Apple Announcement: Should You Buy a New iPhone & Apple Watch?

In the 92nd episode of the iPhone Life Podcast, Sarah and Donna weigh the strengths and weaknesses of each of Apple's new smartphones: the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. They'll also discuss how the Series 4 is making the Apple Watch an invaluable medical device.

Click here to listen and subscribe. If you like what you hear, be sure to leave a review. And remember to tune in every other week to hear our editors share with you the latest Apple news, best apps, iPhone tricks, and coolest accessories.

This episode was brought to you by the alara case by Brink and Otterbox. Protect more than just your iPhone with the alara case by Brink. Unlike other radiation-reducing cases, alara deflects radiation from your iPhone as opposed to blocking it. OtterBox and Apple have evolved and changed together; with each new iteration of the iPhone and iPad, OtterBox has provided consumers with updated technologies and cases designed to match the changing needs of consumers. 

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Transcript of Episode 92:

Donna Cleveland:         Hi, and welcome to episode 92 of the iPhone Life podcast. I'm Donna Cleveland, Editor in Chief at iPhone Life.

Sarah Kingsbury:           And I'm Sarah Kingsbury, Senior Web Editor at iPhone Life.

Donna Cleveland:         It's just the two of us this week, and we have a special episode for you. We're going to tell you about everything Apple announced at its fall iPhone event for 2018. We got three new iPhones and one Apple Watch series 4 that we want to tell you about, or two sizes. We will have our regular format. We'll be jumping into that shortly, though, so stay tuned because we want to help you decide ... Not only do we want to let you know what was announced, but we want to help you decide which device is right for you. So we'll be getting into that in a moment.

Donna Cleveland:         First we want to tell you about our sponsor for this episode, Antenna79.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Antenna79 makes cell phone radiation blocking cases called the Alara case by Brink. I tried this case, and I really liked it because not only does it have ... They've actually done scientific research to make sure that it actually does what they claim it does, which a lot of cases don't, that claim to block cell phone radiation, don't necessarily do. It's actually just a nice looking case. It's got a really slim form and a lip around the edge so it protects your phone and so it looks good. It's a great case, and I recommend checking it out.

Donna Cleveland:         It also, on the back it has ... All of the cases seem to have this little design, weaved design, so it's sort of a signature Alara case look that I really like, as well.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yeah, it's a really nice looking case, which I care a lot about.

Donna Cleveland:         A big distinction that they make between them and other brands is that instead of blocking radiation, which actually makes your phone work harder and potentially-

Sarah Kingsbury:           Emit more radiation.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah, that this deflects it away from you. I think it's a little more than 60% of the EMF it will deflect away from your head.

Sarah Kingsbury:           So it's a really well designed case.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah. It's a really nice gift to give to anybody you know is concerned about that sort of thing.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Definitely.

Donna Cleveland:         We'll link that in our podcast blog post so that you can check out Alara case. Moving into our next segment, I first wanted to tell you guys about some comments we had from listeners. Last episode, we talked about password management. We asked people what password managers they used, and we got a ton of responses.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Like a huge number.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah, with people who had strong opinions about this. There was a big variety. At our office, a lot of us use 1Password. One of our readers did have the same experience as we did. "I've been using 1Password for about 10 years and find it to be rock solid for use on any platform. The password generator and the watchtower feature worked really well. I'm looking forward to how IOS12 will enhance its features to use with applications." That's one of the really exciting things about IOS12, which by the way, you can install on your phone starting Monday, September 17th, so just a few days away, is that with a lot of these password managers they wouldn't autofill your passwords when you opened up third party apps on your iPhone. So you would still have to switch to go to 1Password to check on that. But, starting with IOS12, those will autofill and work with third party apps, which is really cool.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yeah, it is very exciting.

Donna Cleveland:         We had a few other names here. RememBear app password. I hadn't even heard of that one. RoboForm. "Used it for years on both Mac PC and IOS devices."

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yeah, a number of readers use that one.

Donna Cleveland:         Password One, so those are just a few.

Sarah Kingsbury:           And Dashlane.

Donna Cleveland:         Dashlane, yeah.

Sarah Kingsbury:           A few people use Dashlane, yeah. That was exciting to get such a response and to know everyone is taking their security so seriously.

Donna Cleveland:         I know. Very wise. Next up we want to tell you about our daily tips newsletter. Hopefully a lot of you are already subscribers. This is our free newsletter at, where you're get a one minute tip in your inbox every day that teaches you something cool you can do with your IOS devices.

Donna Cleveland:         Today's tip I'm especially excited about. It's how to shoot an overhead picture. You know, I'm not a great photographer. It's always nice to have some easy tips that will improve your photos greatly, because if it's anything too complicated, I'll just mess it up. Here's this tip. What you first do is you go into your Settings app, tap Camera, and then you'll have an option there to turn on grid. I'd seen this option before but didn't really see any strong reason to use it. Now what this will do is when you go open up your camera app, you'll have your viewfinder split up into thirds. So this can be a nice thing for just composition in general, because in general you don't want to have things centered. You want to have it in the left or right third of your-

Sarah Kingsbury:           The rule of thirds.

Donna Cleveland:         The rule of thirds, yeah. But what it also does is if you're holding your phone horizontally over a flat surface, so this is great for food photography or for instance Sarah was taking some pictures of artwork. That can be another. Or something that you have laid out on a flat surface, this is a great tip for it.

Donna Cleveland:         When you're holding your phone out horizontally, you'll see a little X mark in the middle of your display. It will all match up and turn yellow, I believe, once you have your phone horizontal.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Right. There's two pluses, and one is white and one is this pale yellow. When your phone is exactly horizontal, they match up and turn bright yellow, and there's just one.

Donna Cleveland:         Okay, cool. Yeah. Thanks for clarifying that point. That means that you have it lined up. Other tips to keep in mind before you actually snap your shot is that you want to be careful about where your light source is. If it's coming from overhead, the shadow of your phone will be in your shot, which is not something you want. So if you have light coming from the side, that'll be helpful. Just shift and move your phone around until you make sure that there isn't any shadow on there.

Donna Cleveland:         Another thing to keep your shot steady is to have a really strong stance. Usually you want to have your legs a little bit apart and also to have your elbows in by your side, just to make sure you have a steady shot. Then, instead of using the volume up or down button, which can make your phone shake, to actually snap the shot, to just gently tap the shutter button on your screen. That's usually the best way to keep it steady.

Donna Cleveland:         So those are just a few little tips to try this weekend, on how to shoot an overhead picture. Hopefully you get some great food photography or artwork photography.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Or just pictures of documents, you know?

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah, that's true. Even that. So go to if you want to get more awesome tips like that. We also have a premium service called iPhone Life Insider. That's our full premium educational service, where you get video versions of our daily tips. You get guides. Our IOS 12 guide comes out on Monday, so you will really be wanting an Insider subscription so you can get the most out of all of the new features and not have any confusion with them. You get a full archive to our magazine, and you get Ask an Editor, which is a feature that lets you ask all of your tech related questions to Sarah, and she helps you solve them.

Donna Cleveland:         Sarah, do you want to share what have our insiders been asking lately?

Sarah Kingsbury:           Here's a question I had never gotten before, and I really actually had to do a little research to understand. So I thought it was a good one to share. "Why is there both Apple Music and iTunes Match? Do you need both?"

Donna Cleveland:         That's a good question.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yeah, it's a really good question. A lot of people don't quite understand. iTunes Match is basically for what turns out to be about $2 a month lets you store all of your digital music in the cloud and sync it across all of your Apple devices. But this is for music that you own, like music you purchased from iTunes, music you burned from CDs or recorded yourself, so things that you own. You can almost think of it as iCloud storage for your music, sort of like iCloud photo library, and you own that music. It's separate from your iCloud storage, which is another nice thing, because running out of iCloud storage can be a problem for some people.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Apple Music, on the other hand, is just a streaming service. Even if you download the songs to your phone, you don't own them. If you cancel your subscription, you lose access to them, and you can't give them away to other people. You can still sort of sync that music across the cloud, across your devices, but the main difference is one is for music you own and one is for music that you're just basically renting.

Sarah Kingsbury:           If you have a large digital music library, then iTunes Match would be a good idea for you. If you have a large digital music library of older music but prefer to just stream music, then you could use both. If you don't really own a lot of music, then Apple Music by itself or another music subscription service, because a lot of people in this office love Spotify, would be the way to go.

Donna Cleveland:         That's a really good clarification. I've honestly been wondering what the purpose of iTunes Match is for a while. I don't have a big collection, so I haven't had a reason to look into it that much.

Donna Cleveland:         Okay, we are ready to get into our main theme, which is of course which of the new devices that Apple announced should you buy. Don't worry, in case you didn't watch the announcement, we'll also go over what Apple announced yesterday at its big keynote at the Steve Jobs Theater. First, let's go over what was announced.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Okay, so basically we were expecting a lot of different things. There were rumors about new AirPods, the AirPower mat that we were promised in early 2018-

Donna Cleveland:         I know.

Sarah Kingsbury:           -for wireless charging of all of your devices at once. Maybe studio pods, like a sort of over-ear version of AirPods, a new iPad Pro. We didn't get any of that. They just stuck to the basics.

Sarah Kingsbury:           We got a new Apple Watch, Series 4, which we were all expecting, and three iPhones, which rumor had stronger suggested that's what we were going to get, and that's what we got. They're called the iPhone XR and the iPhone XS and X Max.

Donna Cleveland:         Yes. The XS Max, right?

Sarah Kingsbury:           XS Max, yes.

Donna Cleveland:         So it was interesting to see, because up until a few days before the announcement, the iPad Pro seemed like a sure thing. Everybody was talking about the iPad Pro. Then a few days ahead of the announcement, that seemed to shift. Then there were new rumors that the Apple Watch Series 4 would have electrocardiogram reading capabilities, which we did end up getting, too.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yeah, it's pretty exciting.

Donna Cleveland:         We'll jump into that. Let's talk about the Apple Watch first, before we get into the iPhones, because that I feel like is a simpler conversation of who this appeals to, who should buy it-

Sarah Kingsbury:           It appeals to me!

Donna Cleveland:         The iPhones, it's a tougher ... Since there are three options, it's a little bit of a trickier conversation.

Donna Cleveland:         So, the Apple Watch Series 4. What would you say are the most exciting new features of that?

Sarah Kingsbury:           I just thought the improved heart rate tracking ... Actually, you know what? I think maybe the most exciting thing is the display is bigger.

Donna Cleveland:         The display is 30% larger than before.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yeah, they've basically removed the bezels. The chassis, the body of the watch, is a small amount bigger, like length and width wise. It's 42 millimeters and 44?

Donna Cleveland:         It's 40 and 44.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Oh, 40 and 44, as opposed to 38 and 42.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah, so the smaller one, each of them gets a bump of two millimeters from the previous size.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Right, and it's thinner, so the volume overall, which Apple kept emphasizing is smaller-

Donna Cleveland:         Which is nice, because it does sit up from your wrist a little bit.

Sarah Kingsbury:           But you know, it's big. The 38 millimeter most women find pretty big already. The 42 is also pretty big.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah. I'm concerned about the size.

Sarah Kingsbury:           I am, but I'm so excited about the bigger display, the faster speed, and also it has an improved ... Why can't I talk today?

Donna Cleveland:         It's been a long week.

Sarah Kingsbury:           You say it. Accelerometer and-

Donna Cleveland:         Improved accelerometer and electrocardiogram. Is that what you said?

Sarah Kingsbury:           No, gyroscope.

Donna Cleveland:         Oh, gyroscope, okay.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Right, and what that allows is your Apple Watch can now detect hard falls. So if you fall, it can detect it. If it's a hard fall, it will bring up the option to contact emergency services. If it detects a fall and you're immobile for more than one minute, it will automatically call emergency services. Which is a great-

Donna Cleveland:         I think that's amazing.

Sarah Kingsbury:           It's really cool that it can detect that, and I think it makes it a great safety feature. The speaker is louder, because there's going to be a walkie-talkie feature now.

Donna Cleveland:         That just lets you talk with other Apple Watch users, kind of like a walkie-talkie.

Sarah Kingsbury:           They've added haptic feedback to the digital crown, so they've totally reinvented it. Then of course the heart rate sensor. They've really improved it a lot. Now it can detect not only if your heart rate goes too high, it can detect if it goes too low. It's much better at detecting AFib, and now, with the designed digital crown, it can also take an electrocardiogram reading, and FDA approved one. So it's that accurate. It makes it easy to share it with your doctor. So that's really exciting.

Donna Cleveland:         It's really cool, because we were looking up yesterday that, depending on your insurance it will vary, but the average cost of get an electrocardiogram reading was about $200. Now in real time, any time, you can take that reading from your watch. Which makes it a pretty compelling purchase. Really, I feel like with the Series 4, the Apple Watch is becoming a really awesome medical device for people. I think that if you have any heart conditions or if you're just getting a little bit older, then having the Apple Watch is a really great way to be proactive about your health.

Donna Cleveland:         Also, with the hard falls, I know a lot of older people will wear different necklaces in their house. There are different brands of that kind of thing, so that if they fall they can call an emergency line. Why not have an Apple Watch instead, because I know a lot of people don't want to be wearing that necklace, anyway. It doesn't feel like something fun to be wearing, whereas your Apple Watch does so many amazing, cool things, and then you can have this safety device, safety aspect as well.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yeah. I wish I could convince my dad to get this watch, because he has cerebral palsy. He falls a lot, and he's in his 70s now.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah.

Sarah Kingsbury:           It's a real concern, but I couldn't even get him to use his phone. So yeah.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah, we had a live podcast yesterday where we had people joining us and talking about the event with us as we were discussing the topics. One of our listeners, Mark, was saying how this is how he would bill it to his wife, because he's been wanting an Apple Watch for a long time. He's like, "I'll just tell her it's for my health." I thought that was funny.

Donna Cleveland:         Are you planning on buying the Series 4?

Sarah Kingsbury:           No. I want to, but to be honest, even though I am kind of a hypochondriac and so I am very intrigued by all these features, basically my Apple Watch functions as a method of getting notifications from my messaging app and fitness tracking. The Series 3 fitness tracking is fantastic.

Donna Cleveland:         You have the Series 3 right now, right?

Sarah Kingsbury:           Right. There's no battery life improvement. I know that the new watch will be two times as fast as the Series 3, but this is fast enough. I stuck with the original Apple Watch for years and was completely happy with it. This will continue to meet my needs. I just don't think it's a device you need to update yearly, and so I'm going to wear this for a few years. Then by the time I do update it, I'm going to get the most amazing watch ever. I can tell.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah. For me, I am planning on buying the Series 4. I have the original Apple Watch, so it feels like it's time for an upgrade. I was tempted last year, with the addition of GPS and the cellular model I was curious about. But what I think I'm going to do, I'm going to get the Series 4, but I'm not going to get the cellular.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Right.

Donna Cleveland:         Yesterday I was saying something different. At that time, I'm like, "Yeah, I'll get the cellular."

Sarah Kingsbury:           I don't have the cellular. I don't miss it.

Donna Cleveland:         I was going to say, I don't think I need it. I don't really feel like spending $10 extra a month for that connection, which that's about how much it costs. Not to mention that the cost of the device will be more, too. In terms of price and availability, let's go over that quickly. Do you have ...? Let me pull that up.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Let's see. It's October 16th, or is it 19th? It's October 19th is available for pre-order at 12:01AM.

Donna Cleveland:         Oh. I've got September 14th.

Sarah Kingsbury:           That is incorrect.

Donna Cleveland:         It is?

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yes.

Donna Cleveland:         Okay.

Sarah Kingsbury:           That's for the phone. Yeah, it's October 19th, and then it will be available in stores and shipping on October 26th. You know what?

Donna Cleveland:         Bummer.

Sarah Kingsbury:           I'm wrong. I'm talking about the iPhone XR. You are correct.

Donna Cleveland:         Okay.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Oh my goodness.

Donna Cleveland:         Okay, so, to be totally clear, for the Apple Watch Series 4, you can start pre-ordering it Friday the 14th.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Why did I think that?

Donna Cleveland:         So Friday the 14th. That's just tomorrow. Then it'll be available September 21st, so you can start right away.

Sarah Kingsbury:           A really important thing is, yes, technically it's tomorrow, but it's at 12:01 AM. So it's basically tonight.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah, that's a really good point. One hack, if you are really excited to get your devices right away, is to download the Apple Store app on your iPhone, because sometimes so many people are going on the site that the site will maybe not be crashing, but it's not working that well. We've found that you can get your order in easier this way, especially if you have Apple Pay set up.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Right. You have to have Apple Pay set up. Make sure the credit card is correct, make sure the shipping address is correct, make sure everything works ahead of time, because if you don't have your payment set up ... I think someone in our office ran into this last year. They tried to order it, but they didn't have the correct card in there.

Donna Cleveland:         Oh, yeah. I've had that happen to me, actually, so that's really annoying. So then just set your alarm for midnight, and then all you have to do, if you have everything set up, before you go to bed just wake up and you already have it in your cart and everything. You can just check out in a couple minutes and go back to sleep. Then you'll be early in the line to get your new Series 4.

Donna Cleveland:         All right, so now let's talk about the new iPhones.

Sarah Kingsbury:           All right!

Donna Cleveland:         Why don't we start out by talking about the XR. The XR is the device that Sarah was referring to, that you have to wait until October to pre-order.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Right, that's the one that's pre-ordered on the 19th and shipping on the 26th. I really need to drink more coffee. Oh my goodness.

Donna Cleveland:         We need coffee for Sarah. The iPhone XR is Apple's sort of budget phone of the year, which is funny because it's $750.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Right, for the entry level model. Which I think is a 76 GB? No.

Donna Cleveland:         I am going to-

Sarah Kingsbury:           I just should not say any numbers today. 64 GB is the starting model, correct?

Donna Cleveland:         I am just going to pull up these specs to make sure that we get them right. So yeah, the price starts at $749. The three storage options are 64 GB, 128, and 256.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Right.

Donna Cleveland:         So you get 64 GB for $749. I think Sarah and I have differing opinions on this. To me, I have a 64 GB phone and that's plenty for me.

Sarah Kingsbury:           I have a 256 GB phone, which is too much, but for the iPhone X it went from 64 I think to 256.

Donna Cleveland:         I mean, I think that unless I am shooting 4K video or something, I don't think I need that much.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yeah, I definitely am more around like 80 GB. If I optimized my photo and music storage, I could very easily fit into 64 GB.

Donna Cleveland:         Okay, cool. So just to give you an idea, but we'll give you an overview of what the XR has to offer. It's a little less expensive than other devices. It has cool color options. For that lower price, you only get a single camera, a single lens camera. You get the wide angle but not the telephoto lens. Interestingly, through software, Apple has made it so that you do still get portrait mode and portrait lighting, but you don't get the zoom. Devices with a dual lens, you can do 2x zoom without losing any quality, and that's not the case with this device. You get wireless charging. The other features that you don't get is the 3D touch.

Sarah Kingsbury:           That's a big one.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah, sort of. I don't know that I-

Sarah Kingsbury:           You still have multi touch.

Donna Cleveland:         I don't know that it would be a deal breaker for me. It's IP67 rated waterproof, whereas the other one-

Sarah Kingsbury:           Well, water resistant. You can get rained on or splashed.

Donna Cleveland:         Okay, right. Yeah, it's IP67, as opposed to IP68, which the XS and XS Max have IP68. The difference with that is that with 68, it can withstand a half hour of water in up to two meters of water, whereas 67 it's in one meter.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Right. I wouldn't test that.

Donna Cleveland:         I know, yeah. I was going to say, even though we have the Xs, none of us are going to be throwing our iPhones in water.

Sarah Kingsbury:           No. I have spilled things, though, on my phone, and it lived. The height is 5.94 inches and width 2.98 inches.

Donna Cleveland:         Oh right.

Sarah Kingsbury:           With a weight of 6.84 ounces. The display is 6.1 inches, which is-

Donna Cleveland:         Big.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yeah, it's big, but that is also size wise in between the iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Max.

Donna Cleveland:         Right, because right now the iPhone X is a 5.8 inch screen, and the iPhone XS is basically a followup, an S update to the iPhone X. So that means that it's the same exact form factor. It just has a better camera and a better processor, better internals.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Right. A couple other important differences. The other ones have OLED displays, and the XR has they call it liquid-

Donna Cleveland:         Liquid retina.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Well, they have an LCD and instead of super retina, they have what they call liquid retina. Also the materials are different. This is made of aluminum and glass, and the other phones are made from stainless steel. Apple kept talking about how it was medical grade steel. I'm not going to be using this as a medical device. I don't know. I guess they're just emphasizing very high quality steel.

Donna Cleveland:         Right, so the LCD display. Let's talk about that for a minute. Do you think that it matters that much, LCD versus OLED?

Sarah Kingsbury:           It does not really matter to me, but I think it really does matter to some people. It's something to consider.

Donna Cleveland:         When I bought the iPhone X, I bought it for the camera improvements. I ended up being just blown away by how great the display is. I don't know. I haven't had any hands on time with the XR yet, so I feel like I'd have to compare side by side to really know how I feel about it.

Donna Cleveland:         What I would say about this device is that I would recommend it to friends who they don't feel like they need the total premium device, but they haven't updated in maybe two or three years. You're going to get a huge amount of improvements. You're going to have the edge to edge display. You're going to have face ID. You're going to have most of the new camera features, besides the fact that you don't have the dual lens, so you're going to be compromising in some ways with that.

Sarah Kingsbury:           It's a great phone.

Donna Cleveland:         You'll get wireless charging. You can choose fun colors. I know Sarah, you were saying you were into the blue.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yeah, I really like the blue. I wish Apple would be more adventurous in their colors for all their phones.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah, I mean I really liked the ... I tend to like the more metallic colors, but I do think it's nice to have options.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yeah. I tend to compensate by just changing my case constantly, like this is probably the plainest case I've had. If you're not watching the video, it's just a clear case from Spec, which is beautiful and won't turn yellow and shows off my iPhone but isn't as fancy as I usually go for my cases.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah. I do like that case. Oh, here's a big one. The battery will last an hour and a half longer than the 8 Plus on the XR, so that's another nice improvement. All of the new phones have better batteries, but that was one that's nice to know.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yeah.

Donna Cleveland:         Do you have any other thoughts on the XR, who should get it?

Sarah Kingsbury:           I mean, this isn't just the XR, but I think it's really something to consider and it's a very interesting decision on Apple's part. There is no more home button on any of the new iPhones. I mean, you can get an 8 Plus or an 8, and that will have a home button, but going forward the home button is gone. Also, the iPhone SE is gone. If you liked that smaller form factor, you are out of luck.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah, that's true.

Sarah Kingsbury:           iPhone XS or the iPhone 8, actually, maybe, is the smallest phone you can get now.

Donna Cleveland:         Another interesting thing is that Apple also eliminated the iPhone X from its product line. You can't order that anymore. I was actually going to recommend that some of my friends that I would recommend the XR to just go ahead and get the X because that would be dropped in price, but I think Apple purposely doesn't want people to do that.

Sarah Kingsbury:           I mean, you'll still be able to get a used iPhone X.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah, if you want to go the eBay route or whatever.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yeah, and some carriers will be selling. I would probably buy from a reputable reseller, generally, because sometimes you end up buying a stolen phone. There's a lot of ways you have to be careful about buying a used phone. Sometimes they'll offer warranties, so that's something to consider, if you're going to buy an iPhone X. Usually if you buy a used phone, you have to pay out of pocket for it. iPhone Xs still are selling for a fair price.

Donna Cleveland:         I think I would go for the XR if someone was asking if they should get the X or the XR. I would get the XR because it does have better camera features, even though it does have the single lens, the solo lens. We'll get into the camera features in a minute, but it has smart HDR and it has better portrait mode settings. You can control the depth of field finally, now. That's something right now, the portrait mode has been somewhat limited, but on all of the three new phones you can control the depth of field to-

Sarah Kingsbury:           And you can do it after you've taken the photo. You can do it while you're editing.

Donna Cleveland:         Which is pretty sweet, yeah.

Sarah Kingsbury:           What was I going to say? I don't remember.

Donna Cleveland:         I think we should move on to talking about the XS and then the XS Max.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yeah. Let's do it.

Donna Cleveland:         The XS, it starts at $1,000, or $999. Pre-order starts Friday, so midnight tonight. They begin shipping September 21st. These phones, the XS and the XS Max, they come in gold, silver, and space gray. The gold is not the same gold that you're used to with Apple. It's sort of this coppery gold that's really pretty I think.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yeah, I like it more than the older, the very, very sort of pale gold that we had before.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah. It's a much more appealing-

Sarah Kingsbury:           They mushed rose gold and gold together, and this is what they got.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah, a little more of an orangy color to it, but I thought it was really nice looking. It's IP68 water resistant, which as we mentioned before, that means it can withstand two meters of water for a half hour. Again, neither Sarah or I would recommend testing that out too much, but it's still nice that there's less ways you can destroy your phone.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Definitely.

Donna Cleveland:         It starts at 64 GB, and it goes up to 512 GB of storage.

Sarah Kingsbury:           In both models.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah, so it's 64, 256, and 512. 512 to me seems excessive. Which is a funny choice of word for me to say. XS.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yeah, I know. Yeah, well if you shoot 4K video and I think Apple is really trying to promote their phones as cameras, then 512 GB is really great.

Donna Cleveland:         It's true, yeah. So if you're using your phone professionally that way, it's worth it for you. All of the new phones have the A12 bionic chip. From the way they were describing it, that's a lot of what is allowing these exciting new camera features, like machine learning.

Sarah Kingsbury:           You know what I'm really happy about?

Donna Cleveland:         What?

Sarah Kingsbury:           Although technically the XR's camera is not as good as the XS and XS Max's, basically all the phones have equivalent, really great cameras. Yeah, the XR tops out at 256 GB, but basically there's no just one premium, it used to be the Plus phone, that has the biggest storage and the best camera, and everyone else has to settle for something else. Apple seems to have now made it like everyone gets that, and I think that's awesome.

Donna Cleveland:         I think so, too. Yeah. The XS and XS Max have OLED displays, so you get that extra quality. The XS is 5.8 inches, so it's the same exact size as the X.

Sarah Kingsbury:           That's the display, not the size of the body.

Donna Cleveland:         Right, yes. Good clarification.

Sarah Kingsbury:           The XS Max is 6.5 inches display.

Donna Cleveland:         The battery lasts 30 minutes longer than the iPhone X, so there's a little bit of an improvement there. As the X, it has wireless charging and a lightning port. Let's get into a little bit of what these camera features are. What they're saying is that the camera can now capture 60% greater dynamic range for color, and so basically there's this new feature called smart HDR. HDR usually pulls together three photos taken at different exposures and kind of combines the best of all worlds of those photos, so that the high lights in the photo and the low lights in the photo have greater detail, so you don't-

Sarah Kingsbury:           [inaudible 00:32:37]

Donna Cleveland:         Especially in landscape shots.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Overexposed parts of the photo or parts that are too dark.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah, and so with smart HDR, my impression is that this is something that would be applied to all photos. It was great for portraits. They showed a lot of examples of that, too. Smart HDR takes more shots than three. It takes several. It just shows amazing detail in the high lights and in the low lights. It just looked totally gorgeous. I was excited about it.

Sarah Kingsbury:           It really did.

Donna Cleveland:         I before thought that there would be no reason I would want to upgrade from the X to the XS, but I was like, wow, for these camera features alone it's really cool. Then I've been enjoying portrait mode a lot, but it's pretty limited in terms of there are a lot of situations where it didn't work that well, so I didn't end up using portrait mode as much as I thought I would. I'm really glad that they're continuing to improve it and that now you can control ... They have an aperture control that lets you adjust the depth of field, so if it's not working great for you at a certain angle or whatever or you're not able to get the area that you want blurred in the background, you can now manually control that. Which is so cool.

Donna Cleveland:         The depth of field effect, if anybody isn't aware of what that is, that's what lets you focus on your subject and then have the rest of the background be blurred and out of focus. It creates this really nice [inaudible 00:33:59].

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yeah, when they're talking about the Bokeh effect, which we had a discussion is it Bo-kay or Bo-kuh, and it's both, but I think Bo-kuh is more correct. That's what they mean. They mean the person, the subject, is in focus really beautifully, and then the background is sort of artistically blurred, and it looks really professional.

Donna Cleveland:         Yes. So that's the iPhone XS. Who should buy the iPhone XS?

Sarah Kingsbury:           Me?

Donna Cleveland:         You want the XS?

Sarah Kingsbury:           I mean, I'm going to upgrade, but I don't want the XS Max. It's-

Donna Cleveland:         Too big?

Sarah Kingsbury:           I don't need a phone that big. I really enjoyed when I had a Plus phone, the bigger display, but I've really been enjoying the X because I have that bigger display and I have the smaller body. Now maybe when I see someone with a XS Max I'm going to be like, "Oh, I should have gotten that." I don't know. But you know, it was kind of a financial pain in the wallet to ... Obviously I wouldn't have bought it if I couldn't afford it. I don't think anyone should buy a phone they can't afford. But it was still shockingly expensive to buy this phone, and I don't feel like buying an even more expensive phone.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah, no, that makes sense to me. I'm tempted because of the camera features for the XS. To me it makes sense, again, for somebody who maybe they were on a two year payment plan with their last phone and so they're ready to upgrade and they are excited about having all the latest features. Then this would be a good choice for you. It would be a great choice.

Donna Cleveland:         What was interesting is that yesterday during our live podcast, we had a poll, asking people which phones they wanted to upgrade to. The least people by far voted for the XS. The most people by far wanted the XS Max, which we're just about to talk to. I think it was like 56% of people voted that they were planning on getting the XS Max.

Sarah Kingsbury:           It was all about the display size, right?

Donna Cleveland:         It was, yeah. I think Sarah and I are just not representative of a lot of people. To me, the iPhone X, I just love the size of it. It's perfect.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Right.

Donna Cleveland:         But a lot of people are so excited about this. It's a 6.5 inch display, so it's by far the largest display of any iPhone Apple has ever made. It is just ever so slightly smaller than the 8 Plus, though, so it's like you get a way larger display for the same size as the Plus. When asked about it in our live podcast, a lot of people said that they have a Plus phone and that they were switching from the Plus to the XS Max, because they could for the same size get way more bang for their buck.

Sarah Kingsbury:           I mean, people, David in particular always kind of poo pooed me because I watch videos on my phone, but I think a lot of people do. He reads on his iPad and he watches videos on his iPad, but you know what? You have your phone with you, and people who like to read ... I mean, I used to always have at least one book with me at all times, and now I have an entire library of books with me.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah.

Sarah Kingsbury:           I think if you're like me and you like to watch videos, which I think people share those more and more on social media, and if you like to read on your phone, having that bigger screen real estate is a big deal.

Donna Cleveland:         The other thing, too, is that this is an expensive, premium device. For a lot of people, they're not going to have an iPad also. They're not going to spend money on more than one device, so it's like if this is the device you use for all these things you just mentioned, then maybe you want to have that bigger display and have it be more convenient. Apple, they had a couple of videos or demos of people using different apps with that larger display, and it did look appealing that way.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yeah.

Donna Cleveland:         Again, I just can't, in terms of how it feels in my hand carrying it around, I still can't quite get on board for myself. But I do understand the appeal that way.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yeah, you know, I got used to the Plus really fast, to be honest.

Donna Cleveland:         You did?

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yeah, once I made the switch. Maybe once I see other people with it, I'll start to feel jealous and then in the next cycle upgrade, because I have to do it every year for my job. Honestly, if I were just an average iPhone buyer instead of someone who covers it professionally, I really like the idea of getting the phone you want and then keeping it for a long time. Because they do last really well, and Apple seems to finally be addressing, with IOS12, every phone that can run IOS11 can also run IOS12 and should actually run faster. Which is a change from previous IOS updates. So I don't know. I say get the phone you want and keep it longer.

Donna Cleveland:         I mean, yeah. I don't know if I agree with that or not. I'll have to think about it. One interesting thing about the Max, too, is that the starting price is $100 more than the XS, so it starts at $1099. You can also pre-order it, by the way, starting tonight at midnight, or the 12th, depending on which day you're watching this podcast.

Sarah Kingsbury:           The 14th at midnight?

Donna Cleveland:         Sorry, the 14th.

Sarah Kingsbury:           So basically stay up late on the 13th, and then at 12:01 AM you can order your phone.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah, and so depending on what storage you want or whatever, it's not necessarily that much more expensive to get the XS Max, is what I'm trying to say. So yeah, as Sarah said, if it's the device you really want, maybe that's the way to go.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Especially when you consider that most people actually do a payment plan for their phones. $100 spread out over 12 months or two years is not actually a significant difference. It's a couple of cups of coffee.

Donna Cleveland:         Oh, the other thing, too, with the Max is that you get an extra hour and a half over the X of battery. So it has a really fantastic battery. With the X, as we mentioned before, it's a half hour extra that you get of it. Or the XS. Sorry. The iPhone X, by the way, the batter is amazing.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yeah.

Donna Cleveland:         Mine lasts probably for like a day and a half without needing an extra charge. What about you?

Sarah Kingsbury:           It depends what I'm doing with my phone. I recently, two years after it became popular, started playing Pokemon Go, and that is a real battery suck. But before I got duped into playing Pokemon Go, yeah, my battery lasted a long time.

Donna Cleveland:         You know what we didn't even talk about yet, is the dual SIM, the dual SIM card. Yeah, let's talk about that.

Sarah Kingsbury:           That's so exciting, too. I can't believe we haven't talked about that yet. That is huge.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yeah, so if you travel, you've probably run into the fact that, especially if your phone is locked to a carrier because you're still paying for it or whatever, you sometimes have to get some burner phone locally or just rely on apps in WiFi to do messaging. Or you have to buy a new SIM and take out your current SIM and insert that. But now-

Donna Cleveland:         Or you didn't mess with your settings, and you just get a huge bill from your carrier.

Sarah Kingsbury:           My parents spend half the year out of the country, and yeah, one year I started getting ... They're on my family plan. I started getting these notifications.

Donna Cleveland:         Oh no!

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yeah. They don't do that anymore. They buy SIM cards locally. So I'm kind of excited about this for them. Basically you can have two SIM cards, which means you can have a SIM card where you are, traveling, and your local one. Or if you want to take work calls on your phone and also personal calls, but have separate numbers, you can do that. So it's pretty exciting, the possibilities.

Donna Cleveland:         Cool, yeah. I was interested because I don't travel internationally very often, so again, yesterday when we had all of our live listeners, I was asking them if they were excited about it. A lot of people travel for work, and so this is something they've been waiting for for years. So now the iPhone XR, the XS, and the XS Max all have the dual SIM option. I feel like it's one of those things that's not going to appeal to everyone, but for the people that it does matter to, this is a really big deal.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Right. So most of the phones with the dual SIM will have eSIM. That's the SIM card that you have in your watch. So it's not like a physical SIM card. It's an electronic SIM card. So they've put that technology in the phone. I guess in China, that's not an option, for whatever reason. So they are going to have two physical SIMs.

Donna Cleveland:         Oh, okay. Cool. Yeah, so I think that's the last feature. We may have forgotten a couple of features in here, but I think we've covered most of it. With the XS Max, just to summarize, the XS Max we think is good for people who just care about that bigger display. There are a lot of people who that's really appealing to. If you have a 7 Plus or an 8 Plus, that might be especially appealing because you're not having to get used to a bigger display. If anything, it's just a little bit smaller.

Donna Cleveland:         The XS we would say is good for Sarah and nobody else. No, I'm kidding. The XS I think is going to appeal maybe to people who do want the latest and greatest and don't have the X. I don't think for most people upgrading from the X to the XS makes a whole lot of sense.

Sarah Kingsbury:           I'm not excited about it. Also, I mean, I'm really tempted to stick with my X, but I do really need to upgrade for work. I also have a tendency to really fight hard for a certain model and then I generally upgrade around Christmas time. Then I end up getting a different phone. So we'll see. We'll find out in December if I actually mean what I'm saying today.

Donna Cleveland:         Right. Then the XR I think is good for people who haven't upgraded in a while, they don't really, necessarily care about having ... They're not huge Apple fanboys or fangirls, but they need a new phone.

Donna Cleveland:         Okay, so we'll just summarize for you really quickly the iPhone XS Max we think is really good for people who ... Especially if you have a 6 Plus or a 6S Plus or 7 Plus. You won't have to adjust to a bigger phone, but you'll get a way bigger and better display with better battery life. If you are Sarah, you might want to get the iPhone XS. I don't know actually that I can recommend it to that many people, because if you have the iPhone X, I don't think it's work upgrading to that.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Not really. I have to update for work.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah.

Sarah Kingsbury:           And we'll see if I follow through on getting the X. I sometimes change my mind, and I don't usually update until December. So we'll find out.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah, I'd say probably the XS makes sense for people were eyeing the iPhone X but they wanted to wait and kind of see if the new ... Because you do have to get used to some new navigation features, to face ID, and so if you've been keeping an eye on that and have been curious about it, I think now might be the time to try it out. Face ID is going to be faster. That's one thing we didn't mention.

Sarah Kingsbury:           And it's gotten better. I hate face ID, but it has gotten better.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah, with the new phone it's supposed to be even faster, so that's good. Even though for me I've found face ID to be awesome. Just saying. Then the iPhone XR we think is a great option for people who have an older phone, they need to upgrade because their phone is just not working that well, but they don't care as much about whether they have the absolute latest and greatest features.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Or that they have the very best camera, because it's still going to be an amazing camera.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah. The display will also be a lot better than what they have, but it's not going to be the gorgeous OLED display.

Sarah Kingsbury:           But you will get fun colors. I mean, come on, Apple. Why do you not like the rest of us who might get the XS or XS Max?

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah. I'm excited at least the new gold is pretty, but I kind of want you to get the blue XR, Sarah.

Sarah Kingsbury:           No, I'm not getting the R. I feel like that's a sideways and maybe even slight step down from the X.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah, in certain ways. So our question of the episode for you is which of the devices are you excited about? Are you planning on buying any of the new iPhones or the Apple Watch Series 4 and why? Email us at for that. Before we close the episode, I want to tell you about our second sponsor, Otter Box. Otter Box barely needs an introduction from us, because I feel like most people know about Otter Box already.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Right.

Donna Cleveland:         Otter Box is such an awesome iPhone case company. They make really rugged, durable iPhone cases, but the great thing about them is that they come in different looks that can really suit any type of personality or occasion.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Yeah, I feel like when people think of rugged cases, sometimes they think of those really big, rubbery, bulky things.

Donna Cleveland:         Which Otter Box does make some of those.

Sarah Kingsbury:           They do, and in some cases that's exactly the case you need.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah.

Sarah Kingsbury:           But then there's other people who want that protection but also want their phone to look stylish, and Otter Box has you covered there, too. They have such a great range of protective cases.

Donna Cleveland:         Yeah. I feel like friends of mine who they have a camo Otter Box case that they bring hunting with them. Then there's other people have a really sleek looking one that you wouldn't know that it's as protective as it is, from Otter Box as well. Go to to check that out. We'll also have a link in our podcast blog page, if you go to you'll find it there.

Donna Cleveland:         This wraps up episode 92 of the iPhone Life podcast, where we've gone over all of the top products that Apple announced at its iPhone keynotes for 2018. We're so excited to be in conversation with you guys about this, and we'll be continuing to give you purchasing advice over the next couple of months. Remember, on the 14th at midnight, you can start pre-ordering the new iPhones, except for the XR, and the Apple Watch Series 4. So let us know how that goes for you, too. See you next time.

Sarah Kingsbury:           Thanks everyone!

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Author Details

Sarah Kingsbury's picture

Author Details

Sarah Kingsbury

As the Editorial Director at iPhone Life, Sarah Kingsbury manages the online editorial team and oversees all website content. She is a long-time Apple enthusiast who never goes anywhere without her Apple Watch and owns way too many HomePods. Since joining iPhone Life in 2013, Sarah has done everything from writing hundreds of how-to articles to founding the Daily Tip newsletter. She even co-hosted the early episodes of the iPhone Life Podcast. When not at work, Sarah can be found hiking in the mountains and canyons around Las Vegas, where she lives with her partner and dogs.