Tim Cook’s “one more thing” moment came after the reveal of the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus when the company’s CEO played the launch video for the most cutting-edge iPhone yet, the iPhone X.
Heralded by Cook as “the future of the smartphone” the X is the most notable departure from the tried-and-tested design formula since the company shifted its smallest display size from 4-inches to 4.7-inches with the iPhone 6. What’s more, Apple hopes this newest device “will set the path for technology, for the next decade”, which seems like a pretty confident stance to take out the gate.
Look past all that back-patting and self-aggrandising, however, and we admittedly still have one of the most compelling iPhone launches in years on our hands. Here’s everything you need to know about the new iPhone X, including specs, price and availability.
Apple iPhone X: The name
We have to start with a negative that, as this was being written, continued to baffle us and raises questions about the future of the iPhone naming convention as a whole.
We were prepared for Apple’s decision to buck convention by dropping its ‘S’ nomenclature and moving straight to ‘8’ for the two, more classically-styled iPhones. We were also already onboard with the idea of introducing a letter into the mix for this third, special tenth-anniversary device.
What we weren’t ready for was Apple’s decision to call it the iPhone X but pronounce it as “iPhone ten”. This decision doesn’t only pose a problem for the Apple timeline, with only two years until the actual iPhone 10 arrives (assuming the company doesn’t revert back to the ‘S’ naming convention next year, in which case they’ve still only got four years) but will also confuse the heck out of consumers and will undoubtedly cause endless frustration for retail staff who will either have to correct customers when they inevitably say the wrong name or hold their tongues, leaving those new iPhone X owners blissfully ignorant.
In short, Apple has made a pig’s ear of naming its next-generation iPhone and it was an issue that could have been so easily avoided. Okay, rant over.
Apple iPhone X: Design
Like the new iPhone 8 and 8 Plus the iPhone X adopts a glass front and back, just like old times. Apple says that all three new devices possess the ‘most durable glass ever in a smartphone’ but, naturally, we’ll believe that when we see it. All three iPhones also possess IP67 dust and water resistance.
Unlike the other two new handsets, the X only comes in two colourways: Space Grey and silver, no gold or rose gold options for the iPhone elite. Similarly to the Samsung Galaxy S8, the iPhone X’s glass rounds off at the edges, meeting a metal frame made from surgical-grade stainless steel, buffed to a mirror shine, in the middle.
It’s an unquestionably attractive design, even if its rear dual-camera array juts out significantly more than its rival’s single sensor does. The body measures 7.7mm thick (likely excluding the camera bump) and it weighs 174 grams.
Apple iPhone X: All screen, no home button
The big hook with the iPhone X is an all-new display, one that stretches to the fringes of the phone’s front, akin to Samsung’s and LG’s latest flagships.
Dubbed the Super Retina Display, for the first time on an iPhone, the X’s 5.8-inch TrueTone 3D Touch-capable screen uses (Samsung-made) AMOLED technology for deeper blacks and punchier hues. It’s also the sharpest iPhone ever, with a resolution of 2436×1125 (using a bizarre 812:375 aspect ratio) and 458ppi as a result. Apple’s also crammed in both HDR10 and Dolby Vision support, bringing it in line with its biggest multimedia-savvy rivals when it comes to HDR visuals.
Apple iPhone X: TrueDepth camera system & Face ID
Aside from looking pretty, there is one obvious trade-off with an edge-to-edge display on an iPhone; no more home button. Apple has axed the most frequently used hardware key on its newest smartphone and in doing so, removed Touch ID too, begging the question – how do users unlock their phones securely and authenticate Apple Pay transactions or app downloads without having to resort to PINs or passwords? The answer? Their faces.
Ditching fingerprint authentication meant Apple had to look at a new and equally, if not more secure unlock method for users of its latest star smartphone. Face ID, as it’s been dubbed uses what the company’s calling the TrueDepth camera system to offer just that.
Along with the conventional front-facing camera, the small black bar that cuts into the top edge of the phone’s display features a myriad of other sensors and equipment, including a flood illuminator, IR camera and a dot projector. Think of it as a distant cousin of the Microsoft Kinect; the flood illuminator ensures that the phone can see your face in light or dark conditions, the dot projector lays a grid of dots on to your face and the IR camera then locates and tracks each dot’s position in 3D space to help ensure that it’s your face in front of the phone.
On top of all that, the phone apparently leverages a neural engine built into its processor (also where your face data is stored in a secure enclave) that relies on a neural network trained with millions of faces and identifiable elements in order to match up your mug with the one it has on file (which you would have input during the phone’s initial setup process). Provided a match is made, Face ID unlocks your phone and then all you have to do is swipe up. Face ID is smart enough to recognise your face whether you change your makeup, throw on a hat and a scarf, change your hair or even grow a beard, and it’ll adjust its acceptable criteria accordingly as your face changes.
Apple also trained its neural network to distinguish between a user’s face and a mask or photo of that user’s face in order to minimise successful spoofing of the TrueDepth system. The company claims that whilst 1 in 50,000 people could potentially unlock someone else’s iPhone using their fingerprint and Touch ID, the chances of a stranger successfully getting past the TrueDepth system is closer to 1 in 1,000,000 (more likely if that person is a genetic relative of the main user). Yet again, an impressive claim that we’ll believe when we test it out for ourselves.
Apple iPhone X: Navigating iOS 11
The iPhone X supports both raise-to-wake as well as tap-to-wake, with the unlock process occurring automatically when the phone detects its user’s face in range. Swiping up unlocks the phone and also serves as the new way to return to your main homescreen from any app. Swiping up and pausing before you let go initiates app switching, whilst swiping down from the top right corner of the screen now reveals Control Center, with a swipe from the top left revealing your notifications.
Apple’s also extended the button on the phone’s right side, which lets you get at Siri or, with a double tap, Apple Pay, provided Face ID decides your mug is passable.
One other, more entertaining use for the TrueDepth camera system is a new iOS feature unique to the iPhone X called ‘Animoji’. As part of Apple’s Messages app, users will be able to use the camera system to convey motion-tracked expressions on 12 custom-modelled 3D animated emoji or ‘animoji’ including a monkey, a unicorn and a pile of poop.
Apple iPhone X: Performance and battery
All three new iPhones sport Apple’s newest A11 Bionic chip; a hexa-core processor with two performance cores that operate 25 percent faster than those found on Apple’s previous A10 Fusion chip and four high-efficiency cores that are up to 70 percent faster than those of its predecessor. This is also the first chipset to feature an Apple-designed GPU that’s 30 percent faster than the old one.
Whilst the company hasn’t confirmed this, under the hood, the iPhone X, like the iPhone 8 Plus also sports 3GB of RAM.
As for the battery, new gains in efficiency mean Apple promises two additional hours of use versus the iPhone 7, with up to 21 hours of talk time, 12 hours of internet use or 13 hours of video playback. The battery is also fast-charging capable, with the promise of 50 percent charge in 30 minutes and for the first time, Apple has introduced wireless charging into the iPhone.
The company has graced its three newest smartphones with Qi wireless charging, one of the most popular standards meaning there should be plenty of places in the world to juice up, and chances are now that Apple’s onboard, the technology will see even faster and more widespread adoption.
Alongside the X Apple also showcased a new AirPower charging mat, scheduled to arrive next year, that will be able to charge a compatible iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods in their new wireless charging case simultaneously. Apple Stores (some of which are being rebranded to ‘Town Halls’ will also now stock Qi wireless charging pads from the likes of Belkin.
Apple iPhone X: Cameras
When the front camera isn’t playing its part in the TrueDepth camera system, it looks like a competent 7-megapixel f/2.2 aperture-laded selfie snapper that, thanks to the hardware and software available, can utilise an upgraded version of Portrait Mode, which we first saw on last year’s iPhone 7 Plus. In addition, its ability to detect a face means you can actually add real-time virtual lighting effects to alter your visage and change it after the fact as well.
Move around to the back and the phone sports a distinctive vertically-aligned dual camera arrangement. Much like Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8, the iPhone X’s main snappers are a pair of 12-megapixel sensors, both with independent OIS systems and an f/1.8 aperture on the wide-angle lens with an f/2.4 aperture on the telephoto module.
Being an iPhone, the X will undoubtedly take amazing photographs in most scenarios, with a lightning-fast shutter and a simple camera interface to work with. In rather impressive fashion, the iPhone X is also the first phone to offer up both 4K video recording at a racy 60 frames per second and 240fps slow-motion recording at 1080p/Full HD resolution.
Apple also promises excellent augmented reality experiences with the iPhone X, thanks to its advanced camera system, the range of sensors at its disposal and the adoption of its AR Kit developer toolset.
Apple iPhone X: Price and availability
The iPhone X launches a little later than the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus pre-orders, going live on October 27th and available from November 3rd. It’ll come in two flavours: a 64GB model costing an insane £999 and a 256GB skew costing an even more outlandish £1149.