A walkthrough of Apple’s new releases and what they mean for you.
Pundits have speculated for years that Apple has been holding out on introducing new features with its last few iPhone releases in preparation for its tenth-anniversary release. Based on the no-holds-barred approach Apple took with its new premium iPhone X (pronounced “iPhone Ten”), I'd say the pundits were right.
The iPhone X features an edge-to-edge display that's larger than that of the iPhone 7 Plus (at 5.8 inches vs. 5.5 inches) and a form factor that's comparable to the iPhone 7 in size. The X features a glass back and surgical-grade stainless steel siding, and has the same water and dust resistant features as the 7. How did Apple achieve its most expansive screen in such a compact form? By removing the bezels found in older iPhones and by replacing Touch ID and the Home button with facial identification technology. Face ID, which unlocks your phone when you look at your screen, doesn't require any screen real estate, instead using a hybrid of cameras and sensors (including an infrared camera, flood illuminator, dot projector, and proximity and ambient light sensors) to detect and scan your face from any angle, even in the dark. Apple demoed new gestures that replace Home button functions for the iPhone X, like swiping up from the bottom of the screen to reveal the app switcher and pressing the side button to summon Siri. Not only is the iPhone X display larger and the body smaller, but Apple also packed in a faster A11 bionic processor and an
OLED display. OLED has many merits: it delivers better color vibrancy, produces deeper blacks, and consumes less battery since it isn't backlit like LED. Samsung has used OLED in its smartphones for years, and you may have noticed their higher contrast and more color-saturated displays. In the past, Apple has disparaged OLED for its inaccurate color representation and its brightness limitations that can make it difficult to see in outdoor lighting. However, Apple executive Phil Schiller reassured us that the iPhone X's OLED “Super Retina” display has addressed these downsides by incorporating technology like HDR and True Tone.
Apple heard our prayers and finally added wireless charging to its new smartphones (including for the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus). This is a long-awaited feature that Apple has likely been sitting on, as other smartphones have had this capability for years. This also explains why Apple chose to build its new iPhones with glass backs; while more fragile, it allows for faster charging with less frequency interruption. Apple says it will take only 30 minutes to charge your iPhone up to 50 percent. What I found most surprising is that Apple used Qi wireless charging (pronounced “chee”), an open standard that companies like Belkin and Mophie, not to mention dozens of car brands, use. This means you won't be forced to use Apple's own proprietary (and likely more expensive) charging option. It also means that in the future we may be able to charge all our personal electronics, whether Android or Apple, universally in public spaces like airports and malls.
Finally, the iPhone X has a fancy new selfie camera that includes the Portrait Mode feature first found in the rear camera of the 7 Plus and an even newer Portrait Lighting feature that lets you replicate studio lighting for more flattering self portraits. It also includes an exclusive Animoji feature that lets you turn your face into an animated emoji, such as a unicorn head or an alien. This may sound like a trivial feature, but it brings Pixar-level animation within consumer reach.
If you're considering purchasing the iPhone X, you'll own a smartphone with an incredible display that uses less space and energy than any other iPhone. However, you'll be taking a chance on the new Face ID technology, instead of the triedand-true Touch ID. Schiller reassured us that photos and even professionally made masks won't be able to trick Face ID, but it's still an emerging technology. You'll also have to pay extra for OLED, which was rumored to cost Apple $125 per panel, a cost that's inevitably passed on to you. The X's $1,000 price tag and delayed release also make the X very exclusive and inevitably a status symbol, for better or worse. If you're only interested in wireless charging, buy an 8 model and save yourself the cash.