On the 12th of September, 2017, Apple showcased, yet again, how deeply entrenched Steve Jobs’ philosophies still are within the company’s DNA. The event started with a lengthy quote in Steve Jobs’ voice, followed by an emotional homage from Tim Cook. He even shed a tear while he said, “[Steve Jobs’] greatest gift, his greatest expression of his appreciation for humanity would not be a single product. Rather it would be Apple itself. We dedicate this theatre to Steve because we loved him, and because he loved days like this, where he could share his new products with the world.”
Steve Jobs had once famously said in 1996, “Picasso had a saying — ‘good artists copy; great artists steal’ — and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas." And steal they did.
If I were to ask you to name 3 most differentiating features of an iPhone, what would you list? I’m sure they will include at least two from the following — Touch Screen, Touch ID, and the amazing mobile camera. Well, Apple hadn’t been the pioneer in either of them. As a matter of fact, the whole world is still racing after the megapixels game, all the while Apple is perfecting and mastering the very same 12 MP camera on the iPhone. And yet, it’s only been recently that only the flagship Galaxy phones from Samsung have started competing with it, in terms of the picture quality.
Bottomline is, Apple is not known to bring new features on their devices year after year, what it is known for, is to research and perfect existing technologies, and make sure they work perfectly in sync with people’s lives, and of course with the entire Apple ecosystem.
Apple’s iPhone X is an epitome of this philosophy of innovation in Apple. None of the new technologies that Apple unveiled with the iPhone X (pronounced as the numeral 10, and not ‘ex’, or ‘ax’) — Super Retina OLED display with 458 ppi density, lack of any button on the front, facial recognition, dual OIS, or even wireless charging — were new in the market. As a matter of fact, Samsung has beaten them on each and every one of those for quite some time (except dual OIS, which recently launched with the Note 8). And yet, the iPhone X is clearly a more aspirational phone than the Note 8, or any other in the market.
Let us take up Face ID, as an example. Using facial recognition as an authentication method has been around for a while, but none of the OEMs have managed to make it truly secure. Most facial recognition systems have been cracked by just using a person’s high definition photograph, or maybe a mask. Windows Hello on the Surface devices are known to be the best implementations of facial recognition. Two years ago, Berlin based Sr Labs used a plaster mould of a test subject’s face to cast a model that managed to beat Windows Hello’s facial recognition system as well.
In contrast, the iPhone X uses an infrared system that Apple calls TrueDepth to project a grid of 30,000 invisible dots onto the user’s face. The infrared camera then captures the distortion of the grid to create a “fingerprint” of the face. While real world tests are still pending, Apple claims that the user should be looking directly at the phone, with eyes open, to get authenticated. The neural network in the new A11 Bionic chip will constantly learn your face. The authentication won’t even work with detailed silicon masks that look just like you. Face ID is sophisticated enough to work in the dark, and to learn your face under different circumstances — so go ahead and wear those funky glasses or grow that hipster beard.
Edge-to-edge, bezel-less displays are the style of 2017. It started with LG’s G6, and deftly followed up by Samsung, Xiaomi & Essential, to name a few. And now comes Apple. Apple has been late to the OLED game. However, switching to OLEDs was essential to build a phone without any discernable bezels. They managed to overcome that hurdle by optimising the OLEDs to consume less power than usual, and yet produce more colour and also institute the TrueTone display that the iPad Pros have become famous for.
It’s been almost three years since Apple fans have been asking for wireless charging for the iPhones. One of the major challenges the wireless charging industry has been facing is the advent of multitudes of standards — be it WPC, PMA, or A4WP. It was becoming increasingly difficult for the consumer to decide which standard to invest in. Very recently, both Apple and Qualcomm decided to join Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) that’s responsible for the Qi standard. Needless to say, the new iPhones will give rise to multitude of new and innovative Qi-powered products.
Overall, the Apple iPhone X is a technological marvel. If you compare the iPhone 8 Plus and the X, all the research and development that went behind Face ID and the fact that it’s the 10th anniversary special edition iPhone that you will be one of the very few to own, are enough to command the premium of Rs 16,000.
In today’s India, iPhones and Galaxy S8s are everywhere. It is the iPhone X that’s going to differentiate you from the masses!
The author is a product guy, currently working as CEO at SCALEMonks Technologies. He also administers the Apple Users' Group on Telegram