Week 38 2017 - iPhones; Apple Watch LTE

New Apple hardware! As usual, I’ll use this opportunity to have a look at them and see what I do and don’t like.

iPhones

As everyone knows by now, Apple introduced 3 new phones this year. The iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X1. There is a lot of good stuff in all of these, although much was known before the event through leaks, so I’ll limit myself to just a couple of things.

Let’s start with the silicon. Obviously, the A11 is again faster than its predecessor, and it’s now reached a point where the comparison is no longer standard ARM chips used in Android phones but the current generation MacBook Pro. Yes, GeekBench is an artificial test and there are plenty of other factors to consider, so don’t believe that we’ll be seeing the A11 appear in laptops anytime soon. More interesting though is that Apple now has its own designed GPU in there. Year over year improvement was “only” 30% for the GPU, but they mostly focused on energy savings. It will be interesting to see if this will make as many gains in the future as the CPU has.

Qi wireless charging is a good addition, and something many people wanted. The most important thing with this is that they actually decided to go with the standard instead of coming up with their own solution. They’re extending the standard as well, like they did with Bluetooth for the AirPods, but the extension sounds sensible2 and hopefully will be adopted by the standards body so every device can use it.

Face ID. The implementation sounds far better than anything I’ve seen in the wild. Windows Hello probably comes closest, but even there I’ve heard of stories of it failing when someone wasn’t wearing make-up. From a security standpoint it sounds like they’ve thought about most things and I’m looking forward to seeing if it will do for face recognition what Touch ID did for fingerprint sensors. In other words, that good implementations will show up on most other phones.

The price is the last thing I’ll mention. There are a couple of things here. First, prices have gone up across the board, including for the iPad Pro. From all reports, this sounds like it is caused by the prices of memory going up (both for RAM and storage) and Apple’s unwillingness to let that impact their margins. That said, for the first time I feel like the minimum storage offered for these phones is now finally at an adequate number (64GB) that I can recommend the base model to people so you can save money there. The iPhone X naturally comes with a higher price as it’s marketed as the future of the iPhone. It uses different materials, comes with better cameras and Face ID, has the edge-to-edge OLED screen, and even more than usual is not aimed at price-conscious buyers. It’s going to be the phone people want, but even if it isn’t supply constrained I don’t think it’s what most people will get. The iPhone 8 is a good improvement, and remember that the screen of the 8 Plus is still bigger than the X.

Apple Watch LTE

The introduction of LTE to the Apple Watch is a good step forward on the path to making it a standalone device. I believe that the end goal here will be to make it independent of the iPhone, similar to the path followed by the iPhone when it became independent of desktops. We’re not there yet, and especially watchOS needs some3 improvements to really allow this independence, adding LTE is already an improvement for cases where you don’t want to, or can’t, carry your phone around.

As usual, carriers will obviously try to make more money on this than Apple so keep those costs in mind when you decide if you want it. As for the rest of the update, more speed etc., that’s nice but not necessarily a reason to upgrade from the previous generation. That said, I’m still happy with mine and without a real need for LTE I don’t see a need to upgrade right now.


  1. Which in typical Apple style they decided should be pronounced 10, despite the alternative sounding much better. [return]
  2. Allowing multiple devices to be charged at the same time. [return]
  3. Read: a lot [return]
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