AR, IoT, Siri and machine learning: Will iPhone X showcase changes to the user experience?

The iPhone X is shaping up to deliver a beautiful design and bountiful revenues, but it must embrace Apple's forward-looking software initiatives to change the user experience.
Written by Ross Rubin, Contributor

These are the features the iPhone needs to stay ahead of rivals

As Apple celebrates the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, there's at least one launch theme that circles back to Apple's first three-in-one combination of a phone, "widescreen iPod," and internet device: Skepticism regarding its price.

Raising the price ceiling, as Samsung has with its Galaxy Note 8, seems perverse at a time when the market is being flooded with highly capable mid-range phones. But it makes no difference.

SEE: 5G: What it means for IoT (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature) | Download the free PDF version (TechRepublic)

After two full generations of design similarity from Apple and an almost certain shift to the winning 18:9 aspect ratio as the tip of the iceberg, Apple's new iPhones will serve a feeding frenzy of pent-up demand from the tony end of its base. Barring some Galaxy Note 7-like catastrophe, the new iPhones will pump up Apple's revenues and help it to reclaim its leadership mantle.

Still, the iPhone X has little chance of living up to the experiential change that was the original iPhone. While expectations were high over Apple releasing a phone 10 years ago, there were no hints of what the original iPhone would embody. And even if there had been, few could have foretold the revolutionary impact it would have not only on cell phones, but on our lives in general.

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These days, unlike for the original iPhone that marked the first public appearance of what would become iOS, Apple now highlights major operating system updates a few months ahead of hardware debuts to give developers more time to support features. Apple's iOS 11 is already a major upgrade, even though it is particularly so for iPads. And while Apple has unveiled OS features as it has revealed new iPhones, it has stayed clear of anything that completely overshadowed the other announcements.

If we accept the rumors of new iPhone features as true, there seems to be little to individually catapult the iPhone past not only its main Android rival, Samsung, and strong design rival, much less startup, Essential, which has its sight set on building out an ecosystem similar to those of the smartphone market share leaders. Take, for example, the rumor of a front-facing camera that can unlock the phone with one's face and map that face onto emoji. It sounds like a fun feature that we can assume will work better than the face-unlocking feature that Android has had for some time, but it is no game changer. This is nothing new for Apple, which has thrived on the integration of its end-product.

Read also: iPhone X could face supply shortfalls following production issues | iOS 11: It's gone from awful to awesome | This one chart shows how bad things are at Apple

That software -- which generally spans models -- drives much of a device's experience, and it has been an Apple hallmark for decades. And that's why Apple initiatives in machine learning (MLKit), augmented reality (ARKit), voice interfaces (Siri and SiriKit), and IoT (HomeKit) are the long bets to change experience. These are the pillars that the new iPhone must showcase in order to stand out as more than just a pretty face shining from edge to edge.


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