Since its launch in 2007, the Apple iPhone not only transformed mobile computing, but humanity's relationship with technology in general. It led the movement to make handheld slabs of metal and software an integral part of our identities and our daily lives—for better or worse.
To celebrate the iPhone's 10-year anniversary, Apple launched the ultra high-end iPhone X (pronounced "ten") this year, in addition to its annual incremental upgrades: the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. The signature features of the iPhone X are Face ID, a 5.8-inch OLED screen, and phablet features in the form factor of a standard phone.
Here's a closer look at what Apple's iPhone X means for professionals and businesses.
What is the iPhone X?
In order to give the iPhone a big leap forward for the 10-year anniversary model, Apple has been hoarding up innovations. The iPhone X includes a number of advanced features and design elements that go beyond the incremental upgrades to its standard models. These cutting-edge upgrades also give the iPhone X a price tag of $1,000 USD and involve some design compromises. The iPhone X starts at $999 USD (and can be over $1400 with 256 GB of storage, Apple Care+, and a wireless charger). That compares to the iPhone 8, which starts at $699 USD.
Mostly notably, the iPhone X includes a nearly bezel-less OLED display with 1125x2436 resolution (compared to a 1080x1920 LCD on 2016's iPhone 7 Plus). That enables the iPhone X to have a larger 5.8-inch screen (compared to the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus) while having a smaller form factor that is actually closer in size to Apple's iPhone 7 with its 4.7-inch screen.
The new screen also wraps around an unmistakeable new "notch" at the top (for the cameras and speaker). Apple's native apps take advantage of the odd screen feature, but third party apps will take time to adapt. In the meantime, many apps simply won't take full advantage of that extra screen real estate. Some people are so put off by the notch, that's there a popular app called "Notch Remover" in the App Store.
The thin bezels also cause the iPhone X to lose its home button and its fingerprint scanner. As a result, Apple is replacing Touch ID with Face ID, which will create a 3D map of your face and use that to unlock the device. The challenge—judging by the face-scanning software of the past from Google and others—is that it may not be as fast and accurate as a fingerprint scanner.
There's also a natural security concern about Face ID being spoofed, but Apple says its new "True-Depth Camera System" takes a 3D mathematical model of your face and that it cannot be faked out by photos or even prosthetic masks.
Other new features in the iPhone X include wireless charging, an infrared camera to support augmented reality, and the ability to record 4K video at 60fps and 1080p at 240fps (super slow motion).
With the iPhone X, Apple also switched back to glass on the back of the device, which was needed to support wireless charging, but it will also make the device much less slippery—and susceptible to drops—than the smooth metal backs of the last several iPhones.
- Apple iPhone X review (CNET)
- Apple's $1000 iPhone X embraces the bleeding edge: The top 3 features (TechRepublic)
- iPhone X hands-on: High price, no home button (CNET)
- Photos: Meet the iPhone X (CNET)
Why does the iPhone X matter?
The iPhone X changes the iPhone experience in several significant ways. We already talked about the shift from Touch ID to Face ID. The even bigger shift is Apple removing the home button in the iPhone X and replacing its controls with gestures. This is an enormous change in the way people interact with the phone, since the home button has been a primary control since the iPhone first launched.
Expect a lot of users to be confused and frustrated at first—especially professionals who want to use the iPhone to do work the way they always have and don't want to think about a new way of interacting with it. I expect that plenty of users will go into stores and try the iPhone X, get frustrated by the lack of a home button, and opt to buy the iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus instead (since they both retain the home button).
SEE: Apple in the Enterprise: A Strategic Guide (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature)
That said, the switch to gestures potentially offers more fine-tuned control over the interface since the number of possible gestures is far larger than the number of actions you can do with a physical button. Once users adapt to gestures, it could be an improvement. And many of the first users of the iPhone X have reported that they've adapted to life without the home button within the first 24-48 hours.
Apple also integrates a lot of machine learning to make Face ID work, as well as its new A11 Bionic CPU and Neural Engine to process it all without sending it up to the cloud. The processor can handle 600 million operations per second, according to Apple. The A11 Bionic chip in the iPhone X and iPhone 8 has been crushing its rivals in benchmarks.
- iPhone X: First impressions from our first 3 days (CNET)
- iPhone X vs iPhone 8 Plus: Is the camera that much better? (CNET)
- Video discussion: What you need to know about Apple's big product update (TechRepublic)
- Beyond the iPhone: How Apple is positioning itself for the next big thing (ZDNet)
Who will the iPhone X affect?
The iPhone X will matter most to the following types of professionals:
- Developers, who will need to learn the platform for adapting apps and sites
- UI/UX designers, who will need to understand the platform changes since they will likely cascade to other apps and platforms as well
- IT professionals, who will need to learn the changes in order to support corporate users and apps
- Marketers, who will need to figure out how to adapt marketing messages and campaigns to users who control the interface in new ways
- Innovators and early adopters, who stake their reputation on staying ahead of the curve
SEE: Job description: iOS developer (Tech Pro Research)
What are the competitors to the iPhone X?
The top competitor to the iPhone X is the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. They are both innovation leaders in bezel-less packages with big price tags. The Note 8 bests the iPhone X in several specs, but the iPhone X has a slight edge in design and software integration.
The two biggest sales competitors to the iPhone X could actually be Apple's own iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. And of course, devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus, the Essential Phone, and the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 have pre-empted several of the leading iPhone X features and design elements.
Nevertheless, the iPhone X resets the playing field. Other hardware makers will emulate Apple's design and platform changes, as they always do.
Jason Hiner has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Jason Hiner is Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.