Is a New iPhone in Your Future?

I’ve had some calls and emails regarding my recommendations on the new iPhones, so I thought I’d share my thoughts here.  

Since I wasn’t invited to the “hands-on” event in Cupertino, my views are only based on what I’ve read and seen online in the past few days, but I have done quite a bit of reading and I watched the keynote address in its entirety.

Here’s a basic overview of the three new phones:

iPhone Xs – This is the replacement of last year’s iPhone X, and outwardly there isn’t much difference, other than a new gold color choice. On the inside, it will have an improved camera sensor, better sound quality, faster FaceID, a dual SIM option, and a more powerful processor. This model starts at $999 for 64 GB of storage, with $100 price increments for 256G and a whopping new 512GB.

(Side note: Last year’s iPhone X has been discontinued, so for those of you hoping to get it at a reduced price, you’re out of luck. The good news is that the prices of the new improved phone are the same as last year’s prices. If you’re already on the Apple Upgrade Program, you can get a brand new iPhone XS to replace your X with little change to your monthly payment.)

iPhone Xs Max – Ditto everything on the XS, except more of it. The screen size is 6.5 inches, as compared to the 5.8 inches of the Xs. With the extra size comes an increased cost. This model starts at $1099 for 64 GB of storage. 

Pre-order for these two started on Friday, and they are all back-ordered already one to two weeks.  They will be available in Apple Stores on Friday, September 21, but probably in short supply. If nothing else, it will be a chance to see and hold the models, especially if you’re debating between the two sizes. 

The final model is the iPhone XR. While it has the same basic design as the other two, there are some notable differences. It has an LCD screen with a lower pixel density than the OLED display of the other two. (The Xs models are brighter with an HDR display and a higher pixel resolution. (2436-by-1125-pixel resolution at 458ppi  compared to 1792-by-828-pixel resolution at 326 ppi.The Xs MAX is an even higher resolution.) It has a single rear-facing camera, while the other new models have dual rear cameras. This gives them a telephoto lens in addition to the wide-angle lens. This allows for 2X optical zoom – there is no optical zoom on the XR, only digital. Digital zoom is always far inferior – everything is more pixellated. Even though they have developed portrait mode in the XR with a software change, I don’t think it will work as well as the dual system. It only has 3 lighting effects available in portrait mode, while the Xs and MAX have 5 modes. The XR is water proof to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes, and the Xs models are water proof to 2 meters up to 30 minutes. And finally, It’s frame is aluminum rather than stainless steel. It does have the same new A12 processor and the dual SIM option.  The best thing is the price – its $250 less, starting at  $749. Size-wise it’s smack in the middle of the other two, with a screen size of 6.1 inches. The other distinguishing difference that will appeal to many is that it comes in six different colors- red, blue, yellow, coral, black and white. 

If you’re looking to upgrade but don’t need the extra camera sophistication, then this is the one to check out. You’ll just need to wait a bit longer. Pre-orders for it begin on October 19, with the phone arriving in stores on October 26.  

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Other considerations:

All of these new models use Facial Recognition and the Home Button is gone. Face ID is super fast now in iOS 12, and it only took me a a few days to adjust to the missing home button and the new controls when I got my iPhone X last year. Actually, I like this system much better. None of the new phones come with a head phone jack, but they do come with ear pods with a lightning connector. This means you can’t charge your phone while you’re listening to music, and if you wish to use the ear pods with anything else, you’ll need to buy Lightning to headphone jack adapter for $9. (Last year, the adapter was included, but it is missing from the new phone’s included accessories. The other option, of course, is to get some new wireless headphones!)

If you have an older phone, you still have other choices to upgrade for a lot less money. The iPhone 7 series starts at $449 now while last year’s iPhone 8 starts at $599. However, the iPhone SE is no longer available, leaving no option for those of you who like a smaller display. 

I think the most exciting announcement at the Apple event last week was the Apple Watch Series 4. It has the first major redesign of the Apple Watch, and it now has a larger screen, a new speaker, new watch faces, and better performance. The winning feature, though, is the electrocardiogram (ECG) app. Available later in the year, the new ECG sensor is located on the back of the watch and it will take an electrogram using the digital crown. In 30 seconds, the reading is available with rhythm classifications, warning the wearer of atrial fibrillation ( AFib) or other arrhythmias. The improved accelerometer and gyroscope will detect and read motion data 8 times faster. That means it will recognize when you fall over. If no motion is detected after 60 seconds, the watch can call emergency services automatically, as well as sending a message and location to emergency contacts. These features have been approved by the FDA and a study by Stanford found that the app was able to identify more than 98 percent of the patients with AFib.  Amazing technology!

The price for the Series 4 with GPS only starts at $399. The cellular model that allows you to leave your phone at home, begins at $499. That is probably more than many people want to spend on a watch, but it truly could be a life-saving accessory for those with heart issues. Pre-orders have already begun on it, but shipping dates are already 3-4 weeks out. 

Even if you’re not ready for a new phone or watch, everyone can access Apples’ newest mobile operating system for free. iOS 12 available on September 17.  I’ve been using the beta version for a few weeks, and it has some great new features,  more about that tomorrow.