At long last the Apple unveiling is history with the announcement of the very premium iPhone X (pronounced iPhone 10), iPhone 8, and the iPhone 8 Plus. As rumored, the retail pricing for the X will begin at $999. Keep in mind carriers may discount and even if they don’t, the monthly payments over two years is approximately $42. Add a typical single line plan of $80 and the total monthly bill will flirt with $150/month.
So what do you get? Before we discuss included features let’s talk about the most obvious missing feature; the home button which also served as a biometric fingerprint sensor. Apple tried to make this functionality work virtually by installing the sensor beneath the display but ultimately decided the technology wasn’t ready for prime time. Curiously, if the facial recognition alternate works as well as they claim and others join in, the fingerprint sensor may become a dinosaur. It’s important to note Apple is not alone in this approach as Microsoft Windows 10, Samsung Galaxy S8, and S8+ support facial recognition authentication. Google is also exploring this technology as evidenced by a 2013 patent application.
Powering all three iPhones is the A11 Bionic SoC (System On a Chip). This is a six core 64 bit ARM processing unit with two high performance cores for intensive computing tasks supported by four high-efficiency cores for light computing chores. This is Apple’s vision of the ARM big.Little architecture. Apple claims the performance of the A11 twin cores are 25% faster than the A10 and the quad processors are 70% faster in handling multi threaded workloads. Leveraging a 10 nanometer manufacturing process should help keep energy consumption low. Just to refresh your memory, the A10 Fusion processor included two high-power cores and two high-efficiency cores. To handle graphics, Apple is using an in house designed processor which they claim is 30% faster than the A10 at half the power draw. Some of this power will also be used to support the AI behind facial recognition solution.
9to5 Google had this to say about the A11.
Apple’s latest iPhone chipset blows away every Android device, and that’s a little depressing.
I agree and disagree. If the Android experience doesn’t suffer from the performance of the processor, and many say it doesn’t, why do we care. On the other hand, Google now agrees it needs to take control of the design of the processors powering their devices, but was a little slow in coming to this decision. I believe we may see a Google designed SoCs as early as 2018 and as it is with all Google software products, most of the heavy lifting is performed in the cloud. They recently introduced their cloud based AI hardware solution rated at 180 teraflops, the Tensor Processing Unit, last May.
The smartphone has become a portal to our personal lives and the importance to protect personal data can not be overstated. I believe the truth behind the decision to not include a fingerprint scanner on the iPhone X included the following reasons:
- Unreliable under the front display
- Did not want to place it on the back
Apple states the facial scanner of the X is way better than the biometric scanner but you have to ask the question; why do the 8 and 8 Plus ship with both technologies. I am sure folks will be putting this feature through extensive testing in the coming weeks and months to see if it lives up to expectations. It is important to remember the new Samsung Note 8 facial recognition solution was allegedly spoofed by a selfie photograph on another phone.
Bezel-less display is a bit of a mis-statement. As one of the functions of the bezel is to support the display, it can’t go away entirely. The trend is to shrink the bezel to the smallest possible width to maximize the amount of display area. In the case of the iPhone X, the greatest reduction occurs at the top and bottom. Most of the chatter has been about Apple’s decision to wrap the screen around the sensor panel located at the top of the phone. Ok, this was just a bad design move. Sure you can sneak in some status info in portrait mode with the available space to the left and the right, but the design feels more forced than natural. Early unofficial renders of the Pixel 2 have the best approach with a balanced design. I hope the final product is a close match.
iOS and Android are mobile windows to their respective ecosystems and are obviously designed to offer the best user experience possible. Similarities include:
- Dot notifications
- New emojis
- Smart copy and paste
- Picture in Picture
- Enhanced autofill
Although very similar on the phone, let’s just say Apple has done a good job getting its developers to scale their apps to larger devices. Features Apple is bragging about include:
- Revamped Control Center
- Updated design elements
- Drag and Drop
- iPad Dock
- Siri improvements
- Peer-to-peer Apple Pay
- Do Not Disturb driving mode
With the removal of the home button Apple has included new gesture swipes as a replacement. For example, to go home; instead of pressing the home button you need to swipe up from the bottom of the screen.
What is significant to the Apple event is the shear number of devices introduced. Three devices (X, 8, 8+) is complicated and confusing. Remember Google considered introducing a Pixel, XL, and Note but decided three devices was too much. Some would argue the smaller product such as the 8 is made specifically for a customer who would never consider a larger device and should not be included. Ok, but the same logic does not apply to the X and the 8 Plus. The argument could be made the 8 Plus is a fall back purchase for those who want a larger display and for whatever reason can not purchase the X. How folks will feel in this circumstance is unknown. Exacerbating iPhone X anxieties is the fact the X won’t be available until November 3rd and there may additional delays into early next year due to limited supplies.
Sadly, Google has some experience in not being able to meet the demand of product offerings.
When I asked Google Assistant if I should trade in my Pixel for an iPhone 8, she did not have any advice to offer. As always, it’s a personal decision.
- Is anything about the iPhone X new to the market? Not really.
- Wireless charging
- OLED display
- Face ID
- Thin bezel
- Auto stabilized camera
- Will it be a best seller? Apple phones usually do well. (*)
- Will it draw Android users to Apple? A few perhaps.
An Android user from The Verge had these parting comments:
But for now at least, I think I’ll skip the $999 glass iPhone and look forward instead to October 4th and Google’s next Pixels. The difference for me, as a yearlong Android devotee, is that an Apple event is fun and exciting just out of sheer tech enthusiasm, but a new Google product launch is thrilling because it has a high chance of being my next phone purchase.
By the way, here’s your invite to the Google event.