Apple's iPhone XS Max price tops out at $1,449 -- and 8 other keynote takeaways

Apple launched the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR as well as an Apple Watch that now serves as a full fledged medical device. Here's a look at the takeways and what you need to know.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Apple launched its iPhone X successors -- the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and the iPhone XR -- as well as the Apple Watch Series 4. But while the products make the headlines there a bevy of takeaways and nuances to note. Here's a look at the key takeaways as well as how it plays into Apple's broader strategy.

Apple is full phablet happy now

The company's iPhone XS Max has a massive 6.5-inch screen packed into what is the iPhone 8 Plus frame and package. There's a 5.8-inch version of the iPhone XS design, but the big phablet will be the headliner among these next-generation iPhones. Remember when Apple grudgingly went big screen? No more.

Even Apple's budget iPhone XR, which is designed to appeal to more customers, has a 6.1-inch screen. Going into the Apple keynote pricing was the biggest mystery. Apple's iPhone XS Max eclipsed the price ceiling of $1,249.99 set by Samsung's Galaxy Note 9 at 512GB of storage, but also offered a compelling value for the iPhone XR. What's a Retina Display worth to you?

Also: Why do people want a new iPhone? This research gives a fascinating clue

New iPhone prices

Apple hit multiple price points with the iPhone X line with $749 for the iPhone XR, $999 for the iPhone XS and $1,099 for the iPhone XS Max. However you need to watch those storage costs. For instance, the iPhone XS Max on Verizon at 512GB will run you $1,449. Maybe this is where Samsung gets its value talk given you get 512GB on the Galaxy Note 9 for what you'd pay for 256GB on the iPhone XS Max.


Apple Watch is now a medical device and that's huge

The biggest takeaway from Apple's keynote is how the company now sees itself as a medical device maker. Apple Watch's big unveiling revolved around healthcare. The device can detect three new heart conditions and that addition will make the Apple Watch Series 4 a regular in the healthcare system.

Also: Apple launches Apple Watch Series 4, doubles down on digital health and wellness

iPhone 2018 first look: Apple's launch event scene by scene (pictures)

Apple Watch will see mass adoption now

Apple typically takes a few generations to truly nail a category. The Apple Watch Series 4 is evidence that Apple is nailing the smartwatch. It is already a leader in the wearable game, but now the Apple Watch will be used in more enterprise accounts for healthcare. A fall sensor alone could have safety applications. In other words, Apple Watch has the fashion mojo, the component advances and real use cases. There is likely to be an upgrade cycle as well as a parade of new buyers of the Apple Watch.

Also: How Apple Watch saved my life

Apple ups its processor game

The iPhone launch is really about the components and Apple's ability to make custom processors. The iPhone guts are the real enhancement as Apple pulled off the first 7nm processor, the A12 Bionic. Multitasking is more fluid, and apps launch 30 percent faster. Apple said that the A12 Neural Engine can process 5 trillion operations per second. "The A11 was a 2-core design, this is an 8-core dedicated machine learning engine," said Phil Schiller, Apple's marketing chief.


Also: Photos: Apple iPhone models through the years TechRepublic

Machine learning and AI takes center stage

Apple executives said they are opening Neural Engine to Core ML and that'll result in a speed boost with less power. Schiller highlighted how machine learning could improve selfies and add to augmented experiences. The real message is that Apple is an AI and machine learning player too.

Augmented reality gets a boost

Apple rolled out AR Quick Look, which looks at an object and brings it into the real world. AR is being embedded throughout iOS 12 and that'll advance the cause for AR applications and their various use cases.

Face ID improved

If you're going to rely exclusively on Face ID for the phone you better boost the sensor lineup. The A12 Bionic speed will improve Face ID and meanwhile the camera overhaul won't hurt. Face ID "is powered by our true depth camera system" and designed with "multiple neural networks, faster algos and a faster version of the secure enclave."

The reinventing photography spiel is getting tired

Schiller went on incessantly about the Bokeh effect and adjustable depth effects. He even touted a "a new era of photography" and some people call it "computational photography." Sounds familiar doesn't it? Google and Samsung have taken similar approaches and were there first touting new effects as well as algorithms improving photography. Perhaps Apple has reinvented photography, but often it is just catching up and improving based on better processors.

Dual SIM capability is really about Apple taking customer relationships from carriers

Apple touted eSIMs and Dual SIM capability. That move allows consumers to have two numbers, use two different plans and travel with a local plan. eSIM support will roll out in the fall around the world. China will get Dual SIM. Business travelers will be pleased. Apple will also gain from making it easier for customers to swap carriers.

Bonus takeaway: There will be an iPad Pro and Mac event

Apple was relatively focused for this keynote and kept the iPad Pro and any Mac update out of the equation. Stay tuned in a few weeks.


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