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.

iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

Apple held an event at the Bill Graham Auditorium at just about the regular time as they’ve done for years to announce their new iPhones.

Here’s a brief summary of what’s changed in this year’s phones.

Headphones.

As was rumored, the iPhones 7 have dropped the headphone jack. It was generally used as a single-purpose port based on an ancient design from the 1800s whose time had come.

In retrospect it seems amazing how this change was leaked early. Tech people were prepared for the change by the leaked information, and although they grumbled about it still they were more ready for the change after the leak as it became increasingly apparent that it was going to happen.

It’s not surprising how many people reject change, and although there are some not-so-great effects to this change, I feel like it is ultimately a positive one.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve caught a headphone cable on a door knob and had my headphones violently ripped out of my ears, or found earbuds tangled up in my pocket and given up trying to untangle them. Once, I even foolishly spent more than $100 on a set of earbuds only to have them break, and then the replacement from the company broke within a month. These cables break devices, they are the failure points in headphones, they get tangled and the port itself is often faulty. Pocket crud fills it up and causes random issues with the jack dropping one stereo channel or the other.

There are true negatives to the change, accessibility devices used that port. So do a number of other accessories that couldn’t afford to pay Apple’s certification fees for their Lightning port or where it was just the best mechanism to connect. I’ve got apps that process guitar audio and the only way to connect my guitar the hardware accessory for a long time was via the TRRS jack.

Fortunately Apple has solutions for almost everyone. An adapter ships in the box alongside a pair of their EarPod earbuds that use a lightning cable. The adapter will also be available separately for $9 which is pretty cheap.

I wonder if all of the accessories that have connected through that port over the past 9 years of iPhones will work with whatever hardware is in the adapter. It isn’t clear yet if it moves the digital audio converter outside of the phone yet or not and what capabilities it has. So I won’t know if this will work with my guitar kit.

Apple has also introduced their own wireless AirPod earbuds. All wireless headphones have tiny computers in them, the AirPods have a new system on a chip they call the W1. These look just like the regular EarPods but without a cable, and you’ll notice metal at the ends for the new microphone. They’re smart, they detect if one is pulled out because you want to hear something or someone in your vicinity and pause whatever you’re listening to. Pairing regular Bluetooth headphones can be a pain, but the AirPods begin the pairing process with your nearby Apple devices when you open their case. That case is pretty smart, too. It charges the AirPods whenever you put them away.

Since you can use just one AirPod you could swap between them for hours and hours of listening. I use one earbud all the time to keep a better ear to my surroundings when I’m listening to podcasts. These have the advantage of being smart enough to switch to monaural output when you press play after removing one.

Most Bluetooth earbuds have a cable between the left and the right sides in order to just have the one tiny computer and battery. I’ve got a Motorola set from years ago that do this, they’re tough to kill and have great battery life although they’ve finally lost the little dingus that keeps the cables organized and attached to the part that goes around my collar. That’s where they get thick and have their battery and computer. Otherwise, the earbuds themselves are just dumb cheap earbuds like most.

People complain about the price of the AirPods at $170, which is kind of ridiculous considering that Bluetooth earbuds without cables have a computer and battery in both ears in order to communicate with each other and whatever device they’re connecting to. Most of those sets are also way more expensive. A set of truly wireless earbuds that were originally crowdfunded and looked very interesting Bragi’s Dash, go for $300 and lose their connection between each earbud while in-use causing all kinds of issues. The AirPods will be available next month so we’ll find out then if they’re better, they should be.

There are other changes, but the headphone issue is front and center for most people. It’s reasonable to be upset about it, but wireless audio connections are pretty damn good already so I expect most people will be very happy to move to those headsets.

I’d still understand if this issue would make people hesitant to get these phones at first, but I think that the change is inevitable at this point. Where Apple goes, the rest of the phone and tiny computer in your pocket industry follow. There will be some holdouts, and the transition will not be fun, just as there were with hardware keyboards, flip phones, floppy drives, disc drives, but I’m excited for fewer wires. Finally.

Water resistant, not waterproof.

Moving on to other improvements. The iPhones are now water (and dust) resistant. For up to 30 minutes and 3.3 feet (1 meter), the iPhones 7 can remain in water. So a quick dunk in a toilet or pool shouldn’t be an issue, don’t make a habit of it or try to charge your phone for 5 hours after getting out. Apple won’t cover water damage to the phone under warranty, which makes sense. How do they know if it was in water for less than 31 minutes or 3.3 feet?

Every year when iFixit tears these devices apart I’m kind of surprised at what is inside besides electronics. If you build a computer you know there are gaskets and seals, but glue? An adhesive is what makes up much of the sealing around the device’s screen. It clearly works, they’ve used adhesives for years to keep small mobile computers like iPhones together, but it feels strange to me to buy something held together with glue even if it is in addition to screws.

Cameras.

The cameras on the iPhone are all improved, and there is one more of them if you get the larger Plus phone.

The front-facing camera people use for FaceTime video chat and selfies is now 7 megapickles and can record video at 1080p compared to the 5 megapickles of last year’s iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. The front-facing camera on my current iPhone, the 6 Plus, is just 1.2 megapickles. People love selfies, it’s how I take most of the pictures of my son and I together, this is a great improvement.

Previous big iPhone Pluses had a camera feature called optical image stabilization (OIS) that was exclusive to them. Both iPhones now have OIS in their primary camera on the rear of the device, which is great because it makes low-light shots much better as it physically moves the camera system to help keep the shutter open longer and let in more light. Hold out something in your hand and try to keep it steady. That is why we all need OIS.

I called it the primary camera because the Plus now has an additional camera on the back. The regular camera is wide-angle, as it always has been and needs to be in order to let in so much light. The new camera has the trade-off of letting in less light but giving you way more zoom. Apple calls it a telephoto lens, but it’s more like a regular lens in contrast to the wide-angle of the primary camera.

Unless your phone has a camera lens that physically protrudes and can change it’s length, it can only have digital zoom with the typical camera sensor and lens fixture. Digital zoom is complete garbage. All it does is crop whatever picture you get out of the regular sensor. You get less picture data and less of a digital thing means you’re getting crap. Images from phone cameras tend to look like impressionist watercolor paintings when you get in real close via a tight crop or “digital zoom.” This second camera gets you a real, physical, 2x zoom and cropping from that point will be much better than cropping from the wide-angle lens and sensor.

On the iPhone 7 Plus both cameras also work together to improve every photo you take. If you’re outdoors and taking a photo the image processors on the phone will try to get data from both sensors in order to make your pictures better. If you’re indoors and the telephoto camera can’t get enough light to take a good picture, the image processors will dump the data from that sensor. Brilliant.

Both of the cameras on the rear of the phone shoot 12 megapickles.

Adding in another camera is a bizarre but frankly necessary solution, and it’s impressive that Apple recognizes the necessity of making the hump on the back of the phones that contains the lenses and sensors larger in order to include this secondary camera system. Most people think of them as a company that puts form behind function in their designs, this is clearly the opposite. That hump is hideous, and makes the phone slightly more unwieldy because it can’t lay flat on a table. I think Apple recognizes that most people use cases, and cases easily make the hump a non-issue.

Et Cetera.

The iPhones 7 are, of course, faster. They have a new processor with the marketing name, A10 Fusion. The numbers are kind of not important, benchmarks show that they’re faster than their Android cousins, but you should use whatever device you’re comfortable with.

More important than the processor improvements are the fact that instead of going quad-core like other smartphones, the new iPhones are quadcore with a twist. The two other processor cores are slower. What, why? Because then less important tasks take less battery. Smart.

The display on the iPhone has improved, it now has a wide color gamut. This means that reds and greens are supposed to be more correct to life. The cameras are set up to capture this new detail, but that does mean most older photos won’t have the additional colors. It also means that we can’t see these improvements on regular phones and computers, so you and I won’t know what the wide color gamut looks like until we see a new iPhone in person while it is displaying something that has more color data in it.

It’s a little disappointing that the iPhone didn’t receive the true-tone display improvements of this year’s 9.7 inch iPad Pro. That feature detects the lighting conditions in a room or outside and makes a white background look like a sheet of paper would in the same room.

The home button will no-longer physically move. Instead, the phone will attempt to trick you into thinking it moved with haptic feedback. That same haptic feedback will be used throughout the operating system to make the virtual interfaces more physically responsive. I’ve had the home button on a few iPhones fail in the past, so this is a welcome improvement although I’m sure it will take some getting used to.

The speaker on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus is now in stereo and can be twice as loud thanks to the speaker in the earpiece gaining new capabilities. If you watch shows or movies on your phone, this is great. If you ride public transit, I’m sorry for your loss.

One of the most important upgrades I’ve saved for last, and this has carried over to every other iOS device Apple sells, is that the 16GB models are finally dead. You cannot buy an iPhone with too little storage. The only options are 32GB, 128GB, and 256GB. These upgrades still cost too much at $100 for each storage bump, but I felt a small pain whenever a friend or family member bought a 16GB iPhone or iPad. It would have been nice if the base model were 64GB, that’s what I have in my current iPhone 6 Plus, it’s plenty, but 32GB goes a long way to making things better. It should have happened way sooner.

My biggest disappointment with these phones is that the design is largely unchanged from the past two years of iPhone. It’s becoming difficult to differentiate one rounded rectangle with a screen from another, and although Apple has replaced one color (Space Gray) with two others (Jet Black and a matte Black), I wish there were more physical improvements. The rumor mill says that these big design changes are coming next year, which will be the tenth anniversary of the first iPhone.

Would I buy these?

I like these improvements, but my initial plan was to keep using my iPhone 6 Plus until at least next year. It does what I need it to, in general, and these feel like a second “s year” for the iPhone. However, the resale value of that iPhone 6 Plus became almost nothing after this year’s lot were announced. Then along came T-Mobile with a deal to get people locked into two years of service. In exchange for trading in their iPhone 6 and 6s’, people could receive a severely discounted iPhone 7 or 7 Plus. It’s like if you were driving an older Honda and the gas station offered you an almost free new model if you keep buying their gas.

One of the reasons I love the iPhone is that I don’t usually have to deal with a carrier and their terrible service policies and retail stores directly. Attempting to upgrade my iPhone through this T-Mobile deal has proven why I hate doing business with cell phone carriers.

T-Mobile screwed up so badly they had to completely cancel the upgrade order I put in on the first day the phone became available and I’m still not sure if a phone is actually going to come in the mail and if they will actually honor their deal.

I would still recommend that most people save up and buy their phone outright from Apple in order to not have to deal with these carriers directly. Carriers are all scum.

Carrier issues aside, these new iPhones 7 are otherwise fine upgrades if you aren’t going to be very upset about the loss of the headphone jack and I would recommend upgrading to anyone on an iPhone 5 or older device. If you have an iPhone 6 or 6s, you probably shouldn’t do what I did unless you get that good of an upgrade deal. Next year’s iPhone may be an amazing improvement in appearance when this year’s was more about functional improvements to an existing design that is good.

September 7th is Going to be a Busy Day

Now we know where Patrick Klepek went. In a post for Vice Gaming, with fellow Giant Bomb alumnus Austin Walker, Klepek confirms that the rumored variation of the Playstation 4 with improved horsepower would be announced on a very busy September 7th:

Sony will reveal the first details on an upgraded PlayStation 4 at a September 7 event in New York, French gaming website Gameblog reported today. VICE Gaming can confirm that it’s heard the same information from multiple sources familiar with the planned rollout for the new machine. These sources chose to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak publicly about Sony’s plans.

Previously, previously, previously.

That’s not the only announcement that is rumored to occur on the 7th, the iPhone 7 should be announced on the same day.

This is Not Android on the iPhone

Wait, what?

Nick Lee:

Finally, Android on the iPhone
You heard me. The holy war is over, brethren. At Tendigi, we’ve designed and built a case that allows iPhone devotees to sample the best Mountain View has to offer. Join me as I outline the steps taken to achieve this feat, as well as the numerous pitfalls encountered along the way.

Okay, that sounds interesting. I’d love some straightforward method of being able to try out modern versions of Android without having buy Android hardware.

It must have been extremely complicated to get this done in software!

I ended up having to port (or outright build) the following components for Android:

[…]

screenstreamer: A daemon I wrote that connects to the usbmuxd service, transmitting the screen’s contents to the iPhone and emulating touch events on the Android side. This is where the magic happens. While there are many ways to capture the screen on Android, I achieved the best performance by connecting to the SurfaceFlinger service and reading screenshots from it. For more information, see this header file and this presentation. The droidVncServer repository on GitHub also contains some helpful pointers.

Are you kidding me? This is the equivalent of VNC streaming a Windows 10 desktop to an Android phone and saying that you got Windows 10 to run on an Android phone. The “Final product” image is a thick ass backpack that contains off-the-shelf Android hardware strapped onto an iPhone and looks like crap. If this were from a 14 year old at a school science fair that would be incredible.

It’s an SE, As You May Have Heard

These were the hidden images of the Macintosh SE dev team hidden on the ROM

Here’s what happened in the final 1 infinite loop Apple Town Hall today, before everything moves to the new UFO campus next year:

Ufocampus

Apple opened with a short video about the 40th birthday of the company coming up on the 1st. Tim Cook Briefly spoke about the FBI’s misguided attempt at defeating personal security for everyone who uses an iPhone everywhere. Then moved on to former US EPA chief, now Apple enviro director, Lisa Jackson.

After discussing efforts to power stores and server farms with solar and wind farms, Jackson moved on to Apple’s upcycled recycling initiatives. Electronics recycling is great when people are actually motivated to do it. The new program is called Apple Renew and they’ll even help you ship your old devices in for free. Here’s where you can find it online. I love these exploded views:

Recycling

The FBI’s recycling initiative always seems to take a little bit longer while they lock themselves out of your phone for some reason that even they don’t quite seem to understand.

Jeff Williams spoke about Apple’s health initiatives which are fortunately missing  exploded views. Last year they released ResearchKit for people to participate in research studies. This year’s CareKit is a new tool for sharing information about your personal health issues with your doctor and your family through apps created with CareKit.

Nylon watch bands

Tim Cook came back to drop The Apple Watch starting price to $300 from $350. Some stores have been dancing around that price on sale for the past few months on and off. The Watch also got new a few new bands, the nylon ones look pretty cool but they’re almost not NATO-y enough. It also receives WatchOS 2.2 today, which is mainly about internationalization improvements and an update to Apple’s Maps on the device for finding nearby things like restaurants. Here’s what it looks like:

Nearby

Moving on to tvOS 9.2 software update available for the 4th generation Apple TV today. Split-screen NCAA march madness basketball so you can finally watch four teams at once get the least amount of education their basketball institutions can provide under bullshit NCAA rules. You can now enter usernames and passwords for logging into services with Siri dictation and (finally) bluetooth keyboards which had been supported in previous Apple TV generations. I like mine, just wish it were easier to side-load emulators without having to hook it up to Xcode on my laptop. 

Iphonese

Greg Jozwiak introduced the iPhone SE. Apple made four inches great again as was widely rumored with this exact name. I believe this is the first SE Apple product since the Macintosh SE when SE stood for System Expansion. This time the iPhone SE is not getting 3D touch and there is no announced initialism or other meaning behind the name. 3D Touch is the biggest feature of the 6s and 6s Plus missing in the iPhone SE. It still retains more of the squared-circle shape of the 4 and 5 series iPhones it is replacing, and that is honestly a design I preferred in my hand. It’ll be $400 for 16GB. Which is a capacity that very much still needs to go away. $500 for 64GB. Pre-orders are up on the 24th, it ships on the 31st.

After announcing the new 4 inch phone, Jozwiak moved on to reiterating new features of iOS 9.3 which is also out today but were announced in January. Night Shift is f.lux for iOS and is the most important new feature in there. I’ve been waiting for that so I don’t do as much damage to my eyes at night. Great update, wish they had credited or bought out the f.lux people who really popularized the notion.

The truetone display of the new 10 inch iPad Pro

Phil Schiller came up to introduce the new 10 inch iPad Pro that replaces the iPad Air for anyone interested in that size of device. Huge screen improvements compared to the Air, and it even has sensors to adjust the display so that the color balance and brightness of the display’s white balance adjusts based on the lighting of the environment you’re currently in. It’ll also have the speakers, pencil and keyboard add-ons, and other improvements that already work with the iPad Pro. Though the 13 inch Pro lacks some of the updates seen in the new 10 inch Pro, the 13 inch version still sounds preferable to me. The camera gets a big upgrade to iPhone quality , recognizing that many people are goofily taking pictures with huge tablets so why not.

Schiller calls the new 10 inch iPad Pro a PC replacement, I’m still waiting for Xcode for iPad to cede that. $600 for 32GB, $749 for 128GB, $899 for the new 256GB tier on Wifi. Pre-orders go up on the 24th and it ships on the 31st. The 13 inch iPad gets the new 256GB model at the new high end wifi-only price of $1,100.

Peel iPhone Case Review

A Peel

There’s this iPhone case called the Peel. Apple… Peel, get it?

Here’s what the makers of this case promise for your $25:

This Peel case lets you protect your phone while keeping the same form factor. Other cases add bulk and weight to your iPhone but Peel cases are almost invisible.

That’s all true and it sounds awesome compared to other third party cases. The other ones all look ridiculous with huge logos, and bizarre contortions in their designs to make their cases look distinctive instead of getting out of the way of the iPhone design and just protecting the phone.

My last case, the Speck CandyShell Grip had their logo that looks like Kurt Vonnegut’s asterisk on the back and is ribbed for grip. It was great at protecting my phone from short falls without being as bulky as your typical Otterbox case. Even though it looked like a novelty condom for a robot, it was the Wirecutter’s top iPhone case pick for a while and I appreciated their recommendation. Then the thin strip of rubbery material on the Grip above the iPhone’s lightning port broke. Oh well. For a few months I tolerated the break while keeping my eyes open for an alternative when someone mentioned the Peel on Twitter and their pitch worked.

The Peel feels like the opposite of every other third-party case. Instead of being thick, it’s thin. Instead of having a distinctive look, it gets out of the way so that you can see the design of the $600+ phone you purchased instead of your $20 robot condom. 

Unfortunately the Peel is so thin and papery, immediately after receiving it in the mail I wondered aloud, “this costs $25?”

Putting the case on my 6+ was a little bit more reassuring. The first thing the space-gray case made me think of was a stocking on my space-gray 6+. The Peel feels perfectly formed to the iPhone that it is protecting. There’s an anecdote on the product page about Apple’s in-store repair techs replacing an iPhone and forgetting to take off the Peel because they didn’t know it was there. I’m not sure I believe that, one look at the back or sides of the phone and you’ll see it, but the transparent case does get out of the way except for the raised area around the protruding camera of the 6+.

Where the Peel goes from slightly too expensive and ineffectual to WTF is in resolving the largest issue with the iPhone 6 and 6+’s survivability, grip. It’s a slippery phone and despite the FAQ page that suggests it enhances the phone’s grip if anything, the Peel sometimes feels even more slippery than a bare iPhone.

The front with the peel

The Peel will still protect your phone case from scratches and short falls, but not the screen. The Speck CandyShell Grip had a bit of a bumper around the edges to protect the iPhone from drops that land on the front. The cost of the Peel being perfectly form-fitting to the iPhone is that there is no protection on the screen. Of course, the people who made this case also sell a screen protector that is even more expensive at $30.

There is an advantage to being form-fitting in not ruining the design of your $600+ phone and in not blocking access to ports. My last few cases required adapters to fit headphone and auxiliary audio cables. The Peel requires no adapter for any port and the various buttons and switches on your device are left unencumbered.

That isn’t enough of an advantage to justify the usability and price of this almost paper-thin case.

If it had more of a grip, if it protected the screen with even a tiny amount of a lip around the edges of the iPhone, if it were cheaper, I might be more likely to recommend the Peel. Instead, it’s too expensive, doesn’t offer enough protection, and makes your iPhone even more slippery. Don’t be fooled by the svelte form-factor (0.35mm) and the unbranded and unobtrusive visual aesthetic. Get a hideous robot condom if you want to protect your phone.

iOS 9 Out; Go Block Ads

iOS 9 is out today for your iPhones and iPads. It is fine, I’ve been running the public betas for a long time now, you could read Federico Viticci’s 23 page review for a second opinion. My favorite feature is that you can now block advertisements and tracking sites (they know what you do and decide to advertise socks to you if you visit a shopping site that sells socks, or just sell your browsing data) using any of a huge list of content blocker apps. I will be using Marco Arment’s Peace, which seems to have the best options and defaults. Unfortunately this will only work in Safari and the mini-browser you see within apps. It won’t work inside Facebook or other apps that have advertising within them, for example.