It’s a curious strategy to announce a new product before immediately making it look like useless old garbage by revealing an even newer one, but that’s exactly what Apple did yesterday. The iPhone 8, a minor upgrade to last year’s iPhone 7, got to be the centre of attention for all of five minutes before its sleeker, sexier sibling iPhone X was brought onstage and hailed as the future of the smartphone. When the iPhone X name leaked I assumed it would be pronounced like the letter so as not to imply obvious superiority over the sister phone, which is exactly what the iPhone ‘Ten’ does. You’ve got to feel bad for the team that slaved over the iPhone 8 only to have Apple’s naming conventions instantly render their work obsolete; I, for one, probably would have taken it personally if my parents had named my younger brother ‘Better Tom’.
For all the pomp and circumstance surrounding yesterday’s product launch, I’m not sure how much the iPhone X does to justify its £999 price tag. The edge-to-edge OLED screen looks beautiful, to be sure, and the fancy front-facing camera brings with it a lot of cool features. That said, no matter how secure Face ID unlocking may be (and it seems to be very secure), a phone requires you to be looking at it to unlock it will never be as convenient as one with Touch ID. Face ID feels a little like a consolation prize, then, when one considers that the plan until very recently was to embed a Touch ID sensor right into the display, a plan that clearly proved too ambitious in the end.
I’m not used to being this underwhelmed by an Apple event. I’m a lifelong user of their products and genuinely enjoy watching their keynote addresses, but this is the first time I can remember that I’ve not felt excited about a new iPhone. Even the iPhone 7, widely regarded as offering little in the way of innovation, won me over with the faux bokeh Portrait mode made possible by the second camera on the Plus model. I love my iPhone 7 Plus, even though its battery life is tanking only a year into my owning it, and I don’t feel the overwhelming desire to replace it that a new Apple event normally instills in me. Maybe that’s just a sign of the smartphone maturing as a product category, with few radical improvements left to make. Or, hell, maybe I’m just growing up and becoming less easily swayed by shiny new toys. It’s probably not that, but in a world where your phone can turn you into a talking cartoon turd, anything seems possible.