Overpriced & Underwhelming, Apple's New iPhone Lacks X Factor

Apple's desperately awaited new iPhone has finally arrived, and the big news -- which most of us learned through a drip feed of leaks over the past few days -- is that it's even more expensive than the last model. Oh, and it includes facial recognition software.

What that essentially means is that a consumer will be able to unlock this bit of digital bling by looking at it instead of touching the screen. It's far more secure than fingerprint recognition, says Apple. But on the wow-factor seismometer, it's not exactly a garbage-fueled flying car.

Analysts had been salivating in expectation of this iPhone launch like Pavlov's dogs after the ringing of the bell. But it's a measure of just how underwhelming the whole smartphone show has become that some of the most respected commentators chose to focus on the facial recognition stuff.

Carolina Milanesi, an analyst from market research firm Creative Strategies, said security-conscious consumers might initially be reluctant to use facial recognition as an alternative to fingerprint recognition, according to a BBC report.

Given that customers didn't have much hesitation about using fingerprint recognition when it recently appeared, we're not convinced they will be so wary. Unenthused, yes.

Unfortunately, if anyone is worried about the security implications of using a face instead of a fingerprint, they won't have recourse to the latter. That's because, in another mind-blowing innovation, Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) has done away with the button on the screen.

That's right. Having taken its battle against the button to its logical conclusion, Apple has removed the one button that its customers had left at their disposal and produced a touchscreen-only device.

Just as the elimination of a 3.5mm socket from earlier models stopped customers from using traditional earphones, so the death of the button will prevent them from using familiar gestures to control the device.

The screen display is bigger, too, extending from one edge of the device to the other. If that sounds like something you can already get on other luxury smartphones, it's because -- well -- you can.

And get this. In a bit of marketing genius that would have had Steve Jobs ditching his trademark somber black turtleneck for a celebratory Hawaiian shirt, Apple has branded its new device the iPhone X.

Can you see what it's done there? Not only is X an extremely "sick" letter of the alphabet, as millennials would say, but it's also the Roman numeral for 10. That portends empire-building greatness. And because the previous device was the iPhone 7, and Apple introduced the iPhone 8 alongside the X, the nomenclature shows that Apple is "leapfrogging" the 9 to produce something really groundbreaking. Brilliant, eh?

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What's really depressing about all this is the message it sends out. Device makers obviously want a range that caters to both ends of the consumer market. But at a time when incomes are being squeezed, and Thomas Piketty is writing about the widening wealth gap between rich and poor, Apple's most anticipated innovation in ages is a smartphone that, at $1,000, costs about as much as one of its state-of-the-art laptops did just a few years ago.

Maybe Apple is just more honest than Facebook , whose purported goal of "democratizing" technology and bringing the Internet within rich of disadvantaged communities has attracted equal cynicism.

But it's hard to shake the feeling that Apple's iPhone X is the hardware equivalent of that app that turned up in its store way back in 2008. Priced at a jaw-dropping $1,000, it did nothing more than display the image of a red ruby on the iPhone screen. "I Am Rich," it was called.

Media reports suggest that app had about eight buyers worldwide. Apple will obviously be hoping the iPhone X meets with a warmer reception. In 2016, it sold fewer iPhones than in the previous year for the first time ever, and its growth rate for units sold has been trending down since 2010, when it was at an all-time high of more than 90%.

Despite all the fanfare about the Internet of Things and the connected home, Apple has disappointingly failed to come up with any gadget since the iPhone that excites investors and consumers to the same degree. Unless this latest iPhone rekindles their enthusiasm, it will have some hard questions to answer about its strategic direction.

— Iain Morris, News Editor, Light Reading

COMMENTS Add Comment
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kq4ym 9/22/2017 | 2:43:06 PM
Re: Annual Ritual It does seem there's something at work to bring a bit more into Apple's pockets with the $1000 phone price catering to perhaps the folks who just have to have the latest and greatest or at least want to be know for being able to afford the luxury of such a gadget. And of course, service providers figure out ways to make that price "affordable" with monthly payments and come-on deals to switch and get newer phones.
brooks7 9/14/2017 | 11:55:41 AM
Re: Annual Ritual  

I would say long ago (5 years or more maybe) new versions of various smartphones have added little to nothing new.  A bit better of a camera here or a bit more processor there.  But revolutionary changes left the building a long time ago.  I would argue the reason that user battery replacement was removed from phones was to keep up demand.  I still use a Galaxy S3 and it works perfectly well.   I have yet to see anything that would make me change.


DanJones 9/13/2017 | 8:57:32 PM
Re: Annual Ritual BTW, from what I hear, Apple is using both Intel and Qualcomm modems for the new phones. More on that later, hopefully....
DanJones 9/13/2017 | 8:55:09 PM
Re: Annual Ritual Well that's where the industry is going, they need to understand it, even if they don't dive in headfirst.
bosco_pcs 9/13/2017 | 8:49:11 PM
Re: Annual Ritual So QCOM really has Apple over the barrel after all. Unless Intel somehow could pull a rabbit out of the hat... But why did Apple try to field test 5G a few months ago? Anyone has the inside scoop?
DanJones 9/13/2017 | 8:17:18 PM
Re: Annual Ritual Well in this case there's another consideration here, the new iPhones don't support gigabit 

LTE, 10 android devices already do, many more will in 2018.
bosco_pcs 9/13/2017 | 7:33:50 PM
Re: Annual Ritual Dan, I'd like to answer your question differently but maybe with a straight response first. Since Apple claims iPhone X is the future of phone, probably it is the baseline going forward, i.e., 8 is the last of the Gen 1 and X is the base of Gen 2, including pricing. Mind you, it still covers the full range depending on the clienteles. Perhaps India at the low end and more affluent countries higher end.

In terms of being pricey, which is really my way of answering you, is it really. Case in point, I just upgrade mine from 4s to 7+ in April after the former 4 years of service. 3G is no longer up to the task either. While I lust after the new one, I am not planning to upgrade anytime soon because 7+ wasn't cheap either. If you factor in the higher storage, it is not far from the X. 

More importantly though, its usage and longevity are part of the cost-benefit analysis, yes? 

This is similar to the logic of choosing Windows or Mac. I am on 2013 Mac I bought in 2014. Not being a gamer, I am fine with it. Before that, my HP was on the fizz after 2 years of usage.

So I wonder if the usual refrain that Apple is overpriced is really relevant when your iPhone iOS outlive a variety of Androids which stop updating after a couple of years (except maybe Google's Pixel and Samsung's)
danielcawrey 9/13/2017 | 6:48:49 PM
Re: Annual Ritual I think it is interesting Apple now has a device with which to test really pricey features.

The question is: Will that translate into Apple doing this with new iPhone X models every once in a while? Or is this a one-off?
bosco_pcs 9/13/2017 | 2:14:54 PM
Annual Ritual Hyping beforehand and dissing afterward seems to be annual Apple iPhone coming out party ritual every year.

And plenty of role playing too. Financial analysts become technical gurus become consumer connouseurs. 

There is facial recognition and there is facial recognition, time will tell if it is the Samsung's picture-can-fool-it or real emerging tech. Remember the fingerprint had the same criticism. One thing not stated is if you can disable it or relegate to the trusted keypad. My bet yes, if you don't like it. Interestingly, Jet Blue and TSA are also piloting facial recognition. 

People hype Nvidia and AMD because of the GPU design but they ignore A11 Bionic. Imagine if Apple decided to give QCOM's snapdragon a run for the money now that it has dispensed Imagination. The best innovations might not necessarily the flashy stuff but it the bowel of the device.

But we are human, the same logic that any cost centers are not P&L and therefore should be cut to the bones, like payroll systems and Y2K remediation. Alas, the price to pay is an existential crisis like Equifax when it skimmed on security. Why, there is no flash or even recognition when you can fence off cybercriminals. But that feature is exactly what consumers want
mendyk 9/13/2017 | 10:44:11 AM
Re: Doppleganger delight Launching your phone with your face -- seems fitting for the times. As far as "wow" factors go, I wonder what exactly could be crammed into the X to make it stand out.
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