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Apple unveils iPhone X, 8 models as it upgrades TV set-top box

Apple unveils iPhone X, 8 models as it upgrades TV set-top box

Premium-tier phone priced at $999, will ship Nov. 3
Apple unveils iPhone X, 8 models as it upgrades TV set-top box
Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, introduces the iPhone X at the new Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, Calif., on Tuesday.
Photographer: Jim Wilson/The New York Times

CUPERTINO, Calif. — Apple unveiled the iPhone X, the latest version of its flagship smartphone, at the first news media event at the company’s new Silicon Valley campus on Tuesday. The $999 price of the highly anticipated phone — scheduled to ship on Nov. 3 — makes it the most expensive iPhone model ever.

Apple made significant changes to the iPhone screen with the X — pronounced 10, not “ex” — introducing a so-called edge-to-edge display that takes up the entire face of the phone. It also eliminated the physical home button that had been a signature feature of the iPhone for a decade.

While the top-end phone was the most anticipated announcement Tuesday, Apple also introduced the iPhone 8, as well as its bigger sibling, the iPhone 8 Plus. In addition, Apple took the wraps off a new Apple Watch with cellular capabilities, called Apple Watch Series 3.

And Apple TV, the company’s set-top box that has never been a blockbuster hit, also received an upgrade.

The iPhone X pushes Apple into new territory on price

At $999, the iPhone X costs $300 more than the iPhone 8 and $200 more than the iPhone 8 Plus.

While that will be too expensive for many people, the company said it saw the iPhone X defining a new era for the smartphone, much like the original iPhone did 10 years ago. Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said that the device would “set the path for the next decade.” That is because Apple will most likely build on some of the iPhone X’s most notable features, including infrared facial recognition, wireless battery charging and sophisticated camera effects.

Analysts are betting on a slow uptake of the top-end phone, because of both production delays and the high price. But if it turns out to be an unexpected hit, like the iPhone 6 Plus and 7 Plus, the company’s sales — and stock price — could surge.

The iPhone X’s design takes glass to the outer edges

The iPhone X is the first redesigned iPhone in three years. It is essentially the same size and overall shape as the iPhone 7, but because the screen occupies all of the front of the phone, it is far larger than that of older models.

Whether people will adjust to the button-free system remains to be seen. For better or worse, Apple had used essentially the same interface for the iPhone for a decade. The learning curve will be interesting to watch.

The iPhone X introduces infrared face scanning

The feature in the iPhone X that had never existed on any other iPhone is infrared face scanning.

The technology, called Face ID, uses an infrared camera system on the front of the phone to scan the contours and shape of a person’s head to unlock the phone and authorize mobile payments. The technology works by spraying an object with infrared dots to gather information about the depth of an object based on the size and the contortion of the dots. The imaging system can then stitch the patterns into a detailed 3-D image of your face to determine if you are indeed the owner of your smartphone.

For Apple, Face ID had been years in the making. In 2013, it acquired PrimeSense, a company that developed sensors for Microsoft’s Kinect, a camera system that scanned people’s bodies so people could play Xbox games using body movements.

Face ID was a direct response to the face-recognition feature in smartphones offered by Samsung, Apple’s fiercest rival. Experts have criticized Samsung’s face-recognition feature, which could be tricked by holding a photo of the smartphone owner’s face in front of the camera.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus can handle more complex tasks

The new iPhone 8 line includes the iPhone 8 and its bigger sibling, the 8 Plus.

The phones have a six-core processor that will handle more complex tasks and 3D games more quickly and efficiently than previous iPhones. The phones generally look the same as their predecessors, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, with the exception of having glass bodies, as opposed to aluminum.

Apple improved the phones’ cameras with new sensors and added new motion sensors to better support applications made for augmented reality, which uses data to digitally manipulate the physical world when people look through a smartphone lens.

In particular, the dual cameras in the iPhone 8 Plus take photos with sharp details in low light. Apple also added a new portrait mode to improve the lighting on faces regardless of the background.

Another notable new feature is the introduction of magnetic induction to the iPhones. Similar to Apple Watch, the iPhones can now be charged by being placed on a charging pad instead of having to be plugged in.

The new iPhone 8 line will be one of the most important for Apple. Wall Street analysts have estimated that more than half of iPhone buyers will buy the 8 and 8 Plus over the next year. The models had a slightly higher starting price than their predecessors: The iPhone 8 starts at $699, up from $650 for older iPhone models.

Apple revamps its Apple TV set-top box

Apple unveiled an upgrade for Apple TV, its set-top box. The product is becoming increasingly important to Apple as it, along with other tech giants like Facebook and Google, moves into creating original video content.

The new Apple TV, called Apple TV 4K, was an iteration of the last model, which introduced a touch pad remote control. The new box will be able to stream at so-called 4K resolution, which refers to screens with two times the vertical resolution and twice the horizontal resolution of high-definition TVs. Eddy Cue, Apple’s head of internet software and services, added that 4K titles would cost the same to rent as traditional high-definition titles. The set-top box will cost $179.

Apple Watch can now work without an iPhone

The Apple Watch has been a sleeper hit for the company. Though early reviews were mixed, Apple has steadily improved the device, and now the smartwatch is the best-selling watch in the world, according to Apple.

On Tuesday, Apple unveiled the third version of the device. It looks identical to the old version, but the new one carries a cellular chip, meaning it can access the internet even if it is not connected to your phone.

Among other capabilities, the cellular version can make calls, send texts and stream music when you’re on the go.

“Now you have the freedom to go anywhere with just the Apple Watch,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer.

The cellular version completed a long-term vision for the Watch — to liberate you, in some small way, from Apple’s best-selling phone. In a demo, an Apple employee made a live call to the keynote address from a paddle board in the middle of a lake.

The new cellular version sells for $399; a Wi-Fi-only version of it sells for $329, and you can still buy the older model for $249. The new watch will begin shipping on Sept. 22.

Apple’s new corporate campus is a sight to behold

The highlight of Tuesday’s event was Apple Park, the company’s new $5 billion spaceship-shaped campus.

Reporters were penned off just out of range of the main building, at the Steve Jobs Theater, the 1,000-seat venue with a commanding view of the spaceship. A quick review: This place was just what you’d imagine an Apple-designed campus would look like. Think of the aesthetics of an Apple Store — lots of wood and glass, everything in muted tans and grays, all signage in white-on-black Apple Sans type — set on an otherwise barren landscape.

It was, unsurprisingly, very pretty, but its beauty came with a deliberate touch of fright. Nothing here was to human scale, and the overall impression was one of being overwhelmed by Apple’s sheer might.

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