On September 12, 2018, Apple hosted its annual product announcement event in Cupertino, California. Releases included a major upgrade to the Apple Watch in addition to three minor upgrades to the iPhone X, known as iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max broken down in the product descriptions on Apple’s website.
Apple Watch Series 4 is the most dramatic upgrade the popular product has received since its launch in 2015. The screen now extends nearly to the edges of the device, yielding a noticeable increase in display area.
Additionally, the new Watch uses faster 64-bit architecture, and most of the device’s internal sensors have been upgraded. The improved sensing and processing power allow the Watch to more accurately track fitness data, enabling the device to detect if the user has fallen and is unresponsive—a potentially life-saving feature.
Moreover, Husain Sumra explains in her article on the tech blog “Wareable” that after years of the FDA holding back on approving medical technology for consumer devices, it has finally allowed Apple to include a single-lead ECG (electrocardiogram) sensor in the device, another change that is highly promising for the future of the Apple Watch.
When the ECG app is in use, the watch can automatically detect atrial fibrillation or sinus rhythm, providing vital real-time medical data to users with heart conditions. This is the first time that a smartwatch has been allowed to include any medical sensor other than an LED to measure heart rate, and may mark the beginning of a new era in wearable tech. Users have wanted other medical features, such as pulse oximetry, for years, but the FDA had previously banned such devices from the consumer market. Those decisions may now be changing. The new Watch starts at $499.
On the iPhone front, many tech analysts were curious to see whether Apple would continue the iPhone’s biennial update cycle after the major design changes that appeared in last year’s iPhone X. Judging by the naming pattern used in this year’s updates, the answer appears to be yes.
iPhone XR is the new low-end model, with only one back camera and reduced water resistance, but featuring a slightly clearer display than the other models. iPhone XS and XS Max are the new high-end models, similar in appearance to the original iPhone X while featuring enhanced processing power, a larger and faster neural network, a new 512GB storage option, and a new “Gold” color option. Additionally, the iPhone XS Max has a larger screen than the X or XS. At 6.5 inches across, it’s the largest screen ever used for an iPhone.
Despite the exciting possibilities suggested by an expanded neural network and the iPhone XR’s new “Liquid Retina” display, these are only incremental upgrades. Apple aficionados will need to wait until next year’s release of the iPhone 11 (or perhaps XI, if they’re sticking with the Roman numerals) for major design changes. The dual-camera setup remains exactly the same, the much-maligned “notch” still protrudes into the top of the screen, and battery performance is similar to last year’s models.
These new phones are primarily targeted towards perennial upgraders and owners of much older iPhone models, perhaps the iPhone 7 and previous. The new iPhones start at $749 for the XR, $999 for the XS, and $1099 for the XS Max.