By Wilson Rothman
New iPhones always come with a bit of confusion. They're still just black rectangles for texting messages, taking pics and listening to music, right? Here's the complete iPhone lineup, with special attention given to the differences between the new models.
iPhone XS: This is basically a refresh of last year's iPhone X. It starts at the same price -- $999 -- and has almost identical features, including a 5.8-inch OLED display. It should be a bit (but perhaps not noticeably) faster than the iPhone X, because of Apple's new A12 Bionic chip.
Photos may be slightly better, too, because of a new sensor and the A12 processor. However, the XS still has dual-12 megapixel cameras, both with optical image stabilizers, same as last year.
Apple says the XS battery life will be about a half-hour longer than the iPhone X.
Also: You can now get a model that goes up to 512GB of storage, where the previous X only went to 256GB.
iPhone XS Max: Though it's mostly the same as the XS under the hood, the $1,099-and-up XS Max is noticeably different than last year's iPhone X because its OLED screen is a lot larger: 6.5 inches, measured diagonally.
Because it has a bigger body, it can hold a bigger battery, which Apple says translates into an extra hour and a half on a charge.
Both the XS and XS Max will have "Dual SIM" support, so you can have two different wireless accounts on one phone -- for international travel, keeping a separate business line, etc. However, in markets other than China, there will still only be one physical SIM card slot.
iPhone XR: How could Apple build a phone with a fairly large edge-to-edge 6.1-inch screen but still charge a base price of $749? Instead of using OLED technology, which is known for high visual contrast, Apple used the LCD technology found in all iPhones before the iPhone X.
The XR doesn't have the dual-rear cameras that first appeared on the iPhone 7 Plus. It has just one rear-facing 12-megapixel camera. But because the XR comes with the A12 Bionic chip, Apple was able to build in a portrait mode that lets you take pictures with artfully blurred backgrounds (a feature only available to dual-cam models before now).
The iPhone XR will come in a selection of vibrant colors -- white, black, blue, yellow, coral and red -- while the XS and XS Max only come in gold, silver and space gray.
Like the XS and XS Max -- and last year's iPhone X -- the XR has no home button. Instead, it uses front-facing cameras to recognize your face through Face ID, and uses different gestures to navigate the iOS interface.
The XR also supports Dual Sim for multiple wireless accounts.
All the new iPhones support wireless charging as well.
iPhone 7 and iPhone 8: Apple no longer directly sells the iPhone X, iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, and the iPhone SE. (You might be able to find them elsewhere.) It will, however, continue to sell models from the past two years -- 2016's iPhone 7 and larger 7 Plus, and last year's iPhone 8 and 8 Plus -- at reduced prices.
These iPhones will be the last to have the Touch ID fingerprint reader, and displays that don't reach the top and bottom of the phone. The iPhone 8 models have the A11 Bionic chip, while the iPhone 7 models have the A10 Fusion chip -- both pretty powerful. Both of the larger Plus models have dual-rear cameras for optical zoom.
The biggest difference between the iPhone 7 and 8 models is the latter supports wireless charging.
This marks the first time all iPhones sold directly by Apple are water resistant...and none have headphone jacks.
Stay tuned for more analysis of the new iPhones.
Write to Wilson Rothman at Wilson.Rothman@wsj.com