iPhone X, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and LTE Apple Watch: Everything we know

Alex Kidman 11 September 2017

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The launch of the iPhone X might just be the least surprising in Apple's history.

Apple's iPhone launches are always surrounded by an air of mystery and anticipation because Apple itself is a company that generally prides itself on secrecy. That hasn't stopped an entire industry of rumour sites and investigative types leaking information on the company's plans, leading to a great deal of mixed speculation and fact.

This year's iPhone launch has been a little different, thanks largely to the leak over the weekend of the gold master version of iOS 11. That code contained numerous references to details that had been rumoured but not confirmed for Apple's upcoming iPhone lines, giving the strongest evidence possible as to what's to come.

It's always feasible that the leak was deliberate, following the pattern that many other tech companies use to hype up their upcoming handsets, but either way we know a lot more than we usually would at this point in the rumour and hype cycle.

Apple will formally announce its new handsets at its "Meet at our Place" event, which you can watch online here on 12 September 2017. Apple is expected to kick off pre-sales for the new iPhone models from 15 September 2017, with actual device availability likely on either 22 September or 29 September 2017.

Here's what we know (or think we know) so far.

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Apple iPhone X

The hero phone of the iPhone family had long been tipped to be named the "iPhone 8", but that now appears to be the branding that we'll see on the two other handsets that had previously been tipped to be named the iPhone 7s and 7s Plus.

The first key aspect revealed in the iOS 11 code was the naming structure for the new premium iPhone. Previous code had suggested that Apple was internally referring to the new top-end iPhone as "D22", but the new code explicitly calls out a model referred to as the "iPhone X".

That's almost certainly a reference to the fact that this is the tenth anniversary of the iPhone, although we can expect significant confusion around whether folks call it the "iPhone 10" or "iPhone X" in conversation. For reference, back when Apple called macOS by its macOS X moniker, the X was a very solid 10.

In terms of display, the iPhone X is expected to have a 5.8-inch OLED display with virtually no detectable bezels at all except for the top housing for the front-facing camera. If accurate, that would indicate that Apple is either embedding the home button within the display, a technology it's been rumoured to have some trouble with, or eschewing it entirely in favour of facial-recognition technology.

The iOS 11 master has references to "Face ID", using the front camera and carefully taken 3D images of the user's face for authentication to unlock the phone and possibly for Apple Pay compatibility. Apple has been very clear on its desire for security within its Apple Pay payments service, so it will have to go in heavy on the security side to convince users this is safe given the furore around the ease of unlocking similar facial recognition features on handsets such as the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8. The code within iOS 11 does suggest that Apple is capturing a lot of detail about user's faces, with the inclusion of infrared detection to get around issues of low light.

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Aside from the 3D sensing capabilities of the front camera to enable Face ID, there's not too much detail around the iPhone X's camera capabilities, although having dual lens is almost a lock given it was a feature of the iPhone 7 Plus, and the iPhone X is meant to be the top of the 2017 iPhone family. The one feature we do know something about is what the iOS 11 code refers to as "Animoji", which are animated emoji characters that may take their expressions from your own, using the front camera's 3D sensing capacity.

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Apple is expected to stay with its own lightning charging connection standard, but with the addition of wireless charging, possibly using the Qi charging standard as a reference platform, although it's always possible that the iPhone X will still rely on a "Made for iPhone" licence fee to properly authenticate and charge the new phone wirelessly.

On the processing front, it's expected that Apple will debut the A11 CPU in the 2017 iPhones, with what's rumoured to be a 6-core, 10nm chip produced by TSMC, with at least 3GB of RAM. Apple has never strayed away from fixed storage on its phones, so expect some variant of 32GB, 128GB and 256GB storage for the iPhone X, although it's also possible that Apple may make the iPhone X a high-storage variant only to slightly dampen the shock of its expected sticker price.

In style terms, it's been rumoured that like last year's Jet Black iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, Apple may only produce the iPhone X in a limited range of colours, with silver, black and gold the most likely candidates. It seems likely that there will be a PRODUCT(RED) version later on, given Apple's strong links with that charity, but you'll have to wait for that version.

Now, for the difficult but not surprising news. All this technology isn't likely to come cheap, especially given that Apple is apparently having to source all of its OLED displays from Samsung Technologies, which means Samsung can set its own pricing. Apple thinks of itself as a premium brand anyway, but it's expected that the iPhone X will even break the price point of the 256GB iPhone 7 Plus, which currently sells in Australia for $1569. Some rumours have tipped the top-end iPhone X models to sell for close to $2,000 outright.

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Apple iPhone 8/Apple iPhone 8 Plus

With all the goodies packed into the iPhone X, what's left for the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus? It seems likely that there will still be a fair amount to be excited by with the updates to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Both new phones will feature the A11 CPU and wireless charging features as well as the continuance of features such as water resistance.

The iOS 11 leak suggests that rather than go with the tick-tock style of its "s" branding for the follow-up year to its iPhone 7 lines, Apple will instead opt to call the new phones iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. That's essentially a marketing call, presumably to make the new phones appear to be significant upgrades to the iPhone 7 family while not too far behind the iPhone X line.

The key difference that seems locked in is that the new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus will feature LED displays rather than the OLED display on the top-tier iPhone X. Apple has produced phones with wonderfully colour-balanced LEDs in years past, but their battery life has generally left a lot to be desired. The A11 chip should be more power efficient than recent models, but it's an open question as to whether that will be enough to break the iPhone battery curse.

In terms of screen sizes, the rumours suggest that Apple will stay the course with the iPhone 8 featuring a 4.7-inch display while the iPhone 8 Plus runs with a 5.5-inch screen.

If facial recognition doesn't float your boat, or you're concerned by the security implications, it appears that the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus will feature more "traditional" iPhone bodies including standard TouchID buttons for verification purposes. Glass backs for the phones are likely in order to incorporate wireless charging properly, and like the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, don't expect to see a headphone jack make a reappearance any time soon.

The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8's cameras are likely to be only marginal improvements over the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, with most rumours pointing to the same single lens setup for the iPhone 8 and dual lens for the iPhone 8 Plus. They're not likely to have the same sensitivity for their front cameras as the iPhone X, which means that both Face ID and Animoji features aren't likely to be present.

In pricing terms, if the iPhone X occupies the high ground, we can expect the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus to stay the course relative to the current iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus pricing. That means that the range of prices for different storage tiers is likely to bounce between $1,000 to $1,500, although Apple will have to pick and choose pricing carefully to incorporate the iPhone X into the matrix without making it too expensive or making the iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus poor value by comparison. Either way, start saving your pennies or overloading your credit card now.

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Apple Watch 3

Apple is expected to announce the third generation of its Apple Watch smartwatch family, with the key new feature being the integration of 4G LTE connectivity. That means that you'll be able to use the Apple Watch in a standalone basis when away from your phone for a range of online activities, although it's not yet clear if this will extend to making traditional mobile phone calls. VoIP calls seem more likely.

While rumours suggested that Apple may be looking at new form factors for the Apple Watch 3, it now appears that it will have the same fundamental square design as the existing Apple Watch and Apple Watch Series 2. New bands in different colours are exceptionally likely as well as a few brand tie-ups, quite possibly including existing Apple partners Nike and Hermés.

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4K Apple TV

The Apple TV hasn't seen an upgrade since 2015, at which time Apple was dead keen on the idea that its tiny set-top box would take on the console world with a range of apps, games and streaming media. A few years later and the app avalanche hasn't occurred, although the Apple TV remains one of the finest set-top boxes you can add to your existing TV.

The one feature that no generation of Apple TV has supported to date has been 4K streaming. Early rumours suggest that this could be a feature uncovered through the firmware for Apple's upcoming HomePod speaker. There's further reference to multiple 4K modes in the iOS 11 gold master code, meaning that a 4K Apple TV is all but a certainty.

It's always possible that support for such a device may be built into iOS 11 but that Apple won't actually announce the new Apple TV at its launch event. It certainly won't get quite as much stage time as the new iPhones are likely to.

We'll be covering the launch of the iPhone X, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and Apple Watch 3 from the early hours of Wednesday morning when Apple will confirm what appears to be its most-leaked launch ever.

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