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Apple puts an ‘X’ on the iPhone

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Apple Computer launched three new iPhone models, an upgraded Apple Watch and the Apple TV 4K. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are improved versions of the iPhone 7 while the iPhone X (pronounced iPhone 10) is a premium model that is dramatically different from the “traditional” series.

The company’s decision is risky as the iPhone X may overshadow the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, which technically, it supersedes in much the same way every iteration of the iPhone is an upgrade over the previous model. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus may be seen as “outdated” right from the start, or that its owners are those who had to settle for less because they cannot afford the “better” model.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will be sold in 64GB and 256GB configurations with prices starting at US$699 for the iPhone 8 and $799 for the 8 Plus. The iPhone X is priced at $999 (64GB) and $1149 (256GB).

Appearance-wise, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus resemble the previous version but with enhanced features. The phones support wireless charging and run on Apple’s latest A11 processor and 2GB RAM. The iPhone X uses the same processor and has 3GB.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus feature an improved camera system capable of shooting video in 4K resolution and have built-in augmented-reality features. Both phones come with a more durable smartphone glass. The phones will ship on 22 September.

The iPhone X is the “biggest leap since the original iPhone,” said Apple. The redesigned phone does not have the iPhone’s iconic home button, which gave way to the edge-to-edge glass design. The Super Retina Display screen is a 1125 x 2436 OLED display.

Siri can be activated with voice commands or by long-pressing a new side button.

The phone does not have a fingerprint scanner. Instead, FaceID, a biometric facial recognition feature is used to unlock the device. Apple said the feature works even when users grow facial hair or wear accessories such as glasses, scarves or hats. It will also not be fooled by masks or photos of the user.

Apple claimed that the chances of a random person unlocking another person’s iPhone X are one in a million. FaceID works by mapping the user’s face with 30,000 infrared dots to create a mathematical 3D model. This True Depth system uses artificial intelligence that continuously learns the user’s face. This feature raises a privacy concern as law enforcement officers no longer require a passcode or pattern from the user to unlock the phone.

The iPhone X’s enhanced camera array is sophisticated enough to track facial movements. Apple demonstrated the Animoji app that animated emojis to mimic the user’s facial movements. The rear camera array has two 12MP cameras with f/1.8 and f/2.4 apertures with optical image stabilisation and a four-LED True Tone Flash.

The iPhone X will ship on 3 Nov.

Apple also unveiled its next-generation smart watch, the Series 3. The new watch is priced at $399 and can be used for calling, messaging and streaming music without being linked to an iPhone. Apple also released an upgrade to the operating system: WatchOS4 has a redesigned workout app and “smart” activity coaching. It also has refined heart-rate measurement capabilities.

Apple introduced a $199 streaming device, the Apple TV 4K. It will partner with Netflix and Amazon to offer their content in super-high 4K resolution. The Apply TV 4K will be available from 22 September.

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