You know? I like the number 9. It’s the highest single digit decimal number, it’s the number for the first month of fall, it’s my favorite number squared, and, for some silly reason, 9/10ths of a cent are added to the price of every gallon of gas in the U.S. Yes, 9 is a pretty special number. Unfortunately, some people tend to disagree with me. Namely, Microsoft and Apple. Microsoft jumped from Windows 8 to Windows 10, perhaps to distance itself from the disaster that was Windows 8, and Apple just released the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X (pronounced “ten”). In one or two years, it’s unlikely they’ll release the iPhone 9 and iPhone 11, they’ll likely mix up the names, so we likely will never see the number 9 on an iPhone. Why’d Apple release an iPhone X (ten in Roman numerals), alongside the iPhone 8? For nostalgia’s sake, of course, but it’s anything but a device stuck in the past. The new iPhones weren’t the only new Apple devices on the stage on during Tuesday’s event. Apple also announced the Apple TV 4K, Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE, and new features of iOS 11. With the introduction of three new flagship iPhone models, it was certainly a unique event, and with the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus going on preorder last Friday, we can get an idea of how popular these devices will be.
iPhone 8/iPhone 8 Plus
There’s no iPhone 7s or iPhone 7s Plus this year, instead Apple released a tweaked design and new model numbers. It’s been suggested that Apple won’t release an iPhone 8s either, deciding instead to continue going up in number, or, because of the confusion around an iPhone X (10) being out this year, and an iPhone 9 seeming like a downgrade, an entirely new naming pattern. The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus feel a bit more like an ‘S’ upgrade anyway. Apple’s added new glass backs, which presents a larger case design change than we typically see in ‘S’ upgrades, along with a full supply of new features, but it’s still the same general design. The iPhone 8 (and iPhone 8 Plus) will feature wireless charging, thanks to that glass back, and new colors. There’s a new gold color that’s somewhere between rose gold and the original gold, as well as a new, darker space gray and whiter silver. Apple claims it’s the most durable glass they’ve ever used, and uses their strong aluminum frame, so it should be able to stand up to damage better. Also, that glass back is easier to grip, so you may be able to hold on to your iPhone without a case, something that iPhone users (with the exception of jet black iPhone 7 users) haven’t been able to do in years. The iPhone 8 is, like the iPhone 7 before it, water and dust resistant. It’ll come with Apple’s new retina displays, which use the True Color technology from their iPad Pro lineup. This makes the screen change white balance based on the lighting around you, making the screen less harsh to look at, and feel more “real,” more based in the real world than a digital intrusion on your life. This display also features a wider color gamut, presumably the P3 specification. Apple upgraded the camera as well. It’s now a 12MP camera with a f/1.8 aperture with deeper pixels. That means it gathers light like no iPhone before it. It can now shoot 4K video in 60 frames per second as well, which means you can still have that buttery smooth motion with your 4K video now. The iPhone 8 Plus adds a second camera to the mix, which has also been improved, like the primary wide angle camera. The telephoto lens is also getting optical image stabilization. The plus also gets new portrait shooting modes, which can do intelligent lighting, as well as removing the background entirely, making it look as though you shot the portrait in a studio. The effect is stunning.
Performance-wise, Apple says to expect about the same battery life from a brand new processor. 2GB of memory in the iPhone 8 and 3GB in the iPhone 8 Plus. There’s a brand new A11 “Bionic” chip, which has 6 cores, all of which can be active at once. This includes 2 high performance cores and 4 low energy cores, so your iPhone can save battery life when it needs to, but use all 6 cores for some serious power as well. Early benchmarks show the A11 processor beating the Intel processor in the base model 13″ MacBook Pro. However, it is worth noting that the MacBook Pro still outperforms in in multithreaded tests, which is more realistic for everyday computing.
The morning of preorders, many models of the iPhone 8 were still in stock, much like the largely unchanged iPhone 7 that came before it. It seems many customers are waiting out for the iPhone X, myself included. They’re available for preorder now, and, as of this writing, should ship in 1-2 weeks. The iPhone 8 comes in two storage sizes. The 64GB iPhone 8 is $699 and the 256GB iPhone 8 is $849. On the Plus side (ha!) the iPhone 8 Plus with 64GB will cost $799, and the 256GB version is $949.
As fantastic as the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are, the iPhone X stole the show (and, presumably, the preorders). The iPhone X will go on sale on October 27th, with a release on November 3rd. It may be the most sought-after iPhone ever. That’s thanks to its incredible new design, which features a nearly bezel-less front face. The phone is about the size of the iPhone 8, but with a new Super Retina display, a 5.8″ OLED screen with a taller 19:9 screen size ratio (compared to the 16:9 of previous iPhones). The screen has the highest pixel density of any iPhone, which alone would make it the best looking screen Apple’s ever used. It sits closer to the glass as well, making it feel more natural to use (especially with Apple’s True Tone color correction). It also uses Apple’s wide color gamut, and is capable of displaying full HD HDR videos. It features the same cameras and processor as the iPhone 8 Plus, so there won’t be a huge, if any, difference in performance between the two models when it comes to speed or photo quality. Apple has said it’s able to sip less power though, thanks to that OLED display, so users could expect another 2 hours of battery life out of the iPhone X in comparison to the iPhone 8.There’s no home button, no Touch ID. Instead, the iPhone X uses advanced 3D facial recognition. Calling it advanced is an understatement. The technology evolves with the person who uses it. The iPhone X does on device machine learning to not only create a model of your face in 3D, but also anticipate what you could look like in the future, if you perhaps were wearing a scarf, changed your hair or makeup, put on glasses, or even if you grew out your beard for no shave November. These face scans and 3D models are all stored on device, encrypted, and are inaccessible outside of it. Apple even thought to train the neural network to recognize highly realistic 3D printed masks, so it won’t be fooled if someone tries to fake it with a realistic mask, like those in the photo above, from Apple’s iPhone X presentation. The notch at the top of the iPhone houses an IR illuminator, IR dot matrix projector, and two cameras, so Face ID can recognize users, even in the dark. Because it uses a 3D scan, it can’t be fooled by a photo of you, like facial recognition from other smartphone manufacturers (hey, Samsung). It only unlocks if you look at your device for a second or so, allowing you to quickly glance away from the screen if a thief tried to point it at you to unlock it. You can also disable Face ID by pressing the volume and power button at the same time from the locked state. Doing the same gesture with the other volume button can take a screenshot.
Facial recognition means Apple can have some fun with face tracking as well. Since Apple’s Face ID makes a 3D model of your face, it can apply that 3D model to other shapes. In iOS 11, it means you can take control of your emoji with Apple’s new Animoji. In Apple’s Messages app, you can send your friends animated versions of a variety of emoji. You can even send video, saying what you want to say through cute emoji. It even means your Snapchat filters are going to get better, with the iOS app featuring iPhone X-only versions of a few fun filters.So here’s the bad news, the iPhone X won’t be available for preorder until October 27th, with its release on November 3rd. It comes in only two colors, silver and space gray, and won’t be available unlocked at launch (T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, or Verizon only). It’ll come in two storage sizes, 64GB for $999, and 256GB for $1,149. So you don’t have to scroll back up, the iPhone X with 64GB will cost $50 more than the most expensive 256GB iPhone 8 Plus model.
Apple Watch Series 3
The Apple Watch Series 3 has LTE. Other than that, it’s pretty much the same as the Apple Watch Series 2. Don’t get me wrong, that’s quite an achievement. Apple managed to add an LTE radio with a hardware SIM chip into the body of the Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE without sacrificing battery life. It’s just about the same size, being only slightly larger than the Apple Watch Series 2 when it comes to the sensor bulge on the back of the watch. It has a weird red dot on the digital crown, to make sure everyone knows you bought the LTE version of the Apple Watch Series 3, have no sense of fashion, but are super cool, for having the latest Apple Watch. (If you couldn’t tell, I think it looks ridiculous.) Already, companies are selling stickers for Apple Watch Series 3 buyers to hide the unsightly dot. A frosted piece of plastic with a small RGB LED under it that could change colors to match the watch face would have looked a little better.
But don’t worry, we you can still get the Series 3 without LTE, and without the red dot. This is essentially nothing more than an Apple Watch Series 2 with the upgraded processor. You can also still buy the Apple Watch Series 1, which is splash resistant, not water proof, and doesn’t have GPS. The new Apple Watch Series 3 is about 70% faster than the Series 2 and Series 1, so for a performance boost you’ll definitely notice, the upgrade to the GPS-only version is definitely worth it. The Series 3 also added a barometric altimeter, so it can tell when you’ve climbed a flight of stairs. Interestingly, the Series 3 with LTE has a ceramic back, while the Series 3 without LTE and the Series 1 both have a composite back. The LTE version also comes with 16GB of storage for apps and photos, while the Series 3 without LTE and Series 1 have 8GB.
The Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE will start at $399 for an aluminum body and either the sport band or new velcro-like sport loop. The Series 3 without LTE will start at $329. The Series 1 is now $249, the least expensive it’s ever been. I still have my Series 1, and it’s a great deal at $249.
Apple TV 4KWhen Apple first released the 4th generation Apple TV, people were a little disappointed. It had the third party apps we’ve wanted to see on the platform for years, it had a cool new controller with a touch sensitive area, motion sensitivity, buttons, and, of course, Siri. But there was one thing it lacked: 4K resolution. The maximum resolution it could pump out was 1080p. This is because Apple outfitted it with a slower processor, an A8, which couldn’t handle 4K. This year, Apple made up for that. The new Apple TV has the A10X, the same processor that can be found in the iPad Pro. It’s capable of displaying 4K video with Dolby Visual High Dynamic Range, making colors appear more realistically, with greater contrast and detail than resolution alone can provide. It’s also got Bluetooth 5.0 for better battery life on the new and slightly improved Apple Siri Remote. If you already have a 4th generation Apple TV, and don’t have a 4K TV, you may want to hold on to it for now. However, if you have a 4K TV, didn’t get the last Apple TV, or don’t mind the $179 starting price, you can grab an Apple TV 4K on September 22nd.
One More Thing…
Apple has been careful to keep from uttering those three words since Steve Jobs passed away. Those were his words, saved for the most exciting new product Apple would present. He took great pleasure in showing off everything Apple had been working on, alongside one big surprise, one thing to really delight customers. So, Apple held off from using his words until now. Steve Jobs believed in creating something wonderful, and giving it to the world. In the Steve Jobs theater on the new Apple campus, Apple believes they did that with the iPhone X, peak iPhone, the best it had ever been on the 10th iteration. Apple was proud of this phone, and believes Steve would be too. The other products Apple introduced are great as well, surely. The iPhone 8 would have been a fine upgrade on its own, as would the LTE Apple Watch and Apple TV 4K. However, the iPhone X was truly special, something Apple dared to make in time to show off. I think the folks at Apple are right, Steve would be proud to see the company he made flourish like this, continuing to make wonderful things, and show their appreciation by putting it out there.