Apple’s September iPhone Event 2019 Notes

Tim Cook photo courtesy of Apple/C Apple 2019

Apple’s annual iPhone event is often the one most leaked ahead of time. Case and accessory designers, investors, journalists, corporate and education buyers, and the general public want to know as much as possible, as soon as possible, to make their products in time for release, know if Apple’s fortunes will change, write articles, and make decisions about future purchases.

This year’s high-end iPhones are rumored to have a new ultrawide third camera lens for “uncropping” images, and a new “Pro” designation. The Xr replacement may have a second camera, and just be called “iPhone 11“.

Also rumored are a new Apple TV device, which is long overdue, a $5 monthly price for Apple’s Apple Arcade subscription, and possibly no iPad and Mac hardware announcements. Although there is a rumor of a new MacBook Pro redesign coming with a 16-inch display, that seems more likely to be announced at an October event along with refreshed iPads such as a 10.2″ base iPad.

Here’s everything that Apple actually announced at today’s event in Cupertino at the Steve Jobs Theater, lets see if the leaks were accurate:

Apple Arcade

Ann Thai was introduced to talk about the Apple Arcade subscription service. As announced previously, the Arcade subscription promises that the games included will not have in-app purchases or advertisements, and will be available across Apple’s platforms. Thai reiterated these promises as well as mobile platform exclusivity and said there would be over 100 games included in the subscription. I understand the need for details to be vague prior to launching a service, when deals are presumably still being done, but there is a pretty big range between 101 and 199 that would be included in the “over 100” range. Presumably there won’t be 200 games in the Arcade service at launch. Thai said that no other game service has had this many games available at launch.

Thai also promised that the new App Store tab for the Arcade subscription would include preview and game guide editorial content, which can be presumed to be un-bylined non-critical garbage.

Thai introduced Konami’s Brand Manager Benjamin Kinney to demo a new Frogger game from Q-Games, the developers of the PixelJunk games. Frogger in Toy Town has Frogger rescuing friends and collecting jelly beans while hopping through an isometric-ish world that looks a little bit like a cross between a more-realistic looking Little Big Planet and the Micro Machines racers.

Frogger is an interesting choice, and it looks like this spinoff takes something back from the Frogger-inspired Crossy Road games, Frogger in Toy Town has different costumes just like Crossy Road, though it shouldn’t have the in-app purchases to unlock them. Kinney promised that Frogger in Toy Town would be available at the launch of the Arcade service.

Thai returned to introduce Capcom’s Peter Fabiano to talk about Shinsekai: Into The Depths, a side-scrolling game featuring the last person on the planet and a drone assistant who both have to survive underwater. Fabiano didn’t promise that Shinsekai would be available at launch, but did promise that it would be exclusive to the Arcade service.

Annapurna Interactive’s Kelsey Hansen was introduced to demonstrate a new game from the well-regarded mobile developer, Simogo, Sayonara: Wild Hearts. Hansen promised that the game would include both racing and rhythm-based tapping for the broken-hearted heroine protagonist. Hansen made no promises of exclusivity or a release timeline.

Thai returned to show us a logo-salad slide featuring various the partners and a release date of September 19th in “over 150 countries” with a price of $5 per month, that is $60 per year, (family sharing included) and “…over 100 new games in our launch catalog in the weeks ahead.”

If I were running the Apple Arcade service I would have some different priorities. I would require participating game studios to have modern labor-first principles with either a co-operative business model or a pro-union stance. It isn’t known how the developers deals work out, but $5 per family isn’t a lot of money to go around. I would expect this could work out for the developers who have a greater volume of players, but then the slice of their pie dedicated to player retention and engagement through community and support would be even lower.

I am also curious to see how game developers and publishers that remain in what is now almost exclusively a free-to-play market outside of the Arcade subscription react if the subscription model is successful and drives players away from their free-to-play model. This subscription business could potentially destroy the predatory nature of the free-to-play business if it is popular. Of course if the developer’s contracts under the subscription service are based on metrics like the time players spend in the developer’s games, there could be new predatory game mechanics that latch on to people’s time more than their wallets.

It is tremendously disappointing that the creative outlet of games is still deeply rooted in the need for survival and I’ve never been more curious about what games and other art people would make if their needs were taken care of by a state that was based on compassion instead of profit.

Still, it is clearly a good deal for families to sign up for the $5/month service if the games are truly good, and I’m hopeful that this subscription could help eliminate some of those predatory free-to-play games or make them change if they want to be included in the subscription.

Apple TV+

Tim Cook returned to talk about their Apple TV+ subscription service and the exclusive shows it would have. Cook introduced the trailer for See, their post apocalyptic series starring Aquaman’s Aquaman Jason Momoa where almost nobody can see.

Apple TV+ will be available on November 1st in “over 100 countries” for $5/month. Just like Apple Arcade, the one subscription works with Apple’s family sharing. Cook promised that starting today any new iPads, iPhones, Macs, or Apple TVs would include a year of Apple TV+.

Apple TV+’s original content isn’t very compelling to me, and I don’t think it will be very compelling to most people. There are so many subscription services for TV and movies and without a large catalog of shows I am not personally motivated to sign up for another one. If anything, I would love to drop more of those services. The pitch from Apple for Apple TV+ makes me think they understand how lacking their service is and that might be why they’re offering the seemingly-generous subscription deals to start. Who knows what the cost of these services could be down the line.

Just like with Apple Arcade I’m curious about the labor practices involved in the shows’ development, although I’m less familiar with the TV industry I believe it has a stronger group of labor organizers than the game industry.

iPad Cheap 10.2″

Apple’s cheapest iPad product, the 2018 6th generation 9.7″ device, is getting replaced by a 10.2″ 7th generation device for 2019. Cook boasted about the iPad lineup and the new iPadOS fork of iOS before introducing Greg Jozwiak to talk about the 2019 cheap iPad.

Unfortunately the larger 10.2″ screen of the new iPad still retains the older home-button-based facade of previous iPads instead of the 2018 iPad Pro’s closer to edge-to-edge style. The OS is already focused on swipes and other gestures instead of home-button taps, but the home button is so backwards in 2019. I know some folks prefer it, but that makes the bezel so much larger.

On the upside, this iPad has Apple’s “smart connector” borrowed from the 2017 iPad Pro devices and the 2019 iPad Air. This connector enables a small collection of accessories, mostly keyboards, and almost exclusively from Apple. Perhaps with a larger contingent of iPads featuring Apple’s smart connector we might see more accessories that use it.

With the home button and lightning port I do not at all buy Jozwiak’s line that this iPad is designed for iPadOS. Jozwiak also boasted that the new OS could take advantage of flash drives, but the 2019 iPad Cheap’s lightning port means we are limited to drives with a lightning port or numerous adapters. The future is USB-C and this iPad is held back by an aggressively regressive design. This iPad is also limited to the A10 Fusion SoC, now three generations behind the iPhone. That is the same SoC as last year’s 9.7″ iPad Cheap. It’s also only compatible with the first-generation Apple Pencil.

What a disappointing iPad update. .5 inches of new screen real estate and a smart connector aren’t enough. $330 base price for 32GB of storage, $430 for 128GB, available for pre-ordering today online, it’ll ship at the end of the month. Punishing their most price conscious users with these restrictive storage tiers, misleading talk about the suitability of this iPad hardware for the modern gesture-based OS, and proprietary connectors is something that Apple’s executives should be ashamed of.

Apple Watch Series 5

Cook boasted about the health benefits of Apple’s watch with an advertisement focused on stories from people who contacted their company.

I don’t doubt that the Apple Watch can be beneficial for some folks, but the video reminded me about the exclusionary nature of Apple’s Watch. You have to be relatively wealthy to get the modern models of the Apple Watch with their heart monitoring functionality. Only the wealth has access to those benefits and why it’s disappointing that more people don’t have them. Apple is limited by the profit motive to charge a restrictively high price for their watch.

Cook introduced Dr. Sumbul Ahmad Desai to talk about the Apple Watch health research studies Apple participates in. I don’t know enough about the academic research world to talk about Apple’s exploitation of it. I don’t think that there is any reason to be less skeptical of Apple’s efforts in the medical research field after today. This is a sales pitch for their Watch, after all.

Apple’s Stan Ng was introduced to talk about the Series 5 line of watches with an always-on display. The new display is promised to have a variable refresh rate for lower power consumption, and will dim with a low brightness that matches the surrounding environment until the watch is raised or activated with a tap. Ng boasted that the Series 5 watch has an all-day 18-hour battery life.

The Series 5 watch also has a compass, Ng said, for the Maps app, a new compass app, and a watchface complication.

Ng said the Series 5 models would have more colors and materials than before, Space Gray, Silver, and Gold and the higher end titanium and ceramic materials. Nike and Hermes models are also available.

I think this is an extremely compelling upgrade for people on versions of the Apple Watch prior to the Series 4. The always-on display means that this could be one of the most accurate and useful watches you can buy, even though these Series 5 models remain luxuries at high starting prices of $400. The Series 5 external case design appears extremely similar to the Series 4 design, I’m not sure anyone could tell except for when you see the display active at all times.

The Series 4 watches aren’t available on Apple’s website anymore, the Series 3 models are still available at $200 to start.

Cook closed out the Watch section with this ad.

iPhone 11

Cook introduced Kaiann Drance to talk about the 2019 iPhone 11.

The base model of the iPhone 11 replaces the Xr, which is good because that name was confusing and the Xr only has a single camera. The 11 has two, so it will no-longer be an exact downgrade from the old Plus models of iPhone. Confusingly, the new second camera is not a “telephoto” that can get a true optical 2x shot, instead the 11 model has the rumored ultra-wide camera.

The camera app has been updated for the new ultra-wide camera to let you optionally zoom out of the frame more, instead of zooming in. Drance boasted about something called Semantic Rendering new to the image capturing technology of the iPhone. Drance said this feature better identifies the subjects of photos taken with the iPhone 11 for other processing features to work on their captured images. Drance boasted that the portrait-mode image capturing would now work with pets, now that the system has a second camera to work with.

Google has been capturing what are pretty impressive images at night on their Pixel phones using additional image processing that Apple may have been reluctant to do previously because it is less true to what the sensor and our eyes see, and it may have other drawbacks as well. You have to keep the shutter open longer, which is very difficult to do when people are taking quick snapshots without the aid of a tripod.

Drance said the iPhone 11 would also take these kinds of enhanced shots at night with the aid of new image processing features, and did not mention the competition.

The iPhone 11 camera app now takes a video when you hold down the shutter button instead of the burst mode of photo frames. That’s a fine change, I often find myself wanting to capture a video and not getting to the option quickly enough.

The front-facing selfie camera on the 11 has been updated with a wider view when the phone is in landscape orientation. The front-facing camera also gets 4k60 video recording and slo-mo. Drance called slo-mo videos “slofies,” ugh.

Of course there is a new system-on-a-chip package for the iPhone 11, the A13 replaces the A12.

Drance introduced Yang Yang from TipsWorks to talk about a game called Pascal’s Wager for the iPhone. It looks a lot like the PS4 exclusive Bloodbourne, some of the textures and geometry looked really low resolution, but the game does boast a solid 60 frames-per-second and this is a pre-release preview, those could change. Interestingly, this game is a separate purchase instead of an Apple Arcade exclusive, pre-orders will be available next month for Pascal’s Wager. I don’t think there will be any reason to pre-order the game, pre-ordering games is usually a bad idea before reviews are available. I hope it isn’t free-to-play garbage.

When Drance returned she boasted that the iPhone 11 would have an hour more battery life than the Xr, which had more battery life than the Xs and Xs Max. It would also have faster Face ID. “WiFi 6” which is the new marketing name for 802.11ax, the successor to 802.11ac.

The base iPhone 11 also has new color options, purple, white, green, yellow, black, and red. The overall design of the 11 retains the style of the iPhone X, but with a similar 6.1″ LCD screen to the Xr.

The iPhone 11 display is the same resolution as the Xr, 1792 by 828. This is still lower than the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone 7 Plus which had a straight 1080p physical display resolution.

Drance closed out the iPhone 11 talk with this ad for the base-model unit.

It’s an interesting ad because it shows the iPhone getting knocked around, into a purse, off a nightstand, and getting splashed with water, et cetera. As far as I know, the Apple warranties still do not cover water damage and definitely don’t cover damage due to the iPhone being scratched or destroyed in a purse or from a fall. Only the AppleCare+ insurance plan covers damage and that is only with an additional incident fee, and even then only two or so of those incidents. The ad also shows the night mode photo screenshot in some weird-ass bar with people wearing masks, and from the perspective of the viewer the photo the camera takes is brighter than the reality of the situation. Very strange advertising situation when these accidents aren’t covered by the built-in warranty.

The starting price for the iPhone 11 is $50 lower than the Xr‘s $750, so $700 gets you a base model 64GB iPhone 11. 128GB is $750, 256GB is $850. 128GB is a nice sweet spot for the future unless you’re taking a lot of 4k60 video or downloading big movies and shows. The storage tiers should not exist, storage upgrades should be possible with MicroSD cards unless they’re prohibitively slow compared to the built-in flash storage, but at least a decrease in price is positive. The iPhone 11 will be up for pre-order on the 13th at 5AM Pacific time. I would recommend waiting for reviews.

iPhone 11 Pro & Pro Max

Cook returned to introduce a short ad for the 2019 iPhone 11 Pro, and then Phil Schiller to talk about the product. The Pro distinction was framed by Schiller as being for professionals who need something they can “count on” while also being for “all of us who simply want the best product made.” The “Pro” distinction for Apple obviously means “better” “more expensive” and “higher margins” for more profit. The iPhone 11 Pro is no exception, three cameras, stainless steel body, the back is still glass for no good reason, despite being termed something to “count on.

There new color options are Midnight Green, Space Gray, Silver, Gold.

As with the 2018 iPhone Xs, which was smaller than the 2018 Xr, the 2019 11 Pro has a smaller 5.8″ display than the regular iPhone 11. The iPhone 11 Pro Max has a 6.5″ display again. Both the Pro models have an OLED screen with genuine Retina resolutions, no half-assed 1792×828 bullshit like the iPhone 11.

Schiller also compared the iPhone 11 Pro models’ display to that of their desktop Pro Display XDR, Apple’s only in-house display, that costs $5000 before you even consider their $1000 stand. That’s one way to frame the high prices for modern iPhones in a positive light.

Sri Santhanam was introduced to talk about the A13 processor in the iPhone 11 line. Santhanam talked about the technical improvements, which makes it even more ridiculous that they are withheld from 2019 iPad Cheap, iPad Mini, and iPad Air. Presumably the Pro line of iPads will get the A13 updates next month, and the other devices could get it next year but it seems likely that Apple will continue to withhold the highest end SoC from some of those models.

Schiller returned to boast that the 11 Pro gets up to 4 hours more battery life than the iPhone Xs. The iPhone 11 Pro Max gets up to 5 hours more battery life than the Xs Max. We’ll have to see how that works out in reviews when last year’s Xs and Xs Max had less battery life than the Xr which has now been replaced by the base 11.

Of course, with three cameras on the back of the iPhone 11 Pro that means this device has at least four total if you include the front-facing selfie camera. The “telephoto” 52 mm focal length camera is only on the Pro models. What I wouldn’t give for just a single large camera lens.

Schiller showed off the new camera systems with professional, creative, photography shot on the iPhone 11 Pro models. As much as I appreciate seeing good photos taking by good photographers, I would also like to see comparisons of typical snapshots that regular people take. A photo at a bar, a birthday party, a bird in the distance, there are lots of challenging situations to take photos in that typical iPhone photographers (all of us!) would like to see, and while it would be unusual to show typical photos instead of pro photography for an Apple iPhone event, it would be very helpful to show the improvements in these photos instead of just pro photos taken on a cherry picker over a skatepark as Phil Schiller demonstrated. I believe the value of these phones and their camera system improvements are in the ease-of-use and improvement for non-professional photographers.

Schiller introduced the idea of a new camera feature he called Deep Fusion to take advantage of the A13‘s machine learning capabilities to take a great photo even in “…low to medium light” by combining 9 images into one composite. Schiller said this feature was a “sneak peek” and that before you press the shutter button the iPhone has already taken “…four short images” (he’s referring to the time the lens is capturing, exposure length) and “four secondary images.” Pressing the shutter button causes the iPhone to take one long-exposure image and then work on a final image that it determines to be the best. I would very much like to see this in comparison to a DSLR or mirrorless camera, the extents the engineers at Apple have to go to in order to work around the small sensor sizes physically available on an iPhone are ridiculous.

I suppose if Apple were excited about making these comparisons to real cameras, they would do so.

Video improvements are also on deck for the iPhone 11 Pro, all three back-side cameras can apparently shoot 4k60 video. Schiller introduced a Hollywood-quality video shot with these phones, I’m still kind of burned out on professional videography, this is not within the capability of a typical user. A hand-model demonstrated a user taking video of two children in a field of colorful sheets hanging on what appeared to be lines, but again, this is a ridiculous, non-typical, test.

Schiller also pointed out that iOS 13 will allow users to edit video within the photos app for more than just trim adjustments. As someone who has been suffering by bouncing out of the app to iMovie for years to make simple corrections like rotating the video to the appropriate orientation, this is greatly appreciated.

Schiller introduced Sean Baker and Chris Cohen for FiLMiC Pro to talk about the app’s future upgrade to include shooting from multiple cameras at the same time. The demo video is professional, but almost entirely outside the realm of a typical user. The iPhone in the demo sits on a specialized rig with one person operating the iPhone 11 Pro on some ridiculously expensive looking tripod and mount, and another person pushing the first person on some fancy ass stool and mount to hold the tripod and the rest of the rig on top of a movable platform.

I recently attempted to record a video on a Sony NEX-6 mirrorless camera and I’ve never seen a better example of how important the powerful optical image stabilization is on an iPhone for video. I regret using the Sony for that task, but the Sony’s sensor is so much better for still-photography just because it’s physically larger and lets in more light. I can crop photos from the NEX-6 and they don’t up looking like a water-color painting.

Finally, the 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max include a faster 18 watt charger, a huge upgrade over the 5 watt charger included with every prior iPhone and the regular iPhone 11. All of the iPhone 11 models (Pro and regular) have lightning ports instead of USB-C.

Schiller closed his talk about the iPhone 11 Pro with this advertisement.

The ad is just as ridiculous as the one for the regular iPhone 11, depicting all kinds of scenarios that are not covered by the warranty and tests done in laboratories. The ad does mention one improvement that was rumored but not on-stage, Face ID improvements mean that it’ll work from more angles.

Last year I wrote about how I was considering getting off the iPhone upgrade cycle so that I could focus my still photography on a compact mirrorless camera. I’ve finally been able to do that with a 6-year old Sony NEX-6. The difference in experience between shooting on an NEX-6, even in comparison to the iPhone Xs Max I carry every day is huge. There is only so much that Apple can do with the physical constraints of the iPhone‘s depth, and while I am hopeful that the improvements to the camera system this year will improve the experience of shooting, I am more sure than ever that the right move for someone who is disappointed in hobbyist photography on the iPhone is to get off the upgrade cycle and stick with a phone for more time, and decide to move to a standalone camera for stills at least.

It can be frustrating to carry around a second device just for stills. The NEX-6 for example has a much lower quality display than any iPhone ever made, it can make photos look poor until they’re transferred to another device with a better display, but it’s also a liberating experience. I treat the SD card almost like a roll of film and just transfer photos to my iPhone with Apple’s lightning to SD card dongle at the end of the day, which is also when I have time to briefly edit them and share them with friends and family.

I love photography, I believe the iPhone is a technological wonder, but this 6 year old camera that is full of limitations (don’t even ask me how broken the NEX-6’s “app store” is) does a better job in most of the challenging situations I end up taking photos in than an iPhone that was released last year!

Just like the iPhone X and Xs, the iPhone 11 Pro is a thousand dollars for a 64GB model, and then it’s a $150 upgrade to get to the 256GB model at $1150. That is probably the right storage for future proofing if you’re not shooting 4k60 video constantly. 512GB is $1,350. The 11 Pro Max is $1,100 for 64GB, $1,250 for 256GB, and $1,450 for 512GB. Both new iPhones will be up for pre-order on the 13th at 5AM. I would recommend waiting for reviews.

The external designs of the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max appear largely similar to the X, Xs, and Xs Max these “Pro” models are replacing. I don’t think anyone would notice the difference between an iPhone 11 Pro and an iPhone Xs if they were both in a case that covered the back, unless you count the cameras or see a bit of the new green color. Notably, Apple now makes clear cases for all of the new iPhone models to show off the color choices, not just the Xr replacement in the base iPhone 11.

I feel no desire to upgrade my iPhone at this time, as an experiment using a standalone camera alongside the iPhone Xs Max has been a success and I might just upgrade my camera at some point in the next few years. The “Deep Fusion” feature is interesting, and of course each year you wait to upgrade your phone will make the next leap that much more interesting. If I were still on an iPhone 7 Plus or older device, it seems like it’d be a great year to get the iPhone 11 which finally has two cameras again, even though neither is the telephoto 55mm lens of the 7 Plus, they can at least have stereoscopic imaging for better “portrait mode” photos which I have all but given up on with my Xs Max. They still error out between strands of hair and between legs and arms too often to be useful.

Overall

I’ve never been more disappointed with Apple’s exclusionary pricing and terrible labor practices. Their technology is wonderful, but the profit motive absolutely corrupts the products and services at almost every turn. Boasting about thumb-drive compatibility on the new cheap iPad when you’ll need an adapter or a new thumb-drive to work with the lightning port is ridiculous and that’s just one of the decisions Apple made to keep costs down on one of their devices.

I’m happy for people who are able to afford Apple’s devices and receive health, privacy, productivity, and other benefits, but I’m disappointed more people can’t access them and Apple’s labor practices globally with their retail and manufacturing employees remain detrimental to their image.

Despite the things that Apple does in terms of the environment, their rich executives and investors are profiting off of low wages in manufacturing and retail, and environmental destruction.

Apple’s competitors are worse in many of these regards, but that doesn’t mean that Apple should be shielded from criticism.

One more oddity, every game demo had the presenter introduced, but not the person actually playing the game.

The leaks were mostly correct. We can expect another event later this year, possibly in October, for iPad Pro and Mac updates. Hopefully the rumors about the new Apple TV hardware, the current Apple TV 4K has the older A10X SoC which will limit game performance, and the rumored Tile-style tracker using the new U1 chip that provides very accurate locations to the new iPhone 11 models, will also be announced. Though those updates and the release of the new Mac Pro could be done in a more limited fashion if Apple’s people decide not to do another big event.

The 2018 iPhones: XS, XS Max, and XR

Phil Schiller Presents the Fall 2018 iPhone Lineup

I’ve obviously missed my regular Apple event day coverage for this year’s iPhone and Watch announcement (YouTube link), there was a family emergency that necessitated lots of travel. I won’t dwell on that emergency much except to say that if you enjoy reading Nuclear Monster at all I would appreciate any contributions you can make either by sharing posts you like with your friends and family, through donations, or by buying a shirt.

Thank you to everyone who has helped with that already.

Nevertheless, Apple didn’t wait around for me and has announced and released a new iPhone in two sizes, the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, the Apple Watch Series 4, and a third new iPhone, the iPhone XR. The XR is at first glance a “budget” device that is somehow still very expensive (starting at $750) and has odd trade offs compared to the XS line.

The new XS phones are supposed to be pronounced “ten S,” and the XR is supposed to be pronounced “ten R” I don’t think anyone is going to go out of their way to do that. Those names are extremely silly and I hope nobody is very fussy about pronouncing them “correctly,” still, the devices and prices for these phones are still interesting.

iPhone XS & iPhone XS Max: Ridiculously Named, Too Expensive

This is an “S” year, which usually calls for incremental technical improvements inside a very similar outward-facing design to the previous year’s iPhone, like the iPhone 4S upgrade was to the iPhone 4.

That trend kind of went out of the window with the 6, 6S, 7, and 8 phones that all looked very much alike. Apple skipped the big design changes until finally we got the iPhone X, last year. That phone finally ditched the home button on the “chin” in favor of an almost entirely edge-to-edge screen with a notch replacing the “forehead” of the phone and new swipe gestures replacing the Home button. The 8 and 8 Plus were the “new” phones released alongside the X that kept the old 6, 6S, and 7 style with a traditional home button for anyone who didn’t want to spend $1000 on a new iPhone X.

This year the XS, XS Max, and XR are all styled after the iPhone X. The iPhone XR is a bit bigger than the XS and last year’s X with a 6.1 inch screen. The iPhone XS is almost exactly the same size as last year’s X, but with a slightly different camera bump that knocks out some case compatibility.

The XS Max is very similar in terms of physical dimensions to the Plus phones like the iPhone 8 Plus. This year’s phones are all gesture-based, no home buttons to be found. The XS and XS Max also come in a new color, gold.

We won’t know until next September if there will be some significant external design changes that bring us back to the “big design change” year followed by the “incremental improvement to the internal hardware” year. Honestly, the external design is not as important as we approach the inevitable full-rectangles of screen with so few trade-offs for usability and style. Apple makes the most appealing designs to those rectangles and with the software of those rectangles. The next biggest change just might be losing the notch and putting those sensors behind the screen.

The XS phones are very expensive pocket computers at $1000, and $1100 for the XS Max. Reviewers are trying to understand how anyone could justify that upgrade from an iPhone X or earlier, and it is a huge upgrade from some of the older series of devices. Less so for anyone with the iPhone X, and Apple says they’re also trying to make sure these iPhones can last longer, but that doesn’t make the price right.

There used to be a sentiment that these iPhones are for everyone. If you’re the heir to a fortune in fashion, or someone working 9-5 at retail, the iPhone was the iPhone. You’d have the same one as everyone else if you bought the top of the line in any particular year. This supposedly worked the same way that everyone could buy the same coca-cola from Coke.

All that went out the window when the product started exclusively targeting a luxury market with incredibly high prices. The poorer end of the market is now targeted with the questionable “iPhone Upgrade Program” that turns an iPhone purchase into an installment plan that turns Apple Stores into Rent-A-Center.

Jason Snell has a great article breaking down why Apple is charging so much.

I really appreciated John Gruber’s review for acknowledging this:

It’s worth emphasizing — as I do every year — that normal people do not upgrade their phones after a single year. Most don’t upgrade after two years. They upgrade when their old phone breaks or gets too slow.

His conclusion for upgraders also seems spot on:

Anyone upgrading to the iPhone XS from an iPhone 7 or older is getting a great upgrade in dozens of ways, and the camera system is just one of them.

[…]

…for the people who own an iPhone X who are considering an upgrade to the XS, to my mind, the camera system is the one and only reason to do it. There are always edge cases. Someone who is a frequent international traveler might consider it worth upgrading just to get the dual SIM support. I’m sure some number of iPhone X owners will upgrade just to get the gold model. But for most people, I’m convinced the camera system is the reason to think about it.

There are some big improvements in the camera system this year, for both the iPhone XS, Max, and XR.

Reviewers are focusing on those camera upgrades, rightly so. The reportedly 32% larger sensor that Gruber found out about is huge news for these tiny cameras to bring in more light and take better (or even acceptable) photos in situations that would have produced garbage with the iPhone X and earlier phones. The example galleries and reviews from both pro and amateur photographers prove the quality of these new camera systems in the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR.

The Other Camera Option

If you’re willing to carry another camera with your phone, even a small point and shoot like Sony’s RX100 series cameras will have a dramatically larger sensor that might be a better value than trying to keep up with iPhone upgrades right now.

Matthew Panzarino wouldn’t even try to compare the iPhone XS to a DSLR in his review:

I’m (still) not going to be comparing the iPhone XS to an interchangeable lens camera because portrait mode is not a replacement for those, it’s about pulling them out less. That said, this is closest its ever been.

You’d miss out on quick social sharing, and live photos that grab a few moments of video before and after the still photo. The camera makers’ apps are all garbage, but you can import JPEGs from an SD card relatively quickly to any iOS device using Apple’s SD Card dongle.

RAW photos might still be too slow to import over the wire, but the rub there is that you can now take and edit RAW photos on iOS. So, that might work for you the other way.

Photography is important to me, it might be the thing I care about most in an iPhone after communicating with friends and family. I’m still not sure if I can even be the person that drags around a separate camera anymore, but I think it’s a legitimate option for some people who love the iOS ecosystem and aren’t interested in keeping up with iPhone camera technology. The mobile camera sensors can only be so big, the built-in processing technology is getting more impressive but I’m not sure how impressive they can get compared to almost any small camera.

Recently, I picked up my almost decade-old Nikon entry-level DSLR, the D3000, and the shots it takes are just so much better than any phone camera. They’re not the easiest to get, I’m out of touch with the camera controls and the autofocus (AF) lock-on takes forever on that old DSLR, but I could get an upgraded body of that same camera line use the same 35mm lens, and blaze on with much better AF. That D3000 has uniquely terrible auto-focus speed.

iOS 12 is out and from what I’ve tried it makes older devices feel more spritely. Andrew Cunningham reviewed iOS 12 on older devices for Ars:

I’ve been testing iOS on old devices for six years, and I’ve never seen a release that has actually improved performance on old devices. At best, updates like iOS 6, iOS 9, and iOS 10 didn’t make things much worse; at worst, updates like iOS 7 and iOS 8 made old devices feel like old devices. Anyone using an older device can safely upgrade to iOS 12 without worrying about speed, and that’s a big deal. You’ll notice an improvement most of the time, even on newer devices (my iPad Air 2, which had started to feel its age running iOS 11, feels great with iOS 12).

The iPhone is very compelling as a camera, but the high prices for the XS models are a great time to jump ship off the upgrade schedule. If you need to stick with an iPhone for more time to try and grind out more value, there has never been a better time to try the other camera option.

AppleCare+ in 2018

I have to give up my iPhone 7 Plus this year to another family member, the 256GB iPhone XS Max I was looking at to replace my iPhone is $1500 after tax with Applecare+. That’s the $200 iPhone insurance program from Apple. I did a cartoon “rub my eyes and look again” after I saw that number.

Before this update, Applecare would help you recover from your iPhone being stolen as long as you had a police report. Now, Apple won’t let you get a new iPhone if yours is stolen unless you also have ponied up another $100 for “Theft and Loss” coverage. That would bring the total to $300, but I’ve never had an iPhone stolen or lost to the point where I can’t find it.

Apple has one more caveat to this new Theft and Loss insurance, it’s null and void unless their Find My iPhone feature is enabled.

If Wishes Were Cameras

My wish is for something less like a DSLR and more like the (relatively) huge CMOS sensor of the Sony RX100 but running iOS. That isn’t happening, Apple would probably never do that because their goal is to make a great phone that is also a great camera due to the powerful custom A-series of chips processing the image data from the biggest sensors and lenses they can fit into the size of the camera bump. It’s so important to them that they still have a bump. Even with that pimple on the back of the latest iPhones, the photos their tiny camera sensors make might still look like watercolor paintings when you zoom in on them. Cropping a photo is so disappointing with any camera phone, and this year may fix that.

The iPhone XS Max vs The Galaxy Note 9

The iPhone 6/7/8 Plus-sized iPhone XS Max is very interesting. It has the same style of the XS and X, notch and all, but in the larger form-factor giving us an incredibly huge 6.5 inch screen. The old Plus phones had a 5.5 inch screen, but the new phones aren’t any wider so the measurement is a little odd to compare.

I liked the old Plus phones’ landscape mode features. The home screen would reconfigure for landscape mode display horizontally. Unfortunately, Apple has apparently dropped this feature from the XS Max.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 has gone in the opposite direction and offered more tablet-like features in a similar size of device as Apple’s Plus and XS Max iPhones.

That Galaxy Note 9 includes a stylus, has more storage at a lower price than the iPhone XS Max, and expandable storage through Micro SD cards so you’re not locked into paying hundreds of dollars to Samsung for upgrading. It also has a 19 hour battery life according to CNET’s reviewer, Jessica Dolcourt.

I would never buy a Samsung device, they’re a scummy business with an operating system from the world’s largest advertising publisher. Their camera app sounds like complete garbage, Dolcourt says:

The AI software analyzes a scene and quickly detects if you’re shooting a flower, food, a dog, a person or something else entirely. There are 20 options, including snowflakes, cityscapes, fire — you get it. Then the camera optimizes white balance, saturation and contrast to make photos pop.

It works fine, and you’ll see some big differences when photographing your lunch for Instagram photos. But the scene optimizer often takes a beat to kick in, and you can’t dismiss the suggestions with a swipe the way you can on the Huawei P20 Pro. It’s either on, or off.

The last thing I want to do with a camera app is fight with it to decide how I want the scene to be shot and processed. Samsung’s software sounds like a complete nightmare that overrides your thinking about a scene to provide what Samsung thinks is best versus Apple (and Google’s Pixel phones) hands-off “this is what a better camera would do” approach.

Ignoring the camera issues, the Galaxy Note 9 really goes further with the tablet-like features, Mike Murphy talked about Picture-in-PIcture in his review for Quartz:

This is actually a standard Android feature, where apps you need to look at (like YouTube or Google Maps) will minimize themselves into little windows in the corner when you exit them. But the Note 9 is one of the few phones where this isn’t annoying, just because there’s so much screen real estate to play with. It’s also why the Galaxy’s split-screen mode actually works—two apps running side-by-side doesn’t look terrible at this size

Murphy also wrote about Samsung’s Stylus, the S-Pen, which has interesting features in addition to being useful for drawing and taking notes:

What really makes a Note a Note (according to Samsung) is its built-in stylus, the S Pen. The new version (which comes in a striking shade of yellow on the blue version of the phone), has learned some new tricks. Tapping on its button can trigger different functions in different apps. In the camera, it can be used as a remote shutter; in PowerPoint, it can advance slides.

The iPhone XS Max has gone in a completely different direction. Apple doesn’t have a stylus that works at this scale, and they’re rejecting the notion that you should use any iPhone as a small tablet, even at the XS Max’s enormous 6.5 inch screen size.

James Rogers at iPad Insight:

The Max’s 6.5? screen cries out for stylus support. At least it does for me and others who would benefit from this capability It is definitely big enough, and the resolution is plenty high. It would be the perfect portable wireless notepad, a use case which the current iPad Pro sizes aren’t really cut out for.

Samsung even lets you connect a mouse, keyboard, and display into a special dock for the Note 9That might be going too far for Apple, until you see the benchmarks comparing recent Macbooks to the iPhone XS.

Joanna Stern wrapped this up well in her review:

Apple isn’t doing enough to take advantage of all the extra space. The Max just feels like a blown-up iPhone, when it could be a new sort of computer. Unlike Samsung’s Galaxy Note or even Apple’s iPad, you can’t place apps side by side or float a video in the corner.

Nickels

Apple includes a measly five watt adapter in the box with these $1000-and-up phones. Joanna Stern has another great video and article about that adapter. This is extra ridiculous because in Apple’s own web store you can find that they will sell you either the five watt OR the twelve watt adapter that Joanna recommends for the same $19!

If they have the same value in their own store then there is no excuse to not include the faster, better, adapter.

Just include the twelve watt adapter, Apple.

All of Apple’s modern laptops, the MacBook and MacBook Pro, only have USB-C ports. You can’t charge or connect any iPhone to them with the included USB-to-Lightning cable, it has a type-A plug on the end. Apple charges $19 for a USB-C-to-Lightning cable.

Dimes

No Apple product discussion would be complete talking about iCloud storage pricing.  The iPhone uses this storage to back itself up at night, back up your apps, and most importantly to back up your photos.

iCloud’s free tier is still only a paltry 5 gigabytes. That is nothing. For a dollar a month they will give you 50 gigs and there are people who will never pay that twelve dollars a year just because they’re too cheap or can’t understand why they need it until they see an ad from Google that tells them exactly what they’re missing out on because their iPhone can’t offload any more photos and videos to the cloud to free up space on the device to take new photos and videos.

The worst scenario of all is when someone walks into an Apple store with a broken phone and wants to know where their photos of their family and friends are and the person supporting them has to tell them that the photos were lost when their phone died. That’s an awful experience to pawn off on retail employees because $12 dollars a year is more important to Apple’s bottom line.

Pennies Down the Line

When there’s no more free-space on an iPhone, you can’t load more apps and games, take more photos or videos, and the device’s performance might suffer. Upgrades become difficult. Even with all the app-thinning that Apple’s done to make older iPhones with less storage more useful, I think it’s absolutely rotten that today’s XS line doesn’t include expandable storage. Today’s 64 gigs might be tomorrow’s 16GB, rendering the iPhone you want to give to your family useless even if it was the top-of-the-line for the day.

For the past day or so I’ve been trying to use a five-year-old 16GB iPhone 5S in 2018. It’s not a good experience. iOS 12 has made these old iPhones snappy and responsive, which is fantastic. You just can’t load…anything onto the phone. I’ve run out of space almost instantly for the apps I need to do everything. Apps that include giant hundred-megabyte frameworks to operate can’t fit.

The iPhone helpfully offloads as many apps as possible to free-up space but there is only so much it can do. I don’t recommend that experience to anyone. If Apple truly wants to start making their iPhones last longer, they need to introduce expandable storage.

Recommendations

It’s clear that Apple put a lot of thought and work into these new devices, I haven’t even talked about the better OLED screens with 120hz touch detection, or the improved FaceID system, but I’m also very concerned about iPhone prices.

Yet to be reviewed is the iPhone XR, which has the same great wide angle camera as the iPhone XS, the same A12 system-on-a-chip, better battery life, and an almost edge-to-edge screen that unfortunately has a lower resolution than my iPhone 7 Plus. The iPhone XR is also missing 3D Touch and the telephoto camera from the iPhone XS.

Unless you have money to burn, I would suggest that anyone on an iPhone 8 or iPhone X wait until next September at the earliest. The iPhone XS Max is a new size in the iPhone 6/7/8 Plus physical range, and if you hated how small the iPhone X was that would be the only good reason to upgrade to this year’s Max.

For people like me, with an iPhone 7 Plus, the 6.1 inch iPhone XR might be the right device. I’m very curious to read those reviews when that embargo lifts before they’re released on the 26th of October. Like I said above, the XR has better battery life, but the same wide-angle camera, processor, and a similar notched design like the XS and XS Max. However, it also has less RAM, 3 gigs, to the 4 gigs of the XS and XS Max. That means that web pages may need to be reloaded when you navigate away from them, apps might unload sooner when you switch to another one.

The XR might not support as many versions of iOS down the line. The iPhone 5S is 5 years old, and is the oldest iPhone that is getting iOS 12. The 5S was also released alongside the 5C, and the XR picks a note of the 5C up and gets a lot of color options.

The XR also has an oddly lower resolution than the 7 Plus despite having a larger screen, it’s a very strange product.

Anyone who has stuck with the iPhone 5S or 6 and 6 Plus due to price should wait until reviews are out for the iPhone XR.

Conclusions

These high prices really made me understand why Apple has stopped selling last year’s iPhone X entirely. The X is still a great mobile camera upgrade from any older series of iPhone, still a good processor upgrade, and anyone who got a cheaper iPhone X could use another camera for great photos if they have one laying around.

When I bought my iPhone 7 Plus in 2016 it was $870 for the 128GB tier and $1000 after AppleCare+. That insurance was $130. That was a lot. $1250 for the equivalent tier of iPhone XS Max and about $1500 including AppleCare+ and tax in 2018 is ridiculous.

The XR is also $50 more at $750 than last year’s 8.

Maybe I’m getting old, but do you remember how computers were supposed to be less expensive to purchase as time went on?

The materials Apple are using are premium in these X-series of devices, but maybe they’re too premium if they’re what is jacking up the price of an equivalent tier of phone by $380 and the insurance by 70 bucks over the course of two years.

Maybe we don’t need a glass back on a phone. Even though Apple claims the iPhone XS’ back is more durable than last year’s iPhone X, it still breaks easier than the equivalent metal. Joanna Stern’s review unit broke within a week!

Apple’s answer to general economic concerns is that they’re still selling the iPhone 7, 7 Plus, and iPhone 8, 8 Plus for lower prices. This really speaks to how great those devices are with iOS 12

The iPhone X doesn’t exist anymore and you can’t buy the iPhone X new or used from Apple. It’s pretty clear that Apple isn’t sure a person in the store would be able to understand the differences between the XS and X.

Keeping old devices around past their regular shelf-life is Tim Cook’s schtick. If you can, keeping your devices useful for yourself or giving them to a friend or family member is the best thing to do today.

Apple iPhone & Watch Event Follow-up

After the recent Apple event ended I wanted to follow-up on a few points about the new iPhones as well as the cellular stuff for the Watch.

First of all, there’s the size comparison between the X and the 8 Plus.

It’s clear after watching this Apple developer video about making apps for the X that the X’s screen really isn’t as wide as the 8 Plus. This makes the X more of a taller 4.7-inch non-Plussed iPhone. You can see the width in this screenshot of that video below and the height in the one above:

This means that the X won’t get the same layout for display as apps on the Plus phones. These measurements are in points, abbreviated as pt, because they’re a more reliable indicator when developing for high DPI (Retina) screens and devices like the iPhone. The baked-in rounded corners of the display, the area at the bottom of the screen for the on-screen home-swipe indicator, and the status bar accommodations, are all going to trim the total pixels of the display available to apps.

Marques “MKBHD” Brownlee has a great hands-on video demonstrating the X in motion. I strongly recommend watching it to anyone considering that device over the 8 or 8 Plus:

The notch for the front-facing camera and other sensors, and the “ears” on the right and left side of the iPhone X, are going to take some getting used to. I suspect that Apple can’t wait to get rid of it as soon as possible. In the video you can see MKBHD watching a movie trailer or clip and it’s shocking to see the X displaying in “full” mode with the movie partially occluded by the notch.

The naming of these devices is also bonkers this year. By calling one device the X, and pronouncing that as 10, this is going to be confusing as hell for people who want to compare it to the 8.  They should have called one of these phones something else in order to distinguish the X line of devices as high-end if they’re set on continuing this practice into the future.

I wonder what this means for the future of the iPhone. Is Apple going to have three phones announced in September 2018? Maybe they’ll update the SE in the first half of the year as well. I would expect them to bring this edge-to-edge screen to all of their handheld devices eventually, but that might take a while. I’ll look forward to an iPhone Plus device with that screen, or one with even less bezel, hopefully next year.

The supposition I’ve heard from other writers about the higher cost of the iPhone X is that it gives Apple the ability to make a smaller batch of devices with different parts that they might not be able to source at the scale they need for a typical iPhone launch. If that’s true, well, I don’t give a shit about Apple’s supply issues, neither will anyone else so it’s good that Apple didn’t make a big deal out of that during the event and simply presented the X as a futuristic device available today.

The one distinguishing physical feature of the iPhone 8 versus the 7 is the glass back. I haven’t seen the back of my iPhone since the last time I changed the case. I don’t think most people use their phones without a case unless they don’t mind replacing them often.

With the Series 3 Watch there’s that cellular plan to think about. If you get a Series 3 Watch with LTE you don’t have to activate a plan at all. It’s optional. If you do, It turns out that it’ll be ten bucks a month to bring it online and tie it to your iPhone’s cellular plan according to iMore who also have more details rounded up. Although they’re missing Sprint’s information that attaching the Watch to their network will cost the same $10. The Watch also won’t roam onto other networks even if your iPhone can.

The more expensive Series 3 with cellular also has twice as much internal storage, iMore guesses that this is due to the Apple Music support. It’s also gonna have worse battery life if you want to use it to replace your iPhone and remain on LTE all day. And since you have to have an iPhone on your carrier’s plan to use the Watch on a cellular network it can’t be a real replacement for an iPhone today.

Apple Special Event September 2017 Notes

Apple held their first iPhone event at their new Steve Jobs Theater on their UFO campus in California today. The event opened with Tim Cook memorializing Jobs. Then he discussed disaster relief projects and encouraged donations. Finally Cook talked about Apple’s new campus. No mentions of offices for the engineers, who have complained that the new campus is almost entirely an open space.

Angela Ahrendts talked about their stores before Cook came back out to start announcing devices and software.

Here’s what they announced.

WatchOS 4
Tim Cook talked about their success then played a video featuring letters from users about how the watch has helped them. Here’s that video:

Jeff Williams reiterated WatchOS 4 updates with better coaching, a redesigned workout app, features for swimmers, and integration with gym equipment. The new OS also gets a new heart rate app and a heart rate complication for the watch faces. The watch will now alert you to an unusually high heart rate when it thinks you’re not active. It’ll also monitor for arrhythmias in a study with Stanford Medicine and the FDA later this year.

WatchOS 4 will be out on September 19th.

Apple Watch Series 3
Here’s their ad for the new Series 3 watch:

It’s a cellular device that takes calls with your regular iPhone’s phone number. Of course it’ll also have data capabilities and will stream music from Apple Music.

There’s a new faster processor and Siri finally speaks on the watch if you want to hear them instead of reading a response. The device also has a barometric altimeter built-in.

The Series 3 Apple Watch retains the form factor of the previous watches. Cellular models of the Series 3 have a red dot on the crown so that you can feel special.

Williams made a very awful joke during this presentation about a potential device with all of this functionality looking like a house arrest bracelet. Not funny.

Obviously Apple is very focused on this being an activity monitoring device. I’m not very active but I still appreciate mine as a device for triaging notifications.

Series 2 watches are getting dropped. The Series 1 will remain in the lineup at $250. The base series 3 watch will be $330 and the Series 3 with cellular capabilities will be $400.

No word on the cost for the cellular plan to go with it, but Williams said they have a special deal worked out with some carriers.

The new Series 3 watches will be available to pre-order on September 15th, they’ll be generally available on September 22nd.

I don’t see much reason to upgrade from my Series 0, but I’m glad they’re continuing to work on improvements.

Apple TV 4K

The Apple TV is one of the most expensive devices you can buy to put under your TV, and it has been a long time since Apple made any changes to the hardware. Eddy Cue’s pitch for this upgrade talked about how the new device also includes support for HDR standards. It also has an A10X Fusion chip, Eddy reminds us that it’s same one as in the iPad Pro. He boasted that it’s twice as fast at general computing tasks — and four times as fast on the GPU side — as the current 1080p 4th generation Apple TV.

Apple’s Aerial screensaver that displays high-resolution footage of interesting places to look at is getting updated with 4K footage.

4K movies will cost the same from Apple’s iTunes store as they currently charge for HD films. Any movies people currently own in HD that have 4K versions will be upgraded to 4K HDR for free.

Cue also said that Netflix and Amazon are on-board for the 4K update. Cue didn’t mention that the Amazon Prime Video app still isn’t available on the Apple TV even though Apple said they had a deal worked out with Amazon earlier this year.

Live news and sports are coming to the TV app on the Apple TV and iOS devices.

That Game Company’s Jenova Chen demoed a new game called Sky for the Apple TV. It’s a fun multiplayer game that has a similar style as their previous games like Journey. It’s temporarily exclusive to the Apple TV and iOS devices and will be out this winter. I didn’t hear anyone mention if the game runs in 4K.

Here’s a trailer for it:

The Apple TV lineup will now be:

  • Old Apple TV 32GB at $150.
  • Apple TV 4K 32GB $180
  • Apple TV 4K 64GB $200

It’ll be up for pre-orders on the 15th and have general availability on the 22nd.

Unfortunately there were no updates to the Apple TV Siri Remote announced, which is a shame because it’s not great for gaming and has some other design issues. Especially regarding picking up the remote and accidentally pressing the wrong button because it’s not easy to tell which orientation you’re holding it in without looking at it.

iPhone 8, 8 Plus

The rumors and leaks were accurate , there were three new iPhones announced today instead of two. An iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus.

Here’s the iPhone 8 ad:

Phil Schiller did his bit to sell the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. As rumored it has a glass back as well the front. It’ll be in Silver, Space Gray, and Gold. They assure that the glass is reinforced with steel and the “most durable ever” glass.

The display has been updated. It now has the True Tone technology from the iPad Pro that adjusts the display’s color temperature to look correct in different lighting conditions. The iPad Pro still doesn’t have the iPhone’s 3D Touch feature and that makes writing on it a little bit more frustrating when I switch back and forth between my iPhone and iPad.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus speakers are louder and more accurate.

There’s a new A11 Bionic chip with six cores inside the iPhone 8. It’s supposedly 25% faster than the A10. Two of the six A11 cores are tuned for performance, and four of the cores are set up for tasks that can run efficiently and don’t require as much performance so that the device can save you some battery life. Those four low-power cores are supposedly 70% faster than the ones in the A10 chip.

The GPU on the 8 is the first one Apple has developed, it’s supposed to be 30% faster than last year’s A10 while taking half the power.

There’s a new image processing engine in the A11 that Schiller says will deliver faster autofocus in low-light conditions among other improvements that should make photos taken with the 8 look sharper and have less noise.

The cameras still shoot 12 megapixels, but Apple says that the sensor is larger and lets in more light. The Plus still has the exclusive on the dual camera setup versus the regular iPhone 8.

Apple’s photos captured with the 8 and 8 Plus’ cameras look fantastic, but they are just demonstrating the difference between an experienced photographer shooting for demonstration purposes and someone taking snapshots. Of course these camera improvements will help with either type of scenario, but they’re not going to turn Frank G. iPhoneOwner into a pro photographer unless they’re interested enough to edit their photos and think about what they’re doing before taking the photo.

Schiller says that there will be a new feature called Portrait Lighting in beta for the iPhone 8 Plus. He promises that this feature will be more than a filter, it’ll present you with different lighting choices for your subject in Portrait Mode within Apple’s Camera app. You’ll be able to edit those photos and choose different lighting scenarios after the fact.

Phil Schiller also promised that these phones have better video quality. You’ll be able to record 4K videos at 60 frames-per-second and if you like slo-mo you’ll be able to record 1080p video at 240 FPS.

Schiller says that the cameras and the A11 are also configured for augmented reality. The demos I have seen for AR on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are impressive, it could be useful to have a focus on AR in the hardware as well. Schiller played pre-recorded AR demos of a Warhammer game, an MLB overlay on a live game at a stadium, and an astronomy app called Sky Guide overlaying star charts directly on the sky as viewed through an iPhone.

Directive Games’ Atli Mar demoed their AR game, The Machines. It looked a little bit like an RTS but overlaid on a table. Mar said that there was a strategic advantage to being able to move the game’s camera around by moving the physical phone, but I’m not sure if that lines up with reality. It looked almost as awkward as the AR demo from WWDC but it is very difficult to play a game for an audience and line up your view to present something cinematic, especially in front of a live audience.

The iPhone 8 also has “wireless charging” which is just contact charging, it isn’t truly wireless. It’ll use the Qi charging standard that is already widely supported. It’s good that Apple didn’t make another standard, but they aren’t including a contact charging device in the box.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will be up for pre-order on September 15th and available in-stores on September 22nd. Here are the prices for different configurations:

iPhone 8

  • 64 GB for $700
  • 256 GB for $850

iPhone 8 Plus

  • 64GB for $800
  • 256GB for $950

iOS 11 will be out on September 19th.

iPhone X

Apple’s surprise of the iPhone X was spoiled by leaks and rumors, I was pretty disgusted with some journalists who took umbrage with the person who leaked the information. It’s only in Apple’s promotional interests to keep these things a secret and they aren’t going to affect our national security.

Here’s the iPhone X ad:

 

Phil Schiller called it “the iPhone 10,” skipping 9, I wasn’t sure if that was intentional or not at first, but then they continued it and I guess this is just what it is now.

The X’s OLED display is 5.8 inches diagonally and continues the journey to a rounded rectangular slab that is all display without any border. It’s almost there, there’s just a notch at the top of the phone for the front-facing camera, earpiece, and other sensors. Apple calls this new display a “Super Retina Display” at 2436×1125 pixels and  It’s 458 pixels-per-inch. So you’re getting a display that’s larger than the Plus and has more resolution in a smaller package. It’s also got an HDR standard for films and Apple’s True Tone tech.

Last year we lost the headphone TRSS jack and the home button was replaced with a simulation that I’ve grown accustomed to. This year the home button is just gone. You can wake the phone up by tapping on the display when it is in sleep mode.

iOS has other changes to accommodate the lack of a home button, of course. To get to the home screen from a “locked” iPhone X you now just swipe up from the bottom of the screen. It’s the same gesture when you’re in an app. Pausing mid-swipe, instead of raising your hand off the screen to complete the gesture, will bring up the multitasking switcher to choose from your recent apps.

I’m curious how that will work out with games. This overloading of gestures is a lot for users to take in.

The iPhone X’s sleep/wake switch is larger and can also be used to activate Siri.

Without a home button there isn’t room for a sensor to read your fingerprint for TouchID, so the iPhone X will have a face recognition system that Apple calls FaceID. Phil Schiller assures us that new sensors at the top of the phone in the notch will securely detect your face, even in the dark, to authorize your iPhone to be unlocked or in other places where you use TouchID. Including with Apple Pay.

Phil Schiller’s pitch for FaceID included a terrifying image of a wall of fake faces that Apple’s engineers used to test the face unlocking feature.

Apple are making an API available to developers for accessing the kinect-style data from the sensors on the front of the iPhone. They’re using the sensors internally to make 12 animated emojis that respond to your face and can be recorded along with audio messages to send over iMessage. Snapchat was demonstrated with it for face masking as well. They had a pretty impressive Ultimate Warrior style mask.

Craig Federighi demonstrated the iPhone X and showed that you can access the new iOS 11 Control Center by swiping down from the upper right corner where the connection status indicators are.

Phil Schiller boasted about the iPhone X cameras, they’re even better than the ones in the iPhone 8 Plus with optical image stabilization on both cameras. The front-facing camera is supposed to be better for selfies as well.

The iPhone X is supposed to get 2 more hours of battery life over the base iPhone 7, and have the same Qi charging as the 8.

The iPhone X will be up for pre-order on October 27th and shipping on November 3rd. Here are the prices for different configurations:

  • 64GB for $1000
  • 256GB for $1150

AirPower & Updated AirPods

Apple also has a new oval Qi charging mat coming out next year that will charge the iPhone 8 and X, as well as their Apple Watch and a new case for the AirPods that Phil Schiller said was “optional.” I’m not sure yet if “optional” means a more expensive set of AirPods or a separate purchase after the fact or both. I’d hope I could upgrade my current AirPods with a one-time purchase.

Overall:
I’m kind of disappointed with the pitch for the iPhone 8 versus the iPhone X. I don’t think I would personally want the iPhone 8 or 8 Plus when there’s an iPhone X available. Although I’m sure the iPhone X will not be available in as large a quantity as the 8. I also am not looking forward to an upgrade to the AirPods already. They don’t seem like something that should change as often, but I guess it might end up being similar to the Watch where there are updates but they seem less necessary than the phone.

I’m very disappointed that Apple is calling contact charging “wireless” when there are wires involved and you can’t just hold your iPhone five feet from the AirPower dingus to charge it.

Apple Releases Clips App

It’s the Ken Burns effect but for millennials. Joanna Stern has a guide to Clips on the WSJ:

Hang-gliding over the Swiss Alps, or just cleaning your dryer’s lint tray? Either way, the titans of tech want you to record a snippet of it. Then they want you to slap on some emojis and text. Then they want you to share it with the world.

Snapchat started it. Instagram copied it. Facebook really copied it. Even Microsoft’s doing it. And now… Apple. Available Thursday for the iPhone and iPad, Apple’s Clips app lets you shoot, edit and share mobile-friendly mini-movies. If you have iOS 10.3 (the latest version), you can download it from the App Store.