leap from 600 billion operations per second to 5 trillion.

Apple Senior Director of Product Management and Marketing Kaiann Drance introduces ARKit 2, coming to iOS 12. Valentina Palladino More on how A12 Bionic will drive augmented reality experiences.

Apple made sure to emphasize A12 Bionic's usefulness in the augmented reality space. This performance potential will be married to iOS 12's new ARKit 2 API, which will include "enhanced surface and object detection" and support multiple users, the company says. The API's new multiple-user support was demonstrated by three testers holding new iPhone XS models and trying to shoot Galaga aliens that flew "around a table" at the Steve Jobs Theater. (If you're keeping score: Android beat iOS to multi-user support in a single app months ago.)

Both phones will also receive eSim support and a new "dual SIM dual standby" option, which will support two distinct phone numbers. Chinese users will get their own dual SIM feature by supporting two physical SIM cards in one tray.

iPhone XR iPhone XR. Valentina Palladino More XR details. Valentina Palladino A slightly simpler rear-facing sensor system. Valentina Palladino Valentina Palladino

Apple's third new iPhone is the iPhone XR ("ten-arr"), a lower-cost alternative to the two flagships.

The iPhone X's OLED display was a chief driver of its high cost, so this phone has an LCD display instead. The XR has a slightly larger display than the iPhone XS, measuring at 6.1 inches, though its "liquid retina" display has a lower pixel count than its XS siblings: 1792×828 pixels (326ppi). Instead of supporting 3D Touch, users will rely on a new "Haptic Touch" feature to press on the home screen until getting a haptic tap that offers other options, such as an immediate shortcut to the camera.

While the XR will also sport an A12 Bionic chip and a very similar-looking front-facing sensor array, its rear-facing camera will only include a single 12-megapixel sensor.

As with the iPhone 5C a few years back, customization is key for this mass-consumer phone. The iPhone XR comes in six color options: white, blue, coral, black, yellow, and red (Product (RED), to be specific).

Sam Machkovech contributed to this report.

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