CUPERTINO: Apple laid claim to the future of the smartphone on Tuesday (Sep 12) with a 10th anniversary iPhone X, featuring facial recognition unlocking and other refinements, touting the device as the next generation of mobile computing.
The iPhone X was one of three new iPhone models unveiled at the first event at Apple's new "spaceship" campus, as the California tech giant sought to spark fresh momentum in a global smartphone market seeing slowing growth and tougher competition.
Apple chief executive Tim Cook, speaking at the first event at the new campus theatre named for late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, said the newest flagship handset is a milestone for the company a decade after the first iPhone release.
"Ten years later, it is only fitting that we are here in this place, on this day to reveal a product that will set the path for technology for the next decade," Cook said, calling the iPhone X "the biggest leap forward since the original iPhone."
The iPhone X has an edge-to-edge 14.7-centimetre "super retina" display that has improved resolution, and uses facial recognition to unlock the device.
THE US$1,000 IPHONE
Apple upped the ante by boosting the starting price of the new handset to US$999 for US customers. It will be available starting Nov 3 in more than 50 markets.
Apple also unveiled a new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, which offer more modest improvements over their predecessors and will sell later this month at starting prices of US$699 and US$799, respectively.
All three new handsets will be capable of wireless charging and are adapted for augmented reality with more powerful processors and cameras.
The unveiling comes with Apple seeking to recapture the magic of the first iPhone release in 2007 as it struggles to maintain market share.
Analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategies called the new flagship iPhone X "an engineering marvel, especially when compared to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8."
Moorhead said the handset "is not just a late copy of the competition. Apple did it their way by perfecting the experience, and on their timeframe. "
Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research called the iPhone X "a far bigger upgrade" than previous devices, but questioned whether Apple was stretching its market too thin.
The new iPhone X - pronounced 10 - "is going to be the object of desire for many users, and the challenge for Apple will be whether they've done enough to make the iPhone 8 range compelling," Dawson said in a blog post.
"What Apple doesn't want is for people to want the best but not be able to afford it and therefore hold onto their existing phones rather than buying what they consider second best."
For the 10th anniversary model, Apple developed what it called an A11 Bionic chip and uses its FaceID to unlock, authenticate and pay via the Apple Pay mobile payments system.
IMPROVING THE DISPLAY
Apple is touting the edge-to-edge OLED display - the organic light-emitting diodes used in high-end televisions - as the key design feature to win over customers.
"For more than a decade, our intention has been to create an iPhone that is all display," Apple chief designer Jony Ive said in a statement. "The iPhone X is the realization of that vision."
The iPhone 8 models use the same chip and are made with "aerospace-grade aluminum" and "with the most durable glass ever in a smartphone," according to Apple.
These will be upgrades of the iPhone 7 models released last year with screens of 4.7 and 5.5 inches.
Apple's success with the iPhone has transformed it into the world's most valuable company, but it is struggling to keep its share of an increasingly competitive smartphone market.
Chinese electronics colossus Huawei passed Apple in global smartphone sales for the first time in June and July, taking second place behind South Korean giant Samsung, according to market tracker Counterpoint Research.
Samsung last month unveiled a new model of its Galaxy Note as it seeks to move past the debacle over exploding batteries in the previous generation of the device, and mount a renewed challenge to Apple's flagship devices.
Other makers are also scrambling for market share, including Google, which is expected to soon unveil a second-generation of its flagship Pixel smartphone.
Apple also unveiled an updated version of its smartwatch, as it claimed the device had become the top-selling watch in the world ahead of rivals such as Rolex and Fossil.
"The Apple Watch is now the number one watch in the world," Cook told the media event.
While Apple has not provided detailed sales figures for the watch, Cook said sales were up 50 per cent in the past quarter from a year earlier.
The Apple Watch Series 3 has its own mobile connectivity that allows users to remain connected without a smartphone for phone calls, music and other functions.
Apple said the new smartwatch offers several improvements including cellular connectivity and applications to help detect health problems such as heart arrythmia.
"You can receive a call with just your watch," Apple's Jeff Williams told the event, where the company was set to announce a new range of iPhones.
The watch with cellular connectivity will be available in nine countries on Sep 22 starting at US$399, Apple said.
Analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy, who was attending the event, said the new device was a significant step forward with arrythmia detection.
"I believe this kind of capability is what wearables were always intended to do, and that is to detect maladies before they impact people," Moor said. "This is a great step in the industry."
The event was a tribute to late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who died in 2011, and was the first event at the Steve Jobs Theatre on Apple's new campus.
"We dedicated this theatre to Steve because we loved him and because he loved days like this," Cook said.