13 Sep 2018

Apple unveils iPhone XS models and fall-detecting watch

7:49 am on 13 September 2018

By Leo Kelion

Apple has updated its flagship iPhone X handset with two more powerful models, one of which is larger than before.

The iPhone XS and 8 Plus.

The iPhone XS and 8 Plus. Photo: Apple

The iPhone XS Max has a 6.5in (16.5cm) display. The iPhone XS has the same 5.8in-sized component as the original.

A new thinner smartwatch was also launched with added fall-detection and heartbeat-tracking functions.

There had been concerns that the relatively high entry price of iPhone X would limit its appeal when it was announced a year ago.

But Apple said it had consistently proven more popular than either of the lower-priced iPhone 8 models. Market research firms suggest it also outsold rival companies' flagship devices.

That helped propel Apple to become the world's first company with a market capitalisation above $US1 trillion.

However, China's Huawei still managed to overtake it in terms of overall smartphone market share in the April-to-June quarter, putting Apple into third place.

"Huawei was able to overtake it because Apple is not playing in the mid and low-ends of the market," commented Francisco Jeronimo from IDC.

"But Apple is very well positioned in the premium segment, and we don't expect that to change over the next 18 months."

Bigger screen

Apple highlighted that the iPhone XS Max's display was significantly larger than the 5.5in display of the old iPhone 8 Plus despite the two handsets being similar in size.

"Even if the screen on the iPhone X last year was larger some people who were on the Plus models missed the feel of a larger device, which is exactly what the Max is addressing," said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at the consultancy Creative Strategies.

Other analysts agreed that this might prompt some existing iPhone owners who did not upgrade last year to do so this generation.

"Retention has become very high for both Android and iOS - switching is largely a thing of the past," suggested analysts at UBS.

"Put simply, the replacement for iPhone is iPhone, the only question is when - and the when is driven in large part by form factor, namely the screen."

The latest phones feature a fresh processor - the firm's first to feature 7 nanometre transistor technology, which should aid energy efficiency and computation speeds.

Apple said that its Face ID system would now work faster than before and it demoed several apps, showing off its augmented reality prowess.

Huawei recently announced it had developed a rival 7nm mobile chip of its own.

Despite rumours that the larger phone would feature three rear cameras - like Huawei's P20 Pro - Apple stuck with two 12 megapixel lenses.

The firm said the Watch Series 4's usable screen was more than 30 percent larger, despite the device itself having similar dimensions to its predecessor.

The bigger screen allows more information and shortcuts to be shown at once.

The bigger screen allows more information and shortcuts to be shown at once. Photo: Apple

It also gains the ability to detect if its wearer has fallen and to take electrocardiogram heartbeat readings.

Apple overtook Xiaomi and Fitbit to become the world's bestselling wearable tech company in the second half of 2017 thanks to strong demand for the last generation of its smartwatch. It has held on to the top spot ever since, according to IDC.

"The reason it performed so well is that many network operators are only willing to focus on smartwatches with their own [built-in cellular] connectivity," said Mr Jeronimo.

"That's why they are shipping about as many watches as the whole Swiss watch-making industry."

Health features

Several insurance firms and employers already offer the Apple Watch because of its health-tracking features and its new facilities should add to its appeal.

Apple said that the Watch would warn users if it detected abnormally fast and slow heart rhythms, and added that it had already been given "clearance" by the US Food and Drug Administration.

"Getting FDA approval for health features on the new Watch underlines Apple's leadership in wrist-worn tech," commented Mr Wood.

"It's an arduous process that no other consumer wearable company has successfully navigated."

Apple added that a fall-detection facility had been made possible because of the introduction of "next-generation" gyroscope and accelerometer sensors that sampled data eight times faster than before.

If it believes the user has fallen and remained immobile for a minute or more, it will call the emergency services for help, if set to do so.


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