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Apple's Fall 2017 Event Round Up: iPhone X

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Apple has held their annual Fall Event. The biggest aspect to any Fall event is the unveiling of new iPhones. This event does indeed include new iPhones. Apple's fall event is the one that receives the most attention from not just technology media, but, more importantly, from those outside of the technology sphere. With that fact in mind Apple chose to hold this year's event at the new Steve Jobs Theater on the new Apple Park campus. To me, it seems quite befitting to have the first event at the new Steve Jobs Theater be the unveiling of iPhones. This is because back in January of 2007, Steve Jobs stood on stage at the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco and unveiled the first iPhone, one that would revolutionize not just only the mobile phone industry, but also the technology sphere in general. The mobile phone revolution has ushered in one of the greatest technology shifts of the last few centuries. While Today's iPhone announcements may, to some, seem evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, the march of progress continues. This article focuses solely on the iPhone X. I have all of the information about the Apple TV, Apple Watch, and iPhone 8 in a separate article.

iPhone X

Apple announced the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. There is just "one more thing" that Apple announced, a third new phone. That model is the future of smartphones, and is the iPhone X. The iPhone X is an all new design for the iPhone. Before we dive into the features of the iPhone X, let us talk about colors, which many may think are not important, but are often used to help personalize an iPhone.

Colors

The original iPhone in 2007 came in just one color, aluminum. The iPhone 3G introduced a second color, white. These two colors remained the only options until 2013 when Gold was introduced with the iPhone 5s. Unless you were willing to purchase a Space Gray, or Black, iPhone, all other faces on the iPhone line are white. This changes with the iPhone X. Now, all fronts of the iPhone X are black. This means that for those who only wanted a black bezel to their iPhones can now get something besides Black or Space Gray.

The back of the iPhone is where people really select their colors. iPhones since the iPhone 6s, meaning the 6s and 7, have had four options. Silver, Gold, Rose Gold, and Space Gray. The iPhone X has a slightly different set of colors as options. There are only two options available, Silver and Space Gray. There is no option for the front face, as it barely there. The selection of Silver and Space Gray should come as no surprise, as these are likely the most popular colors purchased. It is not easy to determine which model will be the most popular, and with such a revolutionary phone, it may be prudent to stick with just a couple of colors to gauge interest before expanding the color choice. Let us dive into the internals of the iPhone X.

Internals

One change that occurs with each new iPhone is the interior components. The new iPhone X contains the new A11 Bionic processor along with its M11 motion co-processor. The A11 Bionic This brings even better battery efficiency and processing to the phone. The A11 Bionic is a six core processor that consists of four high efficiency cores that are up to 70 percent faster than A10 Fusion. It also has two high performance cores that are up to 25 percent faster than the A10 Fusion. To go with the processor, Apple has included a new Apple-designed graphics processor as well. This will get 30% faster performance over the graphics in the A10 Fusion.

There is an all new item incorporated with the A11 Bionic, a neural engine. The neural engine will allow even faster processing of Augmented Reality and Machine Learning than the A10 Fusion. The neural engine is designed not only for Augmented Reality and Machine Learning, but can be used for many other things like processing of items within photos and much much more. The neural engine will work very well with a new feature, one that replaces the home button.

Home Button

The new iPhone X an edge to edge screen. The thing that is most conspicuously missing is the home button. The home button no longer has a place on the iPhone X. With the home button gone, there have been some other changes. One of the primary functions of the home button is to get you back to the home screen. This is still accessible, however there is a new way of doing so. The home screen is now accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. Doing this will actually bring up the app switcher, which is very similar to the function within the iPad. To actually get to the home screen just tap on an empty area of the app switcher and the home screen will appear. Again, this is exactly how it works on an iPad under iOS 11. The second primary function of the home button to both unlock the phone as well as to use Apple Pay, and finally to force a refresh should something cause your iPhone to freeze. How are these to be done with the iPhone X? There are new methods for accomplishing all of these tasks.

Biometrics

Apple Pay is a core part of Apple's strategy for iOS and macOS and it makes up a good part of their services revenue. To that end, Apple would not remove Apple Pay from its products; particularly when they announced the Person-to-Person Apple Pay within iMessage on iOS 11. Without a home button with integrated Touch ID to place your finger on to authenticate Touch ID, you can now use the new Face ID technology. At the top of the iPhone X there is a notch that contains a number of sensors. These include the front camera as well as the new infrared sensors for the new Face ID. Face ID is the replacement for TouchID on the iPhone X. If you have used Touch ID, and a vast majority of users have, you are accustomed to placing your finger on the Touch ID sensor. Face ID is similar, but instead of your finger, the new infrared sensors scan your face to determine that it is indeed you. The setup for Face ID is similar to Touch ID. When you setup Face ID, you move the camera around your face a bit. This is done to be able to get different angles of your face. This is exactly like setting up Touch ID where you place your finger in different spots to make sure that Touch ID works as often as possible.

Face ID will only unlock your iPhone X if you are actively looking at it. This means that the iPhone X will not unlock if you are looking away, or have your eyes closed. Unlike a fingerprint, people's faces do not stay the same over time. Hair styles change, men grow mustaches or beards, and people wear hats, add glasses, or many other alterations. As time progresses, Face ID will learn about all of these changes and continue to unlock your phone, just like it did when you initially set up Face ID. What powers all of Face ID is powered by the all new TrueDepth Camera sensor.

TrueDepth Camera

There is an area at the at the top of the screen of the iPhone X. This notch houses a number of the camera sensors for the iPhone. It also requires some accommodations within iOS. The adjustments that are needed revolve around the status bar. The status bar has been a staple of iOS since the beginning. iOS has always shown the time, carrier information, wireless status, and battery. This is still the case with the iPhone X, but the information is now displayed around the notch. On the left is the cellular and wireless information. While on the right is the time, Do not Disturb, Bluetooth, battery, and the current time.

One of the features introduced under iOS 9, is the "back" button to go back to where you were. This is still present. When you follow a deep link that allows you to go back to the previous app, this information will be shown on the left, however instead of being in the left of the status bar, it will be directly below the items on the left side of the status bar. This should actually make it easier for users to go back to the previous app. There is a lot sensors packed within the TrueDepth Camera, let us turn to that now.

There are eight different sensors in the top. These are:

  • Infrared Camera
  • Flood Illuminator
  • Proximity Sensor
  • Ambient Light Sensor
  • Speaker
  • Microphone
  • Front Camera
  • Dot Projector

The Infrared Camera, Flood illuminator, and Dot Projector are all parts that work together to be sure that it is truly your face that is being shown on the screen. These three sensors, combined with the Neural Engine of the A11 Bionic, is able to quickly and seamlessly detect that you are who are you. The Dot Projector will project and detect 30,000 different invisible dots to be able to look at each feature of your face. The there are three items that occur nearly simultaneously. These items are:

  1. Your Face is detected with the flood illuminator.
  2. The infrared camera takes an infrared picture.
  3. The Dot projector detects 30,000 invisible dots.

The infrared image and dot project are mathematically calculated using the Neural Engine within the A11 Bionic, and a calculation occurs. This is done through specialized hardware and machine learning algorithms that are within the neural engine. The neural engine is capable of handling 600 billion operations per second on a dual-core processor. All of this results in nearly instantaneous calculations. This new calculation is compared to the stored calculation within the secure enclave and if it matches, your phone is unlocked.

Security with Face ID is important, just as it is with Touch ID. Face ID will not allow pictures of you to be able to be used to unlock your iPhone X. Apple states that with Touch ID, the likelihood of someone being able to randomly come up and unlock your iPhone with their fingerprint is 1 in 50,000. With Face ID, this is reduced to 1 in a million. The chances for Face ID are reduced if someone closely related to you tries to unlock your iPhone X with Face ID. That is Face ID in a nutshell, let us move to the thing that you look at the most, the screen.

The Screen

The new iPhone X has a completely new edge-to-edge screen. This screen Optical Light Emitting Diode, or OLED, screen. OLED is a bit different from the traditional Liquid Crystal Display, or LCD, screens that have appeared on the previous iPhone models. There are two big benefits with OLED. The first is that OLED allows for darker blacks and brighter whites. This ultimately means that the picture that is shown will be even better than on LCDs. The second benefit is that OLED uses less electricity, which improves battery life. And who does not like better battery life?

To complement the new OLED screen, the iPhone X incorporates True Tone. True Tone is the same technology that is within the 10.5-inch iPad Pro and second generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. True Tone utilizes a light sensor to be able to automatically adjust the colors on the screen. Combining True Tone with the OLED screen means that the display should be able to produce even better colors; particularly within sunlight.

The edge-to-edge form-factor means more than just less bezel space. It also means that the iPhone X has a distinct resolution. The resolution of the iPhone X is 2436 pixels tall by 1125 pixels wide. This is not a screen resolution that has been on an iPhone before. The biggest change occurred in 2014 with the release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus when developing on the iPhone required supporting two more screen sizes. This was in addition to the already known, at the time, 320 pixels by 480 pixels, the retina size of this, 640 pixels by 960 pixels. The first significant change was with the iPhone 5 and its screen resolution of 640 pixels by 1136 pixels. It was was only a difference of 176 pixels in height, and usually meant that you were able to show more items vertically.

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus introduced the two new screen sizes of 750 pixels wide by 1334 pixels high. The iPhone 6 Plus introduced a screen resolution of 1080 pixels wide by 1920 pixels high. The way that developers can make sure that they work with any screen size is through the use of size classes. The addition of this new screen resolution shows that Apple is not afraid to branch out and create a screen resolution that does not fit what developers, as well as users, have become accustom to. If you are a developer, it is becoming increasingly difficult to not use size classes within your applications. Any applications that do not conform to size class will quickly become apparent to users of the iPhone X.

One of the complaints, by some, is that the Plus-sized phones are not comfortable in the hand. The screen resolution of the iPhone X is, of course, due to the physical screen size; which is 5.15 inches. With the edge-to-edge nature of the screen, all of this fits within approximately the same size as the 4.7-inch iPhone 8. This screen size is not as large as the screen on the iPhone 8 Plus, which is 5.5-inches. Even with the physical screen being smaller, the screen resolution is still larger than the Plus-sized phones. This is a nice size between the two, which should help appease some of those who find the Plus-sized phone to be too large and having a larger area is just an added bonus.

Camera

The biggest digital camera on the market right now is the iPhone. The iPhone, along with other mobile phones, has replaced the use of traditional cameras for many people, including myself. This trend is why Apple has paid significant attention to the camera in recent releases of the iPhone. The camera in the iPhone X has some new capabilities that were not available previously. The camera is now capable of recording 1080p HD at 240 frames per second, 4K at 24 frames per second , and even 4K at 60 frames per second. The 1080p at 240fps, and 4K at 60fps are double what the previous iPhones were capable of handling. The new 4K at 24 fps is possible through the use of HEVC. HEVC is capable of handling many different frame rates. The use of 24 frames per second is standard within the movie world and will allow you to take film style video.

The addition of new video filming options will absolutely help drive even more video and photos being shot on iPhone, which is an ad campaign that they have been running, and this should allow even better submissions.

The new Front Camera, within the TrueDepth Camera system, is upgraded over the FaceTime HD camera on the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. The front camera is also capable of taking Portrait Mode photos. Combining this with Portrait Lighting on the front camera, means that you can take some fantastic selfies. The front facing camera is great for selfies, but there is a new feature specifically on the iPhone X, that can be used with the front camera.

The first is Portrait Mode on the front facing camera. It is nice to be able to take Portrait photos with the rear facing camera, but being able to get a portrait mode selfie will allow you to up your selfie game against others. Another adjacent feature is Portrait Lighting. Portrait Lighting will let you adjust not only the lighting on your face, but also the lighting of the background. The best part is that this can be done after the fact. So if you take a selfie but think it could be a bit better with some more light, you can make the adjustments afterwards to get an even better picture.

There are some other enhancements with the rear-facing camera. You can now record video in 4K at 60 frames per second, this is double the speed on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. The telephoto lens on the iPhone X now includes optical image stabilization, which was not present on any previous iPhone, but is present on the iPhone 8 Plus.

The last new feature with the front camera is one that may be quite popular with kids.

Animoji

Apple unveiled a lot of information its World Wide Developer Conference event in June, but they left out a couple of new features that are present in iOS 11. The biggest, and one that will appeal to many users, is the inclusion of some enhancements to emoji. Emoji are a progression in communication mechanisms by many across the world. Emoji can add additional expression that could be conveyed via the written word, but are vastly more succinct through the use of an emoji character. One of the benefits of emoji is that they can be used for both their intended purpose, as well as ironically, or with an alternate meaning.

Take, for instance, the use of the eggplant, 🍆 emoji. It can be used to indicate that you want to eat some eggplant; however it can also be used as a phallic symbol. Similarly, you can send someone a peach, 🍑, emoji. Again, to signify that you want to eat a peach, or tell someone that you think they are a peach, or even that you are peachy keen. It also has been used as replacement for one backside. The last example that I will use is the infamous poop emoji, 💩. If you are of a certain age, you may also refer to him as "Mr. Hanky". Just like the 🍆 and 🍑, 💩 can also be used in a variety of situations. One situation would allow you to indicate that you are not feeling well. Whereas another would be that you might be indicating to someone that they are being a pile of poop. All of these examples above are just a few of the various ways that emoji can be used to signal meaning. These are all just static two dimensional representations.

Apple has expounded upon this concept by including a new feature for iMessage called Animoji. Animoji take the concept of a static emoji but it utilizes your face as well as your voice, to determine which emoji might represent your current expression. Besides just choosing an emoji, which is a feat in itself, the emoji that it chooses is three dimensional and animated. Some of the emoji that are represented by Animoji are the 🐵, 🤖, 🐱, 🐶, and yes even 💩. There are more, but these are just some of the one that are available.

When you begin to send an Animoji within iMessage, your head movements will be mimicked on screen in real time, at the same time you can be speaking and you voice will be recorded. You can then send the Animoji to someone via iMessage. It will then be played back to them. Animojis, while they may seem trivial or dumb, will add a bit of excitement and fun to the existing emoji. It will be interesting to see what faces people can make and what Animoji iOS 11 will show them.

Wireless Charging

The back of the iPhone X is glass. This allows for a new feature, wireless charging. The standard that Apple is using on the iPhone X is the Qi, pronounced "she", standard. This means that if you have a Qi-compliant charging pad, it will work with the iPhone X. The inclusion of wireless charging will allow users to simply place their iPhone on a charging pad and it should begin charging. This means that you will not have to plug in your iPhone just to have it charge. This is convenient, not only for home, but also if you travel. This is because you can bring a charging mat that will allow your iPhone, Apple Watch Series 3, and even AirPods charge wirelessly.

There is a new product coming in 2018 called "AirPower". AirPower is a mat designed by Apple that will allow you to charge all of your Apple devices at once. This is great not just for travelers, but also as a place to be able to set all of your items and know where they are located.

Pre-orders and Pricing

The iPhone X is the future of the smart phone, and with that it commands a futuristic price. The iPhone X comes in two configurations, 64GB and 256GB and as mentioned above, it comes in two colors, Silver and Space Gray. The 64GB model is $999 and the 256GB model is $1149. Apple Care on the iPhone X has also gone up to $199. This brings the total to somewhere between $1200 and $1349. It is available for pre-orders starting October 27th, with delivery starting on November 3rd. It is very possible that the iPhone X will be in short supply after launch.

Final Thoughts

The all new iPhone X, much like with the introduction of the MacBook in early 2015, is showing us the direction it is going to take not just the iPhone X, but phones in the future. The bezel-less display has some great upgrades, in particular the fact that a larger 5.8-inch screen fits into a form factor just slightly larger than the 4.7-inch screen. The new TrueDepth camera allows Face ID to exist. The addition of a neural engine within the A11 processor allows the computation that is necessary to make Face ID open quickly and seamlessly. The inclusion of wireless charging is a great step towards a completely wireless future. Even though it may seem trivial, the inclusion of the new Animoji will add a new dynamic to interactions amongst individuals. The new Animoji feature will be a great demo to show off just what the iPhone X is capable of doing. Even though the iPhone X is pricey at $999 for the 64GB model, it is the future, which means that the technology within the iPhone X will eventually trickle down to the lower end phones.

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