The Definitive iPhone 8 & X Guide

October 28, 2017

In short, these phones are all incredibly fast and efficient. Apple’s engineering has never been so far in front of what competitors offer in terms of performance. However, this does not correlate to breathtaking features from a user perspective. All of the ‘wow’ factors present in each device have been around for as many as 8 years before being introduced in this generation of iPhones. In regards to the iPhone 8, new internals can’t help the phone from looking vastly dated.

Let’s get this out of the way first, the new OLED screens on all 3 models are sourced from Samsung. Samsung can barely keep enough displays for their own phones, let alone for other suppliers. This is exactly why the iPhone X exists alongside the 8’s – there will never be enough supply to meet demand. Also hence the staggering price, $999.

If you want an iPhone X before Christmas, plan on waiting in line. Pre-Orders are already pushed back to dates nearing the new year.

Outside of supply constraints, these displays will be absolutely breathtaking and a huge step up from the displays used within the iPhone 7’s. They will allow for deeper blacks and more colorful colors all enhanced by High Dynamic Range (HDR) video capabilities through services such as Netflix and Apple’s own iTunes movies. In regards to the iPhone X, the new nearly bezel less design makes it feel as if you’re picking up a slim piece of glass vs a brick of a phone. Once you try the new design you will soon wonder how you used any other phone before it.

In addition to display constraints, the iPhone X will be facing supply issues with its new facial recognition hardware which can be best described as a miniaturized Microsoft Kinect. The parts are simply too new to be mass produced.

Read: How the Notch is Basically a Microsoft Kinect

Why facial recognition, though? Well, let’s turn the pages back a few months to when supply chain knowledge was leaking out. There were essentially two versions of the iPhone X. One was the version we see now and the other was a version with a fingerprint scanner built underneath the display. Apparently, the reason they went with facial recognition was that the underscreen scanner wasn’t meeting the performance of traditional scanners. This is something that was apparent with early Android manufacturer’s prototypes of the same technology that were released during electronic expos earlier this year.

What about security? Well, what about it? Although facial unlock has been around for years in other devices, the fundamental view is vastly different. Looking at the Kinect comparison in addition to Intel’s RealSense technology – both of which have been around for a decade – the technology morphs your face into a 3D image. Compared to Windows Hello or Samsung’s facial unlock this should make it impossible for a photograph of your face to unlock your device as there’s millions of additional variables that need matched.

Will it be quick? Yes, it should be! Take a look at Google Photos or Facebook’s automated recognition of you and your friend’s faces – it’s lightning quick due to neural processing. This relatively new type of processing is powering everything from self-driving cars to analyzing big data sets and Apple is capitalizing on its performance with its new neural processor built into its mobile processor. A dedicated chip just for looking at your face, how nice.

What else is under the hood? Well, a lot actually! Probably the most exciting part of the new iPhones is the Apple designed A11 System On a Chip (SoC). I’ll sum it up with the slide below.

This is compared to Apple’s previous A10 chip but the numbers are even more staggering when compared to the latest batch of Qualcomm chips that power every other leading smartphone in the market. This performance leap can be attributed to Apple’s emphasis on in-sourcing all of their components. They design everything from memory controllers to the graphics unit which gives them complete control of every technical aspect of the phone.

I’ll hit more on the technical ‘wow’ inducing performance in another article but I’ll leave this segment saying that Apple’s own chips are nearing or in some cases outperforming laptop class chips made by Intel that power your Macbook or Macbook Air. All in the palm of your hand.

Now onto specs that actually matter to the end user. The A11 chip integrates a custom made Image Signal Processor or ISP. This is what allows a camera to capture pictures and convert them to digital images. This dictates what resolutions a camera can support, how quickly it can capture photos, and how much additional data can be recorded. Many people believe megapixels or sensor size make the most dramatic differences in photos but when it comes to the relatively small sizes of these devices, a good ISP allows developers to have more settings to play with to squeeze out the best photos possible. Google has been emphasizing this with their Pixel line of phones and it seems like Apple is trying to narrow the gap.

It works very well, too! Both the iPhone 8 and 8+ overtook the Google Pixel (2016) as leading cameras in phones to date according to the defacto mobile testing done at DXo. I’ll let you check out those articles for more in-depth analysis but the iPhone X and it’s built in stabilization will more than likely result in quality at or above the 8+. It will be interesting if it can surpass this year’s line of Pixel phones but expect performance to be within the same realm.

Which should you pick?

I’ve been asked this question a lot and it ultimately boils down to the physical appearance of the phone, price, and how quickly you need it.

The iPhone 8 is most definitely lacking the wow factor associated with the likes of the Galaxy S8 or X but its internal performance is near identical. If you don’t mind the look of the 6 and 7 series then you will be right at home with iPhone 8 models.

If the X’s design is keeping you from the 8 then you will have to ask yourself is it worth the additional cost. With iPhone 8 sales supposedly slumping you will start seeing an increase in carrier related deals making the phone much more compelling. In addition, you can walk into any store right now and purchase one. With the current supply constraints it’s looking like the end of January at the very earliest for the ability to walk into a carrier or Apple store and purchase the X.

Either way you go expect great hardware and a solid software experience. iOS 11 and the hardware may not bring too many additional features but what it does bring to the table is stability and a great end user experience.

Have more questions? Ask in the comments below!

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