When you think of a card with well-rounded benefits and flexible points, easy ways to redeem for travel, a healthy welcome offer, and generous hotel and insurance perks, American Express is often top of mind. While still not as widely accepted as competitors bearing the Visa or Mastercard name, the American Express Gold Rewards Card still stands out as one of the most flexible points cards in Canada, featuring a strong earn rate fit for frequent travellers looking to maximize their rewards.
One of the largest travel rewards programs in Canada, Air Miles is affiliated with a wide variety of everyday retail partners, from grocery stores and gas stations, to liquor stores and travel outlets, where members earn points on their purchases. Savvy collectors know they can boost their earn rate by using the right credit card—and with its wide selection of partners and recently enhanced redemption options, the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard is one of the best Air Miles credit cards in Canada, made even better with an annual fee rebate if you have the BMO Premium chequing account. Rounded out with airport lounge access, travel insurance benefits, and purchase protection, this BMO credit card gives other premium travel rewards credit cards a run for their money.
Like clockwork, Apple unveiled the latest iteration of their flagship smartphone, iPhone, on Sep. 12 in front of a packed audience at Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, Calif. Unlike previous years, however, the tech giant came out with not one, not two, but three smartphones—iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. Tech enthusiasts applauded as CEO Tim Cook and team revealed the tech; but, is it worth the investment?
This review will focus on iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max—the devices Citytv had a chance to review ahead of the Sep. 21 launch in Canada, alongside Apple Watch Series 4. iPhone XR will go on sale later this year.
On the exterior, iPhone X and iPhone XS are almost identical. The immersive screen remains at 5.8-inch, no home button, the same top notch you either love or hate, and IP68 water resistance up to two metres for 30 minutes—which Apple is quite proud of boasting through promotional videos. They also come in a new gold finish (in addition to space grey and silver), which I’m quite a fan of. Storage will be available in 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB configurations.
In all three models, you’ll notice Apple has done away with the iconic home button, foreshadowing a slow death of the physical switch. As with iPhone X, there is a slight learning curve, but from personal experience, you get used to the shift in habit.
As for the larger iPhone, it seems the company has nixed the ‘Plus’ naming convention, opting for ‘Max.’ iPhone XS Max comes with a 6.5-inch screen—and it’s gigantic. Both XS and XS Max are great for media consumption, but XS Max is immersive but large for pockets—think watching YouTube videos with the new wide stereo speakers. Or my latest obsession—Ignite TV PVR downloads on the airplane.
Do you need the larger screen? No. Is it nice to have? Yes. Can it be a pain to carry in your pocket? Certainly, but having the option is great.
Bionic chip for bionic speeds
When migrating my data from my iPhone X, I could notice speed and power from the get-go. This iPhone houses an A12 Bionic and Neural Engine—what Apple calls ’the smartest and most powerful chip in a smartphone.’ The power is best noticed in resource-intensive applications like video editing, augmented reality, and gaming.
Coupled with iOS 12, it’ll unlock new consumer-friendly functionality, like Memoji and every selfie-taker’s new favourite feature: Smart HDR. Using the two 12-megapixel wide and telephoto lenses, Smart HDR means you can, using a slider, control F-stop or depth-of-field appearance in Portrait mode photos. This puts the power of pro photography in a consumer-grade smartphone—perfect for the ‘gram.
In comparison to iPhone X, Apple claims iPhone XS will get you 30 minutes longer than iPhone X. iPhone XS Max will beat iPhone X by 90 minutes, according to Phil Schiller.
In real-life, I got a 12-hour day of consistent use out of iPhone XS Max.
Dual SIM support
New to any iPhone is support for two SIM cards through eSIM technology. It’s reliant on carrier adoption—however, it’s the same technology used for cellular connectivity in Apple Watch Series 4—now on all major carriers in Canada. Traditional SIM cards will still work, but there is only one slot. The variant to be sold in China which will have two SIM trays.
This means that eventually consumers can still have two phone numbers (say, one for personal use and one for work) and receive calls and texts on one iPhone.
In terms of pricing, iPhone XS won’t come cheap. At $1,379 CAD for iPhone XS and $1,519 CAD for the iPhone XS Max variant, these phones aren’t cheap. Carriers will subsidize—for example, Rogers is launching an Ultra tier, where for $10 a month, customers can get up to $250 off the upfront cost of ‘iconic’ devices on a term.
Additionally, later this year, Apple is launching iPhone XR, the third device announced at the Cupertino event. It features a ‘Liquid Retina’ LCD display, 12-megapixel camera, and a wide-array of colours, reminiscent of the iPhone 5C. iPhone XR rings in at just over $1,000.
So why would you want this device? You’re likely using an older iPhone—perhaps a 7—and it’s time for an upgrade. As a former iPhone 7 Plus user, iPhone XS Max is a nice option—albeit the hefty price tag.
If you’re an iPhone X user, there’s plenty to love about it still. iPhone XS brings a lot of new under the hood, but might not be worth $1,379.
Lastly, there’s a lot to be intrigued about iPhone XR, from the colour options to battery life. For the average consumer, it may be worth considering it when it comes out later this year. Let the games begin.
Rogers Communications is the parent company of Citytv and this website.
- All-new design is slick and seamless
- Face ID doesn’t just work—it works well
- TrueDepth camera makes way for interactive augmented reality
- It’s expensive
- No Home button means you have to learn a whole new set of gestures
- You better put a case on it—or else
When Apple first announced the 10th-anniversary iPhone at their September event in Cupertino, Calif., analysts questioned the decision to stagger the launch of two premium smartphones—and whether a stray from their traditional annual launch strategy would do them more harm than good.
Many enthusiasts decided to wait and see how iPhone X stacked up to its recently-launched sibling. While lineups for iPhone 8 were shorter than previous releases, carriers are reporting record-breaking preorder demand for iPhone X. But is a smartphone really worth a whopping $1,300? We were among the first to put iPhone X through its paces.
Redesigned from the inside out
The first thing you notice when picking up iPhone X is the gorgeous design. Everything has been reimagined. From the edge-to-edge 5.8-inch Super Retina OLED display, to the glass front and back that Apple touts as the ‘most durable ever in a smartphone,’ the stunning curvature of the edges makes this design an engineering feat and resembles a piece of artwork.
iPhone X remains water- and dust-resistant, featuring speakers 35 per cent louder, and is compatible with Qi-enabled wireless chargers. The device will turn heads and start conversations—though you’re best to throw a case on it, especially if you’re prone to dropping things. You know who you are.
No more Home button
First the headphone jack, now the home button. They finally did it. iPhone X is the first iPhone to do away with the one button that does virtually everything. Instead, users will need to learn a new series of gestures in iOS 11—like swipe up to go to your home screen; double press on the side button to activate Apple Pay; and hold the side and volume button to power off.
There was a learning curve for the first while. You’ll be reaching for the Home button annoyed it’s no longer there, and then cycle through the gestures. You get used to it—and is the price you pay for an all-screen display.
If you’re the type who likes using your smartphone with one hand, the new gestures may complicate things. There are more swipes from the top, bottom, and sides. Unless you have long thumbs, you may need two hands to perform certain actions.
Facial recognition is the new fingerprint scan
For those who have become accustomed to the fingerprint authentication (known as Touch ID), iPhone X introduces a new facial recognition technology. I was blown away by how quick it learns your face and how effortless it is to use.
Face ID uses a new, front-facing TrueDepth camera that maps over 30,000 invisible dots to your face. It is stored securely on your device and is accurate to 1 in 1,000,000 that a random person can unlock your device. It also adapts to changes in appearance like facial hair growth, and cosmetic makeup.
It is used to do everything from unlock your device, authenticate into apps, and pay for purchases through Apple Pay. And none of the information is uploaded to the cloud, similar to Touch ID.
Cameras and AR
Camera enthusiasts will see a step-up in quality through not one, but two 12-megapixel rear cameras with dual optical image stabilization. This includes an updated Quad-LED True Tone flash that lights images more evenly and gives you more vibrant and accurate colours.
The popular portrait mode that was once for the rear cameras on iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 8 Plus is now coming to iPhone X’s front-facing camera—something that will delight selfie takers and up their social media game.
The same TrueDepth camera that maps your face for security also unlocks a whole new world through augmented reality technology. Apple continues to double down on AR as a future way of interacting with the real world, and apps including Snapchat and IKEA are making use of ARKit. New Animojis in iMessage enable users to have 10-second clips of emojis mimicking your expressions and facial movements captured. A lot of fun to use and without a doubt going to be popular with the tweens—that is, if they can afford one.
Is it worth it?
And for the age-old question… The phone is expensive. Over $1,000 expensive. iPhone X will run you $1,319 and $1,529 for the 64GB and 256GB variants, respectively. So is it worth throwing down a month’s mortgage payment on a smartphone that is made of all-glass? It depends on which features are important to you.
iPhone X is without a doubt one of the slickest devices I’ve seen in a long time. The build quality is unlike many other smartphones on the market today. The iPhone changed the smartphone industry and paved way for a lucrative app market. It is the combination of well-built hardware, easy-to-use software, and the potential of apps to personalize the mobile computing experience that put iPhone on the map a decade ago. And the tech giant is hoping to do that all over again.
As preorder sales have proven already, enthusiasts who want to be part of that experience will line up overnight or wait upwards of six weeks to get hold of a device. But for many others, iPhone 8—even iPhone 7—will suffice, especially if the Home button is still of great value. Though, iPhone 8 will still make a dent in your wallet at just under $1,000, off contract.
Apple hopes that choice and category redefinition will help boost sales, after the wait-and-see approach of iPhone 8 resulted in shorter lineups at retail stores.
Apple refreshed its line of Mac computers at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif., Monday, including the iMac desktop – a device the tech giant hasn’t updated in almost two years. Manufacturers typically renew computers at least yearly to stay relevant.
iMac reimagined on the inside, not out
Not much has changed on the exterior, but the first thing you do notice when powering on is the vibrancy of the display – boasting a beautiful 4K display and 5K display in the 21.5-inch and 27-inch iMacs, respectively. These displays are 43 per cent brighter than its predecessor at 500 nits with support for one billion colours. Essentially, you’re guaranteeing yourself a vivid picture with whatever you’re doing.
From a performance perspective, Apple has heavily invested in the Intel Kaby Lake seventh-generation Core i5 processor as standard, with an option to upgrade to Core i7. Measured against the previous-generation model, the new iMac will allow for three-times-faster gaming on the 21.5-inch model.
iMac pushes the envelope in storage with the evolution of the Fusion Drive across the 27-inch line and on the high-end 21.5-inch 4K computer, adding higher-capacity memory. Fusion Drives allow users to access frequently used documents, photos, videos, on a flash drive, eliminating spinning disks of the traditional hard drive. It means fewer parts to break down. I’d like to see a move to this being standard on all desktops.
Users will find plenty of connectivity on the 27-inch iMac, and unlike iPhone 7, there’s still a headphone jack, alongside four USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt 3 (a.k.a. USB-C for everyone else), a Gigabit Ethernet, and an SD card port. This allows for added displays, high-speed hard drive connectivity, and other third-party accessories.
Among the updates from the conference include a peek at the next iteration of the Mac platform – macOS High Sierra – chock-a-block full of new toys for developers to create immersive experiences for users, like virtual reality. However, the upgrade won’t be available until the fall.
MacBook Pro: Building on its success
The previous generation of MacBook Pro made the laptop much thinner and lighter. Plus, the integration of a fluid and interactive Touch Bar and Touch ID fingerprint reader has been surprisingly useful — not just a gimmick — and the 2017 version builds on that.
The upgrades bring a routine processor and hard drive boost. Machines will see the same Intel Kaby Lake processor as its desktop counterparts, as well as faster solid-state drives, and the 15-inch MacBook Pro will have snappier graphics out of the gate.
The notebook could benefit from an added USB 3.0 port for so many existing devices while still offering flexibility in the increasingly popular USB-C port. I also miss the SD card reader. Can there be a balance struck with ports, or lack thereof?
As for the OLED-lit Touch Bar that offers virtual buttons that react to the specific program you’re in, the technology continues to be unique in its class. I’d like to see exponential growth of adoption by third-party developers for it to be a real hit. But for the apps that currently utilize this, it’s fantastic.
With the last MacBook Pro, I had some issues with the shallow-but-tactile butterfly keyboard sticking. Apple has made some improvements to address reported problems with switch keys.
Other standard updates include increased speed and longer battery life. A larger Force Touch trackpad that reacts to the amount of pressure given to surface different actions remains.
MacBook receives a minor—but needed—spec bump
The entry-level MacBook remains one of Apple most popular laptops. It’s small in form and packs a punch as an ultraportable device, though it’s not as powerful as its sibling MacBook Pro. It gets the job done if you’re a parent just looking to surf the web and answer emails.
The entry-level laptop will get a boost in processor gigahertz, albeit minor at 1.2GHz dual-core, but when you’re working with less than 1.5 GHz to start with, every bit counts — even when you simply have a handful of web browser windows open.
In addition, the new solid-state drives are 50 per cent faster than its predecessor — rounding out a machine many students will no doubt adopt come September.
The new MacBook and MacBook Pro machines are available now.
A pro version of the iMac—aptly named iMac Pro—was announced Monday, but will not be available for sale until December. The updated classic line is available today.