Apple's iPhone XS: 9 things you need to know before the keynote

Apple will roll out its latest batch of iPhone models — a trio of iPhone XS — that aim to fuel an upgrade cycle and keep the company’s ecosystem of customers, software developers, and creative pros happy. Here’s a look at the moving parts and things to know ahead of Apple’s keynote Wednesday at 1pm ET. (Also, here’s how to watch it.)

iPhone XS will be the headliner

Apple’s iPhone XS is the headliner of the company’s fall product portfolio shindig, but the trio of devices highlights an incremental upgrade year. So much about the latest batch of iPhones has been leaked already. For instance, there will be three new iPhone models and every one of them crib the iPhone X design. The screen sizes will reportedly go up to 6.5 inches. Apple will also launch a cheaper version of the iPhone X that has an LCD screen and a lower price tag — think $799-ish. Add it up and Apple is checking off the iPhone boxes to keep you upgrading and subscribing to services in the company’s ecosystem.

Also: New 2018 iPhone, iPhone XS, iPhone X Plus, iPhone 9: Rumors, leaks, launch date, and everything we know so far

Pricing is a mystery right now

Pricing is the biggest mystery and more important than ever. It’s highly likely that the premium iPhone XS will break the price ceiling of $1,249.99 set by Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9. However, the most important price will be the lower end device with the LCD screen. The biggest question after getting the range of iPhone price points will be why you’d pay up for the premium iPhone XS.

Also: Why do people want a new iPhone? This research gives a fascinating clue

RIP Home button

The death of the home button and fingerprint scanning is a bigger deal than you — and Apple — think. Apple’s iPhones will rely on Face ID as the primary way to open your phone. The problem is that Face ID isn’t as flawless as you’d think. That reality is why ZDNet’s Jason Hiner is wary. As an iPhone X user, I see the point. Touch ID was simply easier to use. There will be an adjustment period for any Apple customer who goes all in on the iPhone X design.

Also: In its game of phones, what beloved features will Apple kill off next?

Smartphone fatigue is real

Then, there’s smartphone fatigue. The environment Apple is facing has fundamentally changed. I increasingly hear of Apple users who are systematically moving photos, music — and other assets used by Apple to lock them in — to other services from the likes of Google. Why? They don’t like being pinned to one company. The development is interesting, given you’d never hear anyone say that about Apple years ago. Another thing worth mentioning is that none of these consumers are moving from the iPhone. They’re just diversifying their services bets. Samsung is seeing fatigue at the high end of the market, and Apple will see some of it. Nevertheless, Apple is best positioned to maintain premium pricing.

New iPad Pro with Face ID

An iPad Pro could be enticing, because at some point, we’ll have to upgrade iPads. Apple will highlight the iPad Pro, which stakes out the high end of the pricing continuum for the iPad portfolio. This iPad will use Face ID, cut the bezels down, ditch the home button, and be akin to a big iPhone X. In other words, there’s enough involved to garner an upgrade. The catch will be the pricing. When the lower-end iPad (and possibly iPhone XS) has Apple Pencil support, you have to wonder whether the premium is worth it. Apple will position the iPad Pro as a laptop replacement, which brings me to the next key point.

Also: Photos: Apple iPhone models through the years TechRepublic

A separate Mac event?

The Mac faithful may be disappointed again. Sure, there are rumors about a new MacBook at the iPhone XS launch. And, yes, there are even reports of a Mac mini. But the reality is that Apple will have a lot of moving parts on Wednesday and it’s just as likely that there will be a separate Mac event. The new MacBook will be a much needed update for the lower end of the market and a replacement for the MacBook Air. The Mac mini will be designed to give creative pros a reason to stick with Apple. Generally speaking, the Mac is a bit of an afterthought these days.

Apple Watch could be the main draw

Apple Watch is becoming a bigger part of Apple’s business. Yes, it took a while for Apple’s smartwatch to become a big product, but it’s getting there for sure. Apple’s upgrades to the Apple Watch — more options and price points and a developing watchOS — are all key parts of the iPhone XS launch event. Don’t be surprised if the Apple Watch winds up being the main draw.

Also: How Apple Watch saved my life

iOS 12 needs to be free of bugs

Apple needs a smooth launch of iOS 12. At WWDC, Apple outlined how iOS 12 will bring stability, better performance, as well as tools to help you manage screen time. Apple execs will give big play to iOS 12, and its mobile platform is critical to the launch of the new iPhones. Apple needs to nail the update this year, because iOS 11 wasn’t a cakewalk, and nothing curbs enthusiasm for new iPhones faster than a buggy OS.

Also: iPhone XS Max or iPhone XS Plus? The final rumors before the Apple Event CNET

The iPhone is just a vessel

It’s all about the services silly. Apple services is on a run rate approaching $40 billion a year, Apple Music is about the same size of Spotify, Apple Care is selling well, and iCloud adds recurring revenue. In the grand scheme of things, these iPhone models are really vessels for selling you more services. Keep that in mind as you ponder upgrading.

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