‘Things Nobody Has Told You...' is my occasional column touching on tangential, but interesting, details that have been lost or under-reported in the news. Sometimes they are ground-breakers, sometimes pieces of trivia that will enliven a dinner party conversation…
1. The new camera is awesome in more ways than you thought
You'll know that the new sensor has bigger pixels but Apple has managed to make the sensor bigger, too. This is quite an achievement: one of the defining characteristics of any phone's camera is the "Z height", the thickness, because you only have so much of a cone shape to work with for light hitting the sensor. That defines the size of sensor you can use.
But the iPhone XS wide-angle camera has a larger sensor than the previous one at the same thickness. This new sensor has more rows of pixels that it uses with optical image stabilization so it can move the lens slightly, against that sensor and have more room to play with. Apple is doing some very cool things with extra pixels.
Then there's pixel depth: along with bigger pixels, getting in more light for better low-light performance, the new sensor has deeper pixels which helps with the color saturation that can be realized from the same amount of light.
And there's more. Apple has doubled up the Focus Pixels to make faster autofocus possible. That's also part of how portrait mode on the iPhone XR works by using the focus pixels and the really, really small difference in distance between them as part of the sensor reading of depth.
2. Face ID really is faster, thanks to new hardware
I've tested this by holding an iPhone X and iPhone XS Max side by side and the XS Max was routinely quicker. We're talking about fractions of a second but when you're waiting to pay for something or just to see what that hidden notification really says, it can make all the difference.
And it achieves this not just through improved algorithms on the iPhone X hardware. That's part of it - Apple talked about software flow optimizations. But there's also hardware improvement, too, the company says. This is down to the secure enclave which runs what are called the "Face ID matcher algorithms". This enclave is faster.
3. That stainless steel band is expensive to color
The phones come in three colors, space gray, silver and gold. The stainless steel antenna band is naturally the color it is but for space gray and gold use a process called PVD, that's Physical Vapor Deposition. This was the case last time for the space gray model, but it's new for the gold model.
The reason it's expensive is that it takes time. I've learnt that the PVD process is extremely time-consuming: a total of 10 hours.
4. Wireless charging is faster
Apple has said that the glass back on these phones allows faster wireless charging. I've enquired further and I believe it's down to an improved coil design - in other words it's the case for this year's three iPhones and is not backwards compatible.
I've tested this, unscientifically so far, and it seems faster, though not to a revolutionary amount.
Both phones do charge quickly though - 20 minutes saw the iPhone XS Max go from flat to 25%, though as usual with charging, this slowed down as the percentage level rose. This was with the standard charger in the box, though Apple claims a charge of 50% in 30 minutes with an Apple 29W charger or more powerful.
5. And it works however careless you are
If you've used wireless charging on the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X you'll know that you need to place the phone with a little care on the pad. If you're tired, or not sober, when you go to bed and you plonk it down willy-nilly, you may wake up to find it didn't charge overnight. This is annoying (and won't help your hangover, either).
This time around, Apple has improved wireless charging for the careless with improved off-axis performance even when the iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max is off-centre on the charging pad.
6. It'll even work without a nano-sim, if you have an e-sim
Dual sim is designed for many situations: a freelancer who wants work and personal numbers in one phone, a way to buy a data plan in a foreign country to avoid heavy roaming charges and more.
But you could use the e-sim as your only sim, and not bother with a physical nano sim in the phone.
The advantages to this aren't clear - you wouldn't be doing it to save on the weight of the phone, would you?
And it should be noted that in some countries mobile phones are required to have access to emergency services and an e-sim doesn't qualify in some territories.
7. It's true, there's no headphone adapter in the box
Although this was suspected, I can confirm there's no Lightning-to-3.5mm headphone jack in the box that ships with the 2018 iPhones. Instead, the ecologically appropriate cardboard surround for the EarPods has been newly designed with a flat back this time.
It's a pretty cheap accessory, by the way, $9, but there's a slight disconnect in the fact that the most expensive ever iPhone lacks a little extra that comes free with the cheapest iPhones you can buy, the iPhone 7 and above.
And let's remember that now the iPhone SE has gone, there's no iPhone with a headphone jack left, so you're going to need the adapter.
8. Check out the inside of the Lightning connector
It's color-matched to the stainless steel antenna band. I mean, you have to squint and hold it in just the right lighting but that just makes me like it even more: Apple's obsessive attention to detail is for unseen or hardly seen elements. Here, deep inside the phone there's a piece of metal which has been perfectly matched to the color outside.
By the way, the same thing applies to the upcoming iPhone XR. Every one of the aluminum bands in Apple's six colors has a corresponding dock for the Lightning cable. And that's before we even get to the color-coded wallpapers.