The Supposed iPhone X Death Sentence

Engadget: Apple isn’t really killing the iPhone X

When KGI Securities’ Ming-Chi Kuo pens a research note, it’s not just his clients who tear into the results — the tech community does too, because of his almost uncanny track record with Apple predictions. A recent note of his begat a series of unfortunate headlines though. Depending on who you read, the iPhone X could be scrapped or killed or cancelled suddenly, as though Apple — utterly disheartened by theoretically lackluster sales — simply decided to call it quits.

These headlines feel needlessly sensational, but they speak to a market reality rooted in rationality. Aside from a handful of analyst estimates, we don’t know how many iPhone Xs Apple has sold. The company doesn’t break out sales by iPhone model, though we’ll learn more about iPhone sales overall in its earnings report next week. The general consensus is that the X sales, while not terrible, fell short of expectations. Let’s put these sales forecasts aside — what’s done is done. If Apple does discontinue the existing iPhone X (which seems more than possible), it’ll have more to do with future sales than past ones.

The most recent knells of doom have been painting iPhone X as some kind of disaster for Apple (despite Apple’s own claims that it has been the best selling iPhone model since its introduction). The most recent evidence of this failure come in the form of reports that Apple will be discontinuing iPhone X after one year — something they’ve never done before! Except for the original iPhone, the iPhone 5C, various iPod models, and more. Some of those unexpectedly discontinued products were even quite successful.

If I were to make some unsubstantiated guesses, I’d largely agree with this Engadget article. Here’s where I think Apple may be going and why.

iPhone X Lives On Without the Name

The iPhone X will be discontinued but its features will live on. If indeed iPhone X is the future of iPhone and its features move to other models next year, there’s no need for iPhone X to continue unless Apple plans to keep it as the “experimental” phone. But do we need a new experiment every year? I believe the iPhone X name will go away, but only because most of Apple’s phones next year will essentially be iPhone Xs.

iPhones Get Rebranded

I suspect a branding change is coming for iPhone. Last year, Apple introduced iPhone 8 and iPhone X, and that X is pronounced ten. The current models are versions 8 and 10, so what do you call this year’s phones? iPhone 9 sounds like a step back, and iPhone 11 leaves Apple in the weird predicament of simply skipping a number. iPhone 9 and iPhone X-2? Now we’re getting into Final Fantasy numbering.

Instead, I expect this year’s phones will follow iPad naming conventions and drop the numbers entirely, or Apple may announce they are dropping the iPhone name in favor of Apple Phone, which would align with other recent products. Where Apple’s hardware used to be brimming with lowercase i‘s, now iPhone, iPad, and iMac are the holdouts. (There’s also the neglected iPod touch, but that seems largely abandoned.)

Conclusion

When iPhone X came out, I tweeted that I didn’t expect it to sell as well as iPhone 8, and I was obviously wrong. But I believe my reasoning behind the tweet is still valid. Apple never looked at iPhone X as a long-term product. They set it next to their traditional iPhone lineup instead of in it. iPhone X was never meant to last as a product, but it is supposed to last as a foundation for iPhones to come. It’s a long-term strategy embodied in a short-term product.

iPhone X changed what we expect from Apple’s phones. Its mere existence gets Apple’s customers ready for a change in how they interact with their devices. Regardless of how many iPhone X units sell, the device has succeeded. The only way iPhone X fails is if Apple’s new phones reject the progress it represents. iPhone X may get discontinued as a product and a name, but its influence will live on.

 

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Apple’s Response to the Battery Controversy

Apple: A Message to Our Customers about iPhone Batteries and Performance

We’ve always wanted our customers to be able to use their iPhones as long as possible. We’re proud that Apple products are known for their durability, and for holding their value longer than our competitors’ devices.

To address our customers’ concerns, to recognize their loyalty and to regain the trust of anyone who may have doubted Apple’s intentions, we’ve decided to take the following steps:

  • Apple is reducing the price of an out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacement by $50 — from $79 to $29 — for anyone with an iPhone 6 or later whose battery needs to be replaced, available worldwide through December 2018. Details will be provided soon on apple.com.
  • Early in 2018, we will issue an iOS software update with new features that give users more visibility into the health of their iPhone’s battery, so they can see for themselves if its condition is affecting performance.
  • As always, our team is working on ways to make the user experience even better, including improving how we manage performance and avoid unexpected shutdowns as batteries age.

At Apple, our customers’ trust means everything to us. We will never stop working to earn and maintain it. We are able to do the work we love only because of your faith and support — and we will never forget that or take it for granted.

I’m a little late to the game here, but I have two thoughts. The first is that this whole communication is a great response to a terrible situation. It’s humble, solution-oriented, and straight to the point. The second is that it’s too little too late. Apple needed to have been upfront about this. Since they weren’t, they’ve eroded trust with their customers and have given ammunition to their critics.

I sincerely hope Apple learns from these events.

A Long Week for Apple Engineers

Recode: Apple’s Had a Shockingly Bad Week of Software Problems Let’s recap the week of Apple software problems: macOS High Sierra critical flaw with root admin access macOS High Sierra update released, but breaks file sharing iOS 11 crashing on some iPhones due to a date bug macOS High Sierra fix not installing correctly on […]

iPhone 8 Plus Camera Review: India

Austin Mann: iPhone 8 Plus Camera Review: India

I’m writing to you from a small hotel room in India having just experienced a magical adventure in western India orchestrated by friends at Ker & Downey. I’ve shot thousands of images and countless portraits with the iPhone 8 Plus and I’m excited to share what I’ve learned.

While the iPhone 8 Plus looks essentially the same as the phone we’ve had since the 6 Plus, there are some new features in the 8 Plus which really impact creative pros across the board — most notably Portrait Lighting, along with a few other hidden gems.

From what I hear, the Pixel 2 has an excellent camera too. The arms race in technology used to be about raw speed. Now that we’ve moved to more convergent mobile devices, I’d say the camera is the new and most exciting battlefront.

John Gruber On the iPhone 8

Daring Fireball: The iPhones 8

No one is going to describe the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus as having a radical new design. But they do have new glass backs that are the biggest change to their finishings since this general form factor started with the iPhone 6. The displays have gained True Tone. The cameras are significantly improved, both for still images and video. (Did I mention that both the 8 and 8 Plus can shoot true 4K video at 60 frames per second when you use the new HEVC format instead of the more compatible H.264?) The iPhone 8 Plus gets the new Portrait mode lighting effects. Both phones have the amazing A11 Bionic chip. They get inductive charging.

These are solid year-over-year updates — at least as impressive as the iPhone 7 was over the iPhone 6S. If they hadn’t debuted alongside the iPhone X we’d be arguing about whether these are the most impressive new iPhone models since the iPhone 6. There’s a lot to love about them and nothing to dislike.

John Gruber’s impressions are clear and concise. If all you want is the latest and greatest tech, the iPhone 8 isn’t going to impress you. However, it’s unfair to say they haven’t made any serious improvements since the last generation. My wife’s phone (an iPhone 6) is ready to be replaced, and I was ready to settle on an iPhone 7 after the press event. Reading this review gives me confidence the iPhone 8 will be a better move in the long run.

Unpacking Apple’s September 12 Event

This fall’s Apple iPhone event has come and gone almost exactly as expected. Still, there were a few surprising moments in the script, and some of the technology was pretty incredible to see live on stage. And that was the point. Apple’s keynotes — while not above hyperbole and the occasional celebrity walk-on — tend to be calmer affairs. They focus on the products and often let them speak for themselves.

On Retail

Apple’s big focus here is to make their stores even more of a gathering place than they already are. It’s interesting to see them pushing forward in this area despite the fact they already have incredibly successful retail locations. Our local Apple store is easily the most trafficked location in its mall, perhaps even more than the food court. Retail is the experiment that conventional wisdom said wouldn’t work, yet it has for Apple.

One of the best ways to sell an Apple product is to put it in someone’s hands. Apple retail locations offer that experience far better than any online research or big box store could. Their focus on classes and events gives people a reason to come back time and again. That they’re not resting on their past success here shows they don’t want to lose that magic.

On Apple TV

I didn’t get to see my mythical Apple TV set, but their streaming box gained 4K and the two major HDR standards. It’s also way more powerful, running the same architecture that’s in the current iPad Pro lineup. Unfortunately, Apple has chose not to compete on price. The non-4K Apple TV is starting at $149 with 4K coming in at $179.

To offset that price a bit comes iTunes movie pricing. Apple will be offering 4K content at the same price as HD content. This means no messy upgrade fees like when iTunes transitioned from SD to HD. Right now, The Lego Batman Movie is $30 for digital 4K from Google Play, but it will be $20 in iTunes. If this same pricing structure carries over to movie rentals, I see this being an advantage for Apple.

On Apple Watch

Apple isn’t the first to bring out a cellular connected watch. I believe that honor goes to Samsung. However, all evidence points to the fact that Apple Watch eclipses all other smart watch sales at this time, so this will be new to most people. It’s hard to say how much being able to make calls and texts independently from your watch may shift the mobile industry, but I think this could be a game changer for Apple Watch. Maybe Apple executives will finally start reporting sales numbers on their financial calls.

On iPone 8

It’s a faster iPhone 7. At the end of the day, had Apple retained their naming pattern, this would have been iPhone 7S. It really is just a refinement of the previous generation, which is a good thing in itself. It also features double the storage of the current iPhone 7 models on Apple’s site, but the color options have become conspicuously more limited.

If you are on the fence between an iPhone 7 and an iPhone 8, the decision should come down to one factor: can you live with 32 GB of storage? If the answer to that is yes, save $150 and go with the iPhone 7. If, like me, you find 32 GB restrictive, opt for the iPhone 8.

On iPhone X

This is where the real news is. If iPhone 8 is an iteration of all that the iPhone line has built up to over the past decade, iPhone X (inexplicably pronounced “ten”) represents a break from that tradition to explore new territory. At $999, this model is going to be too expensive for many consumers who will instead pine for iPhone X while purchasing iPhone 8. I think that’s the point.

As noted by others, Apple has a scale problem. Apple usually ships over 200 million new iPhones a year. Even their biggest competitor, Samsung, may only ship a quarter of that number for their most recent flagship. This means Apple can’t include a new technology that can’t be efficiently produced 200 million times a year. Enter iPhone X. Unlike iPhone 8, Apple plans on not shipping 200 million of these, giving them the time to ramp up production on the more advanced features that will eventually trickle down to future standard models.

Do I want an iPhone X? Absolutely, I do. Am I actually going to get one? There’s almost no chance. Here’s the trickier question: does it justify its price tag? I think it does, based on three factors:

  1. The OLED screen. There aren’t many OLED phones on the market, and that’s because the technology is still expensive. Check out TV prices at your local Best Buy, and you will notice most 55″ televisions are under $1,000. In contrast, the least expensive OLED you will find is the LG B7 at about $2,000. If you want a 75″ OLED, you’ll be paying over $10,000 as opposed to roughly $3,000 for an LED. Apple isn’t dealing with screens this size, but the transition to OLED will still be a significant factor in the price.
  2. The Facial Technology. The Animoji demo might have been overly cute, but it did demonstrate just how good Apple’s facial mapping technology is. It looks on par with what I’ve seen in Adobe Character Animator CC, which is $19.99 a month (or almost $240 a year) with After Effects. Time will tell how secure or reliable it is in unlocking your phone, but there’s no denying some expensive tech went into that feature.
  3. The Processor. This is the one advanced feature iPhone X shares with iPhone 8. Early benchmarks put the A11 processor on par with the processor shipping in Apple’s 13″ MacBook Pro.

You put those together with the build quality and other features, and, yes, you have a $999 device in your hands. Whether or not you feel a phone is worth that to you is your call, but iPhone X earns its price tag.

No-shows and Conclusion

This event didn’t talk about the Mac at all, but I was foolish to hope it would. Apple seldom mentions the Mac at their fall iPhone events. They are too focused for that. If the Mac mini is to receive an update, it will probably be a stealth upgrade on their site. As for the iMac Pro or the future Mac Pro, they will get an event all to themselves.

I was a little disappointed the iPod touch or iPad mini didn’t get speed bumps. They are clearly running the oldest architecture of iOS devices, and it’s beginning to show. If Apple doesn’t give them some love soon, I feel strongly they should simply discontinue them.

In the end, Apple made a strong showing that will spur much enthusiasm and discussion. It was an event punctuated by the past — given in the Steve Jobs theater complete with a tribute to the former CEO, nods to the evolution of the original iPhone he introduced, background music featured in ads of Apple past. It also gave us a view of the future, bringing out a phone that is as much prototype as it is product.

The last few months have been interesting for Apple, after a period of time where it felt like they were coasting, Apple seems intent on reinventing themselves again, and that’s always when they are at their strongest.

iPhone X Event Hopes

One of the fun parts about Apple events is to speculate about what we’re going to see. Unfortunately, this last weekend’s leak of iOS 11 has taken away a bit of the mystery. Still, here are some things I expect to see today as well as some things I’d like to see.

Expected Announcements

  • New iPhones. This goes without saying. Apple has the iPhone on a predictable schedule. I can’t add anything to this that hasn’t already been said other than my hope that the smaller iPhone SE also gets some love.
  • Apple TV 4K. This is another near certainty. I’d love to see the Siri remote get redesigned, and I’d like to see Apple TV come with a game controller by default. Beyond that, adding Amazon Video to tvOS’s app offerings will be a big gain.
  • Apple Watch. If a new Apple Watch is part of this event, I don’t expect a new form factor or anything radical — a refinement of past iterations.
  • Software Updates. iOS 11 and Siri will likely get the most attention. macOS, watchOS, and tvOS improvements will get smaller shoutouts. Also expect a focus on augmented reality.

Wish List

  • iPod touch. I’d love to get my daughter an iPod touch. Therefore, I’d love to see it get a spec bump.
  • Mac mini. It would be great to see them showing off macOS High Sierra on an updated Mac mini. I love the current form factor, but let’s see some improved internals.
  • tvOS TV. What can I say? I’d love to buy a good TV with tvOS built in.

Of course, it’s always nice when Apple surprises us in some way. I expect iPhone X (if that’s what it gets called) will be the big thing, but who knows? Perhaps we’ll get a sneak peek at the upcoming Mac Pro, a release date for the iMac Pro, or something entirely new.