Apple September 2018 Event - "Gather Round"

Another September, another packed Apple event! New Apple Watch, iPhone and accessories announced as well as software reveals galore. "Gather round" for our round-up and initial thoughts.

Watch Series 4

With a 30% larger display, this is the first, large-scale redesign of the Apple Watch since it's launch. The good news is that it will still be compatible with all your existing straps. The new form-factor will be available in two sizes, 40mm and 44mm and manages to retain the same 18-hour battery life of previous models.

Packed inside is the ability to take an accurate electro-cardiograph (ECG) and the new Series 4 will be looking out for abnormally high, or low heart rates and atrial fibrillation. Clearly more focussed on health and activity, the new Watch will automatically detect a fall and alert your emergency contact or dial through to emergency services to get you help, should you need it. Activities will be more accurately tracked between software improvements to WatchOS and improved accelerometers, gyroscopes as well as the new dual-core 64-bit S4 processor.

WatchOS 5 will be available to download from September 17th, with a huge number of improvements. Everything from walkie-talkie calls to competitive workouts with friends, alongside automatic workout detection and even the ability to see certain webpages on your Watch. Clearly WatchOS 5 will be optimised for the new Series 4 but will also be compatible with Series 1, Series 2 and Series 3 models. It's sadly too much for the original Apple Watch however, which is unsupported.

With the Series 4 shipping from September 21st, the aluminium non-cellular models begin at £399 and cellular models (using either EE or Vodaphone in the UK) will cost £499. Stainless steel models will cost £699, and £799 for the cellular version. The Nike variants begin at £399 with cellular versions again costing an extra £100 (plus the optional data costs with your choice of carrier). It does look like the Apple Watch Edition has been quietly retired in this refresh however, as the Hermes is now the most expensive Apple Watch available.

For those who don't need all the features of Series 4, the Series 3 also remains in the line-up and is available for £279 for the aluminium or Nike versions, with cellular models of each at £379.

iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR

iPhone X is dead, long-live the iPhone XS.

With the iPhone X, iPhone 6s and the iPhone SE all quietly bowing out of the range with today's announcements, there is plenty of new hardware incoming to replace them. Phil Schiller's portion of the keynote gave us three new models of the iPhone and the theme this year appears to be GO BIG!

The iPhone Xs (pronounced "ten-s" as opposed to "excess"), has a stunning 5.8-inch OLED display with a resolution of 2436 x 1125 pixels. With that ultra-high resolution and a much smaller bezel, it means the Xs has a bigger display area than last years iPhone 8 Plus, despite being a physically smaller phone. The Xs measures 5.65-inches by 2.79-inches where the iPhone 8 Plus is 6.24-inches by 3.07-inches. All the extra joy of a bigger, brighter screen and less to carry. What's not to love?

The Xs arrives though, with a bigger brother, the iPhone Xs Max. Sharing almost everything spec-wise but packing an even larger display (and consequently, a larger chassis), the Xs Max, has 6.5-inches of OLED which packs in a stunning 2688 x 1242 pixels. Although this is a large phone, measuring 6.2-inches by 3.05-inches, that still makes it smaller than the iPhone 8 Plus, despite having a much higher resolution and in fact a larger (due to the tiny bezel) screen. Again, this is a big win for those of us who want to watch movies, play games and look at our photos without having to carry a huge phone. Even better, with OLED technology, the contrast ration is now up to 1,000,000:1, meaning blacker blacks and brighter whites as well as better battery life. Both the Xs and Xs Max have True Tone and Wide Colour (P3), which altogether, means these phones will have the best screens we've ever seen on an iPhone.

As mentioned, the Xs and the Xs Max share most of their technical specifications. With both having the new dual rear 12-meagpixel cameras, improved True Tone Flash as well as a 7 mega-pixel front facing camera, they'll be capable of taking stunning images. They both also feature the revolutionary FaceID from the now retired iPhone X, although it's been improved through better hardware and software to be even faster and more reliable. They both also share the brand new A12 Bionic chip, Apple's in-house designed, exclusive processor. The improvements to the chip mean that Xs and Xs Max have improved battery life over the iPhone X and can now support up to 512GB of storage. Along with wireless charging, they have improved IP68 rating for resisting water and dust ingress and will ship with the new iOS 12.

Now for the important bit.. Coming in a choice of silver, space grey or gold finishes, the iPhone Xs starts at £999 in the UK for the 64GB model, rising to £1,149 for the 256GB and £1,349 for the top of the line 512GB version. With the same colour finishes but that larger display, the iPhone Xs Max starts at £1,099 for 64GB's of storage, £1,249 for the 256GB and £1,499 for the 512GB model. Comfortably the most expensive iPhones, ever. They are expected to ship from the 21st of September in the UK and demand is anticipated to be huge. Get your pre-orders in!

The third element of the new iPhone range announced by Schiller, was the iPhone Xr. Although it sits below the Xs and Xs Max in terms of both specification and price, don't ignore this iPhone as an inferior option. It's packed with so much of the good stuff from the Xs that it really should be considered the new "standard" iPhone where the Xs and Xs Max are "premium" tier. It's also worth noting that the Xr will not be available until later in October.

Spec-wise, the Xr is powered by the same amazing new A12 Bionic system-on-a-chip (the same one powering the Xs and Xs Max), which means drastically more battery life than an iPhone 8 Plus as well as much faster processing than that model. Again, another win-win scenario. The Xr also has some trick new display technology, with a Liquid Retina screen. It's the largest LCD ever in an iPhone, with industry leading colour accuracy, True Tone and Tap to Wake built-in to it's 6.1-inches. Due to the new smaller bezel design and the improved resolution, the iPhone Xr will have a larger display than the iPhone 8 Plus, whilst being physically smaller. 5.94-inches by 2.98-inches for the Xr versus 6.24- and 3.07-inches for the 8 Plus, although the resolution of the 8 Plus is slightly higher, it wont be quite as bright as the Xr. The loss of the 'forehead' and 'chin' is a big part of the gain in screen size, but what happened to the home button?!

Well, the Xr also gets FaceID, Apple's facial recognition software and hardware, so you can unlock it by simply looking at it. It is also dust and water resistant, although only to IP67 standards, so not quite as good as the Xs and Max, but good enough to survive most splashes or brief submersions. The camera systems are also a slight step down from it X-brethren, but they're still incredibly highly specced. A single lens 12 mega-pixel rear-facing camera and a 7 mega-pixel front-facing camera that support Animoji and Memoji are built-in. You can also have it in a choice of colours, black, white, blue, coral and yellow but it seems the Product (RED) garnered the most attention immediately after the event.

The Xr, with so many of the features of the Xs and Xs Max, seems to offer very good value for money in pure price terms. Apple will be accepting pre-orders in October for the handsome new device at £749 for the 64GB version, £799 to go up to 128GB of memory and the even larger 256GB version will set you back £899 in the UK.

Everything else

As ever with September events, it's rarely just iPhones. Apple told us that we can expect to be able to download the newest versions of iOS, WatchOS and TVOS later this month, bring a plethora of great new features to existing devices as well as the newly announced products. HomePod will see some improvements such as the ability to suggest songs based on partial lyrics and enable the ability to set multiple timers, a real boon for those using the HomePod to help keep track of their cooking! Apple also confirmed the latest version of MacOS, Mojave, should be available to customers late-September too.

Thanks for reading and catching up on the event with us. It would be great to hear your thoughts on the new products so feel free to chime in by posting a comment below, or send us a Tweet to @KRCSapple.

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