/ 14 September 2018

Apple acolytes and fans of excess will access its Xs soon

The new Apple iPhone XS and XS Max come in silver
The new Apple iPhone XS and XS Max come in silver, grey and gold, and will be on sale from September 28. (Elijah Nouvelage/AFP)

Apple has announced three new phones and a redesigned smartwatch at its annual iPhone event on Wednesday in California. Ahead of the unveiling, all phones and watch models were named on its own website and, weeks prior, official press photos hit the web —something we’ve become accustomed to in a post-Steve Jobs era.

The world’s first trillion-dollar company is now eyeing a broader audience with the unveiling of the three models: iPhone Xs,iPhone Xs Max (pronounced “ten es”)and a slightly less expensive iPhone XR. And yes, there’s still a notchon all of them.

The flagship 5.8-inch Xs is the successor to last year’s model that introduced a super-thin bezel, edge-to-edge, organic light-emitting diode display and facial unlocking.

S model updates have always been incremental, which is the case with the new Xs and Xs Max that feature a new chip set, faster face ID,stereo sound recording,an improved display,better battery life and a new level of IP68 water resistance up to two metres. (It has also been tested against coffee, orange juice and other liquids).

They will come in 64-, 256- and 512-gigabyte (GB) variants.

According to Apple, the A12 bionic processor with its updated neural engine — a part dedicated to handling artificial intelligence tasks —is capable of handling five trillion operations a second. For the average user, apps will launch 30% faster; and real-time machine learning will improve group Face Time and memojis, Apple’s animated avatars.

The dual cameras have the same resolution as last year’s models: 12-megapixel rear and 7MP front but with updated sensors for sharper photos and a new smart high dynamic range (HDR) mode. Portrait mode has been given a minor tweak: the ability to adjust the depth of field after the photo has been taken. This particular feature is something we’ve seen on the Note 8, which can also be done in real time.

Minor tweaks aside, the biggest physical differences are the new gold colour, in addition to silver and grey,and the whopping 6.5-inch screen on the Xs Max, hence the naming convention, about which we’re still on the fence. The Xs Max is larger than the 5.5-inch iPhone 8 Plus or this year’s huge 6.4-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 9.

Speaking about larger displays, the less expensive new XR model comes in at 6.1 inches but with a cheaper LCD screen that Apple calls Liquid Retina. The frame is made from aluminium, unlike the stainless steel found on the Xs range. It has no 3D touch (to gauge the amount of pressure your finger applies)and has IP67 water and dust resistance. All models support wireless charging.

The Xs has the same A12 bionic chip set, but a single 12MP wide angle camera and a 7MP selfie-cam with True Depth, introduced on last year’s X, which handles face mapping for unlocking, memojis and animojis. The rear camera has the same functionality on the Xs models such as smart HDR and advanced portrait mode. It is available in six different colours, in either 64, 128 or 256 GB variants.

All new iPhones will support dual SIM cards,a physical SIM and an integrated eSIM, with the exception of China, which will carry a version that holds two physical SIM cards. It’s unclear whether South Africa will support the dual SIM set-up.

A redesigned Apple Watch Series 4 was also announced this week. It comes in two new sizes, 40mm and 44mm, which will support existing watch straps. It features a 30% larger screen, new customisable faces,louder speakers and a faster chip. New heart monitoring features include notifications for when your heart rate is too low or irregular and it has the ability to take an electrocardiogram, which has only been approved for the United States market.

The iPhone Xs, Xs Max, and Apple Watch Series 4 GPS will be available in South Africa on September 28. Local pricing on the $999 and $1099 phones are to be confirmed. The XR will be available at a later date.