I don’t know why I have to repeat the obvious, but far too many tech commentators just don’t have a clue.
So here we go again.
As most of you know, the iPhone X will not ship until November 3rd. Orders will be taken beginning on the previous week. What’s more, there have been rampant reports of alleged production problems with the new device, focusing mainly on components for the Face ID system. If true, it would mean that supplies will be severely constrained and it may take weeks or months for production to catch up with demand.
I don’t disbelieve the claims of production issues, since Apple is manufacturing parts that are very different from previous models, and that includes the OLED display. So anything is possible, and it may well be that Apple might have waited even longer to deliver the iPhone X, except that we’re closing in on the holiday season and they wanted to build the backlog as soon as practical. On the other hand, there are now published reports that production of the iPhone X will catch up with demand quicker than expected.
To be sure, there’s been plenty of fear mongering about the alleged lapses of the Face ID. But remember that the media has only had a short amount of time to use the feature, at Apple’s September event. No doubt some journalists have shipping product now, and will post their reviews when the iPhone X ships. If there are any glitches with Face ID — beyond a few things reported by reporters at that media event — we’ll know soon enough.
In the scheme of things, I expect the feature will work pretty much as advertised, but will have some minor glitches that will be addressed in iOS 11 updates. I’m shooting from the hip, though. It’s just a guess, but it is in keeping with the release of the iPhone 5s and the first iteration of Touch ID. It wasn’t perfect, and some users had better luck than others. Either way, there are always passcodes, and you have to consider other smartphones with facial recognition, such as they are, as a means for comparison.
With the facial biometric on the Samsung Galaxy S8, a digital photograph can defeat it. Apple says that its TrueDepth feature will prevent such easy hacking, but your evil identical twin will probably be able to unlock your iPhone. So one hopes you have a friendly relationship with that sibling.
The latest fear-mongering article is about the alleged lapses in the iPhone X, possible missing features. The blog quotes an unconfirmed report that Apple is working on a digital pen for the iPhone. Or maybe they are going to add support for the Apple Pencil, or release a smaller version. It’s being compared to the S Pen stylus for the Galaxy Note phablets.
For now, Apple has decided that a stylus, or whatever you wish to call it, works best on an iPad Pro. Or maybe they are waiting to refine the OLED displays, or a future display technology, before considering one for the iPhone.
Or maybe none of this makes any sense from a marketing point of view. Are people clamoring for iPhones with digital pens? Are the existing third party digital pens for iPhones successful?
There’s also the curious claim that the GPU on the iPhone X can be bested by the one on the iPad Pro. But the reverse is reportedly true, according to preliminary reports that claim to have benchmarked the new smartphone. I’ll leave it at that, except that the benchmarks do reveal that the iPhone 8 might be a little faster. But it may also be that the tested iPhone X was a prototype lacking final performance optimizations in iOS 11. The real benchmarks will be the ones that apply to shipping product.
The long and short is that there will always be a feature the competition offers that Apple has not yet seen fit to include. In some cases, that feature will never appear because it’s just not worth the effort. Over the years Samsung has added some useless functions, such as Tilt to Scroll, which barely worked. Or at least they barely worked when I tried them out, and so I gave up on them.
Apple still hasn’t offered an iris sensor, but the one on the Galaxy S8 is flawed in almost the same way as Samsung’s facial recognition feature. It can be defeated with a digital photograph. If Apple adds this biometric to iPhones and iPads, you can be reasonably sure it’ll be properly tested first.
Some rumors suggest that Face ID was added to the iPhone X because Apple couldn’t devise a workable scheme to embed Touch ID in the OLED display. That’s a reason why Samsung chose to push its fingerprint sensor to the rear of its latest Galaxy smartphones.
But Apple claims it spent years perfecting Face ID, and cites a two-year development process for the iPhone X. Clearly the feature wasn’t added overnight as a desperate last-minute move to get a working and secure biometric system on the new device. Indeed, if Face ID proves to be a successful alternative — or successor — to Touch ID, you can bet the latter will gradually disappear in the next year or two.
Apple has not been reluctant to remove features that are, for whatever reason, no longer viable. In contrast, rival companies will keep features forever under the sometimes mistaken belief that people want them even if they are outdated or barely functional.
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