Tech watchers were paying close attention as Apple held its annual hardware launch event at the Steve Jobs Theatre in California. Rumours of what would be announced swirled ahead of the show – now the dust has settled, we cut through the hype and break down everything you need to know.

iPhone XS

The edit: More pixels, more screen, more battery life

Building on the iPhone X – Apple’s most technologically advanced smartphone – the announcement of the iPhone XS wasn’t really a surprise, but it does push their phone portfolio along somewhat. It comes in two sizes, the XS and the XS Max, the latter boasting the largest iPhone display ever.

There’s a new chip too, the A12 Bionic, which Apple promises will deliver faster performance and graphics, with better power efficiency. Add in toughened glass and dual-cameras, and you’ve got a significant step (but not a major leap) forward in the iPhone story. The launch range is bolstered by the iPhone XR too. It has the same new chip, advanced Face ID and an edge-to-edge liquid retina screen. What it doesn’t have is two cameras on the rear.

Key features of the new iPhone

  • 8” and 6.5” screens on XS and XS Max
  • A12 Bionic Chip for faster performance
  • Dual-camera system on rear, TrueDepth Camera on front
  • Advanced Face ID for security
  • Increased storage – 64GB, 256GB and 512GB options
  • 1” LCD screen on XR
  • No ‘Home’ buttons

Apple Watch 4

The edit: Smartwatch that feels tailored to real life – with a bigger screen and more features

Smartwatches have had a mixed press in recent years. Some critics see them as gimmicks with no real applications for everyday use. Apple remains committed to them, however, and the latest iteration, the Series 4, might be the one to convert the sceptics.

On a purely aesthetic level it looks better, with rounded edges and increased display area giving Apple Watch 4 a contemporary feel. Beneath the surface, the tech is working harder than ever with a new focus on health. It can take an ECG and share your heart activity with a doctor (albeit only in the US on launch) while a gyroscope can detect if the wearer has had a fall or is immobile. Fitness and call features have both been ramped up a notch too. This really feels like the smartwatch has finally arrived.

Key features of Apple Watch 4

  • Viewing area 30% larger
  • Digital Crown for navigation now has haptic feedback
  • Advanced optical heart sensor
  • Louder speaker for improved calls and Siri use
  • Fall detection and Emergency SOS features

 

iOS 12

The edit: Faster performance, smart notifications, Memojis and measuring

Days after the hardware launch, Apple released its latest software update – iOS 12. Chances are you’ve already downloaded it and will be getting to grips with its slew of improvements and new features. Key among these is a promised boost in performance, with apps launching more quickly, as well as a host of security features and parental controls.

Usability is boosted too. Siri has been tweaked, while changes to app notifications mean your homepage won’t be bombarded with updates you don’t care about. After introducing Animojis in 2017, Apple brings Memojis to iOS 12. With these user-created versions you can custom-make your own creature – complete with the ability to mirror your facial expressions. Inessential, lots of fun and coming soon to a million Instagram feeds near you. Two other headline grabbers are Measure – an Augmented Reality feature that will have you measuring everything in your house just because you can – and a tool that tallies up your screen time.

Key features of iOS 12

  • Smart notifications
  • AR Software tools
  • Memojis for virtual fun
  • Siri gets Shortcuts
  • More Do Not Disturb options

 

The wrap: Evolutionary and experiential

Often, Apple launch events can be evolutionary rather than revolutionary, but this year’s felt like a mix of the two. It made us care about smartwatches and their potential once more, while the new iPhones put emphasis on what people actually want to do with their smartphones. Add in a software update that champions usability and fun, and it has been somewhat of a banner year for Apple.