You expected it! Here’s the new iPhone XR, XS and XS Max

[Update: 20 Sep 2018 @ 19:00 GMT] 

As the first wave of launch markets are waiting to get their hands on the new iPhone, the second wave of launch markets are about to go live with pre-orders for the iPhone XS and XS Max.

Pre-orders have gone live in Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman. Better check your local telecom operators’ official accounts for links to reserve one.

Vodafone Qatar just announced that they are bringing support for eSIM to Qatar. Since some of Vodafone’s network worldwide already have support for it, it’s a great bet they leveraged it to get ahead of the game. Let’s not forget that Ooredoo Qatar also made the same announcement the very next day. It’s an interesting development for those who were planning to use two different numbers on one iPhone XS.

Alongside Etisalat in the UAE, this makes Qatar the second country in the entire Middle East to support the new eSIM standard.

As a reminder, the functionality to use Dual SIMs on the iPhone XS and XS Max will come with a software update later this year. Which means that there may be more carriers in the Middle East that may announce support for it.

[Update: 18 Sep 2018 @ 15:30 GMT]

As the Dual SIM feature and functionality may encourage few people to upgrade to the new iPhone XS and XS Max, I’ve just learned that it won’t be available at launch on 21 Sep.

Digging through a newly published support page on Apple’s website, the functionality will be available in an iOS 12 update coming out later this year. Since iOS 12 hasn’t rolled out Group Facetime at launch, it’s a clear bet that the next release could also roll out Dual SIM support with Group Facetime or save it as a separate update.

Other things regarding Dual SIM support can be summarized as follows:

  • Only unlocked iPhone XS and XS Max devices can use two different carriers. You can still use two SIMs from the same mobile carrier as long they are different numbers.
  • Only one of them can be a SIM from a CDMA network but NOT both. You can pick either it’s the physical nano-SIM or the eSIM.
  • You can choose your default SIM, and then specify the secondary SIM is either data-only or data with voice services. This will also allow you to select which SIM you can use for normal phone calls and text messages
  • There doesn’t seem to be a limit on how many eSIMs can be stored on the iPhone XS and XS Max, but only one can be used at a time. This is key for the rest of the world (excluding China) where the Dual SIM model is the one with the physical nano-SIM + eSIM.
  • Buying an eSIM plan is looking to be simple and effortless, as it’ll involve scanning a mobile carrier’s QR code or the official app from the mobile carrier that supports eSIM.

If you want to know which mobile operators worldwide already support the eSIM standard, look no further than this dedicated page on Apple.

There’s also the added benefit that should more mobile carriers support the eSIM standard, we may also see the Apple Watch Series 4 Cellular models also available in those countries.

The only mobile carrier in the entire Middle East region that supports the eSIM standard is Etisalat in the UAE, but that only supports the Apple Watch Series 3 LTE model.

[Update: 13 Sep 2018 @ 16:14 GMT]

After trying to get an answer out for which Dual SIM variant will be available in Qatar (and most likely the Middle East region), Vodafone Qatar has confirmed in a reply that it would be the one that the rest of the world receives – physical SIM with eSIM support.

It does imply that Ooredoo Qatar would get the same model, and even likely that so does the rest of the Middle East region. I doubt Apple would officially sell the exclusive Made For China dual-SIM variant outside of China, but that may change down the road. It would be int he interest to push more carriers towards the new eSIM standard.

Both Vodafone Qatar and Ooredoo Qatar have promo materials up for the new iPhone XS and XS Max, as pre-orders will open up on September 21, before the official launch on 28 September.

Everyone always looks forward to the official Apple event where new/updated products are announced to the world after following the grapevine with meticulous detail and appearing to be getting ahead. All of that culminated in the one hour long live keynote where new models of the Apple Watch and the iPhone were announced.

Let’s dive in with what people have been anticipating – new iPhone models.

iPhone X family gets three new siblings – iPhone XS, XS Max and XR

First thing first Apple officially names the iPhone X as iPhone 10 (X from Roman numerals) … NOT iPhone X (the letter). Trying to proudly say iPhone 30 with three of those X numerals out loud to embarrass yourself. As usual, it’s the most advanced iPhone Apple has created… every year.

As they push the industry towards facial recognition and slowly eschewing the traditional ‘Home’ button, Apple unveiled not one, not two, but three new iPhone models to succeed the iPhone X. Meet the dual-camera iPhone XS and XS Max, and the single-camera iPhone XR.

All of them are powered by the same new A-series A12 Bionic SoC chip to give it the fast performance and power-efficiency. To put that into technical specs, you’re looking at 6.9 bn transistors in a 7nm packaging comprised of the following:

  • a hexacore CPU with 2 high-performance cores and 4 power-efficient cores
  • a quad-core GPU
  • an octa-core Neural Engine that can process 5 trillion operations per second (more than 600billion from the A11 Bionic).

You still have that camera bump for the dual-lens arrangement at the back of the iPhone XS and XS Max. Let’s not forget that the notch is here to stay, as that’s where all the Face ID sensors and the front-facing camera is grouped together. Face ID is standard across all the models, as Apple is clearly moving away from the tradition Home button and foreseeing facial recognition as a more secure way to unlock your device. It’s even faster with these new models as well.

Aside from the same core silicon, we start delving into the differences. So I’ve nicely tabulated them as below for easy reference

iPhone XSiPhone XS MaxiPhone XR
DisplaySuper Retina Display: 5.8-inch @ 458ppi; True Tone display Super Retina Display: 6.5 inch @ 458ppi; True Tone display Liquid Retina Display: 6.1 inch @ 326 ppi; True Tone display
Rear Camera12MP wide (f/1.8) and telephoto lens (f/2.4);
OIS on both wide and telephoto
12MP wide (f/1.8) and telephoto lens (f/2.4);
OIS on both wide and telephoto
12MP (f/1.8) with OIS
Front Camera7MP (f/2.2)7MP (f/2.2)7MP (f/2.2)
Storage (in GB)64, 256 and 51264, 256 and 51264, 128 and 256
Dual SIMYes (Physical nano SIM + eSIM)

China gets a special variant where you can add 2 physical nano SIMs
Yes (Physical nano SIM + eSIM)

China gets a special variant where you can add 2 physical nano SIMs
Yes (Physical SIM + eSIM)
ColoursGold, Silver and Space GreyGold, Silver and Space GreyWhite, Black, Blue, Coral, Yellow and Product RED
Water and dust resistance certificationIP68 (2m up-to 30 minutes submerged)IP68 (2m up-to 30 minutes submerged)IP67 (1m up-to 30 minutes submerged)
Starting price$900$1,099$749
Additional notesSupports Split View like the iPad when used in horizontal orientation due to larger screen size

A new addition when it comes to photography on the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR is the adjustable depth of field after you’ve taken the photo. It’s much easier with the former two iPhone models, but the latter’s single lens uses the built-in focus pixels to emulate it.

When it comes to recording video, the four built-in microphones can now work together to record stereo sound.

DualSIM… with a catch

This has been a long time in the making, but Apple clearly approached this with a different lens.

Dual SIM is only available on the iPhone XS and XS Max, but there are two versions for this:

  • one with a nano-SIM and eSIM tech combination (your wireless carrier has to support the eSIM standard)
  • one Made For China that has one slot which can hold 2 physical nano SIMs

I guess we know which one is preferred by most consumers, though I doubt that Apple would officially distribute the latter models in countries outside of China unless they request for it. eSIM still has to be supported by other carriers (only a handful currently support it), and this may push them to embrace it.

Previous iPhones used to have distinctions on the number of LTE bands that they supported, which would influence the 4G speeds you’d experience. Now they’re supporting more bands for worldwide roaming

All these new models have been making a major push in being environmentally-friendly, and they touted their recyclable nature. The iPhone XS’ logic board has been made with recycled tin, as well as the speaker enclosure with recycled plastic.

When does the Middle East receive it?

The iPhone XS and XS Max will be released across the Middle East in the following waves (better keep an eye out on your local telecom operator’s account for potential pre-order announcements):

  • September 21: UAE and Saudi Arabia
  • September 28: Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, and Bahrain

You’re probably wondering which of the XS and XS Max models will be sold in the region – the one Made For China with the 2 physical DualSIM slots or the one with the eSIM and physical SIM slot combo? It’s probably a given that many would prefer the former option, and the latter is only feasible if carriers have embraced support for the eSIM standard. Haven’t heard of any of the mobile carriers in the region widely adopting eSIM (except for one in the UAE that uses it for the Apple Watch S3 Cellular models).

The iPhone XR is looking to be sold from 26 October but should expect pre-orders to start from 19th. With a lower price-point, it should be an easy entry for those either new or looking to upgrade from their previous models.

Apple has bundled a Lighting to 3.5mm Headphone jack adapter for those who want to use their current headphones. You won’t be seeing them bundled anymore when these new iPhone models ship to retail, so you’ll have to buy them separately.

Learn more about the new iPhone XS, and iPhone XR from Apple’s official website.

Image credit: Apple Newsroom

Author: Yasser Masood

Think of me as a grassroots community evangelist. Juggling social media while covering technology/digital trends across the Middle East and crossroads of society and culture, while unearthing other perspectives that pique my interests.

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