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iPhone XS: Here's what it needed, and what we got

Ahead of the iPhone XS unveiling I compiled a wishlist of what the iPhone needed to stay ahead of the flagship Android smartphones. Let's take a look at what we got, and what we didn't.
Bigger battery
1 of 9 iFixit

Bigger battery

What we wanted

This is the feature that is at the top of almost everyone's iPhone wishlist.

The Apple battery throttling scandal has uncovered a serious problem. In its pursuit of "thinner and lighter," Apple built the iPhone to such a fine tolerance that the battery could wear out in a couple of years to the point where without active throttling normal use would cause the device to crash.

For a device that costs as much as the iPhone does, that's pretty poor engineering.

And Samsung has raised the bar, putting a massive 4,000mAh "all-day battery" into the Note 9. That, combined with the fact that the Note 9 is supplied with a fast charger means that charging shouldn't be a huge issue any more.

The bottom line is that the iPhone needs a bigger battery, not only to give it the room needed to wear without causing the owner grief within a normal lifespan (which I take to be a minimum of three years), but also to move the bar away from the 10-hour life that Apple claims for specific tasks, and allow it to offer true all-day performance.

Did we get this?

It's unclear. It seems that Apple has managed to squeeze more battery life out of the newer crop of iPhones, but whether this is down to bigger batteries, better optimizations, or a combination of the two is not known at this point.

microSD card slot
2 of 9 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

microSD card slot

What we wanted

I have no idea why Apple doesn't offer a microSD card slot in the iPhone X. I mean, even at the bottom-end you're paying $1,000 for the handset. Is it really that much to ask for the ability to augment the internal storage with a microSD card? Is Apple really so hungry for every dollar that it can't bear the idea that someone might buy the lower-capacity iPhone in there was a microSD card slot?

On the flipside, imagine how much Apple could sell Apple-branded 512GB microSD cards for?

Did we get this?

No, still no storage card option, but there is a new 512GB option.

Shatterproof display
3 of 9 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

Shatterproof display

What we wanted

What's the feature that takes most iPhones out of action? In my experience it's a broken screen (I'm amazed how many iPhones I see where the display is shattered completely, but the owner is still valiantly using it!).

There's no doubt that Gorilla Glass is tough, but it's still glass. Glass has a habit of shattering. And it's probably the most common way that iPhones are wiped out in normal use.

While kitting the iPhone out with a tougher display would surely make iPhones last longer, and possibly have a negative effect on sales, it would be a really good thing for iPhone owners.

Did we get this?

Apple claims that the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max feature the "most durable glass ever in a smartphone." What this translates to in the real world remains to be seen. But given how lacking in durability modern displays are, and how easily they break, this promise feels hollow.

Apple Pencil support
4 of 9 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

Apple Pencil support

What we wanted

Given how much Apple likes to sell overpriced accessories, I'm surprised the Apple Pencil support hasn't been rolled out to the iPhone yet.

The S Pen isn't new, but the updated version for the Note 9 gives it a whole raft of new abilities, such as the ability to use it to control the camera remotely, to using it to control slideshows and even apps.

It even recharges automatically when stored in the slot in the Note 9.

Did we get this?

No.

Proper waterproofing
5 of 9 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

Proper waterproofing

What we wanted

The iPhone 8 and iPhone X are rated as splash, water, and dust resistant to IP67 standards while Samsung's Galaxy Note 9 and S9 -- like the S8 that came before it -- are IP68 certified. That might seem like a small difference, but it's actually quite big.

It's time Apple upgraded the iPhone's "water resistance" to proper waterproof status.

IP stands for Ingress Protection, a standard drawn up by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and the first digit following the IP relates to how resistant the device is to particles -- such as dirt and dust -- the device is. The "6" is the highest rating, indicating that the device passed the following test:

"No ingress of dust; complete protection against contact (dust tight). A vacuum must be applied. Test duration of up to 8 hours based on air flow."

But it's that second number that's the important one. The difference between scoring a 7, which is what the iPhone is certified for, and an 8 is huge:

Scoring a seven means:

"Ingress of water in harmful quantity shall not be possible when the enclosure is immersed in water under defined conditions of pressure and time (up to 1 meters of submersion)."

While scoring an eight means:

"The equipment is suitable for continuous immersion in water under conditions which shall be specified by the manufacturer. However, with certain types of equipment, it can mean that water can enter but only in such a manner that it produces no harmful effects. The test depth and duration is expected to be greater than the requirements for IPx7, and other environmental effects may be added, such as temperature cycling before immersion."

Did we get this?

Yes and no. The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are rated to IP68. The iPhone XR continues to be rated to IP67.

Dual-SIM
6 of 9 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

Dual-SIM

What we wanted

A dual-SIM option is not something everyone will want, but for those who travel, or who want to have separation between work and home, this is a great option that's sorely lacking from the iPhone.

Did we get this?

Yes. The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max have dual-SIM capability.

More system RAM
7 of 9 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

More system RAM

What we wanted

Apple has a tendency for building the iPhone to the lowest possible specification that it can get away with. That allows it to pull in massive profit margins.

While 2/3 GB of RAM as found in the latest iPhones isn't bad, more RAM would allow for better and smoother multitasking, as well as allowing the operating system to process higher megapixel photos and juggle bigger files with less of a performance hit.

The new Note 9 offers owners the choice of either 6GB or 8GB of RAM, depending on which storage configuration is chosen.

More RAM also gives iPhones a great future-proofing, allowing it to better handle new iOS releases without feeling bogged down.

Did we get this?

According to Geekbench benchmarks, the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max has been increased from 3GB to 4GB, with the iPhone XR sticking with 3GB of RAM.

Fast charging accessories in the box, please
8 of 9 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

Fast charging accessories in the box, please

What we wanted

I have no idea why Apple doesn't ship a fast charger and USB-C cable with the iPhone 8 and iPhone X. Well, except for the fact that Apple can sell the cable as an accessory and ask crazy money for it.

But seriously, shipping the new iPhone with the old slow-charge cable and charger seems like extreme penny-pinching, and not what I expect from a premium product.

Did we get this?

While it was rumored that Apple would ship a USB-C charger with the new iPhones, this wasn't the case in the end. It's also worth noting that Apple no longer ships the 3.5mm-headphone-to-Lightning dongle (so if you need one, that'll cost you $9).

A proper docking system
9 of 9 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

A proper docking system

What we wanted

Samsung has one feature that is pretty exciting that Apple needs to consider -- DeX.

For those who don't know, DeX is a dock that allows users to connect their Galaxy smartphone to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse to turn it into a desktop experience -- of sorts -- powered by the handset.

This "dock that transforms a smartphone into a desktop PC" thing is not a new idea -- it's been tried many times before -- and DeX is not perfect by a long shot, but it is certainly the most credible attempt at bridging the smartphone/desktop gap.

And, right now, Apple has nothing to compete with DeX.

OK, some of you are probably already flexing your fingers in preparation to type into the comments something along the lines of "but what about the iPad?" or "who needs a desktop when you have an iPhone?" or "what about the MacBook?"

My response is simple: None of these solutions comes close to what DeX offers.

Did we get this?

No.

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