Apple’s iPhone X Announcement: Evolution or Revolution?

As the early adopter of technology that I am, I patiently wait for the announcements from Apple.  Today was was the first announcement made from the new Steve Jobs Theater on the new Apple campus.  With this being the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, that made it even a bit more special.

There were a handful of announcements today related to the non-Mac product lines.  Let’s take a closer look at the major ones.

Apple Watch

Order 9/15/17 with Delivery 9/22/17

Dick Tracy

For me, this was the most interesting announcement of the day. I was pleased to learn that all of those Dick Tracy comics I read as a kid were actually a bit of foreshadowing about the announcement today.  The new top tier Apple Watch (Series 3) is a stand-alone cellular phone.  It piggy-backs on your existing cell phone plan and shares the same number as your phone.  The current models have phone features too, but they need to be in the proximity of your phone.  Now, the cellular electronics are embedded directly in the watch. This model starts at $399.  There are no additional carrier fees above your current phone plan.  Since it has cellular data capabilities, you can also stream your music directly to the watch.  It also has many improvements in fitness tracking, including monitoring your resting heart rate, recovery time and may detect irregular heartbeats.

Update 9/13/17: There was some clarification after the announcement yesterday about the cost of connecting the watch to your phone plan.  It looks like using the Series 3 on the cellular network will cost $10/month for most carriers, just like adding any other cellular device to your shared data plan. Still, this may be a small price to pay to have a cellular device always with you, like in the case of a medical emergency.

iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus

Order 9/15/17 with Delivery 9/22/17

The announcement today included updates to the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus.  This part of the announcement was pretty standard for Apple.  They have made some evolutionary improvements:

  • Glass Front and Back
  • A11 “Bionic” Chip
  • 12 MP Camera
  • Qi Wireless Charging
  • Augmented Reality Capabilities
  • Image Stabilization and Quality  Improvements for Photos
  • Memory – 64GB – 256GB
  • Price – $699 – $949

The highlight of the new iPhone 8 is Wireless Charging.  Any charger that supports the “Qi” standard should be able to charge your device.  It appears that the new phones will ship with a Lightning cable for charging.  Apple did announce a charging mat (AirPower) that is to be released sometime next year.  I suspect the mat was late to production since they pushed charging solutions from Mophie and Belkin during the presentation. The mat should allow you to charge all of your Qi-capable devices at the same time from one single cable.

Augmented Reality allows one to virtually interact with the world around them.  Essentially, you can immerse yourself in the scene.  The primary application for this now is probably gaming, but other applications will likely come.  It is a good first step, but good quality augmented reality software solutions will be hard to produce and will take time to develop and integrate into mainstream acceptance and use.

Apple TV

Order 9/15/17 with Delivery 9/22/17

The big news on the Apple TV front was support for 4K.  More and more people are getting televisions that are capable of 4K content, but most do not have them yet.  Unless you have a 4K-capable television and 4K-content, upgrading to this version of Apple TV probably doesn’t make much sense.  On the bright side, Apple will upgrade any HD movies you have purchased from them to 4K free of charge.  The 32 GB model will be $179.  You will shell out $199 for the 64 GB model.

iOS 11

Available for Download 9/19/17

Although formally announced previously, it will be available for consumers to install on 9/19/17.

A few suggestions about upgrading:

  • If at all possible, DO NOT UPGRADE “over the air”.  That is, attach your device directly to a computer and upgrade the device through iTunes.  Most upgrade problems I have seen over the years involve OTA upgrades.  Connecting to iTunes also gives you the opportunity to perform a backup of the data on your device.  That is always a good practice anyway since most people don’t have a decent backup strategy.
  • Unless you consider yourself an early adopter, DO NOT UPGRADE your device for at least three days after iOS 11 is available.  It is best to let more experienced users find the issues first and identify workarounds or solutions.
  • If you have more than one iOS device, upgrade no more than one per day.  Start with the least critical device.  For most people, that would mean upgrading the iPad first and then their iPhone.  If you encounter problems, you want it to be on the device that would have the lowest impact on your world.

One More Thing…  iPhone X

Order 10/27/17 with Delivery 11/3/17

iPhone X

Today, Apple announced an all new design of their flagship product– the iPhone X (Ten).  It is a beautiful device.  For all practical purposes, it is all screen.  Although a bit smaller and lighter than the iPhone 8 Plus, the screen is a bit larger.

Key differences from the iPhone 8:

  • Larger Edge-to-Edge Screen
  • Face ID
  • No “Home” Button
  • New Gestures
  • Animojis
  • Memory – 64GB – 256GB
  • Prices – $999 – $1149

I think the biggest feature on this device is Face ID.  That is, to unlock the device, you look at it and swipe.  Apple claims that this is more secure than the fingerprint reader found on most of their other current devices.  Perhaps, but I do have a concern with it.  The devices that have the fingerprint readers also require you to set and confirm access via a password.  I don’t recall seeing any such secondary method in the presentation today.  What that may mean is that if for some reason your front-facing camera has a problem, you may be locked out of your device.  I also liked the fact that I could grant others access to my device by allowing them to input their fingerprint.  Will I be able to grant others access to my device through the facial recognition?

Animoji

We are all familiar with Emojis.  They are the cute little pictures that people attach to messages to indicate emotions or thoughts.  With the enhanced front-facing camera on the iPhone X, you can create your own animated emojis based on any one of a handful of available characters.  In essence, you create a video of the character speaking your thoughts with appropriate facial expressions.  Animojis are a cute feature, but they may get old quite quickly.

Conclusion

The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are evolutionary steps in the progression of cellular technology. I currently have a 256 GB iPhone 7 Plus.  The upgrade to iPhone 8 is a tougher sell for me since other than Qi wireless charging, it isn’t all that much different than what I already have.  I still can upgrade my device to iOS 11 to pick up the new software features. Going to the iPhone X is a larger leap.  If I do upgrade this time, it will be to the iPhone X. Fortunately, I have about six weeks to think about it before I could even pre-order the device. I would like to read a few more reviews from people who have actually had the opportunity to try it out.

I think the sweet spot for most users will be the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus.  I think few users would see a real benefit from the iPhone X over the iPhone 8, especially at the significantly higher price.

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