It’s iPhone month. And that means things are going to get a little crazy in the blogosphere for a while. That goes double for my house. We go a little stupid during iPhone season. We start plotting for ways to acquire things we can’t afford and don’t need. Yep, we’re typical Apple fans.
If you have already watched the keynote (of course you have), you already know there are three options for new iPhones, and that is before we get to a whole new rainbow of colors. We have the iPhone XR, the iPhone XS, and the iPhone XS Max. Here are a few observations:
X Marks the Spot
One thing immediately jumps out from the lineup: As I predicted last year around this time, Apple is done with the old-style form factor with forehead, chin, and Home button. The iPhone 8 was really the 7S, and the last of its kind. The iPhone X was the only phone Apple planned to take into the future. And that has been born out on stage this year.
All three phones are called iPhone X (pronounced ten). The archetypal image of the iPhone has been radically changed to something new. And as much as it will pain some to hear this, there is no going back. You will have to get an older phone to get the older style. All new phones going forward will be in the iPhone X family for the foreseeable future.
For the first time in an iPhone product lineup that I can remember, bigger is not necessarily better. The smallest of the three new phones is neither the least expensive nor the least premium. Yet it is not being marketed as some kind of thin and light like a certain class of laptop.
It is not exactly a small phone. It is just unapologetically smaller than the other two. It offers no explanation for this. And it does not care one bit what you might think about its comparatively diminutive size. It will be judged by its price and feature set, thank you very much.
The direct successor to the iPhone X, the iPhone XS, has lost almost everything about it that was special last year. It is no longer the most expensive iPhone in the lineup. It no longer has the most unique screen, navigation, and cameras in the lineup. It is almost boring compared to the other two.
The phone weighing in at the lowest price, the iPhone XR, is larger than the iPhone XS. Gone are the days when you can assume that the larger screen is on the better phone.
The Right Stuff
I probably first heard about the iPhone XR a couple of weeks before the official announcement. It has been rumored for a long time under different names. But I was pretty sure it was a reality around that time. And I was completely prepared to hate on it all the way up to the unveiling.
Then, something happened that melted my cold heart that was two sizes too small. Phil Schiller kept saying the right words and calling out the right features. I had a list of them in my mind that I expected Apple to hold back for the purposes of differentiation. One after another, those features were called out and shown on screen.
By the time it was over, I had no more objections to the phone save for one: I just knew they were going to screw us on the price. When that was revealed, I was left speechless. They made the right compromises for the right price.
The LCD screen has been improved to be even better than the iPhone 8. That is going to be more than sufficient. The sides are made of their premium aluminum instead of Stainless steel. So what? Apple Watch, anyone?
There is a single camera on the back instead of the dual camera. In the past, a single camera meant the lack of key features. Not this time. The only thing it doesn’t have is the optical 2X zoom. Did you notice that Apple never bothered to mention the zoom lens?
We will have to wait for reviewers to get all the new phones in a lab to test the quality of the photos? The only question mark is the degree to which Apple uses the second lens for portrait effects. Surely that will create better photos than a single lens doing software magic.
That said. Android phones managed the trick just fine with a single lens. I somehow don’t believe the XR photos will be disappointing in the least bit. What android phones manage to do off-device with photo processing, the iPhone XR will be able to do on device.
Of the three iPhones announce, the one that Apple seems to be pushing as the mainstream device for the regular Jane and Joe is the iPhone XR. They saved it for last, as if saving the best for last. They gave it the hot new colors. And they gave it the attractive price.
They also gave it a late release day which suggests that they are gearing up for massive demand. I suspect Apple does not know what colors will sell the most, and are waiting to see how the preorders go. They don’t want a bunch of yellow ones sitting on shelves while everyone is waiting for the red one.
They may also be trying to give the XS and XS Max a chance before the mainstream phone comes in and sucks all the oxygen from the room. Come late October, it is going to be all iPhone XR all the time. It is the one I would recommend to most people sight unseen. And I don’t expect that will change in the months to come.