Today Apple made a large hoo-ha about its newest iPhone XS, which is pretty much the old iPhone but better. Many a buzzword was tossed around like bionic computing, machine learning, neural engine and others. But practically speaking what does that mean for pilots that use mobile technology in the cockpit?
Although Apple claims the new iPhone XS is “the most advanced iPhone we’ve ever created,” in reality it’s only a minor iteration over last year’s clean sheet designed iPhone X. Unsurprisingly the XS has a new processor which makes most tasks performed on the device incrementally faster than the previous iPhone. Pilots may see a more fluid user experience with this faster A12 processor on apps like ForeFlight and Garmin Pilot, which have increasingly become more data-driven and require extra horsepower to generate and crunch the bits and bytes necessary to present the pertinent pilot pictorial. Also, max storage has been bumped to 512 GB which may be welcome to many pilots who carry large aviation databases on their mobile device. Otherwise the new iPhone XS has the same form factor, OLED screen, and face ID that customers have come to enjoy.
The big news that might make most pilots (especially those yearning for a new iPad mini) is the announcement of the iPhone XS Max. The Max boasts a 6.5 inch display which is the largest ever on an iPhone. It’s a full inch larger than the iPhone 8 Plus and even a smidge bigger than the Samsung Galaxy Note 9.While still 1.4 inches smaller than the iPad mini, it may help fill the void for pilots looking for a device that’s smaller than a full size iPad but with more computing power than the aging iPad mini 4 (which is now three years old). Its also worth considering that many app developers, including those previously mentioned, are taking drastic steps to include the full suite of features on both the iPhone and iPad versions of their app.
Of minor note, the announcement brought news of changes to both the front and rear cameras. While image sensor size didn’t see an increase the wide angle camera sensor now has larger pixels, and the telephoto includes a wider aperture, so both cameras should do better in low light. This will allow pilots to capture the perfect sunrise or sunset wing view photo. The faster front camera means a more crisp selfie for your Instagram feed.
International pilots may appreciate the dual SIM support. Both the iPhone XS and XS Max will support two phone numbers with two data plans. The phone will still only house one physical sim card while the second line is accommodated by Apple’s eSim. Check your carrier to see if they offer support for this feature.
Apple Watch Series 4
Sport pilots may be especially interested in Apple’s fourth iteration of the Apple Watch. Its first-of-a-kind ability to take an electrocardiogram could alert pilots without a medical to make an immediate landing. The watch will also screen heart rhythm for irregularities that may be related to atrial fibrillation. Keep an eye on this watch, too – it’s possible more health monitoring features could be coming in the future, including a pulse oximeter.
Apple Watch Series 4 is also able to detect “falls” and automatically trigger a call to emergency services if you’re immobile for a minute after the “fall.” One can only assume this would also apply to a “crash.” Not to be forgotten is the 30% larger screen size should be easier to read for aging eyes.
Apple will continue to sell the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, now the iPhone XS and XS Max – in addition to a new entry level iPhone XR. The XR is similar to the iPhone X but with an LCD display and only a single camera. This lineup of iPhones will also ship with the newest mobile operating system by Apple. iOS 12 will be available as an official update to the public on September 17th. Stay tuned for our coverage of changes and recommendations for iOS 12.
While no mention of the iPad was to be had during this event, another event rumored for October might bring news about the tablet. In the meantime, we’re interested to see if pilots are willing to adopt the massive iPhone XS Max as a cockpit tool and what this ultimately means for the fate of the iPad mini.