It's a big year for Apple. This is the year Apple finally introduces some major technological upgrades from augmented-reality and improved cameras to OLED screens in its iPhone lineup. And in doing so, they've released three new models alongside each other, the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X. Most importantly for us, however, is that the new iPhones not only feature the best cameras yet, but also more broadly represent the biggest leap in image technology in a single year thanks both to new hardware and software.
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus most closely replace the 7 and 7 Plus, while the iPhone X represents a new elite category for the iPhone with a massive 5.8" OLED display. The new iPhones feature a six-core A11 Bionic processor with four lower-clock-speed high-efficiency cores and two faster cores that contribute to more efficient and balanced processing for different types of tasks.
The nearly bezel-less OLED display on the iPhone X looks amazing with the lack of a home button or Touch ID as we welcome in the era of truly secure facial recognition through Apple's new Face ID facial recognition system. Face ID is even more secure than Touch ID and is 20 times less likely to be tricked by a stranger's attempt to unlock your phone. If you're looking for something more fun, Apple has you covered with Animojis (emojis that animate based on your facial response in real time) in the iPhone X.
These features are all nice, but we won't get too hung up on under-the-hood specifications because Apple's tight integration of hardware and software make the numbers on paper a moot point relative to comparing with other phones. Apple always builds the hardware it needs in order to support the software features it wants to support. Whatever the numbers are, Apple will have made sure they work for today's tech.
Instead, we can take the increased RAM and more powerful processing setup as a queue that Apple is, once again, gearing up for more. And this year, that "more" is all about augmented reality, or AR, and the power to take more professional photos seamlessly. While virtual reality has grabbed headlines above its augmented cousin thanks to its ability to transport you to another world, it's augmented reality that has particularly interesting potential as a tool for integrating the digital world into our real world. Trying out a new couch in the living room within an interior design application is just the beginning.
iPhone 8 and 8 Plus
Let's get a little more specific about each model, because there is some larger differentiation this year. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus models still feature a home button and Touch ID and do not feature Face ID. However, they also shed the metal back in favor of a glass one that allows for Qi wireless charging.
Meanwhile, Apple is staying with a 12MP camera on the back of the iPhone 8 and dual 12MP cameras on the 8 Plus, but is upgrading the camera by increasing sensor size, power-efficiency, dynamic range, and more. As we know, larger sensors allow for larger pixels, which allow for more light and, in turn, better image quality.
Apple also introduced a TrueDepth Lighting feature that makes use of portrait mode to separate the subject from the background, identify facial features, and edit the photo seamlessly as though a professional photographer lit the subject in a number of different styles.
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus also include hardware-enabled noise reduction and improved image processing, including a new system that breaks the each frame of video into two million individual tiles and analyzes them every second to optimize the image based on content to create sharper and more vibrant videos in 4K at up to 60 fps or in 1080p now up to 240 fps.
Meanwhile, new gyroscopes and accelerometers offer improved AR performance.
The iPhone X features a similar form to the iPhone 8 alongside some notable changes. A surgical-grade, polished stainless steel frame and glass back in a pearlescent Space Grey or Silver set this model apart with the embedded OLED display while maintaining the same Qi wireless charging standard and water and dust resistance. Apple made it a special point to note that OLED technologically has historically featured a number of improvements over more traditional LED display types but at the cost of color accuracy and saturation. This display, dubbed the Super Retina Display, however, solves those problems by supporting HDR 10 and Dolby Vision, a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, and great color accuracy with the same TrueTone display. It also features the highest pixel density at 458 PPI with 2,436 x 1,125 pixels spanning its 5.8" display.
With an edge-to-edge and top-to-bottom display, the iPhone X features no home button. Now, you tap the screen anywhere to wake, or you can still raise to wake. Swipe up from the bottom of any app to go back home. And speak to the phone for Hey, Siri, or press the larger side button in to activate Siri. Unlocking is done naturally with Face ID, which detects when you are looking at the phone.
The iPhone X features the same 12MP sensors as the iPhone 8 Plus, but arranges them at a 90-degree offset comparatively. Also, an f/2.4 instead of f/2.8 aperture telephoto lens sits on the back of the X while optical image stabilization on both rear cameras on the iPhone X as well as a quad-LED true-tone flash for more even flash lighting help create even better photos.
iPhone X TrueDepth Camera, which uses a combination of front-facing cameras and sensors for Face ID, supports selfies taken with TrueDepth Lighting and Portrait Mode through the front-facing cameras.
In spite of these hardware and software improvements, the iPhone X provides two hours longer battery life than the iPhone 7.
On the software side, the new iPhones will ship with iOS 11, which, amongst many other improvements, makes the landmark shift from using the nearly quarter-century-old JPEG format to a newer format called HEIF (creatively standing for High Efficiency Image File Format — I'm just happy we don't have two F's). The HEIF is a format that supports GIF-style animations, transparency, and more, all while enabling saving space with better compression. A similar quality image to a JPEG is expected to take roughly half of the storage space. And don't worry, whenever you send an image or export it for another application, Apple seamlessly converts it to a JPEG for sharing, but maintains the original as the main file. We can only hope everyone will eventually support the new file type. If history is any lesson, it's only a matter of time.
Apple also announced the Apple Watch Series 3 with available in-watch LTE, Apple TV 4K with HDR 10 and Dolby Vision support, and showed a sneak peek of AirPower, a larger charging matt coming next year that will make it easy to wirelessly charge multiple devices at once. Notably absent from these announcements was any discussion around 3D imaging or video, which was rumored to be a large reason behind the change in orientation of the dual-camera setup on the iPhone X. However, Apple has not historically chased after 3D experiences, as it has chosen to concentrate on its AR Kit for which this camera shift could easily be just as beneficial.
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will be available in 64GB and 256GB options starting at $699. The iPhone 8 Plus will start at $799, while both 256GB models will come at a $149 premium. The iPhone X will cost $999 or $1,149 for 64GB and 256GB options, respectively.
All of the products announced today except the iPhone X will be available for pre-order Friday, Sept. 15 and will ship Sept. 22. The iPhone X will be available for pre-order October 27 and will ship November 3.
The new iPhone lineup keeps nearly all of the devices you could still buy yesterday, but at reduced prices and reduced maximum storage options for some, including the following: iPhone 7 starting at $549, iPhone 6S starting at $449, and iPhone SE starting at $349. There are now 16 separate models of the iPhone available to buy new from Apple, not counting color or carrier options. Including color variations, there are now nearly 50 models of iPhone to choose from. Regardless of your budget, Apple obviously wants you to know there's an iPhone available for you with its broadest iPhone lineup yet.
Update: It's worth noting that although the iPhone X has a larger display, the phone itself is smaller than the iPhone 8 Plus (and other Plus models before it) since it gets that extra length mostly by having a taller screen without bezels.
Still, it's closer in size to the Plus models than it is to the standard iPhone 7/8 size. Correction: The iPhone X is in fact only slightly larger than the iPhone 8 (non-Plus), leading to reports that it really is an obvious choice if a premium visual experience is what you're after.
Update 2: While not covered in the announcement, the new iPhones support fast charging to 50 percent in 30 minutes. However, you won't be able to take advantage of this without already having or buying a Lightning-to-USB-C cable and one of the higher-power USB-C laptop charging adapters that Apple sells separately or includes with its latest MacBooks and MacBook Pros. It has yet to be explained exactly how this quick-charging works, but if it can't work with a good USB cable and a Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0-enabled charger, it does not at first glance seem to be the same as the QC 3.0 technology if it requires these high-power USB-C chargers. More information will follow as it is discovered.