The Apple event at the Steve Jobs Theatre overlooking the company’s futuristic new Apple Park campus was an emotional one. It was as if company founder Steve Jobs, still synonymous for what Apple and its culture is, was overlooking the glass edifice that is the theater bearing his name. After all, it was the tenth anniversary of the Apple iPhone, the product that changed the tech industry.
So it was only befitting this was the occasion chosen to announce the Apple iPhone X, pronounced the iPhone ten. It was the “one more thing” CEO Tim Cook had kept for the end of the two-hour long event, but it was clearly what the world wanted to hear. The iPhone X now stands as the costliest phone ever from Apple, with prices upwards of $999. In India, the higher-end variant will start at Rs 102,000.
However, this is the phone Apple hopes will set the standard for the decade to come with its bezel-less design, wireless charging, gestures that replace the home button and office Face ID for unlocking it with just a glance.
The iPhone X is innovative to the extent that this phone packs almost all top-end features you would find in phones from various brands across the world. It also pushes the envelope when it comes to how Augmented Reality is used in a device and what smartphones can do with video. It is also clearly the hero phone for Apple, almost making the brand new iPhone 8 series seem underwhelming in comparison.
Apple’s opportunity with this phone is two-fold: one, it will create a hero effect in favour of the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus with customer settling for the more affordable phones; two, it will give Apple the premium phone to monopolise the top-end segment where there is clearly not much competition, if you overlook the new Samsung Galaxy Note 8.
There will be those who say the iPhone X is not really innovative given that everything from bezel-less screens to face recognition and wireless charging have been launched by rival Samsung, as well as a bunch of others in the Android space. But as we have seen with other technologies, it is when Apple bites the bullet that you will see the ecosystem come into place.
For instance, Apple iPhone 7 dropping the 3.5-mm jack is in hindsight the best thing to have happened to the Bluetooth accessory makers and the wireless charging on the iPhone 8 might be what Qi and other players in the space have been waiting for all these years. In fact, Apple showed a sneak peek of the wireless AirPower pads it is working on with the ability to charge an iPhone, Apple Watch and Airpods at the same time. And this is clearly a product others with wireless charging will hope to plug into as well.
This is where you will see the ecosystem fall into place with everyone from accessory partners to restaurants and hotel installing Qi pads , after all Apple now has wireless charging.
However, at the demo zone outside the Steve Jobs Theatre there were some indicators of how consumers might view the range of phones showcase today. While everyone one wanted to get their hands on the iPhone X, the response to new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus sort of paled in comparison.
Thomas Husson, VP and Principal Analyst – Marketing & Strategy at Forrester Research, sums it up well. “I think the iPhone X delivers on Apple’s brand DNA. It is combining several new technologies – in some cases already launched by competition – but turning them into new consumer daily life experiences thanks to the power of its brand and developer ecosystem,” he told indianexpress.com.
Husson does not think iPhone X will disrupt the smartphone market the way the initial iPhone revolutionised mobile and many other industries. “However, coupled with iOS 11 innovations, it will reinforce consumers’ and brands’ loyalty to the Apple ecosystem as well as illustrate the evolving role of smartphones in an increasingly connected world. Smartphones are dead. Long live smartphones.”
Disclaimer: The author is in San Jose at the invite of Apple.