Hands-on with new iPhones and Ap­ple Watch

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Ja­son Cross gets hands-on with the new iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR, and Ap­ple Watch Se­ries 4

Sure, there’s am­ple un­der­ground park­ing and free food, but the big­gest at­trac­tion at any Ap­ple me­dia event is the chance to get your hands on new Ap­ple prod­ucts more than a week be­fore they go on sale to the gen­eral pub­lic. I was there at Ap­ple Park to see (and use) Ap­ple’s lat­est iPhones and Ap­ple Watch. Here’s what I learned.

iPhone X, ev­ery­where

A year ago, Ap­ple de­clared the iPhone X the fu­ture of the smart­phone. From the per­spec­tive of

Septem­ber 2017, this is the fu­ture – and the big­gest story out of the event is that all of Ap­ple’s new iPhones are a part of the iPhone X fam­ily. Ev­ery sin­gle one of them has glass front and back, with edge-to-edge screens and Face ID. If you buy a 2018-model iPhone, you will be buy­ing an iPhone X – and flip­ping up from the bot­tom of the screen with your thumb to un­lock rather than press­ing a home but­ton.

The iPhone XS it­self is pretty much the iPhone X on the out­side, though it now comes in a Gold op­tion. On the in­side, of course, it’s up­graded – with the faster A12 Bionic pro­ces­sor, in­clud­ing an im­proved Neu­ral En­gine for faster ma­chine­learn­ing-aug­mented fea­tures. On the out­side,

though, you’d be hard pressed to tell an iPhone XS from an iPhone X, un­less it’s a Gold model.

There’s no mis­tak­ing the iPhone XS Max model, though. It’s like a scaled-up iPhone X, with the same de­sign and style – just larger. After a year getting used to the iPhone X, I have to ad­mit that the iPhone XS Max didn’t seem enor­mous in my hand at all. (As op­posed to the iPhone Plus mod­els, all of which have seemed huge to me.) Maybe it’s the giant screen, with an ut­ter lack of bezels. Peo­ple who loved the iPhone Plus are go­ing to love the iPhone XS Max...if they choose it over the other big iPhone Ap­ple in­tro­duced at the event.

iPhone XR adds more colour

Leave it to the com­pany for­merly de­fined by a six-colour logo to re­lease an iPhone in six colours. The new iPhone XR comes in Blue, Yel­low, Coral, Red, Black, and White. It’s an in­ter­est­ing de­sign, with an an­odized alu­minium band around its edge, and a glass back.

In­di­vid­u­ally, the two de­sign el­e­ments are re­ally eye-catch­ing. When you’re us­ing the phone, enough of the alu­minium ring shows around the edges for you to know what colour phone you’re us­ing. And the back sides are gor­geous, all glossy and brightly coloured. My only hes­i­ta­tion is that I’m not sure how well the two ma­te­ri­als mesh with one an­other. The back of the yel­low iPhone XR is gor­geous, bright as a ba­nana, but its alu­minium ring looked... gold. It’s a ma­te­ri­als mis­match that didn’t re­ally work for me, but maybe most peo­ple won’t care.

The most im­por­tant fea­ture of the iPhone XR is its £749 price tag. That’s the tra­di­tional price of the iPhone Plus mod­els – at least, un­til last year, when Ap­ple raised prices across the board. So this isn’t a rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ily cheap prod­uct, but it’s the cheap­est iPhone X model ever, at £250 less than the iPhone X (and now, the iPhone XS).

To make an iPhone with a large 6.1in di­ag­o­nal screen at that price, Ap­ple has def­i­nitely cut some cor­ners. The screen is LCD rather than OLED, which means it won’t of­fer the kind of dy­namic range (vi­brant colours, blacker blacks) as the iPhone XS mod­els – but it’s still a re­ally good­look­ing screen. I did not look at the iPhone XR’s screen and no­tice any­thing off-putting about the

qual­ity. Ap­ple’s se­ri­ous when it says this is the best LCD screen it’s ever put in an iPhone.

Size mat­ters?

With the re­moval of the iPhone SE from the prod­uct line, and the lack of any up­date to the iPhone 8 size class, this is a per­plex­ing col­lec­tion of prod­ucts from a size stand­point. If you’re a fan of larger iPhones, you’ve got a great cou­ple of choices – a £749 model that com­pro­mises on a few fea­tures and an £1,099 model that doesn’t.

If you’re a fan of smaller phones, though, all you’ve got is the £999 iPhone XS – which is it­self larger than the iPhone 6/7/8 se­ries, let alone the SE. As some­one who has never liked larger phones, I adapted to the iPhone X eas­ily and have been very happy with it – but I un­der­stand that for peo­ple with smaller hands (or pock­ets) it might be a bridge too far. And it’s also much more ex­pen­sive. These three new phones are here, but what’s miss­ing is a £699 iPhone with an LCD screen, pow­ered by the A12 Bionic pro­ces­sor.

Will that make a dif­fer­ence? I’ve al­ready heard from some friends who are pon­der­ing an iPhone 7 or 8 pur­chase now that the iPhone SE has van­ished from the prod­uct line. I think it’s worth any­one con­sid­er­ing one of those de­vices to give the iPhone XS a try if they can, but it costs £400 more than the iPhone 8. That’s a big gap. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how Ap­ple’s iPhone sales track this year. Ap­ple seems to feel that the right play here is large phones, not small phones. Given world­wide trends,

it may be right – but that’s no con­so­la­tion to fans of smaller phones.

Keep watch­ing the Watch

The Ap­ple Watch Se­ries 4 is com­pletely rec­og­niz­able as an Ap­ple Watch, and old watch bands are still com­pat­i­ble with it. Yet this is ac­tu­ally the big­gest de­sign change the Watch has seen in its ex­is­tence. It’s no­tice­ably taller and even a tad wider, but thin­ner, and the cor­ners of the de­vice are tucked in a lit­tle bit, too.

But what you’ll re­ally no­tice with the Se­ries 4 is that screen. It’s pushed all the way out to the edge of the glass face of the Ap­ple Watch, so far out that the edges of the screen are rounded (to

match the rounded glass) rather than rec­tan­gu­lar. On a de­vice this small, adding a few pix­els in ev­ery di­men­sion can lead to huge im­prove­ments, and Ap­ple has built new watch faces (with more, and larger, com­pli­ca­tions) in or­der to take ad­van­tage of those pix­els.

Yes, dra­mat­i­cally in­creas­ing the screen space on your de­vice while only marginally in­creas­ing its size is a page right out of the iPhone X play­book. The iPhone X showed it worked, and the Ap­ple Watch Se­ries 4 will also ben­e­fit it. Of all the new Ap­ple prod­ucts I got to han­dle, the Se­ries 4 was the one I’m the most ex­cited about.

iPhone XS (top) and iPhone XS Max

The iPhone XR has an alu­minium band around its edge On the yel­low model, the band looks gold

The Ap­ple Watch Se­ries 4 pushes the dis­play all the way to the edges

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