Apple's new flagship is the iPhone X, a premium handset with a price tag to match.
What is the iPhone X?
As the rumours suggested, at its 12 September launch event Apple unveiled its new family of handsets, including the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, Apple Watch Series 3 and its new flagship, the iPhone X.
Given that this year’s crop of iPhones coincides with the tenth anniversary of the iPhone line (counting the first, never-released-in-Australia original model), it's no surprise that Apple is referring to the iPhone X as the "iPhone 10". With the launch, it's clear that Apple is pursuing a three-model premium iPhone strategy, with devices in the 5.8-inch, 5-inch and 4.7-inch sizes. Size aside, the key differentiator between these models is the use of an OLED display for the first time in the iPhone X.
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The inclusion of an OLED display allows for a higher contrast ratio than traditional LCDs, albeit with lower brightness. That’s less of an issue for smartphone screens than it is televisions, though, and it also allows designer Sir Jony Ive the ability to produce an even thinner iPhone, and one that has a screen that almost stretches to every front edge of the phone.
It's not quite without sides, especially at the top of the phone where the camera sensors reside, but compared to the more traditional design of the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, it's a definite new approach for Apple.
The other big design shift in the iPhone X is away from an all-metal design and back to a glass-facing body on both sides, similar to that found on the older iPhone 4 handsets. One of the key advantages of having glass on the rear of the phone is the introduction of support for the Qi wireless charging standard. Also, it's rather pretty.
For a long time, rumours suggested Apple was developing a TouchID sensor that wouldn't require a button array at all. Where the iPhone 7 has a virtual button with force feedback to give the impression of a button, the idea was that the entire front of the next iPhone would be a single sheet of uninterrupted glass, with all fingerprint and home button functions handled virtually on the front of the phone.
That's not quite what was released though. While the iPhone 8 still features a TouchID sensor, you won't find one on the iPhone X at all. So how do you unlock the iPhone X or activate features such as Apple Pay?
Apple's solution for these issues is what it's calling FaceID. An array of cameras and sensors at the top of the phone combines with the powerful A11 Bionic chip of the phone to produce real-time facial scanning similar to that found on the Microsoft Kinect. That's no coincidence at all, because Apple actually acquired the company behind the Kinect technology back in 2013.
Machine learning algorithms in FaceID allow the phone to recognise your face, even when you wear glasses, change your hairstyle or grow a beard, and Apple's contention is that it's more secure from hackers than TouchID is. All data captured by FaceID is stored on a secure enclave on the phone itself, with no data being transmitted to Apple or any other party, according to the company.
Is the iPhone X powerful?
The A11 Bionic chip that powers the new iPhone X is the most powerful mobile processor that Apple has ever produced. Building on the iPhone 7’s A10 Fusion processor, Apple claims that the A11 Bionic offers a 70% improvement over the A10's 4 efficiency cores, and a 25% improvement on the performance cores.
A big part of that improvement is the embedded neural engine used for facial recognition, which can reportedly process 600 billion operations per second. A new three-core GPU has also been incorporated into the A11 Bionic chipset, allowing plenty of grunt for Apple's Metal 2 graphic design software and better overall graphical performance. The A11 Bionic also allows for incredible augmented reality experiences leveraging Apple's ARKit platform.
Apple has already announced a number of key features of iOS 11, but using the new front-facing camera system and the A11 Bionic processor, the iPhone X also introduces Animoji, which allow for facial capture in emoji form for sending as messages using Apple Messages.
Does the iPhone X have a good camera?
A large part of Apple's success comes down to the fact that the iPhone has always performed well as a mobile camera. That said, the reality these days for Apple is that it faces significant competition in this space from makers such as Sony, whose Sony Xperia XZ Premium features a 960fps-capable camera; LG, whose LG G6 features dual lens cameras with a wide-angle array and whose LG V30 has a very wide aperture, not to mention Huawei, whose Leica-co-developed lenses adorn models such as the Huawei Mate 9 and Huawei P10.
For the iPhone X, Apple has followed the trend of the iPhone 7 Plus for a dual lens camera system with both a wide-angle and a telephoto lens on the rear. The iPhone X boasts twin 12MP lenses, with a wide angle f1.8 and a telephoto f2.4 lens offering 10x optical zoom for still photos and 6x for video.
Both lenses offer optical image stabilisation, which helps low-light photography. On the front, a 7MP camera is joined with the additional sensors for FaceID, so the iPhone X can support the Portrait mode introduced in the iPhone 7 Plus, as well as a new dynamic lighting feature found in iOS 11.
Apple naturally enough claims that the iPhone X has industry leading photographic prowess, and while early tests suggest that it's going to be a serious competitor in the space, as you'd expect, we'll need to more comprehensively test and assess its camera to see how it really stacks up.
How will I charge the Apple iPhone X?
The big news with the arrival of the iPhone X is the introduction of Qi wireless charging support to accompany the standard Lightning charger. The iPhone X will actively support official Qi chargers, though Apple did confess it is trying to update the standard to allow for new technologies that will enable multiple devices to be charged from a single pad. Apple showed off its plans for an AirPower Mat, which it promised will launch in 2018.
The one slight downside to Apple’s obsession with power has been that traditionally iPhones haven’t had spectacular battery life. According to Apple, the combination of an OLED display and the new A11 Bionic processor means that the iPhone X offers an extra 2 hours over the iPhone 7, which still isn't a particularly impressive figure. We'll have to wait to test the iPhone X to see how it really compares on the battery life front.
Is the iPhone X water resistant?
Apple made the IP67 water resistance a key selling point for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, and it has continued that trend with the iPhone X.
Water resistance isn't the same as saying the iPhone X is waterproof, however. Apple warns not to charge the iPhone X while it is wet, and notes that it does not support warranty claims for water damage to any iPhone model, even those with stated water resistance.
When will the iPhone X be available in Australia?
Apple's pre-orders for the iPhone X begin on 27 October 2017, with shipping commencing on 3 November 2017. This seems to indicate that the rumours of production issues around the iPhone X's OLED screen may have had merit, although we'll have to wait until pre-orders open to see how many units are actually available. It seems prudent to suggest that if you're keen and don't want to face a lengthy wait to be ready to pre-order on 27 October 2017.
Major carriers are also expected to offer the iPhone X on contract, although we'll have to wait until around pre-order time to find out how much they'll charge for the iPhone X on a 24-month deal in Australia.
How much will the iPhone X cost?
Apple positions itself as a premium brand, and it prices its iPhones accordingly. And given Apple is promoting the iPhone X as the future of smartphones, it's not surprising that it has a sizeable price tag.
There will be two models available when the iPhone X goes on sale: a 64GB version and a 256GB version. The 64GB model will cost $1,579 while the 256GB variant will be priced at a hefty $1,829 outright.
That places the iPhone X as the most expensive iPhone Apple has ever sold in Australia, and indeed the most expensive regular model smartphone of any brand sold in Australia to date. There's no word currently on how that will translate to carrier pricing.
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Apple iPhone X Specifications
|Resolution||2436 x 1125|
|Rear Camera||Dual 12MP|
|Processor||Apple A11 Bionic|
|Size||143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7mm|
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