This week’s iPhone launch event hit a rocky patch when Apple executive Craig Federighi went to demonstrate the iPhone X’s facial recognition technology, Face ID, which replaces the fingerprint scanner as a security mechanism.
“Unlocking it is as easy as looking at it and swiping up …” he said, waiting an agonising few seconds while the device refused to unlock. He tried a second time – again, nothing – before switching to a back-up phone.
The technical hitch, which came after the 10th anniversary edition of the iPhone had been revealed with huge fanfare, caused a temporary crash in Apple’s market value. The stock soon rallied, however, with this year’s launch event putting Apple in an “extraordinarily strong” position.
Before the product announcements, there was a lengthy section of the keynote dedicated to Apple’s retail strategy, in which the company’s head of retail Angela Ahrendts said the company no longer refers to its shops as “stores” but “town squares”.
The iPhone X was introduced to the audience by CEO Tim Cook using the “one more thing” format that former CEO Steve Jobs used to surprise and delight people during his keynotes. Unfortunately for Cook, very little in the announcement was surprising thanks to major leaks in the preceding days.
“If there hadn’t been all the leaks there would have been a lot of big surprises and people would have come away blown away. The leaks took the edge off the announcements, but we’ve still seen a very strong set of products that re-establish Apple’s lead in a lot of categories,” said Apple analyst Jan Dawson.
The iPhone X comes with some striking features, including the an edge-to-edge screen, no home screen button (because the screen now spans the entire front of the device), and the infrared-powered facial recognition system that Apple says is 20 times more secure than Touch ID (when it’s working). Face ID is not only used for unlocking the phone, but also making payments and logging into banking apps.
Alongside the iPhone X, Apple launched the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, which will have a more powerful processor, better, bassier speakers and an upgraded camera with portrait lighting to allow for better pictures of people. All of the phones can be charged wirelessly using a Qi standard charging pad.
In addition to the iPhones, the Silicon Valley titan unveiled a new version of its smartwatch, Apple Watch Series 3, with cellular connectivity, which means you can take calls without having to pair it with a phone, enhanced fitness monitoring and coaching tools, and streaming service Apple Music.
Although Apple is still heavily reliant on the iPhone for the bulk of its revenue, the company is diversifying into spaces including health, home automation and content.
“The iPhone will always be the headline,” said Dawson. “Everything else hangs off it.”
Even so, analyst Geoff Blaber from CSS insight said that Apple is in “an extraordinarily strong position”. “In hardware terms, it’s really at the top of the smartphone market. Samsung is a fierce competitor but Apple continues to lead and differentiate in how the hardware, software and services come together. That’s why Apple continues to define the industry.”
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