Happy back to school and work! It’s that time of year again, when Apple unleashes new iPhones (and a few other things) upon the world. Here’s what’s coming.
But first, a word of caution
The latest version of macOS, called Catalina, is going to be released in October. We do not recommend you install it right away. As with any major software release, there may be bugs and reliability issues at first, and the nature of Catalina’s substantial under-the-hood changes may cause problems with non-Apple software. Older software such as Microsoft Office 2011 and some older printer drivers will not even run at all. So, hold off, let the dust settle, and when it looks like it’s safe to run Catalina, we’ll give the all-clear. If you do want to dive in, please ensure you have at least one current Time Machine or Carbon Copy Cloner backup.
iPhone 11/11 Pro/11 Pro Max
Apple is releasing three new iPhones, which become available for online presale this Friday, September 13, at 8 AM ET, and will be in stores (in sparse quantity, no doubt) on September 20th. Compared with their predecessors (the iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max), these new iPhones mostly stand out for photos and videos, but also offer better performance, water resistance, and battery life. None of them have 3D Touch, aka force press; it will be replaced with tap-and-hold in iOS 13, with which these phones ship. (Thanks to TidBITS for this clarification.)
For the last couple of years, Apple has been offering “standard” iPhone models starting in the $600-$700 range, and “deluxe” models, starting at $999: 8 vs X, XR vs XS. The new naming of “11” vs “11 Pro” makes this distinction much clearer, a rarity with Apple’s products these days. (There is no longer a dedicated “cheap” model, such as the iPhone 5c or SE; Apple now fills that gap with older models, but offer nothing as physically small.)
For photography, the iPhone 11 is a substantial improvement over the XR, starting at $699. It offers a second camera with a wide-angle lens, something never before offered on an iPhone, with 4K video recording. Night mode facilitates shots in the dark without a flash, and other photo-related bells and whistles abound. Like the XR, it’s available in 6 mostly bright colors, and rather confusingly has a physical size between the 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, despite it having fewer pixels and less advanced screen technology.
The iPhone 11 Pro (and the larger but otherwise similar 11 Pro Max for $100 more) starts at $999, and offers the 11’s new wide-angle lens as a third camera to the standard and zoom lenses found on the previous XS, X, and Plus models. Or, looking at it another way, the 11 Pro adds a zoom lens to the 11. This iPhone also has an improved OLED display (meaning that, unlike on the 11, black is 100% black), which Apple calls “Super Retina XDR” for being brighter and more brilliant, and richer in contrast, even in sunlight. The case is now made of stainless steel rather than aluminum, which ought to increase durability. Apple also claims 4-5 hour longer battery life on a charge compared with the XS (yay). The iPhone 11 Pro comes in four colors, more sedate than those offered for the 11, including an interesting new “midnight green” color.
If you want a new iPhone at a lower cost, the XR and 8 remain available, at reduced prices: $599 and $449 respectively. The 8’s pretty long in the tooth, and looks so yesterday with its home button rather than a notch, but at that price it’s not a terrible option if you’ve got something old, or broken, and the thought of spending more pains you. As for the XR, I’d probably spend the extra $100 to get an 11, but if you don’t care about that wide-angle lens, you could consider it. But if you plan on using either the 8 or XR for a few years, keep in mind that Apple will put these models out to pasture, in terms of iOS version support, sooner than the new ones.
Should you upgrade? If you’re drooling over that new wide-angle lens or longer battery life, certainly. If you’ve got an 8 or earlier, the superior screen and Face ID and battery life alone are reason enough to bite the bullet. But if you’ve got an X, XS, or XR that you’re happy with, and don’t care that much about the new lens or longer battery, your world might not be substantially changed by these new models. Keep in mind Apple will likely give you some cash for the phone you’ve already got — read below.
Apple’s cheapest iPad, starting at $329, has been meaningfully spruced up with a larger 10.2″ screen and support for Apple’s Smart Keyboard, bringing it into the same almost-a-laptop territory as the iPad Pro and iPad Air (which itself is a stripped-down older model Pro). The first generation Apple Pencil is also supported. Where this model disappoints is in its older generation processor that is likely to yield slightly lesser performance than the other models, including the Mini; still, at this price, it’s quite capable. You can order the new iPad now, with shipping and in-store sales on September 30.
Apple Watch Series 5
I bought the very first Apple Watch, and after the novelty wore off, I thought that I’d consider it again if they ever get it to always display the time, without you having to jerk your wrist or tap it — you know, like a watch. Happily, that day has at last arrived, so maybe I’ll give it another shot. The new watch also features a compass, and international emergency calling if you have the cellular version with an active service plan. Watch pricing starts at $399.
Apple is offering case materials of aluminum, stainless steel, titanium, and ceramic, in various colors. The Hermes and Nike branded models are also sticking around. Apple is also providing custom mix and match options for the watch body and watch band right on the web site as well as in stores, which seems like a good idea. Most older Apple watches will still be eligible for the forthcoming watchOS 6, so they’ll get some of the new watch’s health features and watch faces, but not that always-on display. You can order the new Apple Watch now, with shipping and in-store sales on September 20. (And if you want a cheaper Apple Watch, Apple will sell you a Series 3 starting at $199. The usual caveats about sooner obsolescence apply.)
For a while now, Apple has had this excellent program called Apple Trade In (briefly called GiveBack), where they give you credit for your old stuff. They’ve now integrated this right into the online ordering form, so If you want to load up your new iPhone before you nuke and trade in your old one, you can do that. Otherwise, you can go to https://www.apple.com/shop/trade-in, or you can do it in a store, but if you do that you might need to buy outright first, and then get a gift card for your next Apple purchase when you trade in your old device.
- macOS Catalina (10.15), iOS/iPad 13, watchOS 6, tvOS 13, and audioOS 13 (for HomePod) will all come shortly.
- Apple Arcade, a subscription app game service, launches on September 19.
- Apple TV+ (subscription for original content) happens in November.
- Apple Card, a branded credit card oriented around Apple Pay, just launched.
We gave an overview of these in our July 2019 newsletter, and will cover them again once they’re out.
We know this is a lot to digest, but we want you to have all the info you need when considering Apple’s new products. If you’d like us to clarify anything, please give us a shout!