Opin­ion

You can tell when Ap­ple is fir­ing on all cylin­ders, be­cause it starts show­ing off

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Matt Bolton on Ap­ple’s new di­rec­tion

The most mem­o­rable part Ap­ple’s iPhone X event for me wasn’t a prod­uct un­veil­ing, but a bit of fun. Craig Fed­erighi spent a bunch of time just show­ing off the new face-track­ing An­i­moji fea­ture, some­times with his im­pres­sively elas­tic face (he’s a nat­u­ral for a re­boot of The Mask), some­times by just con­tin­u­ing his pre­sen­ta­tion, with a gi­gan­tic car­toon fox face mim­ick­ing him in a man­ner so fluid, I felt kind of weirded out.

This mo­ment wasn’t just mem­o­rable be­cause of the con­fus­ing dreams I’ve been hav­ing since, but be­cause it was Ap­ple do­ing what it loves the most: show­ing off in­sanely ad­vanced tech used for a com­pletely triv­ial pur­pose, be­cause that’s how it gets used in real life most of the time, and Ap­ple makes prod­ucts for real life.

At some Ap­ple events, you feel like it has to push fea­tures a lit­tle ar­tif­i­cally, be­cause it knows they’re not re­ally all that. But when things are com­ing to­gether, as they are for Ap­ple right now, the show­cases are much more re­laxed, be­cause the prod­ucts speak for them­selves, even if that speaking is hap­pen­ing through an an­i­mated poop emoji.

It re­ally felt like Ap­ple was flex­ing its tech­ni­cal mus­cle at this event. The A11 Bionic chip is stupidly pow­er­ful from just a stan­dard pro­ces­sor point of view (think: MacBook Pro lev­els of pow­er­ful), but Ap­ple’s cus­tomi­sa­tion of its chips means we get fea­tures like be­ing able to change the light­ing on a per­son’s face, or 4K 60fps video, which is ba­si­cally go­ing to look like just a win­dow when you play it back on a TV, if Ap­ple’s en­coder is as good as it says. The old “Only Ap­ple can do this” adage was trot­ted out again, but it’s never been more true, be­cause it re­quires an in­ti­mate con­nec­tion be­tween hard­ware de­sign and soft­ware aims.

Even the Face ID demo felt like show­ing off. Lots of other com­pa­nies have done this first, but to make it se­cure, they try things like iris scan­ning, which never works very slickly, be­cause it’s work­ing with such a nar­row and com­plex win­dow. Ap­ple just strolls in and says ‘Well, why didn’t you scan the face prop­erly?” It was the tech equiv­a­lent of the flashy swords­man get­ting shot un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously by Indy.

(I was wrong about Ap­ple and face recog­ni­tion last is­sue – I woe­fully un­der­es­ti­mated the level of tech so­phis­ti­ca­tion it was will­ing to throw at the prob­lem.)

And on top of that, you’ve got prob­a­bly the best-look­ing phone screen on the planet, the Ap­ple TV just be­came the movie-lover’s hottest plat­form, the Ap­ple Watch is now your phone (mak­ing your phone your lap­top, I sup­pose, which seemed in­evitable now I stop to think about it), and even the iPhone 8 was far more than just an af­ter­thought. And we have HomePod and iMac Pro to come, which both look ground­break­ing, while AirPods are still un­sur­passed in wire­less tech… just the Mac mini to fix now! Please?

The iPhone X is Ap­ple’s vi­sion for the fu­ture of phones. And that fu­ture is in Novem­ber, when the X is re­leased, as long as your fu­ture also has £1,000 in it.

The iPhone 8 looks a lot like the 7, but a new glass back is no small de­sign change; the A11 Bionic chip is a big in­ter­nal boost.

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