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Apple’s new iPhones: ‘xsive’ or ‘xllent’ ?

Updated 05 Oct, 2018 11:05am
How will the new line of iPhones affect Samsung and Google?

It is pretty hard to miss the hype and hoopla surrounding the annual launch of Apple’s new iPhone line. Yes, I said line: iPhone is now a series of three phones, divided into two tiers.

First things first. iPhone 8 and 8 plus were the last true descendants of the original iPhone, with their thick bezels and fingerprint scanners. Last year’s iPhone X, with an all-screen front adorned by that endlessly copied notch, was a preview of the future design direction Apple intended to take. And this was proven this year: the three new iPhones (Xs and Xs Max were launched on September 12, while pre-orders for the Xr begin on October 19) are broad facsimiles of the original iPhone X.

But does it matter?

The pair of iPhone Xs’s is the ‘S’ iteration of the previous year’s model. iPhone Xs houses a better processor, screen and camera than the iPhone X with the same design and screen size. iPhone Xs Max is a larger version of the Xs, at 6.5 inch inches. Both are the ‘top-tier’ part of the line-up, with premium quality material and no compromise on hardware. Prices starts at $999 for the iPhone Xs and $1,099 for the Xs Max.

So far, so good – business as usual. At this point in time, iPhone users are not willing to consider any alternatives and anyone who has not yet converted isn’t likely to do so based on these models (unless the competition becomes seriously hampered in some way).

It is the third model (iPhone Xr) that aims to disrupt the status quo. The Xr has a 6.1 inch screen and is compromised versus the Xs line in three key respects: the camera (just a single one against two each on the Xs’s), screen technology (LCD versus the superior AMOLED used on Xs’s), and materials (conventional metal chassis versus stainless steel on the Xs’s). What it doesn’t compromise upon is where the game gets interesting: it has the same processor as the more expensive line, at a starting price of $750.

For the first time in the great war between Android and iOS, pricing has ceased to be an issue. With the two platforms now satisfactorily feature-laden to satisfy their respective target markets, it is a question of who can attract the users on the fence.

Seven hundred and fifty dollars is not chump change; however, it is a historically low price point for any iPhone that has the current flagship processor. Previous ‘cheap’ iPhone models, 5c and SE, compromised on many features. The Xr does so, but only compared to the more expensive models. On its own it is a great deal.

With that pricing and features combination, suddenly there is a new iPhone that is significantly lower in price than the competition: namely, flagship Android models. Chief among them is Samsung, whose pricing closely mirrors that of the iPhone. Similarly, Google’s Pixel 2 line of phones, widely considered to be the best phone on the planet by a large section of the tech press, is also significantly more expensive. The smaller Pixel 2 matches the price of the iPhone Xr, offering more storage (128 GB vs 64 GB) but featuring last year’s processor and a significantly smaller screen. Pixel 2 XL, sporting a six inch screen, is currently offered at $850, making it $100 more expensive than the iPhone Xr.

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In short, the iPhone Xr has the pricing and features set to potentially attract customers of top of the line Android offerings from Google, LG, Samsung, Sony and a host of others.

Samsung has already fired their latest salvo in the form of the Galaxy Note 9, a phone starting well north of $1,000 but offering an arguably unmatched feature set. Google is also expected to announce a refreshed line of Pixel phones (the Pixel 3 series) with rumours of a third, cheaper Pixel 3 variant joining the traditional two.

For the first time in the great war between Android and iOS, pricing has ceased to be an issue, at least for a large portion of the target market. Similarly, screen sizes of the iPhone variants now cater to a wider variety of users; previously screens that were six-inches or larger were the sole domain of Android manufacturers. Furthermore, several iPhone XS and XS Max users have already reported that they have been unable to charge their devices properly. Apple have acknowledged the issue and plan to release a fix by end of this month. Due to this slight chink in Apple’s armour, the halo around the new iPhone launch has diminished slightly.

On the other hand, as demonstrated by the latest Galaxy sets from Samsung and Google’s Pixel line, Android is now as fast and smooth as iOS, often offering much more flexibility and features. This removes a pet peeve that prevented many users from switching from iOS. Android phones, these days, are also solidly ahead in terms of cameras and battery life.

The lines have been well and truly blurred. Having emulated each other over the past decade (Android turns 10 this year, while iOS is 11 years old) the two platforms now have everything to satisfy their respective target markets. It is a question of who can attract the users on the fence. With the iPhone Xr, Apple have made their move. Your turn, Google.

Talha bin Hamid is an accountant by day and an opinionated observer of pop culture, an avid reader, a gamer and an all-around nerd by night.