Apple’s 2018 September Event

iPhone XR in Yellow
iPhone XR in Yellow (Apple Pressroom)

Compared to the breakneck speed of some of Apple’s previous keynotes, this one moved at a rather leisurely pace. It helped that there were only three products to introduce.

Apple Watch 4th generation

I’ve been holding off on getting an Apple Watch. They are pricey, and the improvements each generation have been significant. If you’re interested in keeping your tech for a while, though, the 4th gen watch might be the tipping point. The new watches are larger (boo) but have much larger screen-to-body ratios, and are slightly thinner (though still not as thin as the original ‘Series 0’ watches.) The new models are packed with more sensors, including an EKG. This seems like the model to get.

iPhone XS/ XS Max

The new names for Apple’s flagship phones are dumb, no doubt about it. But as has been proven time and time again with iPod, iPhone, MacBook, iPad—it doesn’t really matter. We’ll get used to them and move on. People pronouncing the roman numeral X as “ecks” rather than “ten” is as old as Mac OS X, which came out the better part of two decades ago. Life marches on.

The new models have nicer cameras, higher storage tiers (though you will pay dearly for them), and faster FaceID. I’ve seen plenty of sentiment that this is a lackluster “S” year, but I think the problem is this conflates the X with the iPhone 8, whereas it’s actually a higher-end SKU.

iPhone XR

Thus, the real phone to look at is the XR, which starts at $250 less than the XS in the US. It’s very much a copycat of the XS, just with a bit thicker edges and a less impressive screen. If you don’t care about the 2x optical zoom of the more expensive models or 3D touch, though, it’s a pretty great value.

The XR is truly the spiritual successor to the iPhone 5C in that it comes in candy colors. They are all rather brilliant, with the coral and yellow especially being rather striking with glass backs and aluminum accents along the edges. There are going to be people who buy these just for the colors.

My reservations about the XR come down to size; my current iPhone 6 was always slightly larger than my ideal phone would be, and the XR basically means you have to buy an iPhone Plus-sized phone at the low end, with the problems related to reaching distant items on screen in a one-handed grip exacerbated by the fact that more of the phone’s front is now screen.

The iPhone SE was quietly killed off at the event, and while it’s possible they’ll bring it back in some form as a mid-cycle model like the original SE was vis a vis the 6S, it doesn’t make much sense to wait for an upgrade that might never come.


  • Augmented reality still seems like an idea that like VR is flailing around looking for truly compelling use cases that would break it out into the mainstream.
  • The iPhone X is gone, which possibly strengthens the connection of the XR to the 5C (as reportedly Apple couldn’t make the 5 cheap enough and thus axed it entirely.) I imagine a lot of people are going to jump on used X phones versus the XR or spending more on an XS.
  • Aside from the optical zoom, the other benefit of the second lens on the iPhone X was the ability to do depth of field blur. Apparently that’s come to the single-lens XR as well; I’ll be interested in seeing how well the software implementation is.