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?
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