The Best (and Worst) iPhone XS, XR & Apple Watch Reporting

Apple iPhone XS

These days, it’s all about discovering the key features of Apple’s newest iPhones, like the iPhone XS — and Apple Watches. And then make a purchase decision. I’ll look at some of the best reporting out there that tries to help. And, in contrast, some of the worst.

Apple iPhone Xs
Apple’s iPhone XS.

The Very Good

iMore is a stellar website for Apple customers. Its articles are informative and balanced. Rene Ritchie is an awesome editor-in-chief. If you haven’t made a decision about a new, 2018 iPhone yet, and are trying to size them up, see:

On the other hand, as I predicted earlier in the week…

[4 Vastly Different Perspectives to Expect on the New iPhones]

… there were some awful pieces floated out.

The Questionable

Here are three dubious ones that are instructive to examine.

  1. OPINION: Apple’s new iPhones show off its best tech, and also its greed
  2. The new heart-monitoring capabilities on the Apple Watch aren’t all that impressive
  3. Apple has officially missed the boat on USB-C with this year’s iPhones

The first contains a lot of wish fulfillment and self-entitlement. And accusation of greed. Sure, it’s an editorial. But the goal should still be rationality and clarification. Apple does things for reasons that aren’t always obvious or self-explanatory. Figuring out what those might be is a tougher, nobler task.

Regarding #2, historically, I’ve had a lot of respect for Quartz. But this article goes overboard trying to stigmatize the acknowledged limitations of the Apple Watch Series 4 ECG system. To be sure, the article is literate and well researched. But I can’t help feeling that the article could have served the readers better if it had been approached, via Apple’s assistance, with what the ECG technology is designed to achieve. As opposed to a title that tries to cast doubt on Apple’s research and engineering. And that’s, in turn, my opinion.

The Verge does a better, more balanced job. More informative. “What the Apple Watch’s FDA clearance actually means.

As for #3, the author lists reasons why Apple shouldn’t go with USB-C on the iPhone. Then complains that it didn’t happen. Enough said.

The 2017 iPhone X Mystery

Here’s an interesting question. Why isn’t the 2017 iPhone X being sold in 2018 at a discount? It’s missing in this image below from the September 12 Apple event.

SVO Schiller shows 2018 iPhone lineup
2018 iPhone lineup and pricing. Image credit: Apple

Business Insider has a splendid theory. “There’s a good working theory about why Apple discontinued the iPhone X, the best phone it’s ever made, only a year after announcing it.” I like this theory. It rings true. Kudos to author Shona Ghosh for a great surmise.

Finally, as a writer, this next article intrigues me. “The world’s most prolific writer is a Chinese algorithm.” The thing to note here is that the leap from key word driven ad copy to creative writing is greater than we might suppose. For now. ::gulp::

Not much else, this week, was worth your attention compared to what Apple produced.


[Note: Particle Debris is just one page this week.]

Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed on page two by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holiday weeks.

3 thoughts on “The Best (and Worst) iPhone XS, XR & Apple Watch Reporting

  • ANYONE who has a “review” of the new iPhones should be considered a questionable author. NOBODY (outside of Apple) has an actual unit of their own that they’ve used for weeks and weeks. Not even those that have review units. All these sites are doing is puking up Apple’s specs and press releases because they have nothing else to go by.

    Why would anyone trust a review written by someone who has done little more than spend 2 minutes in the review area after the keynote?

  • John:

    One cannot help but note that you’ve taken a gentleman’s approach to categorising the iPhone reviews as ‘the very good’ and ‘the questionable’. There have been some that have blatantly pandered to cynicism or underestimated and undervalued some of the features and capabilities of the new iPhones and the Apple Watch. Amongst these have been the BBC via its Tech Tent show, which continued the BBC’s unbroken history of dismissiveness, belittlement, charicaturisation and detraction of Apple and their products, whilst maintaining demonstrable respect, when not overt veneration to fawning obsequiousness to all things MS. In fairness, the BBC are not alone in this. As one raised on the BBC news service, a service that I regularly use and generally respect, I have observed this trend for decades now, which seemed to take on a decidedly derisive tone post SJ2 in 1998. I think the BBC have never forgiven Apple for not simply exceeding the Beeb’s expectations, but achieving outsized success by ‘thinking different’ in their business plan and strategy, changing the rules of the game, and becoming the world’s most valuable company by maketcap (Two weeks prior to achieving the $1T valuation, the BBC’s Tech Tent asked a panel of experts which would be the first company to achieve that mark, and the panelists named Amazon, Google and FB. When the host asked about Apple, this was dismissed with snorts and chortles, accompanied by pronouncements that all these other companies had more fire power than Apple. There was no follow up, let alone eating of crow that I heard, post Apple’s $1T valuation). In any case, I was listening to this week’s programme for their debate on cryptocurrency, and had to suffer through the Apple product review as a quasi hostile captive audience. Still, the BBC’s take should be offered into evidence of flawed to hostile coverage.

    That said, I concur with the sentiment of some https://www.theverge.com/2018/9/15/17861934/apple-watch-stole-the-show-iphone-xs-max-xr that the AW was the real star of this year’s show. I further concur that the ECG (aka EKG) and arrhythmia detection capabilities were signal achievements, as was their having both been ‘cleared’ as Class II features on the AW by the FDA. Much has already been written about what this means, including by physicians https://www.reddit.com/r/apple/comments/9fkb3t/im_an_emergency_physician_and_wanted_to_talk/, and that this limits the generalisable application, utility, accuracy and use case for these features, which need not be repeated here.

    Rather, permit a somewhat different take, perhaps two; one on AW limitations and the other on what this device milestone means. First, limitations. Everything that has been written about the AW’s Class II limitations that I’ve read is accurate and valid. My assessment is rooted in my own work on clinical trials for licensing of new therapies, vaccines and devices, specifically that these feature limitations should be put into context. There are many screening and/or rapid diagnostic devices in use which are similarly limited. Rapid diagnostics for common infections like influenza are not the gold standard, and still require either molecular confirmation (RT-PCR) or tissue culture isolation for confirmation. Nonetheless, in peak season, the positive predictive value of these diagnostics (i.e. the likelihood that a positive test is a ‘true positive’ and really is influenza) increases, so physicians regularly use them, limitations notwithstanding. Likewise, cancer screening tools on the market, which still require a physician’s prescription, are not appropriate for those with either a prior history or are at high risk of cancer. They’re still effectively useful, however, for most people. The issue is understanding the limitations of use, which when done in the context continuity of care by a qualified physician, is not a barrier, but a useful, cost effective and cost beneficial asset. That the AW is now FDA ‘cleared’, which is a lower bar than ‘approved’, for use in these two cardiac performance indicators is no different. That it has been FDA cleared makes it a useful clinical adjunct for physicians because the FDA clearance means that it is on par with similar devices that the FDA have approved for similar uses. Such an endorsement is more important than the device’s limitations, so long as it occurs in the context of professional care.

    Second, is simply the trail that Apple are blazing with this device, both by their redefinition of the wearable smart device and the bar set for its standard. They are signalling to both industry and consumer alike that the driving rationale for wearables is personal safety and well-being, and that the bar for entry and competition is non-inferiority to similar devices that are FDA approved for similar use. This, plus the myriad other features, (and let’s not forget detection of falls and how many lives are lost every year from this event alone) in a consumer ready and accessible device that does not require physician prescription and that sells for about US $400 has kicked the legs out from under the watch industry and redefined wrist wearable tech. Moreover, this signals more to come as both new and more accurate assays and sensors can be miniaturised to the wrist for noninvasive use, or when necessary, paired with FDA approved Class III devices for monitoring those at higher risk for specific outcomes. And this is only the beginning. Additional common disease and injury preventive applications are already under development and testing.

    It is no longer a question of if but how soon will it become, for a critical mass of consumers, no longer an acceptable level of risk to be without a device that can provide personal protection from a growing list of common life altering and life threatening events that, within a known and accepted range of certainty, can be detected and contravened, even when the wearer is incapacitated.

    Although the jury is out, it is no exaggeration to suggest that posterity may mark this device, and this milestone, as a turning point in public health and safety.

  • A robot that writes advertising copy? Product descriptions and technical specifications, maybe. But advertising copy? Advertising is supposed to grab your attention, to stand out. How exactly does a robot, one that churns out 20,000 lines of copy per minute, generate advertising, each of which stands out compared to all the copy it produces? That is a logical impossibility. A population can’t have members that are all above average.

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