As much as I love the iPhone SE, I’ve been conflicted about Apple’s vision for the future lately. It started with the MacBooks and the needless culling of MagSafe charging and the SD card reader. Then came the same iPhone design for three years straight and the dramatic increase in quality of Android device cameras. But the 2017 Apple Event brought the world’s most valuable company right back into the technology arms race by arranging all of my current favourite tech features in one desirable package.
1. Apple’s iPhone X
Let’s get the big one out of the way first: this is why Apple exists. An OLED display that fills the entire front face, enhanced portrait modes for the front and rear cameras, enhanced low light photography, enhanced video, wireless charging, on-device neural processing, augmented reality (AR) and super secure and convenient unlocking methods. Apple reached inside my mind to cherry pick all the features I want in a phone. I love the Leica cameras on the Huawei P10 Plus. Samsung’s wireless charging, incredible OLED display and low light photography keep the Galaxy S8 as my preferred daily driver; I’m also a big fan of iris scanning. I’m super excited about the Kirin 970 chip’s neural processing unit on the upcoming Huawei Mate 10 and thrilled that Sony is playing around with 3D scanning for AR.
Time and testing will tell how well those FaceID face recognition bits work, but Apple are betting the encryption farm on it so it should be great. Much like with the Xbox One X: it’s too expensive for me, but I’m really happy this exists. Maybe I’ll have it on the next refresh.
That the Cupertino company didn’t decide to entirely reinvent wireless charging is excellent news. The last standard that Apple got behind (USB type-C) spawned an entire accessories industry that benefits more than just the fruit fans, imagine how great life will get for Samsung device owners? Businesses can now invest in Qi chargers without the hassle of excluding large swathes of the flagship phone-toting population. And the trickle down on Android is going to be good for everyone because there’s nothing Chinese manufacturers like more than to jump on Apple’s wagon.
Yes, there’s an Airpower charging mat coming next year to wirelessly charge the iPhone 8/X, Airpods and Watch simultaneously, but Apple have petitioned for that tech to be added to the Qi standard.
3. Cheaper entry points
Apple has never had such a long tail of current iOS devices before. We’ll surely bid farewell to the recently refreshed 32 GB iPhone 6 and 6 Plus now, but there’s SE, 6S and 6s Plus, 7 and 7 Plus and now iPhones 8, 8 Plus and X to represent every price bracket from midrange to premium. Hell, there’s three separate phones to choose from if you only want to play with ARkit. And with all the models getting base storage bumps to a more usable 32 GB, you don’t have to settle for a mediocre Android device if you really wanted an iPhone; just get an iPhone that suits your budget.
4. A reliable answer for phone number cloning
I reported on the rise of embedded SIMs last year, but could never get a straight answer from mobile network operators about how you could have one number working across all devices. The Apple execs didn’t give any details, but when announcing the Apple Watch Series 3 LTE it was said that it will use the same phone number as your iPhone. If this product manages to operate on the same wireless contract as my phone and allow me to then truly leave my phone at home when going for a run, that would be amazing!
5. Reasonably-priced 4K HDR content
If you buy the new Apple TV 4K HDR, all you existing purchased HD content will be upgraded for free and 4K movies on iTunes will cost the same as HD. Also, aside from the resolution bump (which I don’t have a TV for yet), the company didn’t make my existing Apple TV 4th Generation obsolete. Three cheers.
6. Your eyes will thank you
Cycling through various mobile devices can be very taxing on your eyes, and finding s suitable display tone can be very frustrating. The Truetone display on the iPad Pro 9,7 was a delight because it adapts to the ambient colour temperature and then optimises the display tones. Now that functionality is in all three new iPhones. Much like what Apple did with the night mode to filter out blue light, I hope other manufacturers start to adopt this kind of technology.
7. Real steel
Aluminium is great and all, but Stainless Steel is stronger and less reactive. It’s just a good idea, okay?
8. The madness is back
Apple have played it safe since Steve Jobs’ passing. We got the plastic iPhone and Bendgate, then questionable design decisions and iterative updates. At the 2017 Apple event we got a radical new processor, a homebaked GPU, the most sophisticated facial recognition system I’ve yet encountered and an overall statement of intent. Apple got its swagger back while still offering something new for the widest possible audience.
It’s a shame that the iPhone X’s high price brings to an end an era of tech democracy, but delivering this collection of technology was never going to happen in a cheap package. Those who can afford it can show their wealth with the X, but by sticking to the dated design those who have to go slightly cheaper can blend in with the crowd. The iPhone now has a duality that is at once all-inclusive as a platform, but also establishes a class system.