Apple’s iPhone XS and XS Max have arrived. Customers have lined up across the world in anticipation of the launch day Apple Store experience, all the while delivery trucks with countless identical boxes are delivering new phones globally.
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My FedEx box arrived about an hour ago. Inside was a review sample of the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. I plan on more thoroughly testing both devices in the coming days and weeks, but until then, I thought I’d offer some of my first impressions of the iPhone XS Max — the biggest iPhone Apple has ever made.
It’s not that big
Skimming through my Twitter timeline after the iPhone XS review embargo lifted earlier this week (I refuse to read reviews of a product until after I’ve reviewed it), I got the impression that the iPhone XS Max was too big for most reviewers.
And while, yes, it’s a big phone, it’s not earth-shattering big. It’s marginally smaller than the Samsung Note 9, despite having an ever-so-slightly larger display. If the iPhone XS Max is too big, then the Note 9 is also too big, and by extension, the iPhone 8 Plus is too (it’s taller and wider than the XS Max, but barely).
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I actually feel as if the iPhone XS Max is more comfortable to hold than the Note 9. There’s something about the way the two curved edges meet on each side of the Note 9 that, by itself isn’t noticeable, but when holding the iPhone XS Max at the same time, just feels weird.
I don’t have big hands and have resisted the trend of bigger phones as much as I possibly could over the past few years. The Note 9 was the first overly big phone I felt comfortable using, and I hope after some more time with the iPhone XS Max, I feel the same way.
Reachability makes a comeback
One of the complaints I saw this week was that reaching for the notification shade when using the XS Max with one hand was difficult and uncomfortable. I agree.
Also: Best smartphones for 2018 CNET
For me, it’s just not possible to reach the top of the phone and swipe down to reveal notifications or Control Center with one hand. As frustrating as that is, iOS does offer a workaround. It’s called Reachability.
Reachability lowers the top-half of the display, putting it within reach. The feature has been around since the iPhone 6, when Apple increased the size of its devices and screens. Users activated the feature with a double-tap on the home button. But with the iPhone X, and now the iPhone XS and iPhone XR ditching the home button, there’s also a new method to access the feature.
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To use Reachability on modern iPhones, you need to place a finger at the bottom of the display and quickly swipe down. When done right, the screen will move down, putting whatever is at the top of the screen within thumb’s reach.
In my brief time with the iPhone XS Max this morning, it’s clear to me I once again need to get used to triggering Reachability and start using it more often.
More to come
Outside of the phone simply being bigger, it’s the same ol’ iPhone X form factor and design I’ve used for the past 11 months. The buttons, cameras, ports, and finish are all the same.
I haven’t had time to get a good feel for battery life or the camera, but I will say that the adjustable Portrait Mode photos is seamless to use, and I can’t wait to test it outside of my office, where it’s possible to take more than a couple photos of a HomePod or my dog.
Also: iPhone XS and XS Max reveals some battery surprises
I will have a full review of the iPhone XS Max in the coming weeks, so stay tuned. Much more to come.
After buying Bungie, Sony goes all in on live service games – TechCrunch
After buying Bungie earlier this year, Sony is moving fast to integrate the company’s expertise into its broader vision.
In an investor presentation Thursday, Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan outlined a near future for the company that focuses heavily on continually updated online games inspired by Destiny, Bungie’s long-running hit.
Sony expects to spend 49% of its PlayStation Studios development budget on live service games by the end of the year. By 2025, Sony plans to bump that to 55%, up from just 12% in 2019. By the end of 2025, Sony projects that it will have 12 different live service games of its own, up from just one now.
The company declined to answer questions from TechCrunch about which of its franchises might get the live service treatment, but the presentation cited God of War, Horizon Forbidden West, Spider-Man, The Last of Us and Uncharted in a list of its noteworthy single-player first-party titles. Sony-owned studio Naughty Dog has been hiring for a standalone multiplayer game, so a new game could indeed emerge out of The Last of Us or Uncharted’s virtual worlds.
Bungie is best known for creating the Halo franchise, though most recently the studio has become synonymous with Destiny, a fresh sci-fi series the company developed after leaving Halo with Microsoft. Like Halo, Destiny is a futuristic first-person shooter with precise, satisfying mechanics. But Destiny’s real appeal is Bungie’s impressively seamless online multiplayer experience that brings players into central hubs where they can explore and run missions together, making it more akin to World of Warcraft than a traditional FPS like Call of Duty.
Three years after splitting with Microsoft, Bungie signed onto a 10-year partnership with Activision. The company eventually split with Activision, too, paving the way for Sony to snap it up earlier this year for $3.6 billion. Bungie will remain a standalone game studio on the other side of the deal, à la Naughty Dog.
Just after the Bungie acquisition was made public, Sony CFO Hiroki Totoki confirmed the company’s plan to weave Bungie’s live game service know-how into its broader gaming offerings.
“The strategic significance of this acquisition lies not only in obtaining the highly successful Destiny franchise, as well as major new IP Bungie is currently developing, but also incorporating into the Sony group the expertise and technologies Bungie has developed in the live game services space,” Totoki said.
In bringing Bungie under its wing, Sony is buying a lot of knowledge about how to build online multiplayer games that expand over time, keeping players coming back for more. This kind of experience, usually called a “live service game,” explains how Fortnite is still one of the world’s most popular games years after it first made headlines for luring casual gamers and hardcore streamers alike into its colorful, chaotic world.
It’s also an extremely lucrative business model. Live service games generally have an in-game storefront that invites dedicated players to buy digital goods like character skins and clothing. Those assets cycle in and out, creating scarcity and nudging players to spend real cash to collect them. In a given content season, players in games like Destiny 2 and Fortnite can pay to earn a special set of these cosmetic virtual goods with a “battle pass.”
Some live service games, like Final Fantasy XIV, require players to pay for a monthly subscription to access the most recent content, while others are free to play. Happily, these days, most free-to-play games no longer require a paid subscription through Microsoft or Sony’s own premium subscription services.
Live service games add expansion content over time, and players often pay to access the new stuff, even while the core game remains mostly the same. For game makers, the real allure is maintaining a game that can live and grow over time, raking in revenue for years rather than burning bright and fizzling out a few months postlaunch.
Twitter investors sue Elon Musk over acquisition shenanigans – TechCrunch
The world’s richest man isn’t above trying to get a discount, apparently.
In a new lawsuit, Twitter shareholders are suing Elon Musk, alleging that he manipulated the price of the company’s stock for his own benefit in the course of agreeing to buy the company. The lawsuit represents a group of Twitter investors but would allow any shareholders to receive financial compensation.
The suit was filed Wednesday in federal district court for Northern California and argues that Musk intentionally drove down the company’s stock to secure a better deal. “The fair market value of Twitter securities has been adversely affected by Musk’s false statements and wrongful conduct,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit cites Musk’s decision to waive due diligence as a condition of the acquisition and his subsequent suspiciously timed claim that Twitter had misrepresented the number of bots on its platform.
“At the time, Musk was well aware that Twitter had a certain amount of ‘fake accounts’ and accounts controlled by ‘bots’ and had in fact settled a lawsuit based on the fake accounts for millions of dollars,” the complaint states. “Musk had tweeted about that issue at Twitter several times in the past, prior to making his offer to acquire Twitter with full knowledge of the bots.”
The suit alleges, as many people observed at the time, that Musk was likely trying to secure a discount by casting doubt on his commitment and disparaging the company. Since Musk’s initial commitment to purchase the company was announced, tech stocks — including Tesla, which accounts for the vast majority of Musk’s wealth — took a dive.
Following Musk’s comments, Twitter shares also dipped significantly, a phenomenon that the suit alleges is “highly unusual” given the company’s agreed-upon buyout price.
While Musk claimed the deal was on hold, there was no formal mechanism in place that would back up that claim. Even within Twitter, company leaders encouraged employees to proceed as though nothing had changed, noting that there was “no such thing” as casually pausing a binding agreement to buy the company.
The suit also alleges that Musk deliberately delayed filing a disclosure form when his stake in the company exceeded 5%, allowing him to continue to buy shares at a discount. After the form was filed and Musk’s purchases became public knowledge, Twitter stock soared by nearly a third.
“Musk’s disregard for securities laws demonstrates how one can flaunt the law and the tax code to build their wealth at the expense of the other Americans,” the complaint states.
Instagram is currently down for some users – TechCrunch
If you’re having problems accessing Instagram today, you’re not alone. The social media giant is currently experiencing some problems, according to reports on third-party web monitoring service Downdetector. The website indicates that issues began at around 12:30 p.m. EDT. NetBlocks, which tracks global internet usage and disruptions, has also noted that Instagram is facing intermittent international service outages.
Reports indicate that users are experiencing various issues with the service, including not being able to log back in after being logged out. Some users also reporting seeing a “Welcome to Instagram” message when logging on as though they have a new account. Others are unable see past a few posts or only seeing posts that were uploaded weeks ago. Some users are also reporting that they’re unable to refresh their home screen and are seeing a “we’re sorry, but something went wrong” notice.
Instagram and its parent company Meta have yet to acknowledge the issues. TechCrunch has reached out to Meta to learn more about the issues and will update this article once we get a response.
This story is developing…
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