First look at the iPhone XS, XS Max

Mala Bhargava | Updated on September 18, 2018 Published on September 18, 2018

XS Max is the the biggest phone ever launched by the company

Despite practically everything about Apple’s new iPhones having been leaked out, the excitement and anticipation at the launch event is palpable. Apple didn’t get to being a trillion dollar company without being the biggest marketing genius on the planet, and the company knows well how to iconise everything, from the welcome to the architectural marvel that is the Steve Jobs Theatre well within sight of another icon, the Apple spaceship like campus, the Apple Park, to the elevator and the Apple Store in the vicinity, to the presentation style and the finish — it’s all signature Apple. And waiting for the show to begin, everyone turns into an Apple fan.

And now for the iPhones.. But to everyone’s surprise, CEO Tim Cook begins with the Apple Watch Series 4. Bigger but smaller, both variants of 40mm and 44mm have displays that spill off to the edges giving the watch a much more floating and sleek form. Information and imagery reach to the furtherest curved edges of the screen, fitting in more information. Apple says it has worked hard to integrate the physical form with the interface to make the watch give the effect of a seamless experience.

The Apple Watch Series 4 however comes with more than just its improved appearance and bumped up specs. It’s now a device capable of taking a mini ECG right on your wrist. With electrodes fitted on the ceramic sapphire crystal back and on the rotating crown can make contact with the wearer’s skin and measure heart rate activity. The results can be shared with medical professionals via a PDF file. The watch’s heart tracking can alert the user over both very low or elevated heart rates and detect irregularities including atrial fibrillation. Also impressively it can detect if a user takes a fall and alert emergency numbers if the person doesn’t respond within a minute.

Apple execs describe the new watch as being a ‘guardian for your health’ and indeed both the American Heart Association and the FDA are convinced enough to give the device clearance. But excited as the world is over the device, controversies have already sprung up over whether it’s a good idea to put even a tiny ECG machine into the hands of the masses who could get themselves and health services alarmed. These features of the new watch are actually not recommended for those below 22 years and those suffering from known serious heart conditions. Rather, it’s a first level alert. The features won’t immediately be available everywhere in the world, so there is plenty of time to see how useful or otherwise they turn out to be.

Move over for the Max

The lion’s share of the Apple Special Event was taken up by the three iPhones launched of which the iPhone XS Max is the largest — in fact the biggest phone ever launched by the company. Back in the Steve Jobs era, one wouldn’t have imagined a phone the size of the Max coming from Apple.

The XS Max is definitely going to appeal only to those comfortable with large phones because it’s broad and you can feel its weight. Without a case it’s slim and glassy to hold, but with a back case it gains a little heft for sure. But with that size you get a vivid 6.5-inch screen with new wallpapers that subtly hide the notch on the front within a black area. It’s a brilliant OLED display which if you want the Apple marketing is a Super Retina display. The notch is as broad as the one you may have seen on the iPhone X and it houses the True Depth camera and more which, for one, enables Face ID which has definitely become faster to use with less failures.

The overall design of the XS Max is much the same as it was for the iPhone X, for let’s remember that this is an ‘S’ upgrade not a design overhaul. Other than the silver and space grey colours, a new gold variant adorns the glassy back of the iPhone XS Max. It’s reflective and rimmed with edging of a matching shade. Once it goes into a case — and it must — you can forget how it looks.

The iPhone XS: the smaller twin

The iPhone XS is really identical to the XS Max except for size and things like the battery being scaled down for the smaller dimensions such as the 5.8-inch display. Obviously, it’s much easier to hold and grip and so much more familiar.If it weren’t for the new gold, it will be easy enough getting mixed up with the iPhone X as they’re exactly the same. But there’s a step up in smoothness, subtle though it may be. All the new iPhones now have a 7nm chip Apple calls the A12 Bionic with Neural Engine. The name may be a load of marketing, but this is the first-to-market chip of its kind and it’s supposed to be fast enough to handle AI tasks and augmented reality applications without missing a beat. Creatures in games fly past at top speed, projecting objects in front of you happens without a hitch - there’s a whole AR world to be explored. The chip also powers something one uses everyday though - photography.

Most people head straight for the camera of a new phone and that’s what practically everyone did at the Apple launch demo zone and beyond. Instantly with the 12MP dual camera system one can see that the photos from the cameras (both use the same camera set up) are much more vivid, detailed and have more depth and separation. There are things going on in the background that one can’t reach at easily, such as ‘Smart HDR’ which apparently takes many ‘interframes’ and pieces them together for an image that has much more depth and shadow and light. But while there’s no button for you to control that, you can see the improvement in results with even subtle tones being handled so much better. The primary camera’s famous Portrait mode now lets the user control the amount of background blur or ‘bokeh’. When a photo has been captured successfully with depth, only then the depth slider will appear on screen for the user to adjust.

Both phones now have Dual-SIM support, but not in the usual way: one of the SIMs is actually an eSIM which will have to be activated with a plan from the cellular carrier. These phones are now IP68 rated which means they can be submerged in 2 meters of water for say half an hour.

iPhone XS and XS Max will be available in 64GB, 256GB and 512GB at Rs 99,900 to Rs 109,900. The iPhone XR, predicted to be a popular option, will be available a little after the XS duo. We will be back with a more detailed look at various aspects of the iPhones in upcoming issues.

Published on September 18, 2018

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