Hands-on with the new iPhone Xs, iPhone Xs Max, iPhone XR, and Apple Watch Series 4

Sure, there’s ample underground parking and free food, but the biggest attraction at any Apple media event is the chance to get your hands on new Apple products more than a week before they go on sale to the general public. I was there at Apple Park on Wednesday to see (and use) Apple’s latest iPhones and Apple Watch. Here’s what I learned.

A year ago, Apple declared the iPhone X the future of the smartphone. From the perspective of September 2017, this is the future—and the biggest story out of Wednesday’s event is that all of Apple’s new iPhones are a part of the iPhone X family. Every single one of them has glass front and back, with edge-to-edge screens and Face ID. If you buy a 2018-model iPhone, you will be buying an iPhone X—and flipping up from the bottom of the screen with your thumb to unlock rather than pressing a home button.

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Details to watch for at next week’s iPhone event

We’re a week away from Apple’s next big event. While Macworld’s own Jason Cross did an excellent job of detailing what we expect to see, here are a bunch of smaller details I’ll be watching for carefully from my seat in the Steve Jobs Theater.

The unveiling of the Apple Watch four years ago this month painted the device’s possibilities with a pretty broad canvas, and as time has gone on, the conventional wisdom seems to agree that Apple wasn’t quite sure what part of the watch would resonate with customers, so it loaded in lots of features and waited to see the results.

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What does the future hold for Apple’s MacBook Air?

Back in March I wrote a column for Macworld called “MacBook Air: Why won’t it die?” I got a lot of angry feedback from people who apparently read the headline and not the article and evisioned me as the executioner of their beloved laptop.

I’m about as far away from that as I could possibly be. I have loved and used the MacBook Air from the time the first one shipped ten years ago. My point back in March was actually that Apple has been trying to kill the MacBook Air for a few years now—ever since the 12-inch MacBook was first released—but has never managed to finish it off.

A whole bunch of features that Apple views as old-tech liabilities—MagSafe charging, USB-A ports, an SD card reader, the new “butterfly” keyboard mechanism, and of course the lack of a Retina display—don’t seem to have fazed MacBook Air buyers. Instead, I keep hearing that the MacBook Air is one of Apple’s best selling computers. Certainly the $999 price tag is a huge reason why, and it’s a price the $1,299 MacBook and $1,299 13-inch MacBook Pro (without Touch Bar) haven’t been able to approach.

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A dockable iPhone? Don’t count on it

This is a weird time in the technology world. The traditional PC, strong for four decades, is on the wane. The smartphone is dominant, devices so powerful that they can rival the power found in those traditional PCs. We’re rapidly exiting the era where devices were differentiated based on raw computing power, and entering one where ergonomics becomes a defining factor.

(No, I’m not saying that there aren’t cases where PCs still have more power than phones. I’m saying that away from high-performance edge cases, the differences are increasingly small.)

If we accept that an iPhone can do most of the work that most people need a computing device to do, where does that leave the iPad and the Mac? It means that they’re defined by their shapes, by how we control them and hold them and look at them. A MacBook is a good choice because it’s got a big screen attached to a hardware keyboard and a trackpad. An iPad is a good choice because it’s got a much larger screen.

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Apple’s Group FaceTime delay is the right move. Here’s why

This week, Apple removed Group FaceTime from the beta for iOS 12 and macOS Mojave. The company indicated that the feature will not appear in the initial release, but will rather appear in a subsequent update released later in the year.

For people who were excited about audio and video chats with multiple friends, this is a bummer. (I heard from several people who said their kids were especially looking forward to using the feature, or were using it in the beta period and were sad that it’s going to be removed for a little while.)

But I’m a little less down on Apple making this decision. Every time I used Group FaceTime in the iOS and macOS betas, it was far from flawless. I had connection problems, video and audio would disappear and reappear at random, sometimes a person would appear multiple times in my view (or disappear altogether), and there were numerous cosmetic defects to the interface, too. It seemed... very beta. And clearly someone at Apple decided it was just not going to be solid enough by release time.

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Digesting the rumors: Where's the iPad Pro going next?

If the rumors are true—and they are often, if not always—Apple is preparing to release a new generation of iPad Pro models this fall. I bought the first-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro back in 2015 and still use it as my primary portable computer, so I’m excited at the rumors of a major iPad Pro redesign. Let’s sift through the rumors and reports and see if we can figure out where the iPad Pro is headed next.

According to supply-chain sleuth Ming-Chi Kuo, the new iPad Pros will feature 11-inch and 12.9-inch screens. This continues a trend of upsizing the smaller iPad Pro model, which was introduced in early 2016 as a 9.7-inch model (the traditional iPad size), then replaced with a 10.5-inch version in 2017.

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4 top takeaways from Apple’s boringly brilliant record results

It’s gotten to the point where even some of my colleagues who write about Apple are bored by the company’s quarterly results. Granted, this is the good kind of boring—the best third-quarter results ever, led by overall revenue of $53.3 billion, a 17 percent growth rate. But it does seem like Apple does the same thing almost every quarter: growth, billions, the works. There’s not a lot of drama in being one of the most valuable companies in the world continuing to churn away at huge profits and product growth.

Still, I’m not going to call this boring. Every three months, Apple has to reveal things about itself that it would probably want to keep secret, and these disclosures can help us understand the company and its products better than we otherwise would. Here are the four most interesting things I gleaned from Tim Cook’s performance on his quarterly conference call with analysts.

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