The iPhone X is, undoubtedly, the most radical rethink of the iPhone to date. Not just for what it adds, but also what it eliminates: no home button, no fingerprint scanner, and no real bezels to speak of. While the design of Apple's new phone isn't exactly unfamiliar, it's still fairly stunning in its own right, and pretty much seals the deal on low-bezel phones being the future.
There's no doubt in my mind that the iPhone X will create an attention vacuum for all other smartphones. Certainly, other phones will still be announced and get coverage, but it will be far more limited in terms of staying power and general interest to the smartphone-buying public. For the next several months, the only phone that really exists will be the iPhone X. Remember: Most people have never seen an Essential Phone or a Mi Mix - this whole "no bezels" thing is new to your average consumer.
That said, we've all had a look at the latest from Apple, and I've had five of our contributors put together some of their thoughts on today's news. Here are our takes.
This year's Apple event was interesting. Not incredible, not terrible, just interesting. Last weekend, a near-finished build of iOS 11 was leaked, which revealed nearly everything about the iPhone X in the process. While most of Apple's events have at least a few surprises (remember when everything at an Apple event was a surprise?), there was very little in the way of new information today. Even the minor attractions - the 4K Apple TV and LTE Apple Watch - were expected.
The new iPhone 8 was your typical yearly iPhone update, with better cameras (the 8 Plus actually has dual rear cameras) and a faster processor. But in an era where smaller bezels are becoming the norm, at least on flagships, the 8 seems underwhelming. You can tell Apple isn't very excited about it, either - the company didn't even show a live demo of it on stage.
I wouldn't buy the iPhone X. But I'm not in the intended market.
Complimenting the iPhone 8/8 Plus is the iPhone X, Apple's new flagship smartphone. It's the greatest design change the product line has ever seen (the iPhone 4 is a close contender), but it's hard for me to get excited about it. There's no Touch ID at all, presumably because Apple couldn't get an under-screen fingerprint scanner working in time. Face ID's 1-2 second unlock time (judging by the stage demos) seems like a regression from fingerprint unlocking, but I'll reserve my judgment until reviews of the final hardware and software appear.
Of course, the iPhone X has a few other tricks, like dual cameras and face-tracking 'Animojis' that are slightly unsettling. I still think the $999 price tag is absurd, even if that is the growing trend among flagship smartphones.
Ultimately, I wouldn't buy the iPhone X. But I'm not in the intended market. This is a phone for people that want to stick with (or switch to) iOS, but also want the edge-to-edge screen that Samsung and LG have been offering for the past year. Hopefully, Apple can sort out the fingerprint sensor next year.
Apple announced a whole mess of iPhones today—three of them, to be exact. There's the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and the ultra-premium iPhone X (read as iPhone 10). I'm sure Apple will sell plenty of all these devices, but I can't say I'm really wowed by anything the company showed off. The iPhone 8 is boring, and the iPhone X seems like form over function.
The iPhone X is a radical departure for Apple.
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are mere evolutions from the iPhone 7 family. In fact, Apple probably could have just called them iPhone 7s and 7s Plus. The hardware is looking increasingly behind the times with those big bezels and the LCD panels. Still, it's faster and has a better camera and wireless charging. People who buy iPhones will probably buy this one and not think twice about it.
The iPhone X is a radical departure for Apple.
I'm bummed the iPhone 8 has gone back to a rear glass panel, if only because that will encourage more Android OEMs to do the same. I don't like glass phones personally, but it's clear why Apple did it—wireless charging. After long pretending wireless charging isn't a thing, Apple is now using the Qi standard. That probably means a resurgence in wireless charging for phones, which has become less common in recent years. I'll stick to fast cable charging, thanks.
The iPhone X is a radical departure for Apple, and I'm sure it'll look super-cool in ads. A few months ago I would have said $1,000 for a phone was insane, but here we are with the Galaxy Note 8 just a little behind that. That giant wad of cash buys you a phone with the same basic internals as the iPhone 8 and a larger edge-to-edge display. It looks similar to the Essential Phone, with a cutout at the top for the front-facing cameras and some other sensors. The way Apple uses (or rather doesn't use) the space on either side of the display doesn't seem any better, though.
The big screen on the iPhone X means there's no home button and no Touch ID. Instead of your fingerprint, the iPhone X can be unlocked with your face via Face ID. No matter how many times Apple claims Face ID is just as fast and easy as touching a sensor, I will never believe that. The lack of home button also means basic features like going to the home screen rely on gestures. That's never as easy as just hitting a button. Apple spent about 20 minutes on demos to try and prove the iPhone X won't be tedious to use, which I find pretty suspicious.
I shouldn't be surprised, but the iPhone X reminds me that Apple is stubborn. I'm sure it wanted to have in-display fingerprint reader tech ready for the iPhone X. That didn't happen, so it just cut the feature entirely rather than add a sensor on the back of the device as many Android phones have. Likewise, maybe an on-screen button of some sort might be advisable? But no, Android phones have that.
Next year, Apple will probably have a fingerprint reader built into its OLED panel, and Phil Schiller will talk about how amazing it is. Meanwhile, iPhone X owners will look longingly at their 10-month-old phones that cost $1,000 and don't have Touch ID. The phone won't unlock, though, because Face ID is probably going to suck.
Apple events have always been incredibly entertaining for me, and I usually plan my calendar in advance to set the time aside to watch the live stream. Even if you're not much of an Apple fan, it's hard not to appreciate the amount of planning and showmanship that goes into each one of these events, with everything from the choice of words to the opening music being tuned to perfection. And the result is almost always the same: just minutes after the keynote ends, you're left with an uncontrollable urge to go out and buy some shiny new Apple product — a common symptom of the infamous reality distortion field.
I don't know if it's the fact that I've watched so many Apple events that I've become immune to their reality distortion field, but after Tim Cook finished up the announcement of the iPhone X, I was left feeling distinctly underwhelmed.
Don't get me wrong; the iPhone X is unquestionably a great phone — as were almost all iPhones before it. It even receives several new features that are genuinely good things to have on a smartphone. The new edge-to-edge display covers 82.9% of the front of the phone and does away with those space-wasting bezels, and the addition of wireless charging is also a win for future iPhone 8 and X owners, not to mention the adoption of the Qi wireless charging standard in general. But none of these features are truly new. My Nexus 4 from 2012 had wireless charging, and this year we've already seen plenty of other phones with minimal bezels.
I'm also far from sold on how well Face ID will replace Touch ID. Apple seems to have developed the technology thoroughly, using an IR floodlight and sensor to ensure it'll detect a user's face even in pitch darkness. Apple even stated that Face ID is more secure than Touch ID, claiming that the likelihood of a random person being a match for a particular user's Face ID pattern is 1 in 1,000,000, compared to just 1 in 50,000 for Touch ID (it was unclear if they meant a match for a single finger or all for 10 fingers). But Face ID also appeared to be slower at detecting a match than the state-of-the-art fingerprint recognition we've grown used to in phones. And if the IR sensor doesn't have an unusually wide angle lens, Face ID likely won't work when an iPhone is laying flat on a table unless you're directly above it. (To be fair, having a fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone presents the same issue, but this was never a problem with previous iPhones which had theirs on the front.)
I was left feeling distinctly underwhelmed.
I had also hoped that we'd see some much more impressive augmented reality demos than the ones that were shown off today. Apple has a significant opportunity to lead the industry with the adoption of augmented reality, and it would have been great to see them capitalize on their head start.
Honestly, the highlight of today's keynote for me was seeing Jony Ive and Craig Federighi as talking emojis — who wouldn't want to see themselves as a talking version of the poop emoji?
I'll be honest - I didn't really follow the leaks leading up to today's iPhone launch. As everyone and their grandma did, I saw the widely-distributed, months-old renders of what the new iPhone (more accurately, the iPhone X) would look like. I'd also heard about the iOS 11 leak from a few days ago, but hadn't bothered to really see what turned up (as it turned out, a lot). So going into the event, I had about the same idea of what to expect out of the new iPhone as the average Joe: small bezels, no physical home button but maybe an under-display fingerprint sensor, and a vertically-aligned dual camera system.
So when the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus were revealed with their familiarly large bezels, I was a bit surprised. My colleagues, on the other hand, were fairly well-versed on the topic and kept insisting there'd be a "one more thing" moment at the end for the iPhone X. Lo and behold, they were right.
The 8 and 8 Plus are definitely more deserving of an "s" upgrade than a full number increase.
The 8 and 8 Plus are definitely more deserving of an "s" upgrade than a full number increase, but marketing is marketing. There are glass backs for wireless charging, standard 64GB storage (well done, Apple), and that Portrait Lighting feature for the Plus that actually produces some pretty neat results. I suppose the fast charging is nice to see, but given the crappy 1A wall brick that still appears to be included in the box and the amount of people I see using it to charge their iPhones even when they're in a rush, I don't imagine that'll be widely used. Apple didn't even care to mention it aside from some small text on one slide.
The X, on the other hand, is a lot more interesting - or so I thought in the beginning of the presentation. The highlight feature is obviously the 5.8" not-quite-1440p "Super Retina" OLED display, with most of the other specs being the same as the 8/8 Plus's. You've also got that array of sensors up front for "Face ID," which are also used for the "Animojis" and some more accurate Snapchat filters. This all looks cool on paper, but in practice, it's... meh. Face ID isn't very quick - not nearly as quick as Touch ID - and the Animojis/Snapchat masks are more novelties than legitimate features. Plus, media actually plays behind that black bar on top, so some content is actually hidden. This phone would be a lot more desirable if it also had Touch ID, whether it be under the screen or on the back, but Apple is instead trying to push Face ID as a superior replacement to the beloved fingerprint sensor. It's just not.
And let's not forget about that price - $999 (or $1149 for the 256GB!) is a hard pill to swallow. At the end of the day, is the iPhone X really worth $200 more than the 8 Plus for a more futuristic form factor and a slightly higher-res screen? Yes, I know the Galaxy Note8 costs about the same as the X, and I'm not giving Samsung a pass for that. But give me $1000 for a smartphone and I'd take the Note8 over this thing any day.
While watching the keynote and sharing thoughts with others on the Android Police team, there was a general sense that we all felt... bored. It wasn't the kind of bored you get from sitting in detention, more like the bored you get from watching an Adam Sandler movie, post 2005. The pieces were there, but they felt hollow.
Maybe we were spoiled by the highly detailed and accurate leaks that they were practically better than the keynote itself. It could be that most of the talking points boiled down to the standard spec updates that come every year. Perhaps we're just jaded because many of the new features in the upcoming products have been in Android phones for years. In some cases, we've used them across multiple generations of devices and even grown tired of them. I haven't even put a phone on a charging pad in more than a year, but many iPhone customers are only now about to experience wireless charging for the first time. Weird, right?
Here's the thing, the Apple keynote may have been fairly dull and packed with the same buzzwords and over-processed routine that we've come to expect over the last few years, but one really important thing happened: Apple announced a phone that isn't an iPhone.
Apple announced a phone that isn't an iPhone.
Yes, they called it an iPhone, and it runs iPhone software, and it does iPhone-y things. Okay, fine, it's still an iPhone. But this isn't the same iPhone with fat bezels and a big round button that won a billion dollar judgment for Apple in a court battle with Samsung. This is a new recipe.
Aside from a controversial software revision with iOS 7, the iPhone didn't actually go through any dramatic changes since it was introduced in 2007. Ask any Apple exec and they'll give you a line about how it was wonderful when it was introduced and the last 10 years have been all about perfecting it.
However, the truth is that Apple couldn't change the iPhone, which is evident from its customers. Many buyers keep coming back at the end of their two-year upgrade cycles so they wouldn't have to learn a new phone or break their habits over and over again. Apple works hard to introduce changes slowly so customers only have to adapt a little bit with each new model.
Slow and steady change is great for retaining loyal customers, and there's an iPhone 8 to fill that need, but that recipe isn't good for acquiring new customers or bringing back those that strayed. That's what the iPhone X is for. It's there to look different, feel different, work different. It's a way to say to customers that Apple isn't locked into one path forever, that it can still think different.
I'll be among the first to admit that the distinguishing traits of the iPhone X are basically window dressing on the same old iPhone, and the internal specs and latest version of iOS are anything but revolutionary. Despite all of that, the iPhone X exists to give people an opportunity to feel like there's a new iPhone, something they probably haven't felt in a long time.