By Jason Snell
September 30, 2018 7:35 PM PT
The Holiday Quarter approaches…
Well, here we are again. A new iPhone and Apple Watch announcement in the rearview, some possible product announcements from Apple on the horizon. Apple is revving its product and production engines and getting ready for the biggest three months of the year in terms of sales and marketing. We’re a few days away from entering the Holiday Quarter, a magical time that generates billions and billions of dollars in revenue and profits for Apple. My wallet’s already lighter than it was at the beginning of this month… how’s yours?
There’s a lot for me to write about at this time of year, and I owe you all reviews of the iPhone XS and the Apple Watch Series 4. Once the initial wave of embargoed reviews drop, I’ve found that there’s no point in trying to rush out a review that’s less well informed than the ones that were written by people who’ve gotten to spend a week with the product. (I also had to get my final review of macOS Mojave out the door!) So now I’ve lived with the products for a week and I’m ready to start writing. You should see the results in the next week, though I’ve already dropped a few hints in pieces I’ve written the last couple of weeks. It’s a busy time.
I will give it away and say that I love the Apple Watch Series 4, though not without reservation. I almost feel that the Apple Watch has reached the level where it’s worth criticizing now, especially on the software side. The Apple Watch hardware is simply excellent—the new watches are thinner and with much larger screens. watchOS 5 is a breakthrough in so many ways. As I noted on Six Colors earlier this month, I can finally do things like play podcasts directly from my watch to my AirPods while running—and while also using an interval-training app on my watch. The dream is real.
So now it’s about the details. The new complications on the Apple Watch faces have huge potential, but there’s a lot of additional work to be done. I’m impressed with the new Infograph faces on the Series 4, but disappointed that Apple didn’t bother updating any of the other faces to support the new complication styles. Apple Watch faces are nice, I suppose, but they need to be better. There need to be more of them, with more variations, and the designs need to be much more flexible.
The sign of a maturing platform is that users stop asking for the developers to fill in obvious gaps in the fundamental design, and instead ask the developers to start sweating the details. That’s where we are with Apple Watch now, I think. It’s good, and it does everything it needs to do (more or less), but now it needs polish and attention to detail—and it all starts on the watch face itself.
On the iPhone side, my reactions are—forgive me—spectacularly boring. This is a solid update as they all are. If you’ve got an iPhone X, you don’t need to upgrade unless you desperately want to return to a Plus-sized phone or if you simply can’t resist the idea of a major upgrade to your photos. (The camera on the iPhone XS is good… and the way the images are captured and massaged by the A12 processor is even better.) This year’s not about iPhone X updaters, it’s about people who have never experienced the Face ID and edge-to-edge display of the iPhone X finally taking the plunge. They’ll be delighted.
The only open question is… what will happen with the iPhone XR when it’s released in October? It’s a good price for such a feature-packed phone, and it’s a lot cheaper than the iPhone XS Max, but it’s still a very large phone and the price tag isn’t exactly bargain-basement. Still, with the iPhone X-style edge-to-edge display, Face ID, and position as the lowest-priced new iPhone in Apple’s line, I am tempted to predict that the iPhone XR might be Apple’s biggest hit during the Holiday Quarter.
We’ll see. In the meantime, I’m hoping to get a new iPad Pro next month… and dare I hope for some new Macs as well? While it’s possible that Apple will make us wait until after the Holiday Quarter to see those new products, I’m betting they’re on the horizon. With any luck, we’ll be discussing those updates in this very space next month. I can’t wait!