Since Apple unveiled the upcoming iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus smartphone models on Sept. 12, all eyes have been on how the marketplace is reacting to the devices and if they include enough advances to spur consumers to buy them in droves.
If the initial reactions from a sampling of industry analysts by eWEEK is any indication, Apple probably will have another generation of popular devices on its hands. The new handsets get Apple’s latest, most powerful A11 Bionic processors; updated displays; improved cameras; and other specification boosts, which analysts say should be enough advances to inspire plenty of users to upgrade their devices.
The iPhone X, which is the 10th anniversary edition of the original 2007 iPhone, “is truly an engineering marvel, especially when compared to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8, and is not just a late copy of the competition,” Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst of Moor Insights & Strategy, told eWEEK. “Apple did it their way by perfecting the experience. Even at a $999 opening price point, customers will wait in very long lines to get one.”
Moorhead said he is pleased by the new 5.8-inch edge-to-edge OLED display and the upgraded dual optical image stabilization rear main cameras Apple built into the iPhone X, as well as with its augmented reality and Face ID features, improved battery life and the included new wireless charging capabilities.
But its singular weakness, he said, is the company’s decision not to include the fastest gigabit LTE modems available, leaving the new iPhone X—and the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus models—with network performance that will likely be 25 to 30 percent slower than competing devices which support gigabit LTE. All four major U.S. carriers and 34 carriers overall will have large deployments of gigabit LTE by the end of 2017, Moorhead added.
With its latest iPhone 8 and 8 Plus models, Apple “did do enough to warrant a full generational upgrade,” he said. “The materials, design, CPU, graphics, ISP, speakers, camera and charging [wireless] all changed.”
Brian Blau, an analyst with Gartner, pointed to the new 3D camera sensor in the iPhone X as its most innovative addition, saying it “will be thought of as one of the significant new technologies going forward. Having the capability to recognize your face will be a key technology for app developers; some will only want to use it for security, but I like the new enhanced selfie capabilities [and] we will see developers start to include facial recognition into our favorite mobile apps.”
Blau called the iPhone X “a fairly big leap forward from other iPhone models” due also to its upgraded dual rear cameras and its extra-large OLED display screen.
“All these innovations represent fairly advanced features, and while other smartphones may have some features that are comparable, the iPhone X certainly is well-designed. For users that are already familiar with Apple products, it will fit into their idea of an advanced iPhone device.”
At the same time, the higher prices of the iPhone X—which starts at $999 with 64GB of built-in storage and is priced at $1,149 with 256GB of storage—could deter some customers from buying the new top-of-the-line models, he said.
That could, however, be offset because many smartphone users are now on contracts that allow for upgrades, or they have an option to pay for the phone over time, he noted. “Those customers, or those that regularly purchase Apple or other premium priced smartphones won’t see [these dollar figures] and are more likely to be the first customers.”
Most Buyers Will Choose iPhone 8
Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research, said that while the iPhone X is the big news for Apple today, most buyers will likely choose the iPhone 8 or 8 Plus models because of their lower prices.
“By themselves, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus would be comparable or even better upgrades than the iPhone 7 range was last year, with bigger hardware design changes and some other big improvements in features and functionality,” said Dawson.
“Apple is raising the prices of these devices slightly to reflect that, but in practical terms it will make very little difference to the monthly payments most consumers make to pay for smartphones,” he said. “Many buyers will be perfectly happy to buy these phones, and they will account for the majority of sales in the December quarter.”
For Apple and its three new iPhone models, “the challenge … will be whether they’ve done enough to make the iPhone 8 range compelling for the majority who won’t be willing or able to spend the additional money to get the iPhone X,” Dawson said, “What Apple doesn’t want is for people to want the best but not be able to afford it and therefore hold onto their existing phones rather than buying what they consider second best.”
Another analyst, Rob Enderle, principal analyst of Enderle Group, said the new iPhone X was supposed to include a built-in fingerprint reader but it was left out due to space issues, and that will be a problem for buyers.
“To keep from false positives, facial recognition tends to perform poorly if the [available] light … varies too much,” which is likely why it failed at Apple’s launch event during a demonstration. “Since you often have to get into your phone a lot and want it to be quick, this could be really annoying after a short period of time to users who often use their phones at night or outside and those that aren’t relatively consistent with how they hold them.”
In addition, by positioning its new models as it has, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus and the iPhone X “provide an ugly choice” for buyers, said Enderle, due to potential model envy. “The iPhone 8 will be the more reliable device, but people like status and the iPhone 8, against the massive technology jump of the iPhone X, looks crippled.”
Production issues for the iPhone X could add to Apple’s potential problems, he said. “They should be able to make a ton of iPhone 8 models, but iPhone X models, because of the supply constraints on some of the parts and the late timing, will be in short supply,” said Enderle. “Apple could find itself with a ton of supply for the phone no one wants and short in supply with the phone folks are chasing. iPhones have historically largely been about status, and the iPhone X is where the status is, the iPhone 8 not so much.”
The iPhone X, which Apple is officially pronouncing as the “iPhone 10,” drops the physical home button of past iPhone models in exchange for an upward swipe from the bottom of the screen and is covered with glass on both sides. The handset will come in silver or space gray and will start at $999 with 64GB of onboard storage when preorders start on Oct. 27. It’s expected to be in stores and available for purchase online on Nov. 3. A 256GB model will cost $1,149.
The iPhone X marks the first Apple smartphone to include an OLED display, which had been one of the main rumors in the news for months.
Featuring the same A11 processors as found in the new iPhone X, the upcoming iPhone 8 and 8 Plus models include new 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch Retina HD displays, a single 12-megapixel rear camera on the iPhone 8, dual 12-megapixel rear main cameras on the 8 Plus, front and rear glass panels, aluminum bezels along with water- and dust-resistant cases.
The iPhone 8 starts at $699 with 64GB of onboard storage, while the iPhone 8 Plus starts at $799 with 64GB of storage. Preorders for the phones will start Sept. 15, and they will be available in stores and online on Sept. 22. Both models will be available with space gray, silver or gold finishes.
Apple also has kept its older iPhone 7, 6S and SE models in its lineup, giving consumers additional choices for their next handsets.
New Apple Watches, Apple TV Debut
In addition, Apple unveiled new models of its Apple Watch and its Apple TV products at its launch event. The Apple Watch Series 3 models can now be purchased with built-in cellular capabilities and no longer must be used solely in conjunction with an iPhone.
The new Apple Watches come in two models—with GPS and cellular connectivity or with just GPS services. Both models include dual-core processors that are 70 percent faster than the previous generation and new wireless chips. The Apple Watch models will be available for preorder on Sept. 15 and in stores and online on Sept. 22. The Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular) starts at $399, and the Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS) model starts at $329.
The latest Apple TV 4K device gets 4K video for greatly improved video quality for viewing content from iTunes, Netflix and other video streaming services. In addition, the devices support HDR video. Also included with the Apple TV 4K models is a redesigned Siri Remote.
Apple TV 4K starts at $179 for a 32GB model or $199 for a 64GB model. The Apple TV 4th generation model with 32GB of storage will remain in the lineup for $149. The new models will be available for preorder Sept. 15 and for purchase in stores or online starting Sept. 22.