10 things to know about Apple’s new iPhone X

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

iPhone X
iPhone X image courtesy of Apple

Apple introduced its newest smartphone Tuesday as part of a product rollout that also celebrated the company’s late co-founder and visionary, Steve Jobs. So what do CPAs need to know about the new iPhone?

First, it’s priced at $999, and, though not cheap, the iPhone X sports features including a side-to-side screen, wireless charging, facial recognition, and enhanced dual cameras. There’s also support for augmented reality, facial ID recognition, faster performance, and wireless recharging. Read below for more details on these features.

  1. A new look and feel. Overall, the iPhone X sports a high-tech, elegant design. The Apple iPhone X measures 5.8 inches on the diagonal and includes an edge-to-edge screen, so there’s practically no visible border. The screen is based on Apple’s Super Retina display2, which is the first OLED panel that supports Dolby Vision and HDR10 to render 4K video. The Home button has been removed; instead a simple upward swipe from the bottom of the iPhone displays the Home screen from anywhere within the phone’s apps. The back of the iPhone X is encased in glass to enable wireless charging. (The aluminum material used in previous iPhones is not compatible with wireless charging systems.) The iPhone X is activated simply by either picking up the phone or tapping the screen.

  2. More power. Apple maintains that iPhone X’s A11 Bionic chip is the most powerful and smartest chip ever featured in a smartphone. This chip combines a six-core CPU design with two performance core chips that are 25% faster, and four efficiency cores that are 70% faster than the A10 Fusion chipset. Further, a new performance controller enables all six cores to work simultaneously, resulting in up to 70% faster performance for multi-threaded operations. The iPhone X also includes a new Apple-designed GPU (with three cores) that delivers up to 30% faster graphics performance compared to the iPhone 7.

  3. Facial recognition. The iPhone X features a new facial recognition function called Face ID, which unlocks the iPhone with a mere glance. The system works using a variety of new technologies including built-in dual cameras with True Depth perception and Apple’s new A11 Bionic Chip, which is capable of performing 600 billion operations per second. Each time you use Face ID, it illuminates your face with 30,000 invisible dots to create a mathematical model of your face, which is then compared to a stored model of your face. The stored model is automatically updated over time as the user changes his or her look, grows or shaves a beard, or changes hair styles. All facial recognition processing is performed on the iPhone X; no facial recognition data is retained by Apple. Apple claims that because faces have only a one-in-a-million chance of being similar, facial recognition is more secure than fingerprint technology since one of every 50,000 fingerprints may be similar.

  4. Augmented reality. The iPhone X’s dual cameras and new iOS 11 support augmented reality (AR) capabilities, which enhance the camera’s image as viewed through the iPhone X. You’ve likely seen AR technology before, in the form of people posting altered pictures or videos of themselves wearing a doggie nose or gigantic puppy dog eyes. AR technology is growing rapidly, and dozens of interesting new AR apps have recently emerged. For example, Google’s AR-based SkyMap app instantly labels the stars and constellations as you view them in the night sky through your phone’s camera. The Houzz app enables decorators to place virtual furniture (from its catalog of 300,000 furniture items) in any room viewed through the camera, to help formulate or convey decorating ideas. While augmented reality applications are still developing, there are plenty of potential benefits for CPAs and other business people: Imagine having an AR app that enables you to point your iPhone toward a room full of people where the app then uses facial recognition to place balloon bubbles over their heads, providing their names, companies, job titles, or other useful information.

  5. Wireless charging. Wireless charging capabilities based on Qi technology have been added to the iPhone X, which eliminates the need to plug in your device for charging. Instead, the user simply lays the iPhone X on the charging pad to recharge the device. Apple’s newest charging pad is big enough to wirelessly recharge an iPhone X, Apple Watch Series 3, and Apple earbuds at the same time. Apple anticipates that restaurants, airports, and other businesses will make charging pads widely available in the years to come. Apple’s Lightning Dock charging station is priced at $49.

  6. Dual rear cameras. The iPhone X’s dual rear cameras are not only useful for facial recognition purposes, they have other capabilities as well. For example, the dual cameras help detect a subject’s face in Portrait mode, in order to render the lighting effect achieved in professional portrait studios. The iPhone X features portrait lighting with both front and back cameras. The dual cameras also give the iPhone X depth-perception capabilities, or the ability to calculate distance. This type of technology might, for example, enable a golfer to calculate the precise distance to the hole merely by viewing the green through his or her camera. The dual cameras also offer dual optical image stabilization in which the two separate images work in tandem to automatically stabilize all images and videos.

  7. Improved camera quality. According to Apple, the iPhone X’s new cameras feature better video stabilization as well as 4K video up to 60 frames per second (fps) or 1080p video up to 240 fps.

  8. Apple Pay based on facial recognition. The iPhone X’s Apple Pay system enables electronic payments simply by glancing at the iPhone X’s screen. To use this feature at a grocery store, for example, the user pays for his or her groceries by launching Apple Pay and then glancing at the screen to grant permission to process the payment. The user then holds the iPhone X close to the Apple Pay-enabled payment processing device (similar to a credit card reader) to complete the payment.

  9. Improved battery life. Despite the many new technical enhancements, Apple maintains the iPhone X offers two more hours of battery life compared to the iPhone 7.

  10. Animojis. Apple has added the ability for users to create their own animated emojis, or Animojis, as Apple calls them. These new emojis are created based on an assortment of available cartoon characters set to life using your facial expressions and voice, so you can include a little more of your personality when sending text messages. Imagine a unicorn laughing in your voice, and you have an idea of how these new graphic images work.

It is worth noting that Apple also introduced the following three new products: the iPhone 8 and the related iPhone 8 Plus; the Apple Watch Series 3; and Apple TV 4K. It is interesting to see Apple set the iPhone X apart from the new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus products, which are priced at $699 and $799, respectively. The key difference seems to be the iPhone X’s superior edge-to-edge OLED screen, which packs a far more vivid display. Overall, this is a respectable set of enhancements for the iPhone X. Personally, though the iPhone X is water resistant, I would have liked to have seen Apple make it both waterproof (like some Samsung phones) and virtually indestructible (like some Motorola phones). Nonetheless, this new offering is loaded with promising technology.

J. Carlton Collins (carlton@asaresearch.com) is a technology consultant, a CPE conference presenter, and a JofA contributing editor. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact JofA senior editor Jeff Drew (Jeff.Drew@aicpa-cima.com). 

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