theWebb.blog

DOPE

This looks like everything I've ever wanted

For as long as I can remember, I've always wanted a futuristic communication device that also looked the part. Arguably, every smartphone today fits the former description. The latter? A whole bunch of meh. Sharp's Aquos Crystal was the best contender before the X IMO, but I don't use Android.

Dat sweet design, dayum
Dat sweet design, dayum

Enter iPhone X, a device leaked by a disgruntled employee inside Apple days before today's event. It would have been nice to have a proper surprise but here in 2017, assholes are a dime a dozen. Anyhoo, this futuristic communication device succeeds in looking like such and that pleases me immensely. For context, I am currently rocking a 256GB Jet Black iPhone 7 Plus. I purchased this phone and configuration primarily for the camera...and shiny body.

My fiancé used to find my constant filming role as family historian irritating but has come to accept it now, yahaha! She was pregnant with our son when I bought it and I correctly predicted that most of my content would be of him. My daughter is becoming a pain in my ass tween and I don't want to miss out on her development/funny moments as well. Believe it or not, I've filled my phone at least twice over the past year and would've reached my phone's storage limits a helluva lot quicker if I chose a lesser capacity.

I explain all this to say I'm going to be one of those people plunking down $1149 for the piece of mind 256GB gives me. Fight me. (No really, some people seem pretty mad about the iPhone X on Twitter) 🤷🏾‍♂️

I'm going to run down my favorite new features about the definitive iPhone.

BUCKLE UP GANG

Cameras

Anyone who visits my Instagram page can see that I clearly love taking Portrait photos. While not perfect (Apple needs to find a way to deal with curly hair), I can usually get some damn good shots on a consistent basis. The optical image stabilization allows me to run after my kids and get awesome action shots that aren't blurry as hell.

For the X, Apple includes a second optical image stabilizer. This will make my favorite kind of photo to take even better. In additional to a better-looking Portrait mode, we gain a new feature called "Portrait Lighting". Thanks to the extra sensors Apple seems keen on packing into iPhone, Portrait Lighting allows me to light my subjects in five different ways:

  1. Natural Light
  2. Studio Light
  3. Contour Light
  4. Stage Light
  5. Stage Light Mono

These modes emulate studio lighting and of course, since this is software it can (and will) improve over time. The X will automatically optimize images as I take them. In theory that sounds great but, I don't know just yet if I'll like how this optimization happens.

When Apple initially introduced Portrait Mode, I've wanted it on the front-facing camera and it's a reality now with the X (and iPhone 8 Plus, the Plus model always has a better/extra camera than the non-Plus model). FINALLY. Get ready for yours truly (and aspiring Instagram models) to use this feature a LOT.

Another feature I'm particularly excited for is the capability to shoot 4K video at 24fps. This is cinema-quality videography, in my friggin' pocket. Are you kidding me?! This, coupled with the Steadicam coming in the mail soon, is going to make my videos amazing. I do believe I win for best family historian this year, the holidays are gonna be cinematically gorgeous daaaaahling.

Face ID

Internal shot of what makes Face ID possible
Internal shot of what makes Face ID possible

When Craig Federighi bungled the initial demo of Face ID, I was concerned for obvious reasons. Then he tried several more times and it worked consistently each of those times, which leads me to believe he messed up somehow that first time (go watch first impressions videos from people who were actually at today's event, Face ID gets demoed in some).

Update from Apple to 9to5Mac:

"People were handling the device for stage demo ahead of time," says a rep, "and didn't realize Face ID was trying to authenticate their face. After failing a number of times, because they weren't Craig, the iPhone did what it was designed to do, which was to require his passcode." In other words, "Face ID worked as it was designed to."

My main concern continues to be, will this work for me? I'm a black man with a beard who wears glasses. Snapchat doesn't think I exist most times, whereas my family can use Snapchat's face-tracking masks without issue. While Apple's site shows a brown man with/without facial hair, glasses, and a hat, I haven't seen any press media showcasing dark-skinned people using Face ID successfully. Color concern may be unwarranted since an infrared camera, infrared light, and dot mapping is used but facial hair? I look forward to tech reviewers testing this before launch. If MKBHD doesn't grow a beard, I will be the one to test this for myself (and share the results with you all).

Apple claims their Face ID neural networks/machine learning will track your face's changes over time. It will be interesting to see how it copes with people undergoing reconstructive surgery and related facial matters.

Hardware Design

iPhone 4, is that you?
iPhone 4, is that you?

The iPhone 4 was a favorite to many and I remember the collective sadness online when the iPhone 5 was released looking very different from the 4. I had a Palm Pre at the time so I didn't care, haha. The X has a glass back like the 4, but adds surgical grade stainless steel for the sides and bottom. The phone looks seamless and I'm curious to know how it feels in the hand.

I regularly give my son my phone while it's recording on the front-facing camera because the results end up being pretty funny. Being a year and some months old, he does drop/throw/trip over/attempt to eat my phone so the extra sturdy design of the X will be much appreciated (my 7 Plus is holding up well though!). I'm thinking about creating a YouTube channel in a few months to showcase #dadlife, and you may see some of these clips.

According to Apple, normal ol' OLED wasn't good enough. They've made a "Super Retina" HDR display with a million to one contrast ratio, high resolution and brightness, wide color support, and excellent color accuracy. In addition, the X gains "True Tone" technology like the latest iPad Pro. This automatically adjusts the color temperature of the screen to match the lighting environment you're in, to reduce eyestrain.

Qi Charging

Qi charging, never saw this coming
Qi charging, never saw this coming

The glass back of the X enables wireless charging and to be honest, I did not think this would actually happen. Of course, the Apple-issued charging mat isn't coming until sometime in 2018 but the fact that it's coming at all is great. In the meantime, you can certainly purchase Qi charging pads from other manufacturers. Apple says they've wanted wireless inductive charging since the original iPhone and a decade later they've done it! Cue Android users saying they've had it first.

Qi is an industry standard for wirelessly charging devices. One of my best friends swears by Qi and remarked that some fairweather Qi manufacturers are gonna come back into the fold (LG and HTC). I hope Qi and USB-C take the tech industry by storm. One cable to rule them all and wireless charging for the rest!

Clarification about Qi and AirPower, from John Gruber (emphasis mine):

The best way to think of it is that AirPower is to Qi what AirPods are to Bluetooth.

AirPower is going to be a superset of Qi with a layer of non-standard Apple technology on top of it to make it better, just like how AirPods are a superset of Bluetooth with non-standard Apple technology on top. So iPhone 8 and iPhone X can charge on any Qi charging pad, like the Belkin and Mophie ones that Apple promoted on stage. Likewise, AirPods can be used as a regular Bluetooth headset connected to any Bluetooth device.

But AirPower can do things Qi cannot — it can charge Apple Watch and the upcoming new AirPod case. Apple Watch and the AirPod case are not Qi devices — you cannot charge them on a Qi charging pad. That's similar to the way AirPods (and the Beats headphones also equipped with Apple's W1 chip) can do things regular Bluetooth headsets cannot — in particular, the seamless pairing process, and the lower audio playback latency enabled by the W1.

The main difference between the non-standard aspects of AirPower compared to AirPods is that Apple is pledging to offer their improvements to the Qi consortium. If the consortium accepts them, third-party companies will be able to make AirPower-like charging pads that do work with Apple Watch, the new AirPod case, and more.

I was confused about Apple Watch and AirPod cases charging on Apple's pad because they didn't specify if only the latest versions of those devices had Air Power capability, or if past and present versions would work out of the box. I'm still unsure but I'll update when I find out.

Animoji

The TrueDepth camera on the X (in conjunction with the A11 Bionic chip) analyzes 50 different muscle movements on your face and then applies them to one of 12 pre-selected emoji Animoji. You can record video messages with Animoji (and your voice!) and share them inside of Messages. It should be possible to export these videos outside of Messages too. I hope there's a way to create your own Animoji (if you're a developer). I'd create a 3D version of myself and use that Animoji exclusively.

Apple just made it so anyone can be a (generic) Pixar character.

Criticism

On social media today, I've seen people complain (some, vehemently so) about the price of the phone and say things like, "This isn't worth it", "iPhone eXtortion", "Just get a laptop", and so on. I believe these people are reactionary and failing to see the bigger picture. They see the price and think, "That price...for a phone?", and stop their train of thought...derail it even. In reality, you aren't paying for just a phone. You are paying for a phone that rivals a DSLR camera and last I checked, those cameras are not cheap but, no one complains about them (probably because expectations of DSLRs haven't changed over their lifetime, at least when compared to phones).

For me, my personal communication device is only referred to as a phone because of legacy reasons (and it's shorter to say). It's kind of like how floppy disks are still the universal symbol for save but we sync now. Hell, even the phone icon is legacy. Phones these days are flat slabs of metal, only medical and government facilities have classic telephones.

Another bit of criticism I've seen is regarding the ease of which law enforcement can forcefully obtain access to someone's iPhone X. The owner could be handcuffed while a police officer holds the phone to their face and then swipe to unlock the phone. As a black man in America, I find this to be the only valid criticism I've seen thus far. Just a few days ago though, I found a solution for that! It requires you to be observant and proactive but I tend to have my hand on my phone when I see police anyway...

Juli Clover reported about the "SOS Feature" in iOS 11 for MacRumors (emphasis mine):

Emergency SOS is activated by pressing on the sleep/wake button of an iPhone five times in rapid succession. When the requisite number of presses is complete, it brings up a screen that offers buttons to power off the iPhone, bring up your Medical ID (if filled out) and make an emergency 911 call.

Along with these options, there's also a cancel button. If you hit the sleep/wake button five times and then hit cancel, it disables Touch ID and requires a passcode before Touch ID can be re-enabled. Touch ID is also disabled if you actually make an emergency call.

This is a handy hidden feature because it allows Touch ID to be disabled discretely in situations where someone might be able to force a phone to be unlocked with a fingerprint, such as a robbery or an arrest. With Touch ID disabled in this way, there is no way to physically unlock an iPhone with a finger without the device's passcode.

It's also worth noting that there's no real way to tell that Touch ID has been disabled in this manner.

After reading this, I tested it immediately and it works like a charm. I advise anyone with law enforcement concerns to practice this when you upgrade your phone to iOS 11 or get the iPhone 8/8 Plus/X. It's probably a good idea to do this while going through customs as well.

  • 2017/09/16 update: TechCrunch interviewed Craig Federighi and here's how the above feature works on iPhones 8 and X (emphasis mine):

    On older phones the sequence was to click 5 times [on the power button], but on newer phones like iPhone 8 and iPhone X, if you grip the side buttons on either side and hold them a little while — we'll take you to the power down [screen]. But that also has the effect of disabling Face ID. So, if you were in a case where the thief was asking to hand over your phone — you can just reach into your pocket, squeeze it, and it will disable Face ID. It will do the same thing on iPhone 8 to disable Touch ID.

It's worth noting that the squeeze can be of either volume button plus the power button. I'm going to test/practice this when I get mine.

Closing Thoughts

I'm excited.

Like the original iPhone, I think iPhone X heralds a new era in smartphone design, development, and creative possibilities and I can't wait to get started. The AR games demoed at the event bored me, but ARkit demos on Twitter are amazing. I'm looking forward to seeing who creates the breakout AR app everyone's gotta have. I think there's opportunity for nearly every app to offer something interesting in the AR space, if only for demo purposes.

I'm looking forward to upgrading to an Series 3 Apple Watch. The cellular version is not for me as I'm hardly ever far away from my phone (and I don't jog). I like the improved heart rate monitor and since my son's birth I've become more interested in my overall health. My Pebble Time is also showing its age by slowly breaking down so upgrade time is soon.

All in all, it was a great event. Leakers don't deserve happiness. I'm going to download Final Cut. 🕸