Monday 26 February 2018

Apple's iPhone X equipped with facial recognition technology - but no 'home button'

Adrian Weckler in California

Apple has unveiled a new flagship iPhone called the iPhone X, which features a 5.8-inch screen that stretches across the entirety of the front of the handset.

The phone has no ‘home button’, with control instead used by swiping up on the screen and using the side power button.

The iPhone X replaces Touch ID with new facial recognition technology that measures and records 30,000 different facial points. This will now also be used with the phone when paying in shops using Apple Pay.

“Facial recognition is the future of how we will unlock our phones,” said Apple executive Phil Schiller from the stage at Apple’s new Steve Jobs Theatre at its headquarters campus near San Jose in California.

The phone’s facial recognition abilities can also be used for new animoji, animated emoji that closely mimic a user’s facial expressions and which can be used within iMessage. New Snapchat filters based on the technology were also hinted at from Apple’s presentation stage.

The iPhone X also has advanced new cameras which are stabilised, shoot 4K video and have new portrait modes that enhance a person’s facial lighting from either the selfie or rear cameras. It will have wireless charging capability based on the Qi open standard. Apple intends to sell a wireless charging mat called AirPower in 2018.

However, the iPhone X will cost over €1,000 when launched in Ireland as Apple tests its loyal customer base. The device will also not be available until early November, with pre-orders taken in late October.

Apple also launched a new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, which are more conventional upgrades to the existing iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus phones. Using the same size screens, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus models also have better cameras and faster processors. However, they retain the Touch ID home buttons of previous iPhone models.

The new iPhones are being launched as smartphone penetration has plateau'd in Ireland and Europe. With aggressive new rivals such as Huawei on its tail, Apple needs to maintain its famously high sales margins, which reach almost 50pc of the overall phone's cost.

The company has also announced a new Apple Watch Series 3, which will come with a cellular SIM card built in. The move means that the Watch can be used by runners or fitness enthusiasts to listen to streamed music or check messages and notifications without having their phone with them.

The device is set to cost over €400 in Ireland when it launches later this month, with Apple retaining the Apple Watch 2 and Apple Watch 1 at lower price points. However, there has been no deal struck with any Irish operator at launch, while EE in the UK will be a launch operator for the Apple Watch 3.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook told the assembled audience that the Watch is now the best-selling watch globally, ahead of rivals such as Rolex.

Apple also unveiled the Apple TV 4K, which can play movies and television programmes in high dynamic range (HDR) as well as more than twice the resolution of existing ‘full HD’. The company will automatically upgrade any HD content on customer Apple TVs to 4K (where applicable), while 4K content will cost the same as HD content to download.

The iPhone launch occurred on the tenth anniversary of the original iPhone sale, released in 2007 by the late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs.

1.2bn iPhones have been sold worldwide in that time, with Apple's gadget credited as having kicked off the world's smartphone obsession and changing people's reading, TV, messaging and dating habits.

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