CUPERTINO: Apple unveiled three new iPhones on Wednesday (Sep 12) in a bid to maintain its position in the premium smartphone segment, along with new features for its smartwatch that allow users to take their own electrocardiogram or detect a fall.
The California tech giant said it would begin selling its 5.8-inch iPhone XS and 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max later this month, keeping the starting price of the company's top-end model at US$999 but bumping the entry price for the version with the larger screen.
Apple also announced a new iPhone XR starting at US$749, available in October, with a 6.1-inch display to broaden its pool of buyers.
The new iPhones have more powerful processors and cameras, and a dual-SIM card feature for top-of-the-line devices. Home buttons were replaced with screen swipes, taps and facial recognition capabilities.
"We are going to take iPhone X to the next level," chief executive Tim Cook said.
The three phones are updates to last year's iPhone X ("10"), which marks the 10th anniversary of the smartphone - stretching the screen while keeping the overall handset size at or near that of previous models.
The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max have displays of 5.8 and 6.5 inches respectively, boosting screen size while keeping a small-format handset, Apple vice president Phil Schiller said, calling the latest models "a huge step forward for the future of the smartphone."
The XS' display consists of a total of 2.7 million pixels, features a pixel density of 458 pixels per inch, and has a notch cut-out for the front-facing camera. Storage options for the phone include 64 GB, 256 GB, and 512 GB.
The phone includes a dual camera with a 12 megapixel wide-angle lens as well as a 12 megapixel telephoto lens. On the front side, it features a 7 megapixel RGB camera as a well as an infrared camera used for Face ID.
Compared to the XS, the iPhone XS Max is virtually identical but with a vertical screen size of 6.5 inches with a resolution of 2688 by 1242 pixels, and a pixel density of 458 ppi.
In addition, XS Max will offer up to 90 minutes of additional battery life when compared to the iPhone X. The XS will only offer up to 30 minutes of additional battery life.
The company uses the 'S' suffix when it upgrades components but leaves the exterior of a phone largely the same. Last year's iPhone X represented a major redesign.
The iPhone XR, which replaces iPhone 8 as an option for more budget-conscious buyers, borrows its looks from the iPhone X. It features a 6.1-inch edge-to-edge LED screen with a resolution of 1792 by 828 pixels and a pixel density of 326 ppi.
The phone has a 12 megapixel camera and offers much of the same photo features as the XS, including smart HDR.
The iPhone XS will be priced US$999 and up, the XS Max will sell for US$1,099 and up while the XR will start from US$749.
Apple said consumers will be able to pre-order the XS models starting Friday and the phones will be shipped to selected countries on Sep 21. Pre-orders for the XR start on Oct 19, with shipping on Oct 26.
The September event allows the company to unveil its latest offerings before the key holiday shopping season and comes with the global smartphone market largely saturated.
While the iPhone has made Apple the world's most valuable company, worth more than US$1 trillion, it has slipped to third place among smartphone makers as Chinese-based Huawei has grabbed the number two spot behind Samsung.
Analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy said Apple had done enough "to keep its smartphone growth going until the competition responds."
"I think Apple did extremely well here," GlobalData analyst Avi Greengart said after checking out the new offerings at the unveiling at the company's headquarters in Cupertino, California. "Overall, this is going to be a very good year for Apple."
The analyst expected the line-up to be a hit, pushing up the average selling price of Apple smartphones.
NEW SMARTWATCH FEATURES
Apple also introduced a fourth generation of Apple Watch with a major redesign - and a series of features designed to improve its performance as a medical and health device.
The watch, sold in the United States from US$399 and up, will be available in stores on Sep 21.
"Apple Watch has become an intelligent guardian for your health," chief operating officer Jeff Williams said.
The smartwatches include an accelerometer and gyroscope, which are able to detect hard falls, and an electrical heart rate sensor that can take an electrocardiogram, described as a first for a wearable device.
"This is the first ECG product offered over the counter directly to consumers," Williams said. "Now you can take an ECG any time, anywhere, right from the wrist."
The fall detection upgrade is seen as an important feature for elderly or disabled users.
"Identifying a fall may sound like a straightforward problem, but it requires a lot of data analysis," Williams said.
If a person falls, and then is motionless, the watch will call emergency services, he added.
Moorhead said the health features for the new devices were notable.
"I can see kids buying one for their parents and grandparents," he said. "Apple opened the aperture again and I believe Series 4 will sell better than all previous models."
Research firm CB Insights said Apple is at a "crossroads" a decade after introducing the iPhone.
"Looking for the next wave, Apple is clearly expanding into augmented reality and wearables with the Apple Watch and AirPods wireless headphones," the firm said.
"But the next 'big one' - a success and growth driver on the scale of the iPhone - has not yet been determined. Will it be augmented reality, auto, wearables? Or something else entirely?"
Apple's event comes with the global smartphone market at near-peak saturation, and without a major catalyst for sales ahead of a likely rollout of 5G, or fifth generation, wireless networks, expected in 2019.
Research firm IDC expects worldwide smartphone shipments to decline 0.7 per cent in 2018 to 1.455 billion units, with growth likely to resume as 5G devices become available.
Cook said Apple was nearing the two-billion mark for devices with its mobile operating system known as iOS.
"We are about to hit a major milestone. We are about to ship our two billionth iOS device," he said.
"This is astonishing - iOS has changed the way we live."