■ Apple on Wednesday unveiled a new entry-level iPhone, the XR, in a wider variety of colors, including white, black, red, blue and yellow. It has an aluminum body, unlike the glass that other models are composed of. It will be available in October.
■ Apple also showed the iPhone XS, a sped-up version of last year’s $999 iPhone X, in two screen sizes: 5.8 inches and 6.5 inches.
■ The version with the larger screen, the iPhone XS Max, is Apple’s biggest iPhone ever. Both XS models release on Sept. 21.
■ The new iPhones are priced at $750, $1,000 and $1,100, higher than last year across the board.
■ The company introduced a fourth-generation Apple Watch with a larger screen that is more of a health-related device.
■ Apple said that iOS 12, its next mobile operating system, which includes the Screen Time feature for limiting how long people spend on their phones, would become available on Sept. 17.
Larger, faster and pricier phones. Where have we heard that before?
Once again, Apple has made its phones a bit larger and faster, and is charging more for them. The company said the new phones would start at $750, $1,000 and $1,100. The starting prices last year were $700, $800 and $1,000.
It’s a tried-and-true strategy for the company to milk a product line that has saturated the market; Apple said Wednesday it has shipped nearly 2 billion iPhones and iPads.
To boost growth, Apple has raised prices. Unit sales of the iPhone were about flat in the latest quarter compared with a year earlier, but iPhone revenue rose 20 percent, to $29.9 billion. Something else that rose 20 percent? The average selling price of the iPhone.
By going bigger and pricier, Apple isn’t just trying to boost growth with prices, but also by getting its customers to use their devices even more. Research shows consumers with larger smartphones use the devices more, particularly to do things like watch movies and play games.
That’s good for Apple. A central part of the company’s growth strategy is by getting existing iPhone owners to pay for more services on their phones, like Netflix and HBO. For each subscription bought via its App Store, Apple takes a 30 percent cut for the first year and 15 percent for each subsequent year. That bet seems to be working: Apple services revenue rose 31 percent to $9.55 billion in the latest quarter.
— Jack Nicas
More colors for the entry-level iPhone.
Apple introduced the iPhone XR, an entry-level model with a 6.1-inch screen. The device, which that comes in a wider variety of colors, including white, black, red, blue and yellow, is priced at $749 and just as fast as the XS models shown earlier in its event. It also has a slightly larger screen than the 5.8-inch iPhone XS.
Here are the XR’s main features: It has a single-lens camera, unlike the XS models, which have dual-lens camera systems. It also uses LCD, a less expensive screen technology than the OLED used for the XS, and is made of aluminum, unlike the glass that the premium phones are composed of.
— Brian X. Chen
iPhone XS? How do I pronounce that?
The iPhone is old enough now that figuring out what to call the new versions each year has become tricky. Last year, on the device’s 10th anniversary, Apple skipped the iPhone 9 and went straight to the iPhone X. (But they pronounced it ten not “X.”)
This year, that X created an awkward situation for Apple. The company has typically appended an “S” to the name of the second iteration of each generation of phones, like the iPhone 5S, 6S, and so on.
But this year, that meant calling it the iPhone XS. Never mind that XS is the abbreviation for extra small — not an adjective Apple wants for its $1,000 phones — but say “XS” out loud. In the age of smartphone addiction and devices that cost as much as some refrigerators, “iPhone Excess” may not necessarily be great for branding.
Instead, the new iPhone XS is pronounced “iPhone 10S,” or as the audience here quickly realized, “iPhone Tennis.”
Now add the new iPhone XS Max to the mix and you’ve got “iPhone Tennis Match.”
— Jack Nicas
Meet the largest-ever iPhone.
Apple quickly unveiled the iPhone XS, a premium model with a 5.8-inch screen, and the iPhone XS Max, a new big-screen premium model with a 6.5-inch screen. The iPhone XS Max (what a mouthful!) is the company’s biggest-ever smartphone.
The XS models are generally sped-up versions of last year’s iPhone X, Apple’s first $999 model. Apple emphasized the phones’ advanced processor, durable glass and so-called Super Retina OLED display with a wide color gamut.
It’s obvious why Apple and other phone makers like Samsung keep increasing the size of their phones: Phones with bigger screens are selling well. When presented with the choice between a small phone and a bigger one, most people will go with the latter. That’s similar to how just about everyone wants a big-screen TV.
For mobile phones, there are tradeoffs. For one, the larger phones are more difficult to use with one hand. With last year’s 5.8-inch iPhone X, it is difficult to reach your thumb across the screen to type a keystroke or hit a button inside an app. Those usability tradeoffs will probably persist in these new models.
The larger screens raise an important question about design and usability. Will Apple do much in the near future to improve one-handed use as its devices keep getting larger?
When Apple’s screen sizes started growing with the iPhone 6 in 2014, the company released a software shortcut, called Reachability through which users can tap the home button twice to lower the top of the screen and make it easier to reach buttons up there. That feature still exists for the brand-new iPhones, but the lack of a home button makes it more difficult to use — instead of double tapping the home button, now you swipe down from the bottom of the screen. I often accidentally hit a button inside an app when swiping down for Reachability, which can be frustrating.
— Brian X. Chen
Apple Watch becomes more of a health device.
Apple introduced a new version of its watch that it’s calling the Apple Watch Series 4, which it has designed to be more of a health aid.
It’s the first time the company has redesigned the device since it was introduced in 2015. The new watch is slightly thinner than the previous version, but the black frame around the screen — what are know as the “bezels” — has been removed to create a larger display area.
Significantly, Apple said the new watch has a faster processor and better health and motion sensors. For instance, the watch can detect when a wearer has fallen down, a leading cause of injuries. If you have fallen, the watch is designed to prompt you to alert emergency services; if it detects no motion by the wearer after a minute, it calls automatically. The watch can also perform a heart-rhythm test called an electrocardiogram, alerting you to worrisome heart rhythms.
Apple said the new watch would be the first over-the-counter ECG device offered to consumers and that it had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
The device’s new health-related features are sure to increase Apple’s dominance of the smart watch category, and they underscore the company’s focus. When the watch was first released, critics and consumers were confused about its utility. Over time, Apple has refined the device to focus on its health and fitness capabilities. Now the narrative is clear: Get this watch, if you want to live.
The Apple Watch will be available in several colors and band styles; watchbands from older Watch models will work on the new model. The Watch starts at $399. It will begin shipping on Sept. 21.
— Farhad Manjoo
Did Tim Cook really tweet that?
A few minutes before the event began, Tim Cook, the company’s chief executive, posted a tweet that appeared to be an errant direct message: “No. Who can get it here quickly?” He quickly deleted it, but not before it was liked more than 2,000 times.
Apple fans and followers on Twitter went wild with jokes and speculation. The blog Cult of Mac said: “Tim Cook just tweeted and deleted something weird. Could be concerning for today’s keynote.”
Then the lights dimmed, the enormous screen behind the stage lit up and the “Mission Impossible” theme began playing. A video showed an Apple employee with a briefcase racing across the company’s campus to the Steve Jobs Theater. She delivered it to Mr. Cook, and the briefcase was revealed to hold his slide show clicker.
No, Mr. Cook did not screw up before such a carefully choreographed event. The tweet was a marketing stunt.
— Jack Nicas