Two of the newest iPhones hit stores Friday, with predictable scenes of customers around the world lining up outside Apple Inc. AAPL 0.76% stores and the decade-old guessing game over how strong demand will be for the technology giant’s latest gadgets.
Sales of the iPhone XS and XS Max, unveiled Sept. 12, began Friday at 8 a.m. at Apple’s Sydney store and continue across Asia, Europe and the Americas.
Customer turnout will go a long way toward determining Apple’s results over the next year. Though iPhone unit sales have stagnated, the company has delivered record revenue by increasing prices. It has extended that strategy this fall, jacking up the price of the top-end XS Max model to $1,099 from $999.
The new handsets, which feature Apple’s largest screens ever, as well as faster processors and improved batteries, are designed to encourage upgrades from older devices by nearly 500 million customers analysts estimate are using iPhones two-years old or older.
“If we get a lot of people with older phones showing up, that’s a good sign,” said Gene Munster, managing partner at investment and research firm Loup Ventures.
Also hitting stores Friday is the company’s latest smartwatch.
The Series 4 watch is the first to receive clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to perform an electrocardiogram and measure a heart’s electrical activity. Apple has said that feature will be added later through a software update.
About one in every 15 customers on the first day of iPhone sales intend to buy a watch, said Mr. Munster, whose firm assesses demand annually at about five stores.
Buyers preparing to drop as much as $1,099 on a new device need all the information they can get. Here are The Wall Street Journal’s guides to Apple’s new devices and features this year.
The iPhone XS and XS Max Review: Sit Tight for the XR
The new iPhone XS and XS Max are great phones but the XR, due out in October, sounds more like a great deal. It really comes down to what you want and how much you want to spend. Here are the basic differences:
• iPhone XS: An upgrade to the 5.8-inch iPhone X from last year, with a vibrant, edge-to-edge OLED screen and two cameras on the back. It still starts at $1,000. (The original X is gone. RIP.)
• iPhone XS Max: A giant version of the XS with a 6.5-inch screen—Apple’s biggest-ever phone display. It starts at $1,049.
• iPhone XR: A new model that doesn’t have the rear two cameras or OLED display, but does have a large 6.1-inch LCD screen and apparently better battery life. It starts at $749, but you can’t get it until Oct. 26.
The upshot: Choose which iPhone features matter to you most, ignore Apple’s time frame and make your decision from there. Apple’s most important upgrade this fall doesn’t cost $1,000, and you don’t have to go to the Apple Store to get it. In fact, after testing iOS 12—the latest version of the software that powers iPhones and iPads—a lot of people can skip buying a new phone altogether.
The new OS is available for download now to all devices that were able to run iOS 11. That means every iPhone since the 5s and every iPad since the Mini 2. (If you’re using a device older than those, it’s truly time for a new one.)
The best thing about iOS 12 is how well it runs on older gadgets. And some of iOS 12’s features, such as an improved Do Not Disturb mode and Screen Time feature (more on that below), may even improve your relationship with devices by helping you to use them less.
Screen Time provides charts and graphs about your daily and weekly usage: how often you picked up the phone, how long you spent in certain apps, etc. It’s not an app—it’s hidden in Settings.
The feature is based on the idea that if you’re aware of how much time you spend on your devices, you’ll do it less. It presents loads of information about your usage, and you can set time limits on specific apps so you’re locked out of them.
Just one little problem: For those of us who compulsively check our phones—sometimes even when watching our children on the playground, or crossing the street—Apple’s lock is like Scotch tape on a pack of cigarettes. It’s too easy to ignore the limitations you set. If you’re not super addicted, though, there’s hope.
It has never been exactly clear why the Apple Watch exists. It does a lot of things, certainly: delivers notifications, tracks fitness, makes phone calls, helps you pay for stuff and lots more besides. Your phone does all of those same things just fine, though, so why spend hundreds more on yet another gadget you need to charge all the time?With the new $399-and-up Apple Watch Series 4, Apple offers the most compelling thing yet for the Watch to do what the iPhone can’t: help you monitor and track your health in deep, medically useful ways.