A fully loaded iPad Pro will cost you $2,227

This is a public service announcement. The latest and greatest iPad, namely the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, will cost you $2,227 to buy in its best configuration and with the basic accessories that make it worth having in the first place. Plus tax, of course. I’m not making a value judgment here, just stating the facts. Tablets are getting pretty damn expensive.

This is a public service announcement. The latest and greatest iPad, namely the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, will cost you $2,227 to buy in its best configuration and with the basic accessories that make it worth having in the first place. Plus tax, of course. I’m not making a value judgment here, just stating the facts. Tablets are getting pretty damn expensive.

To be clear, here’s what you’d be getting for that price.

  • iPad Pro base cost $999
  • Upgrade from 64GB to 1TB storage: $750 (!)
  • Cellular chip: $150
  • New Apple Pencil: $129
  • Smart Keyboard Folio: $199

Tax varies. Shipping’s free, at least.

To me the cost of the base device is actually not bad, though I wouldn’t buy it. It really does look like a fine device, if you can get over the curved screen edges and minuscule bezels that will probably make you drop it. I can really see how the 12.9-inch iPad Pro could be a great tool for some artists, assuming they’re already successful enough to afford it. Good stylus surfaces are expensive and the iPad has proven itself to be at the very least competitive.

The storage is, as always, the eye-wateringly expensive upgrade that doesn’t really jive with the cost of the actual components. Good flash storage isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t $750 a terabyte. A good M.2 drive of that capacity and speed is perhaps $150, and that’s including the interface and so on. Apple charging an arm and a leg for upgraded storage is nothing new, but they somehow manage to make it just as shocking every time.

The cellular is another upsell that probably isn’t worth it, considering it also incurs a monthly cost. If it was a low-speed Amazon-style free service, I’d do it in a heartbeat to keep my notes and saved articles up to date. But it’s going to run you $150 up front and probably almost that every year as an added device to your plan. (Could be a nice option to have if you travel a lot, though.)

The accessories are expensive but that new stylus and its snap-on charging (hardly an Apple innovation but nice to have) sure do look nice. You’ll need a keyboard if you’re going to do anything but sketch and read comics on this thing.

Tablet computer or computer tablet?

And adding the keyboard is really where you start to blur the line between tablet and “real” computer. Of course the Microsoft Surface, bless its heart and its tiny sales numbers (unflatteringly called out by Apple on stage), is the one that has made strides here over the last few years and Apple is merely drafting it. That’s fine — it’s been the other way around plenty of times.

But the difference when you start looking at the apps and features is pretty serious. The iPad Pro is certainly the most productive and professional tablet out there, but as soon as you add a keyboard and sit it down on your lap, it starts competing with laptops. And the Surface lineup, while it may lack some of the polish of the iPad, is arguably more powerful both in specs (hard to compare Intel’s chips to Apple’s directly in this case) and certainly in software capability.

I suppose that last point is arguable as well but let’s try to be honest with ourselves. A Windows computer can do more than an iPad.

Microsoft’s device, after all, is a full-blown computer that acts like a tablet when you want it to, not vice versa. That’s important. If I was going to spend $2,000 on a daily driver (though honestly, there’s no need to), I sure as hell wouldn’t pick the one with all kinds of weird, half-formed multitasking gestures, semi-functional cross-app compatibility, and app features and selection highly curated and restricted by the people who own the store. And this is coming from someone who likes Macs and iPads!

For the same price as the iPad Pro discussed above, you could get a Surface Pro 6 with 16 gigs of RAM (Apple doesn’t specify how much the iPad Pro has, and if it doesn’t crow about it, that usually means it’s nothing to crow about), a better processor (Intel Core i7, same generation), and… well, if you want that terabyte of storage you’re still going to pay through the nose. Maxing it out (including accessories) costs you a couple hundred more than the best iPad you can get, but I think you’d be getting much more value for your dollar.

Plus the Surface has a headphone jack.

That said, there’s no reason to go all-out on either of these things. That’s the real trap that both companies want you to fall into. Save money and buy last year’s model or the year before, save yourself a thousand bucks, and take a vacation instead. You deserve it.

Apple Fall Event 2018

Long-awaited brand-new MacBook Air finally gets retina display and Touch ID

MacBook Air fans aren’t hard to find. Although I admit to being a bit skeptical at its introduction, the laptop grew from an underpowered runt to an underappreciated workhorse over the years. But the design has hardly changed in the decade (!) since it came out — at least until today’s Apple event, when the company took the wraps off a totally redesigned Air with a retina display and Touch ID — and a new $1,199 price.

MacBook Air fans aren’t hard to find. Although I admit to being a bit skeptical at its introduction, the laptop grew from an underpowered runt to an underappreciated workhorse over the years. But the design has hardly changed in the decade (!) since it came out — at least until today’s Apple event, when the company took the wraps off a totally redesigned Air with a retina display and Touch ID — and a new $1,199 price.

“When Steve pulled that MacBook Air out of that envelope, it was clear things would never be the same,” recalled CEO Tim Cook in his introduction. “MacBook Air truly embraced the notion that less indeed could be more. And it redefined the modern notebook in the process. MacBook Air has become the most beloved notebook ever. it’s time for a new MacBook Air, one that takes the MacBook Air experience even further in the areas that are most important to our customers.” (Yes, he said the product name five times in a row like that.)

The new Air is clearly meant for budget buyers who have been put off by the 12″ MacBook, which although popular, isn’t without its flaws, and it ain’t cheap, either. For anyone looking to spend less than a grand on a new Mac notebook, the Air is their best (and practically only) bet.

Although the old Air was updated as late as last year with new specs, the display has always been an obvious deficiency. 1440×900 was nothing to crow about even in 2008, let alone nearly a decade later. That’s been fixed with a new high-resolution 13.30-inch screen: inches and 2560×1600. (And “48 percent more color,” whatever that means.)

Of course the guts to support that display, and the tasks you’ll be doing on it, needed a serious bump too. So the new Air has an 8th-generation Intel processor, presumably with integrated graphics. It’s probably enough to play Fortnite, which is all that matters.

As for the design, it really is hard to improve on the original; its knifelike profile was nothing short of astonishing at its debut, and it’s stayed more or less the same since, with a solid keyboard and (regrettably) a rather prominent bezel. The bezel is gone, at least, replaced with a thinner black one. There goes the signature Air look, but you won’t see anyone crying about that.

At least it’s still aluminum, and all recycled aluminum now too, Apple explained with pride. Helps make it more sustainable.

The trackpad is the new force touch version, meaning no actual movement when you click, which is a mixed blessing. It’s quite a bit larger, at least, while the laptop itself is a bit smaller and lighter.

The addition of Touch ID and the secure enclave that runs it is welcome, of course, and it’s doubtful many will miss the Touch Bar, which so far hasn’t demonstrated any serious utility outside a few specialty apps and workflows. You have the F-keys instead, which is a good choice.

Unfortunately, Apple has also decided to change the keyboard. While the old Air used a tried and true scissor switch, and my 2012 model still types like a dream, the new model uses the much-criticized “butterfly switch” mechanism. This keyboard has proven to be one of Apple’s worst engineering mistakes in years, with many complaining of noise, key failures, and discomfort. Air lovers may find this extremely disappointing.

The MBA’s variety of ports, including USB-A and an SD card reader, are of course gone, replaced by Thunderbolt 3. It’s still a little sad to lose those legacy ports, which are still incredibly useful.

I’ll be holding onto my late-model MacBook Air, myself, but I understand the draw of this new one. It starts at $1,199 — apparently they couldn’t quite hit that $999 sweet spot — and should be available next week.

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The iPhone XR is the one to get

The iPhone XR arrived like an afterthought. No surprise, really. Apple’s always been one to lead with its best foot forward — the latest, greatest and, quite literally, the largest. Projecting the life on the bleeding edge is a cornerstone of the company’s image, market share and stock price. The iPhone XR isn’t that. In […]

The iPhone XR arrived like an afterthought. No surprise, really. Apple’s always been one to lead with its best foot forward — the latest, greatest and, quite literally, the largest. Projecting the life on the bleeding edge is a cornerstone of the company’s image, market share and stock price.

The iPhone XR isn’t that. In the context of yesterday’s event, the handset is an also ran. It’s lower-powered, with a single camera and lower-resolution screen that stirred up criticism amongst display enthusiasts online. It’s also precisely the phone the company needed to make — and Apple’s going to sell a crapload of them as a result. In fact, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see this entry-level device outsell both of its premium brethren.

Over the last 24 hours, a number of folks have asked me which phone they should buy. The answer varies from person to person, of course, but for the majority, the XR simply makes the most sense. It is, as I wrote in my hands-on yesterday, the iPhone X for the rest of us.

Last year’s 10th anniversary handset pushed the limits of the iPhone, with regard to underlying technology, design and budget. It represented what was arguably the biggest leap for the line since the introduction of the App Store way back in 2008, while helping to break on the $1,000 smartphone.

We all knew things were heading that way, and companies like Samsung certainly gave Apple a run for its money, but the iPhone X really tested the limits of what consumers are willing to spend on a smartphone. Initial sales reports were less than ideal for the phone, though a much pricier phone meant, naturally, that Apple had to sell fewer to hit the same bottom line.

But Apple isn’t Vertu. Actually getting the product into consumers’ hands is an equally important aspect of selling a new phone. Early reports had the company eye a return to the LCD as a way of offsetting the phone’s cost in order to appeal to a broader audience.

As The Wall Street Journal put it back in June, demand “is likely to be slower than many in the industry believed a year ago, when the iPhone maker was preparing its first OLED smartphone.” For Apple, a return to the LCD likely felt like a step backward after releasing its most forward-looking phone.

But while such things do matter to some, technology refreshes are more often driven by the desire to stay a step ahead of the competition than they are consumer demand. And while having the highest resolution screen possible would certainly be nice, it’s not necessarily $1,000 worth of nice.

The iPhone XR represents a more balanced approach for Apple. But atop the foundation of the iPhone X, the handset manages to be relatively reasonably priced without being the sort of relic the iPhone 8 felt like it was announced alongside the X.

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The XR is the populist iPhone. The iPhone for the people. I’ve been calling it the iPod Mini of iPhones and Matt Burns has been saying it’s the iBook, but the point stands. It’s a cheaper, more colorful alternative. At least one of our co-workers has been obsessing slightly over which color to get.

At $749, it’s not cheap, but compared to the XS and XS Max (starting at $999 and $1,099, respectively), it’s a relative bargain, and most of the missing features won’t have an impact on the day to day use of an average user. Heck, even the single lens camera has learned to approximate portrait mode to further cushion the blow.

If I were in the market for a new iPhone, I’d almost certainly go the XR route. Listen, I’m a tech blogger living in New York City. I have a pet rabbit to feed. Do you think rabbit food grows on trees (I mean, technically it does, but you get the point).

If you’re a prospective iPhone buyer, you’re probably in the same boat. The XR’s the way to go, and Apple’s going to sell a ton of the things.

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Beats did announce something today, after all

Turns out those rumors that Beats wouldn’t have anything to show off during today’s big Apple event weren’t 100-percent true. Granted, there was no mention of the headphone maker during the event itself. Instead, the company sent out a bit of an also-ran press release as things were still unfolding here in Cupertino. The big […]

Turns out those rumors that Beats wouldn’t have anything to show off during today’s big Apple event weren’t 100-percent true. Granted, there was no mention of the headphone maker during the event itself. Instead, the company sent out a bit of an also-ran press release as things were still unfolding here in Cupertino.

The big reason the brand got no love during today’s event: these aren’t new products, really. Rather, they’re color updates to two of Beats’ existing lines. In fact, the new shades were designed to match Apple’s new hardware. Fittingly, the headphones are priced to match their corresponding handsets.

The $300 over ear Beats Solo 3 Wireless now come in Satin Gold and Satin Silver to match the new colors for the iPhone XS/XS Max, while the $60 urBeats3 earphones are available in Yellow, Blue, and Coral to match the cheaper iPhone XR.

The latter also sport a Lightning cable, so you don’t have to futz with the dongle (which is a fun phrase). They also snap together magnetically, so they can be worn around the neck.

The new Beats Solo 3 Wireless colors are shipping now and the urBeats3 are coming later this fall.

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The 7 most egregious fibs Apple told about the iPhone XS camera today

Apple always drops a few whoppers at its events, and the iPhone XS announcement today was no exception. And nowhere were they more blatant than in the introduction of the devices’ “new” camera features. No one doubts that iPhones take great pictures, so why bother lying about it? My guess is they can’t help themselves.

Apple always drops a few whoppers at its events, and the iPhone XS announcement today was no exception. And nowhere were they more blatant than in the introduction of the devices’ “new” camera features. No one doubts that iPhones take great pictures, so why bother lying about it? My guess is they can’t help themselves.

Now, to fill this article out I had to get a bit pedantic, but honestly, some of these are pretty egregious.

“The world’s most popular camera”

There are a lot of iPhones out there, to be sure. But defining the iPhone as some sort of decade-long continuous camera, which Apple seems to be doing, is sort of a disingenuous way to do it. By that standard, Samsung would almost certainly be ahead, since it would be allowed to count all its Galaxy phones going back a decade as well, and they’ve definitely outsold Apple in that time. Going further, if you were to say that a basic off-the-shelf camera stack and common Sony or Samsung sensor was a “camera,” iPhone would probably be outnumbered 10:1 by Android phones.

Is the iPhone one of the world’s most popular cameras? To be sure. Is it the world’s most popular camera? You’d have to slice it pretty thin and say that this or that year and this or that model was more numerous than any other single model. The point is this is a very squishy metric and one many could lay claim to depending on how they pick or interpret the numbers. As usual, Apple didn’t show their work here, so we may as well coin a term and call this an educated bluff.

“Remarkable new dual camera system”

As Phil would explain later, a lot of the newness comes from improvements to the sensor and image processor. But as he said that the system was new while backed by an exploded view of the camera hardware, we may consider him as referring to that as well.

It’s not actually clear what in the hardware is different from the iPhone X. Certainly if you look at the specs, they’re nearly identical:

If I said these were different cameras, would you believe me? Same F numbers, no reason to think the image stabilization is different or better, and so on. It would not be unreasonable to guess that these are, as far as optics, the same cameras as before. Again, not that there was anything wrong with them — they’re fabulous optics. But showing components that are in fact the same and saying it’s different is misleading.

Given Apple’s style, if there were any actual changes to the lenses or OIS, they’d have said something. It’s not trivial to improve those things and they’d take credit if they had done so.

The sensor of course is extremely important, and it is improved: the 1.4-micrometer pixel pitch on the wide-angle main camera is larger than the 1.22-micrometer pitch on the X. Since the megapixels are similar we can probably surmise that the “larger” sensor is a consequence of this different pixel pitch, not any kind of real form factor change. It’s certainly larger, but the wider pixel pitch, which helps with sensitivity, is what’s actually improved, and the increased dimensions are just a consequence of that.

We’ll look at the image processor claims below.

“2x faster sensor… for better image quality”

It’s not really clear what is meant when he says this. “To take advantage of all this technology.” Is it the readout rate? Is it the processor that’s faster, since that’s what would probably produce better image quality (more horsepower to calculate colors, encode better, and so on)? “Fast” also refers to light-gathering — is that faster?

I don’t think it’s accidental that this was just sort of thrown out there and not specified. Apple likes big simple numbers and doesn’t want to play the spec game the same way as the others. But this in my opinion crosses the line from simplifying to misleading. This at least Apple or some detailed third party testing can clear up.

“What it does that is entirely new is connect together the ISP with that neural engine, to use them together.”

Now, this was a bit of sleight of hand on Phil’s part. Presumably what’s new is that Apple has better integrated the image processing pathway between the traditional image processor, which is doing the workhorse stuff like autofocus and color, and the “neural engine,” which is doing face detection.

It may be new for Apple, but this kind of thing has been standard in many cameras for years. Both phones and interchangeable-lens systems like DSLRs use face and eye detection, some using neural-type models, to guide autofocus or exposure. This (and the problems that come with it) go back years and years. I remember point-and-shoots that had it, but unfortunately failed to detect people who had dark skin or were frowning.

It’s gotten a lot better (Apple’s depth-detecting units probably help a lot), but the idea of tying a face-tracking system, whatever fancy name you call it, in to the image-capture process is old hat. It’s probably not “entirely new” even for Apple, let alone the rest of photography.

“We have a brand new feature we call smart HDR.”

Apple’s brand new feature has been on Google’s Pixel phones for a while now. A lot of cameras now keep a frame buffer going, essentially snapping pictures in the background while the app is open, then using the latest one when you hit the button. And Google, among others, had the idea that you could use these unseen pictures as raw material for an HDR shot.

Probably Apple’s method is a little different, but fundamentally it’s the same thing. Again, “brand new” to iPhone users, but well known among Android flagship devices.

“This is what you’re not supposed to do, right, shooting a photo into the sun, because you’re gonna blow out the exposure.”

I’m not saying you should shoot directly into the sun, but it’s really not uncommon to include the sun in your shot. In the corner like that it can make for some cool lens flares, for instance. It won’t blow out these days because almost every camera’s auto-exposure algorithms are either center-weighted or intelligently shift around — to find faces, for instance.

When the sun is in your shot, your problem isn’t blown out highlights but a lack of dynamic range caused by a large difference between the exposure needed to capture the sun-lit background and the shadowed foreground. This is, of course, as Phil says, one of the best applications of HDR — a well-bracketed exposure can make sure you have shadow details while also keeping the bright ones.

Funnily enough, in the picture he chose here, the shadow details are mostly lost — you just see a bunch of noise there. You don’t need HDR to get those water droplets — that’s a shutter speed thing, really. It’s still a great shot, by the way, I just don’t think it’s illustrative of what Phil is talking about.

“You can adjust the depth of field… this has not been possible in photography of any type of camera.”

This just isn’t true. You can do this on the Galaxy S9, and it’s being rolled out in Google Photos as well. Lytro was doing something like it years and years ago, if we’re including “any type of camera.” I feel kind of bad that no one told Phil. He’s out here without the facts.

Well, that’s all the big ones. There were plenty more, shall we say, embellishments at the event, but that’s par for the course at any big company’s launch. I just felt like these ones couldn’t go unanswered. I have nothing against the iPhone camera — I use one myself. But boy are they going wild with these claims. Somebody’s got to say it, since clearly no one inside Apple is.

Check out the rest of our Apple event coverage here:

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Apple Watch Series 4 up close and hands-on

I’m sure somewhere out there, there’s someone who wants nothing more in this world than a circular Apple Watch. That person, I’m sad to report, was once again disappointed with the outcome of yet another Apple event. Circle-sporting invites and office buildings aside, the squircle works well for Apple, so it’s sticking around for the […]

I’m sure somewhere out there, there’s someone who wants nothing more in this world than a circular Apple Watch. That person, I’m sad to report, was once again disappointed with the outcome of yet another Apple event. Circle-sporting invites and office buildings aside, the squircle works well for Apple, so it’s sticking around for the time being.

In fact, that was a bit of a broader theme with today’s announcements — most of the updated Apple brand magic is happening under the hood here. That said, there is one key distinction from an aesthetic standpoint this time around: the logical extension of Apple’s ongoing war against bezels.

The display is 30 percent larger than the one on the Series 3, by Apple’s count. The new watch isn’t “edge to edge” as some early leaks put it, but the bezel size has shrunk considerably. Here’s a side by side image, courtesy of Apple:

The 44mm version’s display now measures 977 sq mm (versus the 3’s 740 sq mm), while the 40mm case is 759 sq mm (to the 3’s 563 sq mm) — so the smaller version of the 4 actually has a larger display than the larger 3. The reduction of the bezel was less of an aesthetic decision and more about cramming more information into the Watch’s relatively limited real estate.

When you’re dealing with something small enough to fit on your wrist, you take every spare millimeter you can get. Also notable is the fact that Apple’s slimmed things down here to 10.7mm from 11.4mm. Honestly, I’m surprised the company didn’t spend a little more time on that. Again, with wearables, a few millimeters go a long way.

The back of the device looks a bit different, as well. That comes courtesy of the electrocardiogram. That bit got what was easily the biggest applause line of the Watch announcement. People didn’t have to wait for Apple to break that one down. The new sensor makes it possible to detect heart rhythm, in addition to rate. That’s going to be a big thing for users with certain heart diseases.

It’s also the latest indication of Apple’s ongoing focus on health in addition to fitness. Ditto for improvements to the gyroscope and accelerometer, which make it possible for the watch to detect falls and send out an emergency alert accordingly.

Better battery life is always a biggie for wearables. That’s obviously one of those pieces we’re going to have to wait until we get our review unit in order to test. According to Apple, the number should be roughly the same as what you’ll find on the Series 3 — amounting to around 18 hours or “all day,” per the included press material.

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There are other updates throughout, including a 2x faster chip (again, jury’s out until we can properly test) and a 50 percent louder speaker. Unlike the addition of LTE with last year’s model, the new features don’t jump out as earth-shaking updates over the previous model. Instead, the company’s just making the most well-rounded (so to speak) smartwatch that much better.

As ever, the Apple Watch is the one to beat.

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iPhone XR up close and hands-on

Apple would have you believe that it’s not beholden to such trivial things as the market — roadmaps are long and the company’s always done its own thing. But the XR feels like as much a response to the first iPhone X than anything. Last year’s flagship iPhone broke the $1,000 seal for the company. […]

Apple would have you believe that it’s not beholden to such trivial things as the market — roadmaps are long and the company’s always done its own thing. But the XR feels like as much a response to the first iPhone X than anything.

Last year’s flagship iPhone broke the $1,000 seal for the company. It was bound to happen, and certainly premium competitors like Samsung were racing in that direction with equal or greater speed. And while the $1,000 flagship is just a fact of life for early adopters, total sales numbers appear to have not hit the same heights as some predecessors.

The fact that the phone costs more on a per unit basis offset that, but moving to an all-premium product portfolio for a broad swath of the company’s user base. That’s where the XR comes in. Flashed onstage above in big, bright colors, I couldn’t help but be struck by the idea that the XR is, in its own way, the iPhone X version of the iPod Mini.

It’s cheaper, it’s smaller (than the Max at least) and it’s available in a broad array of neon swatches (blue, black, coral, yellow, white and Project Red). Perhaps it’s more of a playful take on the serious business of being an iPhone — but more importantly, for most users, it’s a way in to many of the iPhone X’s premium breakthroughs without having to spend an arm and a leg.

Better still, the XR looks like the iPhone X (and, for that matter, the XS). And that’s the whole point. The gulf is much smaller here than between the X and 8 — from a purely aesthetic standpoint, at least.

As we elbow one another out of the way in the standard post-Apple event media scrum, most of us had some trouble determining which was which, as they were all spread out along the same long table. The materials are different (stainless steel on the XS), but the colors are the real giveaway at first glance — well, that and the single camera on the back.

Interestingly, the display is actually larger than on the XS. Not really sure why Apple went that route here, but as I speculated in the XS Max write-up, this could well have to do with supply chain issues. It probably just made more sense to stick with the iPhone X’s panel for the followup.

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All of this means that the XR is a bit larger than the XS in all dimensions. Here’s that breakdown:

iPhone XS: 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7 mm

iPhone XR: 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3 mm

The XR definitely felt a bit thick in-hand, though just barely. Ditto for the weight, which is 6.84 ounces to the XS’s 6.24.

Design aside, there are plenty of downgrades from XS, to help Apple hit that $729 price point. The screen is the main thing, swapping the OLED for a “Liquid Retina HD display” — you know, an LCD. That after all, was the primary factor driving up the price on the iPhone X. The camera’s down to one lens here, as well, though the company’s worked on a few tricks akin to what we’ve seen on the Pixel — namely the ability to simulate a bokeh effect without a second depth camera.

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For most users, I suspect most of these elements won’t really be missed — unless, of course, you’ve already gotten comfortable with the iPhone X. While $749 is hardly “cheap” by the standards of mid-range handsets in 2018, it’s a pretty good entry-level price for an Apple handset. Also, don’t underestimate the importance of colors choices in the phone-buying process.

The XR feels like less of an afterthought, unlike the iPhone 8, which was hugely overshadowed by the iPhone X released alongside it. It looks and feels enough like the premium handset that, when coupled with the $250 price drop, it seems inevitable that Apple will sell a ton of the damn things.

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iPhone XS Max up close and hands-on

The most remarkable thing about the iPhone XS Max is that it doesn’t feel huge. It’s all relative, of course. And surely Apple’s old guard would have scoffed at the notion of a 6.5-inch display. But time marches on. Seasons change and so do minds. Temperatures increase, superhero movies pile up and screen sizes increase, […]

The most remarkable thing about the iPhone XS Max is that it doesn’t feel huge. It’s all relative, of course. And surely Apple’s old guard would have scoffed at the notion of a 6.5-inch display. But time marches on. Seasons change and so do minds. Temperatures increase, superhero movies pile up and screen sizes increase, unabated.

Much of the perception no doubt comes from the rest of the industry pushing the limits of human hands and pants pockets. I’ve been carrying around the Note 9 of late — and before that, the iPhone 8 Plus. The XS Max feels roughly the size of the latter, which is pretty remarkable given that the Plus sported a 5.5 inch display.

The dimensions break down thusly:

iPhone 8 Plus: 158.4 x 78.1 x 7.5 mm

iPhone Xs Max: 157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7 mm

The Max is ever-so-slightly smaller in two of three dimensions.

This was accomplished in no small part to bezels. Getting rid of all of that extra real estate makes a world of difference, along with dropping the home button and continuing to embrace the way of the notch.

Aside from size, you won’t notice a lot new here. That’s just sort of the plight of the S model —well, that and coming immediately after the largest single design update in the iPhone’s 10 year history. The new finishes are very, very shiny as well, silver especially, which will probably blind you if the sun catches it just right, but you’re going to put that $1,099+ phone in a case anyway, right?

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Speaking of pricing, as Tim Cook said on stage, the larger model starts at “just” $100 more than its predecessor. That’s the sort of statement you can get away with when you help set the precedent for a $1,000 phone a year prior. That Band-Aid has already been ripped off, right, so what’s another $100 between friends?

That said, if I were in the market for a new iPhone, I’d strongly consider the size upgrade. The leap from 5.8 to 6.5 inches is pretty sizable. Sticking with the former was an interesting move on Apple’s part, given that the XR splits the difference at 6.1 inches. Maybe it’s a supply chain thing? I don’t know. I’m just sort of spitballing at this point.

As ever, I’m going to have to hold off judgement on things like performance and camera quality until we can take the thing for a spin. Given that the phones are due out in the not-so-distant future, however, I suspect that will be sooner rather than later.

It’s worth noting, of course, that those bits and bobs are relatively iterative, as is custom with the “s” suffix. The specs also look remarkably similar between the XS and XS Max: dual rear-facing 12-megapixel cameras, A12 Bionic chip, HDR display (though the Max naturally, has more pixels, while both work out to 458 PPI). I suspect this decision was made, in part, to help keep the newer, bigger phone at “just” $100 over its predecessor.

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Here’s how Apple’s stock fared during today’s big hardware event

Apple announced a whole bunch of new products today at its fancy Cupertino campus in what was its first hardware event since becoming a $1 trillion company. The company proudly unveiled the iPhone XS, the iPhone XS Max, the Apple Watch Series 4 and more. The stock market behaved as we expected. Apple’s stock spent much […]

Apple announced a whole bunch of new products today at its fancy Cupertino campus in what was its first hardware event since becoming a $1 trillion company. The company proudly unveiled the iPhone XS, the iPhone XS Max, the Apple Watch Series 4 and more.

The stock market behaved as we expected. Apple’s stock spent much of the day hovering down 1 percent, dropping as low as 2 percent at the conclusion of the big presentation. Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) recovered by the time the markets closed, ending the day, again, down about 1.2 percent. Exciting stuff, I know.

As we’ve said before, the stock price doesn’t typically do all that much during hardware spectacles like this. Despite the amount of fanfare leading up to these big presentations, as was the case preceding the iPhone X announcement, Wall Street doesn’t overreact. Why? Because they’ve seen it all before and like many of our loyal readers, they know what’s coming. Plus, all the press leading up to the event usually takes away any opportunity for a true surprise. Leaks, too, eliminate the shock factor.

A few of Apple’s competitors’ stocks, however, tumbled on the news of its new lineup of iPhones and its latest Apple Watch.

Fitbit tanks

Fitbit’s (NYSE: FIT) stock took the hardest hit on Wednesday as Apple announced its newest smartwatch, the Apple Watch Series 4. Fitbit, the creator of a competing wearable health and fitness device, closed down nearly 7 percent.

Samsung, another one of Apple’s competitors, was down just 1 percent on the news of Apple’s new fancy-schmancy phones.

The iPhone XS, according to Apple CEO Tim Cook, is the best and greatest phone the company has ever made. And they’ll be the industry’s first smartphones to be powered by 7nm chips.

U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm’s (NASDAQ: QCOM) stock dipped 2 percent on that news. Apple and Qualcomm have been going head-to-head in a long-running patent war. Apple, as a result, has been working to remove Qualcomm equipment from its phones.

Samsung and Qualcomm closed down about 1 percent Wednesday.

A strong year for Apple

Apple’s stock is up more than 30 percent so far this year. The company shipped some 41 million phones in Q2 2018, per Canalys (via email), and has continued to disclose positive earnings in its lead-up to the big $1 trillion. Apple beat analyst expectations when it reported $53.3 billion in revenue in its latest earnings report, up 17 percent year-over-year.

The company’s stock took a slight hit earlier this week after President Trump tweeted that Apple’s prices may climb due to China tariffs.

The tweet was a response to a letter Apple wrote to the Trump administration warning them that tariffs may increase the cost of its products, including the Apple Watch, AirPods and HomePods.

“It is difficult to see how tariffs that hurt U.S. companies and U.S. consumers will advance the Government’s objectives with respect to China’s technology policies,” Apple wrote, per CNBC. “We hope, instead, that you will reconsider these measures and work to find other, more effective solutions that leave the U.S. economy and U.S. consumer stronger and healthier than ever before.”

If you missed today’s event or you’re already ready to relive it (no judgment), we live-blogged the whole thing here. Catch up on all the new hardware here.

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Watch Apple’s ‘Mission: Impossible’ style spaceship HQ tour

Apple kicked off its hardware event today with a charming little video that did double promo duty, both introducing the event in a lighthearted way and giving a quick curated tour of the company’s new “spaceship” headquarters. We don’t always post Apple advertisements here at TechCrunch, but when we do, it’s because they actually show off something new. Well, kind of new, anyway. It’s nice to see it all in motion.

Apple kicked off its hardware event today with a charming little video that did double promo duty, both introducing the event in a lighthearted way and giving a quick curated tour of the company’s new “spaceship” headquarters. We don’t always post Apple advertisements here at TechCrunch, but when we do, it’s because they actually show off something new. Well, kind of new, anyway. It’s nice to see it all in motion.

A low aerial shot brings us into the scene, the top floor of the spaceship’s exterior, and as the opening strains of the “Mission: Impossible” theme start up, we see our protagonist (Alison, we find out later) blast out of a conference room.

A couple of things to note here: the top floor (4, by the way) is filled with outward-facing rooms, surely of various sizes and functions, but the outermost ring, right next to the windows, is where you walk. With all the people moving around those glass-lined tunnels, perhaps a better name for this HQ would be the Ant Farm.

However there do appear to be some shared spaces with chairs and other accommodations here and there. It just doesn’t appear that lots of the outdoor spots will be cherry offices with nice views, with peons stuck in some inner ring. That’s good. But there will have to be a full time staff, plus robots, to keep the glass clean. That’s bad. It’s poetic in a way, though: everyone is always having to de-smudge their phones, why shouldn’t Apple have to de-smudge its headquarters?

Next (via a rather dizzying pan) is what we have to assume is a spoke on the wheel, a large atrium that looks to extend from center to exterior, and is filled with calming white and neutral-colored furniture. It looks like the inside of Jony Ives’s brain. There are probably eight of these, with one or two being extra resplendent for visitors, perhaps with stores extending off the sides, portrait galleries of Apple execs, and so on.

This shot is very “North by Northwest,” by the way.

It’s a matte, but still. Saul Bass is the master, by the way.

The spoke opens up on the inner side onto the big courtyard, as we all know, which is elaborately landscaped and criss-crossed with paths. At the center is a large pond, though interestingly there seem to be rather few paths leading to it, since our heroine takes the direct route through the sage and other brush.

I actually expected the pond to be a bit more picturesque, but there’s only so much you can do with that climate. It seems to be only about a foot deep, lined with large rocks. I was hoping they might let it go wild with lily pads, wild birds and so on. I’ll be interested to see how they keep it free of algae so people like the protagonist can rush through it. Luckily her Airpods didn’t fall out. (If she had a headphone cable it wouldn’t be a problem. Just saying.)

Obviously Apple is making a bit of fun of itself here regarding the inconvenient nature of a ring-shaped HQ with a body of water in the middle. Shouldn’t there be a pedestrian underpass or something?

Across the pond our intrepid briefcase carrier perhaps unadvisedly runs right through a bunch of people blowing grass all over each other on what appears to be a large continuous greenbelt or fairway between the lake and the ring. Doesn’t Apple know you’re supposed to leave the cuttings on the grass? What do those guys think they’re doing anyway? There are like 20 in one little area.

Into the far side of the ring, where there’s a large cafeteria filled with Apple’s favorite cedar furniture and stretching through all 4 stories. Some of it looks CG. If I’m honest a lot of this looks CG. It has probably been extensively touched up.

On the outside of the cafeteria spoke is a huge set of sliding doors, which employees are likely not encouraged to do a tactical roll through when they’re closing. That’ll be really nice in the mild summers of Cupertino to get the breeze in there. That space might be hard to heat if there’s a cold snap, though.

A nice touch has the protagonist hitting all her rings while taking a silver Apple bike from HQ to Steve Jobs Theater. Brave of Apple to show the bike failing, or grabbing her cuff, or whatever happens at the end. Usually nothing of theirs fails in their promos.

Of course the denouement is the delivery of the briefcase to Tim, and the reveal — with a shot that will probably be used and reused for dank memes in the future — that it was The Clicker.

Check out the full short film here:

Clearly Apple wanted to show off its new HQ in a careful way, and certainly they’ve whetted the appetites of many Apple devotees who will want to see this haven in person. Unfortunately, however, our heroine has tasted the bitterness of being carelessly exploited by the executives at her company, perhaps now feeling for the first time what Apple’s manufacturing partners exact from their workers. With luck she will learn from this and enact change from within. Now that’s an impossible mission.

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