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Main article: IPhone X

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Apple’s hand is down and its $1 trillion dream now rests with consumers

19:37 | 1 December

As we head into the end of 2017, it’s pretty safe to say that Apple’s fate — barring any major issue with its phones — is now in the hands of its consumers.

With the iPhone X now in stores (well, sort of — if you catch them at the right time), Apple has now laid down its hand and waits to see where consumer demand lands. Its bid to unlock a higher-tier consumer could indeed end up creating a ton of value for the company, which has spent the past year looking to reignite growth in its core driver.

While the iPad and Mac continue to contribute, Apple’s fate largely rests on the success of the iPhone X. Apple this year has increasingly looked like it’s on a real pathway to becoming a $1 trillion company, and now the holiday quarter is going to show if it’ll be able to pull that off.

And the signals are definitely there. Apple briefly tapped a $900 billion market cap, though it’s slipped since then. That $1 trillion goal is just a jump of a bit more than 10 percent for the company, though for Apple that means adding more than $100 billion in value. But this year alone, shares of Apple are up nearly 50 percent as it increasingly looks like Apple is getting its act together after a middling 2016.

Apple can aggressively invest in marketing, advertising or other channels to try to get the attention of consumers. But the phone is out there, people say it’s great and the price is already set. Apple’s immediate challenge may be to convince users to get the phone or sign up for its subscription upgrade plan. But with the holiday quarter hitting its critical juncture, consumers will very soon make their decision as to whether Apple’s interpretation of the next generation of smartphones is the right one. And it’s going to rest on whether or not Apple’s bid to unlock a new tier of paying customers is going to play out the way it expects.

If Apple is going to hit $1 trillion, it’s going to have to have a portfolio of products that allow it to incrementally increase the total market it can attack. This is typically referred to as TAM (total addressable market), and for a while it looked like Apple may have hit the upper bound of that as the iPhone hit a saturation point with consumers. So Apple has made a big bet to increase that possibility to ratchet up that least upper bound: seeing if people will pay more for its products. And that meant coming out with a phone that costs nearly $1,200 in the United States.

With the fall launches, Apple now has three pricing tiers to go with its products. You pay a lot of money for a big phone, a lot more money for a bigger phone and a lot more money than that to get a premium next-generation phone. That gives Apple an opportunity to tap the rabid early-adopter fan base that got people excited about the iPhone in the first place — the ones who may be willing to fork out more money to get early access to features that may one day be what a next-generation smartphone looks like.

And the iPhone X certainly has those features. The screen fits to the edges of the device. The home button is gone, now replaced by its interpretation of it as software. It has the ability to unlock itself with your face. It includes wireless charging (which the iPhone 8 also has), which seems more of a novelty for now as the technicals evolve. But more importantly, it aims to feel like a next-generation phone, packaging all the best notions that have incrementally pushed forward the bounds of a smartphone in one neat product at a high price point.

And the success of that is, indeed, a frustrating uncertainty. Apple initially seemed to be unable to get enough phones into the hands of consumers, though that seems to have leveled out a bit — checking the Apple Store indicates that the shipping time is now one to two weeks. But despite widely positive reviews, Wall Street still seems to be waiting on the right signals to give Apple the green light to race to a $1 trillion valuation.

Apple’s own expectations for the holiday quarter bring it back to a growth phase, though this is always the most critical quarter for the company. It’s when it’s going to sell the most phones, but it’s also when Apple is able to thoroughly test the appetite for its new phones. This holiday quarter is going to give Apple the opportunity to see if its users are ready to spend nearly $1,200 on a phone — quite a bit more than the norm.

So, at a mechanical level, this is a way to continue to grow its business. It can release new products like the HomePod or AirPods, or continue to build out its services business as it looks to continue to lock in its users. But because the iPhone is its sweet spot, if it can figure out a way to eke more value out of that business, it basically just gives Wall Street an opportunity to take additional value onto its market cap — even if it’s just a function of the amount of money it makes and the revenue it projects for the next round.

But Apple has really always been a premium product. Though accessible to a wide array of users, Apple wants to have that shine that the company has a robust ecosystem that it’s able to ensure has a high quality. Apple is going to look to tap that shine that made it the original harbinger of the smartphone era — and its hopes of becoming a $1 trillion company are now more or less a waiting game to see how the story plays out.

 


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On iPhone X launch day, Apple draws a crowd

22:46 | 3 November

Today, the iPhone X became available in Apple retail stores across the globe. And given the fanfare around iPhone launches for the past decade, we couldn’t help but show up and chat with one of the world’s most loyal consumer fan bases.

At Apple’s 5th Avenue Manhattan store, lines stretched down the block and across Madison Avenue, with some pre-order folks arriving only a couple of hours before opening, while others (without a pre-order reservation) arriving early morning yesterday.

Most seemed pretty excited about the new model iPhone, though, as buyers who wait in line, that’s to be expected. Check out the reactions in the video above.

 


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iPhone X teardown finds major changes inside the gleaming exterior

21:48 | 3 November

The iPhone 8 may have been filled with the expected kit, but we’ve all been looking forward to finding out what fun Apple’s engineers had putting together the all-new iPhone X — and it doesn’t disappoint. iFixit’s excellent-as-always teardown finds a wealth of strange new components inside the biggest redesign of the device in years.

Right off the bat there’s an interesting and first-time choice to split the battery into two parts — it’s mainly just to better use the space that’s left over after budgeting for the volume of the other parts. It still comes out as a single piece, just a little more L-shaped than the usual rectangle.

Users will be glad to hear that the Lightning port has been reinforced; it’s given a little more space and structure inside the body of the phone, which should prevent it from wearing out so quickly.

The front-facing camera array, essentially a miniaturized first-generation Kinect, doesn’t have many surprises, but it’s nice to see that it comes out relatively easily and in one piece.

It’s the logic board that really impresses, though. When taken out of its little spot, it looks like it’s actually smaller than the iPhone 8’s. How could that be, if it has even more capabilities? Turns out this particular logic board is double-sided.

Putting a few pieces on the back of a board is nothing new, but this takes it to a different level. It’s really two very thin and very densely packed logic boards, connected with a spacer PCB and with little tunnels through which data can travel.

By doing this, the logic board in the iPhone X manages to take up 30 percent less space, while fitting in 35 percent more components. It’s an admirable feat of miniaturization — but the flip side, so to speak, is that it puts a great deal of electronic eggs in one basket. If something goes wrong with one bit, you’ll have to replace what’s likely the most complex mobile logic board ever made.

The good news is that the most common failure of iPhones — a cracked screen — is relatively straightforward to fix. That notch holding the Face ID hardware is separate from the screen, so you can replace the glass without replacing the baby Kinect. The battery is likewise relatively easy to replace. Take care of the back panel, though: if it shatters, you’ll pretty much be stuck with it unless you really want to shell out.

Featured Image: iFixit

 


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12 neat hidden features in the iPhone X

14:01 | 31 October

 With the iPhone X, Apple has had to rethink many of the iOS core gestures. The new device features a brand new design with a taller display, Face ID and no home button. If you plan on buying a new iPhone X, it’s going to take a while to get used to these new metaphors. So here’s a list of some not-so-obvious features in the iPhone X. Matthew Panzarino also wrote a thorough review… Read More

 


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Review: The iPhone X Goes To Disneyland

13:03 | 31 October

 Most iPhone reviews are done by technically savvy writers that put them through their paces locally or in a lab. But what if you took an iPhone to a place where millions of people travel every year and use the absolute crap out of it for several days straight? Read More

 


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Crunch Report | Hey Dillon Francis, iPhone X Is Now Available For Pre-Order

08:15 | 28 October

Today’s Stories 

  1. The iPhone X is now available for pre-order
  2. Russian government condemns Twitter’s ad ban for Russia Today and Sputnik
  3. Walmart is rolling out shelf-scanning robots in stores, but says they won’t replace people

links to songs in todays episode:
Get out of my room – https://soundcloud.com/tito-hamze/get-out-of-my-room
Chicken Salad Sandwich – https://soundcloud.com/tito-hamze/chicken-salad-sandwich

Credits

Written by: Tito Hamze
Hosted by: Tito Hamze
Filmed by: Joe Zolnoski
Edited by: Tito Hamze

Notes:

  • I don’t know what to wear on Crunch Report (It’s a hard decision and I suck at dressing myself). If you are a startup and want to me to wear something mail me an XL T-shirt and I’ll wear it in an episode. I’m not going to mention the company on the shirt in the episode but it will be there. No offensive stuff, it’s totally at my discretion if I wear it. Mail it to me. Thanks <3 Ok, bye.

TechCrunch C/O Tito Hamze
410 Townsend street
Suite 100
San Francisco Ca. 94107

 


0

Interview: Apple’s Craig Federighi answers some burning questions about Face ID

23:07 | 15 September

 Face ID is easily the most hot-button topic to come out of Apple’s iPhone event this week, notch be damned. As people have parsed just how serious Apple is about it, questions have rightly begun to be raised about its effectiveness, security and creation. To get some answers, I hopped on the phone with Apple’s SVP of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi. Read More

 


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Why the iPhone X is the new iPhone you’ll want now

17:12 | 13 September

The iPhone X is billed as a future-focused device with a lot of cutting edge tech, available at a premium. It kind of reminds me of the positioning of the original MacBook Air, or the new MacBook, when those two devices were first introduced – tomorrow’s tech, available today, but for a bit more money and with a few trade-offs as a result of being ahead of its time.

And the iPhone X does have trade-offs – losing Touch ID is a blow, since it’s one of Apple’s strongest innovations in terms of convenience features for a mobile device, and one that has become essentially industry-standard across smartphone manufacturers.

There’s also the price: At $999 to start, this is the most expensive iPhone Apple has ever sold, and with upgraded memory options it’s easily more expensive than the cheapest Mac notebook in the lineup. Apple’s putting new meaning into the term “premium” when it comes to the smartphone category, even considering some recent high-priced device releases from competitors including Samsung.

These caveats might suggest that the true flagship of the moment is actually the iPhone 8 (and 8 Plus), which offer improved capabilities and hardware designs, but keep the price point the same as the 7 (and 7s) that preceded it. For a lot of users, that’s all that’s needed – better specs where it counts, and some great-looking photography features like the new Portrait Lighting mode on the iPhone 8 Plus which compliments the existing Portrait Mode features.

And while it does look like a strong offering, there’s no question in my mind that the iPhone X is the true flagship, and the iPhone that Apple needed to field now to keep pace with the rest of the industry. The Android device field has never been stronger, and some aspects of its current leading trends meant that the X was inevitable.

Using devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, LG V30 and Essential Phone have revealed one core truth about the current smartphone field: Display is king. The difference between using a smartphone with significant bezels and using one without is astounding, and builds over time. In the same way that it was hard to go back to smaller device once Apple relented and finally released an iPhone with a display larger than 4-inches, it’s very hard to go back to a bezel-heavy piece of hardware once you’re used to one without.

The Galaxy Note 8 and Essential Phone, two devices that also have bezel-light fronts.

Similarly, dual optical image stabilization on the rear camera is going to be something that, once you have it, you won’t want to give up. On the Galaxy Note 8, it makes a huge difference when using the tele lens, and I’m willing to bet it’ll be similarly beneficial with the iPhone X, if not more so.

OLED displays, again, are fairly standard on competing devices, and hard to give up once you’re used to their pure blacks and vivid colors. Apple has been holding on the apparent premise that it needed to get color rendering and other aspects of the display up to its exacting standards, but now that it has, it’ll be very hard to look at its older mobile display tech in the same way.

The iPhone X, you could argue, is overkill – just look at its leaked benchmarks in the tweet below, which shows it performing better than a MacBook Pro on paper using GeekBench stats. Everything from the display to the camera could be described as ‘extra,’ based on what you need from a smartphone and how satisfied you are with the one you carry today. But excess is the new normal for the premium smartphone category.

No other smartphone maker necessarily ticks all the boxes that Apple does with the iPhone X, but the X isn’t the first to anything its offering (with the exception maybe of Face ID, though its superiority to Touch ID remains questionable at best). Apple is once again doing the work of combining the best of existing tech in a way that makes the most sense. But doing so isn’t a forward-looking leap – it’s watching the throne in a market with some renewed vigor and excitement thanks to upstarts like Essential.

The iPhone X is the device users are going to want, and it’s going to set the new standard for the iPhone going forward, regardless of what Apple does for the rest of the line. Some, like Matt, might argue that it’s not offering enough to usher in the future now – but really the future is already upon us, and iPhone X is in just the right place.

 


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The iPhone X reveals why Tim Cook was so mad about Palm

12:29 | 13 September

At the unveiling of Apple’s new flagship smartphone yesterday, the iPhone X, CEO Tim Cook said it was something the company’s staff had been working on for a decade.

The new premium handset with its edge-to-edge display (minus one unfortunate top notch) does away with the physical home button entirely and makes greater use of gestures for controlling the UI.

The new interface for multitasking looks fluid and intuitive. But it also — if you’ve been smartphone watching for long enough — engenders a distinct feeling of déjà vu…

Specifically it looks rather like webOS running on the Palm Pre — a handset that was announced in 2009, after Jon Rubinstein, former SVP of Apple’s iPod division, had been lured out of retirement in Mexico by Palm: A mobile device company with a (very) long history, and enough self-perspective to realize they needed an experienced product designer to help them surf the next wave of mobility: touchscreen computing.

Rubinstein, who had left Apple in spring 2006, clearly possessed the sought for design chops. Palm execs flew down to Mexico to woo and win their man.

By the start of 2009 Rubinstein was on stage at CES to announce the Palm Pre: A high-gloss, pebble-shaped slider smartphone which deployed multiple gestures in the UI making the most of a touch-sensitive area that extended below the display and onto the bezel itself.

It wasn’t just the scroll-flicks and pinch-to-zooms already on the iPhone and Android devices of the time that Palm had brought over to its next-gen smartphone hardware. It had something else up its sleeve: Its webOS UI incorporated a deck-of-cards activity interface to be the driver for low friction mobile multitasking.

Palm showed how users could easily swipe between and tap on the cards to switch apps. How the order of cards could be rearranged with a finger press and drag. And how individual cards could be flicked off the top of the screen when the user was done with a particular app or task. Cards showed fully active apps. It was simple and elegant.

“Now how’s that for some real newness,” said Matías Duarte, Palm’s senior director of human interface and user experience, with a pretty sizable smirk on his face as he wrapped up that part of the Pre’s CES demo.

(Duarte now works on Google’s card-like Material Design design language, which extends the card motif the company first used in Android, for Google Now, in 2012; and he went straight from Palm to being a VP of design at Android when the feature was being developed.)

In an earnings call later the same month in 2009, Cook was pressed by analysts about how quickly the iPhone’s competitors appeared to be elbowing into the market — and asked how Apple would be able to sustain its leadership.

“We don’t mind competition, but if others rip off our intellectual property, we will go after them,” he responded in a comment that was picked up on and interpreted at the time as a pretty stark warning shot across Palm’s bows.

When pressed again specifically on the Palm Pre, and how the device seemed to “directly emulate the iPhone’s innovative interface”, Cook doubled down on his implied accusation of IP theft: “We don’t want to refer to any specific companies, so that was a general statement. We like competition because it makes us better, but we will not stand for companies infringing on our IP.”

Of course this is all water under the bridge now, as Palm’s dreams of successfully surfing the smartphone wave ended in abrupt disaster — burdened by ongoing legacy software challenges, wrong-footed by carriers’ marketing decisions and ultimately saddled with an unloving acquirer in HP — and the Palm Pre had a cruelly short lifespan for such a forward-thinking device.

I remember how fresh the interface felt in 2009. How hugely advanced vs legacy smartphone players like BlackBerry and Nokia — which, although they were still minting huge revenues back then, were also clearly failing to come to terms rapidly enough with the paradigm shift of touchscreen mobility.

Whether the Palm Pre was truly ahead of its time, or whether elements of the interface had been plucked out of a carefully planned Cupertino 10-year roadmap will be a story for Valley historians to unpick.

But in the iPhone X it’s clear you’re looking at a little ghost of the Pre.

 


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Animoji are dumb and I detest them

03:34 | 13 September

Apple today announced the digital equivalent of a singing telegram, a perversion of the emoji concept that embodies the worst of both the company’s exclusionary philosophy and the worst of CG animals and excreta. Animoji are dumb and I loathe them. Here’s why.

1. Emoji meaning comes from context, not expression

Why have emoji become the lingua franca, nay even the interlingua, of the digital messaging world? It’s not because they’re so incredibly emotive. In fact, the clip art illustration style is almost aggressively bland. But it is that very blandness that gave them the power of versatility.

The 💁‍♀️ lady is meant to be someone sitting at an information desk. But her empty stare and flippant gesture could just as easily mean a hundred other things, from offering something to shrugging to asking “well?!” It’s up to the users to create the context to infuse emoji with meaning. Even specific faces and emotions depend heavily on how they’re used.

An 3D fox face making a grimace is just a 3D fox face making a grimace. There’s no subtext (except maybe Bradley Cooper), no creation, no interpretation. Just a fancy mask.

2. Emoji standards give us a shared visual language, animoji don’t

But this only works when we’re all seeing the same thing. Apple doesn’t seem to care about that. Remember when they tried to kill the 🍑 and turn it into like a weird pink coconut? I haven’t forgotten.

It’s only when we know exactly what the person on the other end will see that we can successfully give these symbols the meaning we intend. This is an imperfect situation, since cross-platform emoji can create problems, but because the Apple-adopted set has become the de facto standard, it’s often at least an option to use them. This creates a powerful and broad shared lexicon that behaves predictably on most platforms.

Animoji don’t exist within that platform, but they ape it in order to leech legitimacy from it. But make no mistake, these aren’t emjoi. It’s an Apple product and they do not intend to share it. This wonderful advance will be locked into iMessage forever.

3. It’s a toy for the moneyed elite

Any time you see an animoji, picture a little $1,000 price tag hanging off the side, swaying realistically. Because no one but the four-figure club gets to use them.

As usual in consumer electronics, the most futuristic technologies are being deployed for the most frivolous purposes. And the people willing to shell out such fantastic sums in order to access such trivial toys will be eager to display them.

Remember this when you get the inevitable 150-megabyte update to Messages, and hold that anger inside you like a burning coal.

4. They look like turn of the century bad CG

Did anyone really like Antz? And is it weird to say “turn of the century” for the late ’90s and early 2000s? Is it weird that the target demographic for this feature wasn’t even born when Antz came out?

5. I hate fun

It’s unacceptable that Apple or anyone else creates a form of expression that’s at odds with my calcified ideas of how people should communicate. Technology is serious business and this lighthearted application of facial recognition tech has no place in it.

As you might guess at this point, I’m only half serious here. I think new forms of digital expression are interesting and laudable — I’m a big fan of Snapchat’s experimentation with the medium and wish others would take risks like it has.

But I also think emoji derive their greatest value from the reasons set forth in 1 and 2, and that Apple’s has been working not to expand expression but to solidify its hold on its users in the face of other free, reliable, secure messaging apps. The company’s philosophy is not one of openness, and I oppose that wherever I see it. (I also oppose Antz wherever I see it.)

Emoji are by and for everyone — that’s why everyone uses them. If some emoji (or emoji-likes) are only for some people, then in my opinion that’s the wrong way to go.

 


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