Apple Watch

Apple Unveils New iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR, and the Apple Watch Series 4

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Apple has thrown back the curtain on its latest batch of iPhones and a new model of the Apple Watch. The company also announced plans to release iOS 12, watchOS 5, and tvOS 12 on September 17th. macOS 10.14 Mojave will follow a week later on September 24th.

X Appeal: The New iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR

Last year’s iPhone X was a massive hit, so Apple has gone further down that road, dropping the Home button and Touch ID and focusing on Face ID in this year’s iPhones. There are three models: the mid-level iPhone XS (pronounced “Ten Ess”), the big iPhone XS Max, and the less-expensive iPhone XR.

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You can pre-order the first two on September 14th, and they’ll ship a week later. Those who want an iPhone XR will have to wait until October 19th to pre-order. Here’s how the pricing shakes out:

  • iPhone XS: 64 GB for $999, 256 GB for $1149, 512 GB for $1349

  • iPhone XS Max: 64 GB for $1099, 256 GB for $1249, 512 GB for $1499

  • iPhone XR: 64 GB for $749, 128 GB for $799, 256 GB for $899

What do you get for your money? All three new iPhones rely on Apple’s new A12 Bionic chip, which promises faster performance and reduced power consumption compared to last year’s A11 Bionic. Along with snappier overall responsiveness, the A12 Bionic enables new computational photography capabilities. Users of these iPhones will enjoy Smart HDR, which combines multiple images behind the scenes to produce better photos, and depth-of-field editing for adjusting the background behind a photo’s primary subject.

Apple also improved the camera hardware, enhancing the dual 12-megapixel rear-facing cameras in the iPhone XS and XS Max with larger, deeper pixels and an improved True Tone flash. The iPhone XR lacks 2x optical zoom because it has only a single rear-facing 12-megapixel camera, but thanks to the A12 Bionic’s processing power, it can still take photos in Portrait mode and do depth-of-field editing. The rear-facing cameras on all three models can capture up to 4K video at 60 frames per second—now with stereo sound. The front-facing camera on each iPhone is a 7-megapixel TrueDepth camera that can also capture 1080p video.

If you carry separate work and personal phones, or if you travel abroad frequently, you’ll appreciate the new dual-SIM capability that lets these iPhones support two phone numbers simultaneously, each with their own plan.

What differentiates these iPhones from one another? One big difference is the screens.

  • iPhone XS: 5.8-inch OLED “Super Retina HD” display with a 2436-by-1125 resolution at 458 ppi

  • iPhone XS Max: 6.5-inch OLED “Super Retina HD” display with a 2688-by-1242 resolution at 458 ppi

  • iPhone XR: 6.1-inch LCD “Liquid Retina” display with a 1792-by-828 resolution at 326 ppi

Apple makes much of the iPhone XR’s LCD display, which is essentially a newer and larger version of the screen in last year’s iPhone 8. It won’t look as good as the OLED screens in the iPhone XS models, but unless you’re watching a lot of video or playing photo-realistic games, you may not notice.

Another difference between these models is size. The iPhone XS is the smallest, clocking in at a few millimeters and grams under the iPhone XR. On the other end of the spectrum, the iPhone XS Max has essentially the same dimensions as the previous iPhone Plus models.

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The other major difference between the iPhone XR and the iPhone XS models is the case material. The iPhone XS models have glass backs and are edged in stainless steel that comes in silver, space gray, and gold. In contrast, the iPhone XR features colorful aluminum casings in red, yellow, white, coral, black, and blue. Both are gorgeous, but if you’re like many people, a protective case will prevent you from appreciating the case material.

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Should you consider upgrading to one of these new models? If your existing iPhone is on life support, absolutely. And, if you want the latest and greatest, the iPhone XS models are the best iPhones ever, particularly for photography. But for those with functional iPhones from the past few years, these new models are less compelling, especially since iOS 12 promises to speed up older devices as far back as the iPhone 5s.

If you decide to buy one, which model you choose probably depends on how much you’re willing to spend since these are Apple’s most expensive iPhones ever. The iPhone XR combines modern technology with a lower price than the other two models, and the decision between the iPhone XS and XS Max comes down to size and cost. Finally, if the prices for the new models are too high, you can still get the iPhone 7 starting at $449 and the iPhone 8 at $599.

Apple Watch Series 4: Bigger Screens and Health Monitoring

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In a first for the Apple Watch line, Apple changed the size and shape of the Apple Watch Series 4, boosting the vertical screen dimensions to 40mm and 44mm, up from 38mm and 42mm, and making the screens a little wider to retain the same proportions. However, the new models are 1.1mm thinner and thus have less total volume. You’ll want to try on the different models before buying to see how they look and feel on your wrist. Happily, the Series 4 can use the same bands as previous models.

Apple claims the new display, which extends into the corners of the screen, is “edge-to-edge,” and while there still is a black border, it’s smaller than before. The overall viewing area is about 30% larger.

To use the extra screen space effectively and show off the power of its new S4 chip, the Series 4 comes with some new faces. The Infograph face can incorporate up to eight complications, the Breathe face moves in time with a deep breath, and Vapor, Fire, Water, and Liquid Metal faces animate behind virtual clock hands.

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More practically, the Apple Watch Series 4 incorporates new and enhanced sensors. Later this year, the electrodes built into the Digital Crown and the back crystal let you record an electrocardiogram and, after 30 seconds, receive a heart rhythm classification that can identify signs of atrial fibrillation. Recordings are stored securely in the Health app, where you can share them with doctors. Even if you don’t use the ECG app manually, the Series 4 analyzes your heart rhythms in the background and alerts you if it detects irregular rhythms or if the heart rate exceeds or falls below a threshold.

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Plus, the Series 4 can now use its accelerometer and gyroscope to detect hard falls. If you fall, the Apple Watch sends you an alert, and if you don’t move for 60 seconds after the notification, it calls emergency services and notifies your emergency contacts of your location.

Other improvements include a speaker that is 50% louder, a relocated microphone to make calls clearer, haptic feedback in the Digital Crown, a back made of sapphire crystal and ceramic for better cellular reception, and Bluetooth 5 for faster data transfer over greater distances.

All this technology comes at a cost, and Apple has raised prices to match. GPS-only models of the Apple Watch Series 4 cost $399, and cellular-capable models are $499 (plus you’ll need to pay an additional $10–$15 for a cell plan). The Apple Watch Series 3 remains available at lower prices: $279 for GPS and $379 for cellular. You can pre-order on September 14th, and the Series 4 will ship on September 21st.

Our take is that the new health-monitoring features of the Apple Watch Series 4 are compelling for anyone who is concerned about falls or heart monitoring. But the increased prices may steer those who are mostly interested in fitness features and iPhone notifications to the cheaper Series 3.

Find My iPhone - It's More Helpful Than You Thought

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On the face of it, Apple’s Find My iPhone feature does what it says. If you lose your iPhone, you can identify its last known location by looking in the Find iPhone app or on the iCloud Web site, and you can make it play a sound. It’s great for tracking down a missing iPhone, whether you misplaced it in the house or left it behind at a restaurant.

But Find My iPhone does much more! For starters, it works with nearly any Apple device. You can use it to locate a missing Mac, iPad, iPod touch, Apple Watch, and even AirPods. Find My iPhone also helps protect your data if a device is stolen. It even works with Family Sharing to locate devices owned by anyone in your family—a boon to any parent with a forgetful teenager.

You must turn on Find My iPhone before your device goes missing!

  • In iOS, tap Settings > Your Name > iCloud > Find My iPhone and enable Find My iPhone. (On the iPad, it’s called Find My iPad.) Also on that screen, turn on Send Last Location. Finally, go back to the main level of Settings, tap Privacy > Location Services, and make sure Location Services is turned on.
  • On the Mac, open System Preferences > iCloud and select the Find My Mac checkbox—if you see a Details button beside Find My Mac, click it and follow its instructions for setting necessary preferences.

Be sure to practice viewing where your devices are located and playing tones on them so you’ll know what to do if a device goes missing.

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Find My iPhone has a few tricks up its sleeve for when you want a device to show a message or if you think it was stolen:

  • Lost Mode: When invoking this mode for an iOS device or Apple Watch, you’ll be asked to enter a phone number where you can be reached and a message. After that, Lost Mode will kick in as soon as the device is awake and has an Internet connection. Anyone who tries to use the device will see your message along with a place to enter the device’s passcode. If you get it back, you can enter the passcode to dismiss the message and use it normally.
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  • Lock: Available only for the Mac, the Lock feature enables you to protect an entire Mac with a 4-digit custom passcode. You can also enter a message that will appear on the Lock screen. This is a good choice if you think you’ll get your Mac back but would prefer that nobody mess with it in the meantime. Note that if you lock a Mac, you can’t erase it, as discussed next, so lock it only if you think it can be recovered.
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  • Erase: Even if your device has an excellent passcode or password, you might worry that a thief will access your data. Fortunately, you can erase your device. Erasing a device makes it impossible for you to see its location in Find My iPhone, so it’s a last-ditch effort.
  • Activation Lock: If the stolen device is an iOS device or an Apple Watch, when you turn on Find My iPhone, you also enable Activation Lock. This feature prevents someone who has your passcode but doesn’t know your Apple ID and password from turning off Find My iPhone, erasing the device, or setting it up for a new user. In other words, Activation Lock makes it so there’s little reason to steal an iOS device or Apple Watch, since the stolen device can’t ever be used by anyone else. If you get the device back, you can restore your backup—you do have a backup, right?

Find My iPhone works only while the device has power, so if you think you’ve mislaid a device, try locating it right away, before the battery runs out. But even if you are unable to retrieve a lost device, you can prevent others from accessing your data or taking over the device.

Apple Intros iPhone 8, iPhone X, Apple Watch Series 3, & Apple TV 4K

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At its highly anticipated product announcement event at the new Steve Jobs Theater, Apple didn’t disappoint. 

The big news was the revolutionary iPhone X, which eliminates the Home button and unlocks by recognizing your face. Apple also announced the evolutionary iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus; a cellular-capable Apple Watch Series 3; and the Apple TV 4K, which supports 4K HDR video. The company said that iOS 11 and watchOS 4 would ship on September 19th, and later noted that macOS 10.13 High Sierra would arrive September 25th.

iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus Add Wireless Charging

Rather than calling the new model the iPhone 7s, Apple jumped to the iPhone 8 name to acknowledge significant hardware changes, notably a mostly glass case designed to allow wireless charging. Otherwise, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus largely follow in the footsteps of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, featuring the same 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screens, respectively. They’re almost the same size as the previous models, varying only by fractions of a millimeter in different dimensions, and are water and dust resistant too.

 
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Although the iPhone 8 models still sport a Lightning port (and come with a headphone jack adapter), you’ll charge them by setting them on a charging pad based on the Qi wireless charging standard (Qi is pronounced “chee”). Furniture retailer IKEA has even built such chargers into some of its tables. In 2018, Apple plans to release an AirPower charging mat that will charge an iPhone 8 or iPhone X, Apple Watch Series 3, and AirPods with a new charging case—all with no cables. 

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus screens now support Apple’s True Tone technology, which changes brightness and color based on the ambient light. Plus, their stereo speakers are 25% louder than in the iPhone 7 and have deeper bass.

Under the hood, the iPhone 8 models include a new A11 Bionic chip that Apple claims is the most powerful chip ever in a smartphone. The chip’s performance will particularly benefit games; apps that rely on machine learning; and apps using augmented reality, which can seamlessly place virtual objects in live video of the real world.

Although the basic rear-facing camera in the iPhone 8 is still 12 megapixels, it uses an all-new sensor that captures 83% more light and provides deeper pixels, a new color filter, and optical image stabilization, all while using less power. That adds up to pictures with better color saturation, a wider dynamic range, and lower noise.

Like the iPhone 7 Plus, the iPhone 8 Plus sports dual 12-megapixel rear-facing cameras, one with an ƒ/1.8 aperture and the other at ƒ/2.8. Those cameras have the same new sensor, and iPhone 8 Plus owners will be able to try a beta of Apple’s new Portrait Lighting feature, which lets you apply studio-quality lighting to your scene as you compose the shot. You can even change the lighting afterward. 

Both iPhone models boast improved video capture as well, in part due to a new image signal processor that provides faster autofocus in low light conditions. You can now shoot 4K video at 24, 30, or 60 frames per second, up from just 24 fps in the iPhone 7. And, you can capture slo-mo video in 1080p resolution at 120 or 240 fps, whereas the iPhone 7 was limited to 120 fps.

The iPhone 8 costs $699 for a 64 GB model and $849 for a 256 GB model. Available colors are gold, silver, and space gray. Add $100 to either price for the iPhone 8 Plus. Apple will begin taking pre-orders on September 15th, with general availability a week later.

If those prices are a bit steep for you, Apple continues to sell the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, and the iPhone SE starting at $349.

iPhone X Introduces Face ID and Super Retina Display

The iPhone 8 may be a small step up from the iPhone 7, but the new iPhone X is a giant leap into the future, setting the standard for the smartphone of tomorrow. Pronounced “iPhone Ten,” Apple’s new flagship iPhone boasts a stunning, edge-to-edge screen that fills almost the entire front face and eliminates the Home button. It shares the iPhone 8’s glass back and support for wireless charging.

 
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Although the iPhone X’s 5.8-inch screen is physically larger than the iPhone 8 Plus’s 5.5-inch screen, losing the bezel means that the iPhone X is just a few millimeters larger than the iPhone 8 and just a bit heavier. The extra size must have given Apple more room for the battery, since the iPhone X is supposed to last 2 hours longer than the iPhone 7 or 8.

You’ll see more on the iPhone X’s OLED display, which Apple dubbed “Super Retina,” since it has more pixels—2436-by-1125 at 458 pixels per inch—than any previous iPhone. In comparison, the iPhone 8 Plus is only 1920-by-1080 at 401 ppi.

With no Home button, you’ll interact with the iPhone X in different ways. You can wake an iPhone X with the Raise to Wake setting or by tapping on its screen. You invoke Siri with “Hey, Siri” or by pressing the new side button. To unlock the iPhone X, you swipe up from the bottom of the screen while looking at the iPhone X, and it uses Apple’s new Face ID technology to recognize your face, much like Touch ID did with your fingerprint in the past. Swiping up from the bottom of the iPhone X screen works across the system for jumping back to the Home screen or (if you pause briefly) opening the app switcher.

Face ID seems like magic, but it relies on the TrueDepth front-facing camera system—that notch on the top of the screen—which includes a 7-megapixel camera, infrared camera, flood illuminator, dot projector, and more. Face ID can recognize your face even in the dark, and it continually adapts to your changing look, so it can handle glasses, hats, beards, and more, all without being fooled by a photo of your face.

 
 

Like the iPhone 8 Plus, the iPhone X sports a pair of rear-facing cameras, but with slightly different specs. One has an ƒ/1.8 aperture, but the other is ƒ/2.4, as opposed to f/2.8 on the iPhone 8 Plus, and lets in 36 percent more light. The iPhone X also offers dual optical stabilization (on both lenses) for better low-light photos and videos.

All this technology doesn’t come cheap—a 64 GB model costs $999, and a 256 GB model is $1149. You can choose between silver and space gray. Regardless, you’ll have to wait a bit longer for the iPhone X because Apple plans to start taking orders on October 27th, with general availability on November 3rd.

Apple Watch Series 3 Adds Cellular

The original Apple Watch couldn’t do much more than tell time when separated from its companion iPhone. The Apple Watch Series 2 gained a GPS to track your location on its own when you were running or biking. But now the Apple Watch Series 3 includes a cellular chip that allows it to make phone calls, get messages, use Siri, stream tunes from Apple Music to AirPods, and more all while your iPhone sits safely at home. It uses the same phone number but will cost an extra $10 per month from your carrier.

 
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To make untethered communication possible, Apple built the cellular antenna into the display and developed a special electronic SIM that’s about one-hundredth the size of an iPhone’s nano SIM. The Series 3 also boasts a faster processor that speeds up app performance and allows Siri to talk back you, along with a barometric altimeter to measure relative elevation.

Amazingly, the Series 3 case is the same size as the Series 2, although the back crystal is a hair thicker. Battery life in mixed use remains at up to 18 hours, though you’ll get only an hour of battery life when making phone calls. 

The Apple Watch Series 3 has an aluminum body in three finishes: gold, silver, and space gray. For a different look (and potentially a lot more money), you can get Nike+ aluminum models, Hermès stainless steel models, and Apple Watch Edition ceramic models. Apple is also now offering a new Sport Loop band that’s meant to be light, stretchable, and breathable.

 
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You can pick from two Series 3 models: one with just a GPS chip like the Series 2 for $329 and one with both GPS and cellular capabilities for $399. Pre-orders start September 15th, with general availability on September 22nd. Apple no longer sells the Series 2 but has dropped the price of a Series 1 to $249.

Apple TV Adds Support for 4K Video

Apple’s set-top box hasn’t seen many changes of late, which makes the new Apple TV 4K all the more welcome for video buffs. The new device now supports two key video technologies: 4K and HDR. 4K video provides about four times as many pixels as are in 1080p video, and HDR (High Dynamic Range) supports more colors. The result is video that looks fabulous, with more detail, deeper colors, and better contrast than ever before.

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To see all that goodness, you’ll need a 4K TV that supports either the Dolby Vision or HDR10 standard—in other words, unless you’ve bought a TV in the last year or two, you’ll probably need a new one. Check the specs carefully!

The third part of the puzzle, after you have a 4K TV and an Apple TV 4K, is 4K HDR content. Apple is working with major movie studios to bring 4K HDR video content to iTunes at the same price as HD movies. You’ll even get an automatic upgrade to 4K HDR versions of iTunes HD movies you’ve purchased, when they become available. Netflix 4K HDR streaming is expected immediately, and Amazon Prime Video should offer 4K HDR video on the Apple TV later this year.

Dealing with all the 4K HDR video requires beefier hardware. The A10 Fusion chip doubles overall performance and quadruples the graphics processing speed over the fourth-generation Apple TV. The Apple TV 4K also sports faster and more modern networking connections: Gigabit Ethernet, simultaneous dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 5.0.

A 32 GB model of the Apple TV 4K costs $179, and a 64 GB model is $199 (stick with the smaller model unless you play large Apple TV games). You can pre-order it on September 15, and it will be generally available a week later. The fourth-generation Apple TV remains on sale for $149. Although Apple said nothing about when tvOS 11 would be available, it seems likely to ship with iOS 11 and watchOS 4 on September 19th.

 

Whew! That’s a lot of new hardware from Apple in one day. If you’re considering buying an iPhone, Apple Watch, or Apple TV, you can now choose from new models with tempting features or time-tested older models at reduced prices. And if you’re confused by all the possibilities, feel free to contact us for advice!

How to Unlock Your Mac with a Wave of Your Hand

Okay, with a wave of your Apple Watch. It’s magic. You walk up to your Mac, touch a key to wake it up, and upon noticing that you’re wearing your Apple Watch, it unlocks without making you enter a password. Brilliant! For some of us, it’s pretty much reason enough to get an Apple Watch.

Auto Unlock, as Apple calls this feature, lets you protect your Mac with a strong password—recommended for international spies and teenagers alike—without forcing you to type your password repeatedly. (You will have to type it the first time after you turn on, restart, or log out of your Mac.) 

To enable this protection and keep people out of your Mac when you’re away, go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General and select “Require password after sleep or screen saver begins.” Since your Apple Watch will be doing all the heavy lifting, feel free to set a short time span. Then select “Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac.” If the stars are smiling on you, that’s all you’ll need to do.

 
 

However, it’s likely that something won’t be quite right for Auto Unlock to function properly, since it has a bunch of requirements.

First, make sure your hardware is new enough and sufficiently up-to-date. Your Mac must be from mid-2013 or later, and it must be running macOS 10.12 Sierra or later. (If you aren’t sure about your Mac, see if that checkbox labeled “Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac” is present. If not, your Mac is too old.) Any model of Apple Watch will work, but it needs to be using at least watchOS 3.

Next, you need to turn on two-factor authentication. If you were using Apple’s previous two-step verification, you must switch to two-factor authentication. It adds an extra layer of security to your Apple devices and accounts, including iCloud, and is well worth doing in this day and age of password thefts. Plus, it ensures you don’t have to remember those security questions about your favorite elementary school teacher! The links earlier in this paragraph have more details, but you enable two-factor authentication in System Preferences > iCloud > Account Details > Security.

Now for the checklist. For Auto Unlock to work:

  • Your Mac must have Bluetooth turned on. Click the Bluetooth icon in the menu bar or look in System Preferences > Bluetooth.
  • Your Mac must have Wi-Fi turned on, even if you’re using Ethernet. Click the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar and choose Turn Wi-Fi On if necessary.
 
  • Your Mac and your Apple Watch must be signed in to iCloud using the same Apple ID. Verify that in System Preferences > iCloud on the Mac, and on your iPhone in the Apple Watch app, in General > Apple ID.
  • Your Apple Watch must have a passcode enabled. On your iPhone, in the Apple Watch app, tap Passcode and then Turn Passcode On. So you don’t have to enter your passcode, enable Unlock with iPhone.
 
 
  • Your Mac must not be using Internet Sharing. Verify that in System Preferences > Sharing.
 
 

It’s a lot to check, we know, but you only have to do it once. After that, go back to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General and select “Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac.” It may prompt for your password, and there you have it.

After that, every time you wake your Mac or stop the screensaver, it will unlock automatically with your Apple Watch. If you’re not wearing the Apple Watch, or if your watch is locked (hence our recommendation of Unlock with iPhone), you can still type your password at the Mac’s login screen.

There is one small gotcha. Every time you install a macOS update, Apple disables that checkbox, presumably for some security reason. Just go back into the Security & Privacy preference pane and turn it back on. Happily, that’s nothing for the win of not having to unlock your Mac with your password multiple times per day.