iPhone X steps into the borderless OLED future


— 2:32 PM on September 12, 2017

As the leaks suggested it would, Apple is introducing a major leap forward for the iPhone to mark its tenth anniversary. The iPhone X (say iPhone 10) ditches the iPhone's trademark bezels and home button for a whole new way of interacting with iOS.

The iPhone X is the company's first with an OLED or "Super Retina" display. Apple claims that until now, it couldn't find an OLED panel up to its standards for inclusion in an iPhone, so it built a custom OLED panel of its own to bear the Super Retina name. This panel covers almost the entire front surface of the iPhone X save a "notch" at the top that contains cameras, proximity sensors, a speaker, and face-sensing hardware. (More on that in a moment.) With a 5.8" diagonal and a 2436x1125 resolution, the iPhone X rings in with a 458-ppi density. The panel supports Apple's True Tone variable-color-temperature technology, as well as the HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR standards.

With the removal of the home button and the Touch ID sensor, Apple needed a new way to biometrically identify iPhone owners. Face ID uses infrared dot projection to create a unique map of the user's face. Using machine learning, the iPhone X can distinguish a user's face even behind glasses, through changes in hair styles, and even through natural aging. Apple stores this face-mapping data in the same Secure Enclave encrypted memory that Touch ID has used in past iPhones, and its A11 Bionic CPU has dedicated neural-network processing hardware to make interactions with the Face ID sensor array as swift as possible. Apple says its engineers worked with flat photos and professionally-made masks to specifically guard against spoofing, and it says that the feature only has a one-in-a-million false positive rate.

The lack of a home button also required Apple to implement a series of swipes and gestures to allow users to get around the phone. A swipe up from the bottom of the screen now brings the user home from anywhere on the device. A swipe-up-and-hold reveals the multitasking switcher. A swipe down opens Control Center, a press and hold of the side button invokes Siri, and a double-click of the side button brings up Apple Pay.

That A11 Bionic CPU is a six-core SoC with two high-performance processor cores and four lower-power cores. The company claims the high-performance cores are 25% faster than those in the A10 Fusion CPU, and the lower-power cores are claimed to be 70% faster than those in the older SoC. A new management processor lets the device use all six of its cores at the same time, too, an ability lacking in Apple's older chips.

The A11 is also the first SoC with what Apple says is its own custom graphics-processing unit inside, a "three-core" design that's purportedly 30% faster than its predecessor. On top of those general-purpose cores, the A11 Bionic offers a "neural engine" capable of performing 600 GFLOPS of real-time processing for Face ID and Animoji animated emojis, as well as "other features."

The dual-camera system on the iPhone X uses two of the company's new 12-MP sensors. Apple claims these sensors are larger and faster than prior models, and both cameras will enjoy optical image stabilization. Combined with the resources of the A11 SoC and a new image signal processor, the dual-camera system will offer the Portrait Mode background-blur effect from the iPhone 7 Plus, as well as a new augmented-reality feature called Portrait Lighting. Portrait Lighting seems to re-tone-map parts of the subject to make it appear as though they're under professional studio lights. The camera system will also offer 4K recording at 60 FPS and 1920x1080 slow motion at 240 FPS. Video will, of course, come stabilized, and Apple's own image encoder allows for the use of the HEIF and HEVC formats for less space-intensive storage of those precious moments.

Like the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, the iPhone X supports wireless charging using the industry-standard Qi system. It'll also be compatible with Apple's AirPower accessory, a wireless charging mat capable of juicing up an iPhone, AirPods, and an Apple Watch all at once. The iPhone X will be available in silver and space gray, and it'll come with 64 GB or 256 GB of onboard storage. The 64 GB model will start at $999, and the 256GB model will go for $1149. Orders will open Friday, October 27. Deliveries will begin November 3.

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