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iPhone X's success rests on face ID feature

Apple has launched its long-awaited new iPhones alongside an upgrade of its Apple TV. But the biggest news came in the form of the iPhone X (X is the Roman numeral, so it should be said “iPhone 10”, but X sounds cooler).

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The specs and new features have been thoroughly reported in the media: face unlock, no buttons on the front, a whole new interface, and an edge-to-edge screen. But what does the new phone mean for consumers?

Apple says the iPhone X has the most durable glass used in a smartphone.
Apple says the iPhone X has the most durable glass used in a smartphone.

Well first off the iPhone X is really expensive. The top model (256GB) is $2099. That’s steep, even worse when you realise the markup for New Zealand. The phone is roughly $200 cheaper if you buy it in the UK and $500 cheaper if you buy it in the US.

However, when Samsung released the S8, critics said: “No one will buy a phone for $1500!” They were wrong about that, so there will be lots of people who’ll throw money at Apple.

Speaking of the S8, there has been much commentary about how the iPhone X looks and seems to work a lot like Samsung’s flagship phone. We haven’t been able to get our hands on them for testing, but right now it seems like the two phones are similar. They both have edge-to-edge OLED screens, no front buttons, and a way of unlocking using facial recognition.

No fingerprint sensor means Apple has had to change its unlock function, so it’s created Face ID. The X projects a field of infrared dots that map your face, which is then used to unlock the phone. While this raises a lot of questions about security (can someone just point your phone at your face to unlock it?), for me the issue is simpler: will it work?

I had all sorts of troubles with the infrared iris scanner on Samsung’s S8 – it took a long time, I needed to hold the phone close to my face and I found I often don’t look at my phone when unlocking it.

The iPhone 8 and X have glass on the back as well as the front.
The iPhone 8 and X have glass on the back as well as the front.

Apple says Face ID will pick up slow changes in appearance, like growing a beard or losing/gaining weight; but what about sudden changes? What happens if you shave your beard off? Or are wearing makeup that changes the reflective nature of your skin? Or it’s sunny and you’re wearing sunglasses?

Until we see this working in the real world, it’s impossible to pass judgement. Apple needs this feature to work – and work well – otherwise the phone will be be a huge pain to use.

It’ll be November before we see the iPhone X in the wild, so any problems will pop up then. Chances are the phone will sell in record amounts, grumbles will be minimal and the iPhone XI will be released in 2018 with the same amount of fanfare.

Pricing & Availability

  • iPhone X will be available in silver and space grey in 64GB ($1799) and 256GB ($2099) models. Customers will be able to order the iPhone X from 27 October, with availability beginning from 3 November.
  • iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus will be available in space grey, silver and gold finish in increased 64GB and 256GB capacity models. Prices start at $1249 for iPhone 8 and $1449 for iPhone 8 Plus. Customers will be able to order the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus beginning 15 September, with availability beginning from 22 September.
  • iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are splash-, water- and dust-resistant, and have been tested under controlled laboratory conditions with a rating of IP67. Resistance might decrease as a result of normal wear. Note that liquid damage is not covered under warranty or the Consumer Guarantees Act.


By Hadyn Green
Technology Writer




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