The $1,000 iPhone X Ditches Touch ID for Facial Recognition, Adds an Edge-to-Edge OLED Display

The super expensive iPhone will be joined by the more modest iPhone 8 and 8 Plus.

After all the rumors and leaks, Apple has finally revealed their high-end 10th anniversary iPhone — and there weren’t many surprises. The name convention-breaking iPhone X (pronounced iPhone Ten) as promised introduces an edge-to-edge OLED display, ditching the home button and Touch ID in favor of facial recognition. There are plenty of other goodies Apple has thrown in, too — and the same goes for the more routine upgrades that are the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus.

The iPhone X is a 5.8″ phone, but you wouldn’t know it from just holding it — because of the almost complete disappearance of the top and bottom bezels, the phone is physically smaller than the iPhone Plus models. The front is dominated by a shiny new OLED display, giving the iPhone X the same kind of cinematic qualities as the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and the LG V30. The iPhone X takes advantage of the OLED display — the highest resolution yet on an iPhone at 2436 x 1125 — by adding HDR10 and Dolby Vision compatibility. That will open up a growing range of movies from studios and streaming services like Netflix or Amazon that are filmed in one of those HDR standards, enabling a wider spectrum of colors and much better color contrast. Apple has also added their True Tone technology, which adjusts color temperature on screen according to ambient light.

Of course, one look at the phone tells you you’re not going to be able to use the iPhone X like any other iPhone. The physical home button is gone, but unlike on other phones, the fingerprint sensor hasn’t simply been moved to the back — it’s been removed altogether. Gone is Touch ID in favor of Face ID, which uses facial recognition for everything from login to payments. This isn’t just any facial recognition, though — there are a strip of frontside sensors, including the front camera, that work together to read faces using details, depth, and lighting. You won’t be able to fool one with a picture, in other words. Even masks supposedly won’t fool Face ID. Without a home button, you’ll also have new ways to navigate. To go home, you’ll now swipe up from the bottom, which works within any app.

The display is enclosed by a stainless steel frame, with the back covered in glass — a design not seen since the iPhone 4 era. But, like other recent iPhones, the iPhone X is water and dust resistant, and yes, like other recent iPhones, it lacks a headphone port. It’ll rely on Lightning or wireless headphones.

In fact, wireless is becoming an even bigger part of the iPhone. Apple is finally embracing wireless charging by adopting the Qi standard, meaning the iPhone X can be used with Qi compatible charging pads. You’ll have to rely on third party options for now, but Apple does plan to release their own pad, which will work with the iPhone X, the Apple Watch, and AirPods, sometime next year.

Apple has also improved the rear dual camera array, although perhaps not as dramatically as the rest of the phone. They’ve got dual 12 MP sensors, one with an f/1.8 wide-angle lens and one with an f/2.4 telephoto lens, both of which have optical image stabilization. The biggest improvement might be found in Apple’s own image processor, which is now equipped to reproduce a wider color gamut that can do that OLED display justice.

Selfies are going to be next level. Using the 7 MP front camera and the depth sensing array used with Face ID, the iPhone X will have a portrait mode that will adjust lighting levels to make selfies look more like professional studio work (the feature will be in beta when the iPhone X becomes available). If you need a new LinkedIn picture and don’t want to pay someone else to take one, here’s your phone.

All of that hardcore image processing is handled in part by Apple’s new A11 Bionic chipset. Apple is moving more towards what Qualcomm does for Android phones, designing all the hardware and sticking it on one chip. The A11 Bionic includes a six-core CPU with two high-performance cores and four energy-efficient cores, Apple’s first mobile GPU (sorry, Imagination Technologies), and their image processor. That chip will also lead to more impressive augmented reality games and apps made with Apple’s ARKit.

It’ll also make Animoji possible. The oddball part of the presentation, Animoji, which will come to the iPhone X as a iMessage app, are animal emoji with a twist. Using that array of frontside sensors, the phone can read your facial expressions, then map them onto an animated emoji that can be sent to others. It’s dumb fun, but the technology behind it is pretty impressive.

The one big question mark is battery life. Apple said during the presentation that the iPhone X should last two more hours than the iPhone 7, but that will be hard to do with a more powerful processor and an OLED display drawing power.

If that’s all too much change for you, there’s always the iPhone 8 or 8 Plus. Also announced today, these are more familiar aluminum phones (although the backs are now glass) and the direct successors to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, which won’t get S variants. Like with the iPhone 7 family, the iPhone 8 will have a single rear camera, while the 8 Plus will get the dual array.

They’re actually a lot more similar to the iPhone X than we would have guessed. The dual camera array on the 8 Plus looks similar to the one on the iPhone X, and both the 8 and 8 Plus have the new A11 Bionic chipset, portrait lighting mode, and wireless charging. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will retain the home button and Touch ID, and won’t have the depth sensing array on the front that makes Face ID possible. These phones won’t have OLED displays, either.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will all be available for preorder on September 15 and will ship on September 22, while the iPhone X can be preordered on October 27 and will ship November 3. They’ll both be available in 64 GB and 256 GB models, with the iPhone 8 family starting at $700 and the iPhone X starting at $1,000.


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