CUPERTINO, Calif. — Apple has broken the $1,000 barrier with its latest, and most expensive, phone, the iPhone X.
With a price starting at $999 and a host of new features, the phone will be a big test for both Apple and consumers. Will people be willing to shell out really big bucks for a relatively fragile device that’s become an essential part of daily life?
On Tuesday, CEO Tim Cook called the iPhone X “the biggest leap forward” since the first iPhone. (“X” is pronounced like the number 10, not the letter X.) It loses the home button, which revolutionized smartphones when it launched; offers an edge-to-edge screen; and will use facial recognition to unlock the phone.
Apple also unveiled a new iPhone 8 and a larger 8 Plus with upgrades to cameras, displays and speakers.
Those phones, Apple said, will shoot pictures with better colors and less distortion, particularly in low-light settings. The display will adapt to ambient lighting, similar to a feature in some iPad Pro models. Speakers will be louder and offer deeper bass.
Both iPhone 8 versions will allow wireless charging, a feature already offered in many Android phones, including Samsung models. Some Android phones have also previously eliminated the home button and added edge-to-edge screens.
Apple shares were mostly flat after the announcement, down 64 cents to $160.86.
Steve Jobs homage
This was the first product event for Apple at its new spaceship-like headquarters in Cupertino, California. Before getting to the new iPhone, the company unveiled a new Apple Watch model with cellular service and an updated version of its Apple TV streaming device.
The event opened in a darkened auditorium, with only the audience’s phones gleaming like stars, along with a message that said “Welcome to Steve Jobs Theater.” A voiceover from Jobs, Apple’s co-founder who died in 2011, opened the event before CEO Tim Cook took stage.
“Not a day that goes by that we don’t think about him,” Cook said. “Memories especially come rushing back as we prepared for today and this event. It’s taken some time but we can now reflect on him with joy instead of sadness.”
The iPhone X costs twice what the original iPhone did. It sets a new price threshold for any smartphone intended to appeal to a mass market.
‘What Apple does best’
Gartner analyst Brian Blau said the iPhone X’s augmented reality features will “change the way people use apps” and give app developers new, “cool things” to do. Apple showed off a simple use for this new, sophisticated camera technology with “animoji,” which lets people animate emoji characters with their facial expressions. Showing off a new technology with something that everyday people can use and understand, he said, is “what Apple does best.”
Blau also praised the extended battery life for the phone, saying “you don’t often get that” with new smartphones.
Other analysts such as Carolina Milanesi, an analyst with Creative Strategies, don’t believe the $1,000 price tag will present much of a hurdle to Apple buyers, at least to those with means or access to installment plans. And people who won’t spend that kind of money, she added, have a choice of other products that will keep them “within Apple versus looking at the competition.”
Apple’s latest Watch has built-in cellular service. The number on your phone will be the same as your iPhone. The Series 3 model will also have Apple Music available through cellular service. It won’t need a new plan, but will require a data add-on to your existing plan.
“Now, you can go for a run with just your watch,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer and in charge of Watch development.
Apple is also adding more fitness features to the Watch, and says it is now the most used heartrate monitor in the world. Now, Apple Watch will notify users when it detects an elevated heart rate when they don’t appear to be active. It’ll also detect abnormal heart rhythms.
The Series 3 will start at $399. One without cellular goes for $329, down from $369 for the comparable model now. The original Series 1, without GPS, sells for $249, down from $269. The new watch comes out Sept. 22.
Cellular plans for smartwatches typically cost $5 to $10 a month. AT&T says its plans are $10 a month. T-Mobile said the Watch connection will be free for the first three months and $10 a month after for unlimited talk, text and data.
Apple TV gets upgrade
A new version of the Apple TV streaming device will be able to show video at “4K” resolution — a step up from high definition — and a color-improvement technology called high-dynamic range, or HDR.
Many rival devices already offer these features. But there isn’t a lot of video in 4K and HDR yet, nor are there many TVs that can display it. Apple TV doesn’t have its own display and needs to be connected to a TV.
Apple said it’s been working with movie studios to bring titles with 4K and HDR to its iTunes store. They will be sold at the same prices as high-definition video, which tends to be a few dollars more than standard-definition versions. Apple said it’s working with Netflix and Amazon Prime to bring their 4K originals to Apple TV, too.
The new Apple TV device will cost $179 and ships on Sept. 22. A version without 4K will cost less.