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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Apple iPhone X launch: facial-recognition and a brand new look

The promise of a revolutionary new iPhone model to mark the product’s 10 year anniversary has seen expectations rise higher than ever before.

The fevered anticipation felt by so many Apple fans was stoked by a leak of unprecedented detail which revealed that not one but three new phones would be unveiled, including the ‘$1,000 iPhone’ called the iPhone X.

Whether Apple would be able to meet this ferocious expectation and reclaim its dominance in the smartphone market was widely debated ahead of tonight’s launch.

Tonight’s event took place in the newly opened Steve Jobs Theater at the Apple Park ‘spaceship’ campus in California, so called because of the saucer-shaped roof, an 80-tonne disc composed of 44 identical carbon-fibre panels which was built in Dubai.

The audience were plunged into darkness as a recording of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs reflecting on the true identity of Apple echoed in his eponymous theatre.

“I love hearing his voice, and his inspiring voice. It was only fitting that Steve would open his theatre,” said Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook, as he took to the stage and paid tribute to Jobs.

Before Cook revealed the highly anticipated new products, he reflected on the fate of those in Florida and in the Caribbean.

“Our hearts go out to all of the people whose lives have been affected by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey,” he said. Cook went on to encourage people to donate to those impacted through charity Hand in Hand using the App Store and iTunes this coming weekend.

After running through the details of the new building and updates to Apple’s retail stores, which they refer to as Apple’s Town Squares, the impatient audience were finally given the first glimpse of the new products.

Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., speaks about the iPhone during an event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. Apple Inc.��unveiled a new Watch on Tuesday that can make calls and access the internet without an iPhone nearby, freeing the device from a limitation that had given some potential buyers pause. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., opened the event tonight. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

“Our teams have been hard at work for years on something that is important for all of us: the future of the smartphone”, Cook said.

“Now 10 years later, it is only fitting that we are here in this space on this day to reveal a product that will set the path for the next decade,” he continued.

The iPhone X, which is pronounced iPhone ten, has made consumer facial recognition a reality.

Using a 3D depth-sensing camera, iPhone X users will be able to use their faces to unlock their phones, use Apple Pay and use third party apps.

Called Face ID, the technology, called the A11 Bionic neural engine, processes and ‘learns’ the user’s face and so will recognise its owner even if they change their hair, put on glasses, wear a hat or are in the dark. Apple says there is only a one in a million chance that a different person could activate another person’s Face ID.

Apple’s facial recognition also means emojis are getting an update.

The iPhone X’s Animoji is described as "custom animated messages that use your voice and reflect your facial expressions”. Users can select an emoji, such as that of a puppy, and using facial recognition, the iPhone X maps the user’s facial expressions onto the image turning it into an Animoji. The small cartoon image can appear as if it’s smiling, frowning or laughing out loud. Users can simultaneously record an audio message to play through the Animoji.

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Similarly, facial tracking on your favourite Snapchat filters is hugely improved as Apple has worked hand-in-hand with the social media app.

“There has never been anything like it [the iPhone X]”, said Phil Schiller, the senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple, who talked the audience through the developments.

As suggested last week when details of iPhone X were leaked, Face ID replaces the fingerprint unlock system of the iPhone 7.

Also gone are the iconic chunky bezels (the borders around the touchscreen), as has the home button.

To reach the home screen, users must swipe up from the bottom of the device, apps can scrolled through by swiping the bottom of the screen horizontally and Siri is accessed by pressing on the side button or speaking to Siri. The iPhone X can be woken up by raising, as before, or by simply tapping on the screen.

This change has allowed Apple to increase its display but keep the handset at a reasonable size. It is 5.8 inches diagonally and has 2.7 million pixels. With a Super Retina display, it has the highest resolution in pixel density ever in an iPhone. It has an organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screen and the iPhone X is water and dust resistant on a microscopic level.

Boasting an additional two hours battery life than the iPhone 7, the iPhone X also has a new TrueDepth camera. This improves the front-facing camera and the quality of selfie photos.

The phone has a new six-core A11 system-on-a-chip (SoC), which means it will likely be more powerful than any other mobile chip on offer, and 3GB of memory.

The iPhone X also offers wireless charging and a glass back. An optional wireless charging mat will be available to purchase next year.

The Lightning connector, that has required many customers to buy adaptors to charge or use headphones with their phone, remains.

“The iPhone X: the most advanced iPhone we’ve ever made… This really is the future,” summed up Cook.

The iPhone X may be hard to come by, with rumours that limited numbers will be produced per day. It is available in America from November 3 from $999 (Dh3669).

For customers looking to upgrade but who don’t have such deep pockets, the new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are also on offer.

Referred to by Apple as “the new generation of iPhone”, it is boosted by a faster processor and also offers wireless charging and the same reinforced glass backing - which Apple say is the most durable glass in a smartphone ever.

It has a 12MP camera which allows 83% more light. Each camera is also kitted with Augmented Reality games and apps in mind.

Visually closer to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, the phone retains the home button and comes in silver, space grey and a gold finish. It is water and dust resistant.

Tonight’s event wasn’t solely about Apple’s phones.

The Apple Watch, which Cook revealed is now the number one watch in the world, has been upgraded. Apple Watch 3, which will be 70% faster and the same size as Apple Watch 2, is cellular, meaning users can make and receive calls as well as use data without having their phones on them. The watch will work using the same number as their phones. Users will also be able to stream 40 million songs from the watch.

Jeff Williams, chief operating officer of Apple Inc., speaks about Apple Watch. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
Jeff Williams, chief operating officer of Apple Inc., speaks about Apple Watch. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

With smart activity coaching, a redesigned workout app and new features for swimmers, fitness enthusiasts will be pleased. The Heart Rate app will offer more information, including a ‘recovery heart rate’ to show how quickly the wearer recuperates after exercise. It will also allow users to track their heart rate in the hopes that more people will be able to spot irregularities which could be a sign of ill health.

Following the trend of companies showing that they care, Apple launched the ‘Apple Heart Study’ in partnership with Stanford Medicine and will use the Heart Rate app’s data in a move that could improve health but could cause users to feel like their privacy is being invaded.

It is unclear when the Apple Watch 3 will be available in the UAE.

For those interested in more than the iPhone and Apple Watch, Apple TV is now 4K HDR enabled and as part of the demo of what the TV could show, a scene from Dubai was shown.

Although Apple’s value has soared this year, the company took a hit after Huawei, who offer cheaper models, overtook the iPhone maker in the smartphone market. It pushed Apple to third place, behind Samsung and the Chinese firm.

The iPhone is intrinsic to Apple’s success since it was first released in 2007 but if the launch tonight fails to get results with real customers, the company could take a sizeable financially stumble despite the excitement on display in California tonight.