The iPhone X arrives Friday. Here’s what you need to know.


New York Times News Service,

8:40 AM

Apple’s iPhone X, the most anticipated iPhone since the original debuted a decade ago, is set to arrive in stores Friday. But unlike past releases, this iPhone may be extra hard to get — and it might not even be right for you.

With a starting price of $999, the iPhone X is Apple’s first premium-tier iPhone. Its higher price and cutting-edge features skew the device toward early adopters and technology enthusiasts with disposable income. And because of reports about supply constraints, some badysts predict that many iPhone X orders may not be fulfilled until next year.

So should you even bother trying to buy one? Here’s what you need to know about the premium iPhone.

Buying the iPhone X

Apple opened online orders for the new iPhone on Friday. Just hours after it began taking orders, the website began quoting a shipping time of roughly five to six weeks.

In other words, your best bet to get an iPhone X right away is to line up at a retail store Friday. In a statement, Apple encouraged customers to arrive early — its stores open at 8 a.m. You could also try your luck at a third-party store, such as your carrier or Best Buy, though third-party stores tend to carry fewer units.

Paying for it

Apple is selling the iPhone X with two options for storage capacity: 64 gigabytes for $999 and 256 gigabytes for $1,149.

There are various ways to pay that hefty price.

The simplest route is to pay for the device outright. This is the least confusing option because your wireless bill will contain charges only for your phone plan, and you can do whatever you want with the device — such as sell it or switch to a different wireless carrier — whenever you want.

You can also opt to spread out the payments with a monthly installment plan. For example, if you are a Verizon customer, you can choose to pay off the $999 iPhone over 24 months for $41.62 a month. This is a nice option because spreading out the payments does not incur interest fees.

Another option is to go for an early upgrade plan, which lets you pay a flat monthly rate and upgrade to a new iPhone annually. It’s essentially leasing a new phone every year.

There are various early upgrade plans on the market. With Apple’s early upgrade program, you can pay $49.91 a month, and once you’ve made 12 payments, you can trade in your iPhone to upgrade to the next one and continue paying that monthly rate. (I’m not a fan of this path because I suggest cherishing your devices for as long as you can before upgrading.)

Similarities to the cheaper iPhone 8

Before you splurge, consider your options. Apple’s iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, which share many features of the iPhone X, have starting prices of $699 and $799. The cheaper iPhones have the same computing processor as the iPhone X, so they are just as fast, and their 12-megapixel rear cameras are on a par with the rear camera on the iPhone X.

So what’s the difference? Mainly, the screen.

  • The iPhone X has a 5.8-inch screen that takes up the entire face of the device, with the exception of a notch at the top containing an infrared camera system.
  • The iPhone 8 has a 4.7-inch screen, and the iPhone 8 Plus has a 5.5-inch screen.

Both of the cheaper iPhones have bezels — the border surrounding the display — whereas the iPhone X has eliminated the bezel.

Other than screen size, the screen technologies differ. The iPhone X is the only Apple phone that uses OLED, a type of display that can be made thinner, lighter and brighter, and with better color accuracy and contrast than its predecessor, LCD. So the screen on the iPhone X looks more vibrant than the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone 8, which still use LCD.

Last but not least, the iPhone X has a unique infrared face scanner. The technology, called Face ID, uses the infrared camera system on the front of the phone to scan the contours and shape of a person’s head to unlock the device and authorize mobile payments. The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus have normal front-facing cameras for snapping selfies.

How face recognition replaces the fingerprint sensor

—Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The primary way you can unlock an iPhone X is with the face scanner. The premium phone lacks Touch ID, the fingerprint sensor that has been a popular feature on iPhones for several years.

Face ID is brand-new — there hasn’t been anything like it on a smartphone before. It works by spraying an object with infrared dots to gather information about the depth of an object based on the size and the contortion of the dots. The imaging system can stitch the patterns into a detailed 3-D image of your face to determine if you are the owner of your smartphone before unlocking it. Because the shape of a person’s head is unique, the likelihood of bypbading facial recognition with someone else’s face is 1 in 1,000,000, according to Apple.

Older facial-recognition systems worked by using the camera to take a photo of yourself and comparing that with an image that was stored on the device. All a thief would need to do to fool the system was hold a photo of your face in front of the camera — which some people already did with Samsung’s facial-recognition feature. The false acceptance rate of older face recognition systems was 1 in 100.

It will be interesting to see how early adopters react to Face ID, and whether it will work well with many different kinds of faces. If you’re skeptical or turned off by the idea of your phone constantly scanning your face to unlock your phone, you could always get an iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus, which still have Touch ID.

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