On the tenth anniversary of the original iPhone, Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage at the futuristic Steve Jobs Theater to announce a slew of new gadgets that included three new iPhones: the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and the much-rumored iPhone X (pronounced “iPhone Ten”).
While the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus boasted incremental improvements to the smartphone’s display, cameras, and wireless capabilities — wireless charging being the biggest news — it was the $999 iPhone X that Cook teased as “the biggest leap forward since the original iPhone.”
“Ten years later, it is only fitting that we are here in this place, on this day to reveal a product that will set the path for technology for the next decade,” Cook said.
True to the media leaks that have been swirling for weeks, the iPhone X does away with the home button and fills nearly the entire front side of the phone with a 5.8-inch “Super Retina Display” screen that is packed with 2.7 million pixels (2436 x 1125 resolution).
“It’s all screen,” remarked Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president for worldwide marketing. “Edge to edge, top to bottom.”
The advantage of the full-phone screen is that the iPhone X manages to have a larger display than even physically bigger iPhones like the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone 7 Plus, which both feature 5.5-inch displays. Samsung’s Galaxy Edge line of smartphones have a similar “infinity pool” effect as the iPhone X.
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“Screen space is the last physical constraint of smartphones,” John Dinsmore, a digital marketing professor and researcher at Wright State University, told Seeker. He cited a pair of recent studies showing that the larger the smartphone screen, the more people use their devices on wifi networks and the more people buy.
Pete Wells, technology columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald, was at the announcement and got to play around with the new phones in the “hands-on” area. He told Seeker that the iPhone X is “gorgeous,” and said it feels more solid than the “wafer-thin” Samsung Galaxy S8. He also confirmed that the iPhone X is much smaller than either of the Plus models.
“I’ve found those larger phones to be way too big,” said Wells. “I’ve got tiny little Trump hands and even I can use it.”
With the iPhone X, Apple also introduced Face ID, its next-generation biometric security system that unlocks the phone and enables Apple Pay purchases with nothing but a glance at the screen. Face ID employs the iPhone X’s new front-facing TrueDepth camera to make a mathematical model of the user’s face using a combination of three sensors, including infrared and a “dot projector.”
Apple says that the face-recognition technology works in light or dark conditions and adapts for changing hair styles, glasses, and beards.
“That’s something that the Galaxy S8 really got wrong,” noted Wells, who didn’t get to try the Face ID in person. “You’ve never been able to trust the face recognition unlocking feature on the Galaxy S8. If Apple’s been able to pull that off --- talking as a person who wears glasses — I’ll be very happy.”
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Apple’s Schiller explained that the incredible accuracy of Face ID — the chance of it positively ID-ing the wrong person, he said, is “one in a million” — is partly due to the advanced sensors, but also a credit to the processing power of new A11 Bionic chip installed in all three of the new iPhones. In the iPhone X, the chip runs a “neural engine” that analyzes facial features at a speed of 600 billion operations per second.
Despite the flashy specs, Face ID ran into a glitch when Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, took it for a live test drive. “Whoa!” he exclaimed, when the first iPhone X failed to recognize his face, before picking up a backup phone that unlocked immediately.
Today’s announcement reflected Apple’s continued investment in augmented reality capabilities. All three new phones contained advanced cameras, gyroscopes, and accelerometers that are designed to work in tandem with the augmented reality kit that Apple released to software developers earlier this year. There is still no word if Apple will release its own AR headsets, another long-rumored development.
The three new iPhones also featured wireless charging for the first time. Schiller said that the phones could be powered up using any wireless charger that runs on the popular Qi standard. He also teased the 2018 release of a wireless charging pad for multiple Apple devices called the AirPower.
A fun feature that is only available on the iPhone X was the Animoji option in iMessage. Using the phone’s TrueDepth camera, users can animate one of a dozen emojis — including a puppy, chicken, unicorn, and, yes, poop — using real-time facial expressions. The animated audio messages can then be texted to friends.
Price is always a consideration with Apple products and the new iPhones are as expensive as expected. A 64-gigabyte iPhone 8 starts at $699, the iPhone 8 Plus starts at $799, and the iPhone X runs a whopping $999.
“It’s incredibly expensive,” said Wells — even more so in his native Australia.
Marketing researcher Dinsmore pointed out that Apple’s bread-and-butter is the high-end phone. Even though they sold nearly the same amount of units as Samsung over the past year, Apple has banked between 79 percent and 92 percent of the total profits in the smartphone sector.
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