Apple announces iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR

Posted: 13 September 2018 4:30 am

Apple's new iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max will be available to pre-order from 14 September, but you'll have to wait a little longer for the iPhone XR.

As expected, Apple used its "Gather Round" event in the early hours of the morning (Australian time) to formally reveal its next generation of Apple iPhone handsets.

Apple revealed its rarely seen sense of humour, kicking off the event with a Mission: Impossible-themed video showcasing an Apple employee frantically sprinting across the Apple Cupertino campus in order to deliver Tim Cook's keynote clicker in order to start the event on time. From there, it was over to Apple CEO Tim Cook to kick off the launch day. Naturally, all of its new devices are "magical".

"They're also magical days, because we get to share our latest innovations with you" said Cook. The event kicked off with the launch of the new Apple Watch Series 4, before switching over to the new iPhone models.

"iPhone XS is the most advanced iPhone we've ever created" said Cook.

It is, as expected, iPhone 10S if you're saying it out loud, not "iPhone excess".

The new iPhones are now IP68 rated for water resistance for up to 2 metres. Apple's Phil Schiller says that it's been tested in a variety of liquids, including beer, although he didn't state where Apple stored two metres of beer.

In resolution terms, the iPhone XS has a 2436x1125 458ppi display that Apple's dubbed the "Super Retina" display. It will come in 5.8 inch and 6.5 inch sizes.

The larger iPhone Xs Max is "about the same size" as the iPhone 8 Plus according to Schiller, with a resolution of 2688x1242 at 458ppi. Both displays feature 120Hz touch-sensitive layers.

Apple's new iPhones feature the A12 Bionic chip, Apple's first built on a 7nm processor, featuring 6 CPU cores, 4 GPU cores and a neural engine. Apple's claim for the GPU is that it's up to 50% faster than the A11 bionic found on the Apple iPhone X. The new 8-core neural engine replaces the 2-core model on the A11 Bionic, capable of 5 trillion operations per second. Or in simple layman's terms, the new processing engine behind the new iPhone generation is fast.

Apple's claim is that the new iPhones are also significantly more power-efficient, even when using the higher functions of the new processor. Apple used the event to show off demonstrations of a new Elder Scrolls game, AR-based basketball shot analyser and shared AR game experiences.

Smartphone cameras are a key part of any premium phone and for the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, Apple has stuck to a dual camera model, with dual 12MP sensors at the rear. The wide-angle camera features 1.4um pixels and an f/1.8 focal depth. The front camera is a 7MP f/2.2 lens for selfies.

Apple's claim is that the A12 Bionic's image signal processor works with the new neural engine to more fully understand the scene it's looking at, a similar claim to the AI modes on phones such as the Galaxy Note9 or Huawei P20 Pro. Apple loves a branded name and its new feature is "Smart HDR", capturing multiple frames even when a subject is in motion to produce the best possible photos. Interestingly, there doesn't appear to be a particular camera difference between the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max in terms of announced capabilities, meaning you should be able to opt for the smaller iPhone XS and still enjoy its best camera features.

For portrait mode photos, you'll be able to adjust the exposure after taking a shot, switching from f/1.4-f/16 at will, using the A12 Bionic's new processing power.

Battery life has long been a poor point of the iPhone experience. Apple's claim is that the iPhone XS can manage up to 30 minutes longer than the iPhone X, while the iPhone XS Max will offer up to 90 minutes longer. The iPhone X's battery life isn't superb to start with, though, so we'll wait until we can more formally test them. They will be capable of up to Gigabit LTE, which should mean they're Category 16 handsets.

Dual SIM will finally come to the iPhone, but via a single physical SIM alongside an eSIM. In China there will be a Dual SIM model with two SIM slots, but only for that market. eSIM for mobiles hasn't really been offered in Australia to date, so we'll have to wait and see what happens with local carriers with regard to that capability.

Also as expected, Apple announced the iPhone Xr, available in Black, Blue, Coral, Yellow and PRODUCT(RED) finishes. It's only IP67 water-resistant, with an edge-to-edge LCD display that Apple dubs the "Liquid Retina" display.

It features a 6.1-inch 1792x828 pixel 326 ppi display, but there's no 3D Touch onboard. It does feature haptic feedback on the power button to quickly launch the camera, though.

FaceID is onboard with the same camera system as the iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max, but there's only a single 12MP f/1.8 lens on the rear for camera purposes. Like Google's Pixel 2 series phones, it can use that single lens for portrait style effects, leveraging the features of the A12 Bionic processor that's also on board. Smart money says it'll have less RAM on board than the pricier iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max.

Battery life on the iPhone XR is stated to have up to 90 minutes more battery life than the iPhone 8 Plus. That's impressive given the iPhone 8 Plus has had the best battery performance of any iPhone we've tested and it does mean that the iPhone XR might outpace the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max in this respect.

The Apple iPhone XS and Apple iPhone XS Max will be available with 64GB, 256GB and 512GB of onboard storage. As is always the way with Apple's iPhone lines, you can't expand the storage on any of the new iPhones, making that 64GB option seem a little small in 2018's busy smartphone market. The iPhone XR will come in 64GB, 128GB and 256GB sizes only.

Apple announced that pre-orders for the new iPhone XS would commence on 14 September. US pricing was stated at starting from US$999 for the iPhone XS and US$1,099 for the iPhone XS Max.

Here in Australia, the iPhone XS will cost $1,629, $1,879 and an eye-watering $2,199 for the 64GB, 256GB and 512GB variants respectively. The iPhone XS Max will run you $1,799, $2,049 and $2,369 across those same capacities.

If you're keen on the iPhone XR, you'll have to wait for a little longer, with pre-orders for the LCD iPhone from 19 October with availability from 26 October, with US pricing stated at US$749. Australian pricing for the Apple iPhone XR will start at $1,229.

Apple also announced a new generation of Apple Watch devices, the Apple Watch Series 4.

We're covering all the news from Apple today through our Apple launch news hub, where you can find all the details on Apple's new devices, how they compare against the leading Android flagships and everything else you need to know.

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