Apple on Tuesday made its long-awaited iPhone splash, accompanied by announcements of major upgrades to Apple Watch and Apple TV.
The company launched two new generations of mobile phones — iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, and iPhone X — with enhancements in photography and device security in all models.
The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are built for durability with a new glass back design and aerospace-grade aluminum bezel. They come in three colors: space gray, silver and gold.
The phones feature a powerful new A11 bionic chip — the most powerful smartphone chip in the industry, and 70 percent faster than the previous A10 chip, according to Apple.
Together, the camera functionality and the powerful chip are designed to provide a sophisticated augmented reality experience, with gyroscopes and accelerometers installed for accurate motion tracking.
The 12-MP camera features a larger and faster sensor and high-quality video capture. The iPhone 8 Plus features dual 12-MP cameras and introduces portrait mode.
With the new glass back design, the phones can be charged wirelessly using the Qi ecosystem, with charging mats from Belkin and mophie available for sale.
When AirPower is released next year, it will allow users to charge up to three devices at the same time, including the 8 and X phones, the Apple Watch Series 3 and AirPods.
The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus will start at US$699, with 64-GB and 256-GB models available online or at the Apple store.
The new iPhone X, powered by an A11 bionic chip, breaks the bank in terms of new security features and price point, starting at a hefty $999.
The phone features an all-glass design on both sides, which provides a wider screen area for viewing, and a 5.8-inch Super Retina display.
The phone uses a major new facial recognition authentication system, Face ID, which employes a TrueDepth camera system that projects 30,000 invisible infrared dots.
Neural networks create a mathematical formula to authenticate the identity of the user, allowing only the legitimate owner to unlock the device.
Describing it as an inflection point in the history of television, Apple CEO Tim Cook introduced Apple TV 4K, which brings cinematic quality to television. The new device supports both High Dynamic Range and 4K technology, which has four times the number of pixels as traditional HD video.
The Apple TV 4K features the A10 Fusion chip, the same one found on the iPad Pro device.
iTunes users will get automatic upgrades of HD titles to 4K HDR in their existing libraries, and customers will get access to 4K HDR on third-party video services like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and others.
Users of the TV App, which works with Siri, will be able to get automatic updates of live sports, along with on-screen notifications of their favorite teams’ activities and breaking news. The app will be available this month in the U.S, Canada and Australia before expanding to France, Germany, Norway, Sweden and the UK.
More Watch Features
In an effort to move the bar in the wearables category, Apple introduced Watch Series 3, which adds new functionality in the health and fitness category, while untethering users from the dual device requirement. Watch users no longer are limited to using it only in tandem with the iPhone.
The latest Watch includes a full LTE and UMTS cellular radio, which allows users to make cellular calls directly from the Watch and even link it to AirPods for a full wireless experience.
Watch contains a minute SIM card, measuring less than 1/100th the size of a traditional card, and the display functions as the Watch antenna. The Watch uses the same number as the user’s mobile phone.
The Watch uses a W2 custom wireless chip, which is 85 percent faster for WiFi and Bluetooth, and 50 percent more power efficient. It includes a barometric altimeter, and tracks outdoor workouts, climbing stairs and other activity.
WatchOS 4 includes an upgraded app for measuring heart rate, and customers will be able to get notifications for elevated resting heart rates or irregular heart rhythms.
With the release of WatchOS 4, Apple Music users will be able to stream more than 40 million songs directly to their devices.
Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS) starts at $329, while Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular) starts at $399. They will be available to order starting Friday and will be in stores on Sept. 22.
Beyond the Hoopla
The jury is still out as to how much movement Apple may see from Tuesday’s presentation.
‘They lived up to the rumors,” said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.
The 8 and 8 Plus are simply an evolution of the current phones, and the X is now the most expensive in the world — but not the first with a full screen or OLED, he told TechNewsWorld.
The only really new feature is the facial recognition technology, but that’s likely to be a feature of all the high-end phones next year, McGregor said.
The biggest breakthrough for Apple is the facial recognition and neural network, said Todd Day, connected devices program manager at Frost & Sullivan.
Beyond that, it’s just a rollout of more advanced hardware and software, he told TechNewsWorld.
The facial recognition feature is a big gamble for Apple, noted Matt Schultz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com, noting that the stakes are high if the technology fails to live up to the promise.
“This is a high-risk move for Apple, especially in the wake of the Equifax breach,” he told TechNewsWorld. “The debacle has put data security front and center in people’s minds.”
If the facial recognition technology is not up to standard, Schultz suggested, it could damage Apple’s plans for expanding Apple Pay.