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The skinny on the iPhone X and Apple Watch

September 14, 2017 12:15 AM
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SAN FRANCISCO — At an event commemorating the 10th anniversary of the iPhone this week, Apple announced upgrades for the iPhone and Apple Watch.

Chief among the changes: Apple for the first time introduced a premium-tier handset, called iPhone X, priced at US$999 (S$1349). The device includes a display that takes up the entire face of the device, infrared face scanning for unlocking the phone and a glass back to support power charging through magnetic induction.

Alongside iPhone X, Apple announced the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, which are more incremental upgrades. The devices look roughly the same as their predecessors, but the main difference is that they are faster and have glass backs for inductive charging.

Apple also announced a new version of Apple Watch with cellular connectivity. That will allow the watch to stream music, take calls and send text messages, among other functions, independently from the iPhone.

More than 700 readers submitted questions to The New York Times about Apple’s announcements. Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions.

A: Yes, you will be able to charge via induction through many phone cases. But thickness may be a factor. Belkin, for example, says that with its induction charging pad for iPhone 8, cases up to 3 millimeters thick will work. The good news is that if you owned an iPhone 7, the same cases will fit snugly on the iPhone 8. The Wirecutter, a product recommendations site owned by The New York Times, has a nice guide on the best iPhone cases.

Q: Any indication whether a data plan for Apple Watch 3 will be necessary to take advantage of cellular connectivity features?

A: The Apple Watch will share the same phone number as your iPhone. However, carriers will have different pricing structures, so you will have to look up your carrier on Apple’s webpage to see your options. On AT&T, for example, a feature called NumberSync will fold your watch’s cellular plan into your iPhone’s. Adding the watch to your account will incur an additional charge of $10 a month to share your phone plan’s data, voice and texts on the watch.

A: According to Apple, facial recognition on the iPhone X will be able to scan your face in the dark. It works by spraying infrared dots all over your face to get a good scan. It remains to be seen how well this does in bright sunlight, like at a beach. Experts say infrared gets blown out by bright light.

Q: Does the iPhone facial recognition work while you are wearing glasses? Or do you have to take them off for the phone to recognise you?

A: Apple says Face ID will work even if you are wearing glasses or a hat. The system learns more about your face over time. Face ID should also be able to scan your face when the phone is laid down flat on a table.

Q: With Face ID — if you need someone to open your phone will they be able to?

A: Apple did not demonstrate the ability to add an extra face, like a spouse’s, to your iPhone. However, you could still share your pass code to let someone else unlock your phone.

A: Apple says the iPhone X has two more hours of battery life than the iPhone 7. The iPhone 8 has the same battery life as the iPhone 7, and the iPhone 8 Plus has the same battery life as the iPhone 7 Plus. I would take these estimates with a grain of salt: Because the phones are faster, you will probably use them more, and battery life may feel shorter as a result.

Q: When I bought my iPhone 6, The New York Times advised on the most economical way to purchase a new phone. What is your advice now?

A: No matter how you pay for an iPhone - buying it outright for full price or choosing an installment plan in which you spread out the cost in monthly payments - you will end up paying the full price of it. There are no interest fees incurred for paying through an installment plan, so that is a fine option if you don’t have US$700 to US$1,000 to burn on a new iPhone right away. If you like to upgrade every year, there are annual upgrade installment plans that let you trade in your phone for a new phone each year. The issue with that is you are essentially leasing the phone as you would a car; you get on a constant treadmill of buying phones. As for me, I’m an advocate of buying your smartphone outright and holding onto it for as long as you can.

A: Say RIP to the headphone jack, at least on Apple products. None of the new iPhones have headphone jacks, and I don’t think Apple will turn back on its commitment to wireless audio accessories.

Q: How much longer can Apple sustain creating increasingly expensive iPhones? At some point they will become inaccessible to the average consumer.

A: While Apple is adding a premium tier to its iPhone family, the iPhone overall isn’t getting much more expensive. The base model of the iPhone costs US$699, up from the US$649 starting price of past iPhones.

The big question will be: How good are the normal iPhones compared with the premium one? Will they be so unappealing in comparison that it would be foolish not to get the premium iPhone? I imagine that Apple would want the vast majority of customers to buy the US$699 iPhone, while the tech enthusiasts gravitate toward the premium one. But we will have to see.

A: The base model of the iPhone 8, which costs US$699, includes 64 gigabytes of storage, which is double the 32 gigabytes of storage included on the base model of the iPhone 7. However, the maximum capacity for the new iPhones remains at 256 gigabytes.

Q: I was wondering if the iPhone 8 and iPhone X will support the traditional Lightning cable wired charging? Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you!

A: Yes, all the new iPhones still include a Lightning connector in addition to supporting inductive charging through their glass bodies.

Q: Is the iPhone X unbreakable? I’d hate to pay US$1,000, drop it and have to replace it. A few years ago I heard about unbreakable sapphire technology, but not so much anymore.

A: Apple did not claim that the iPhone X is unbreakable. It is very unlikely that the device, which has a glass body, would be unbreakable. I always recommend putting a protective case on a smartphone.


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