How iPhone X changes things

What does Apple's iPhone X tell us about the next decade of smartphones and the way we will interact with them?

Apple, iOS, iOS 11, iPhone, iPhone X, Face ID, Touch ID, Siri, Animoji

It should be clear by now that Apple’s big bet on the iPhone X is working out just fine. Millions of people appear to be picking them up, but what does the new device tell us about the next decade of smartphones?

Face, the obvious

Biometric ID has come of age.

From Touch ID fingerprint sensors to face recognition systems and whatever comes beyond. It’s not impossible to speculate that one day our solutions will even be able to recognise us through a combination of biometric signals: fingerprint, face, pulse, even by blood type as mobile sensor development accelerates.

That’s important – iPhone X also signals that in future our device security will not rely on a single security flag, but on multiple protections: you still need a strong passcode even when using Face ID. We can anticipate the gradual evolution of multiple, complementary forms of biometric ID.

Pushing the boundaries

That security is becoming more biometric should raise a few red flags. The most obvious being that people will now work to subvert biometric security.

There have already been a couple of over-reported claims in which researchers are said to have undermined Face ID security with masks. In previous year’s we have heard similar claims around Touch ID and use of fingerprint ‘gloves’ stolen from in-depth analysis of pictures stolen from photos in the public space.

Security has always been a cat-&-mouse game. There’s no reason the importance of that game will reduce in an era during which everything will become connected.

Privacy and surveillance

Another concern must be that while we know Apple keeps its Face ID data in a secure enclave that lives only on the device, other firms promising similar biometrics may not be so committed to security.

This may mean the evolution and eventual leak of biometric data concerning many users, which could be undermined with poor intent.

We can also imagine such data being used against citizens by totalitarian governments.

It seems likely the privacy versus public security argument will continue across the next decade.

Different worlds

AR, Animoji, and even Animoji Karaoke all signal a new evolution in computing interfaces. These augmented spaces introduce new paradigms in creativity, application design, and communication.

However, to my mind the most interesting potential of all the technology held inside the so-called “Notch” is the potential for new breeds of gesture-based control and emotional sensing that I believe will become foundational in the creation of next-generation virtual computing user interfaces.

Now your iPhone can sense your movement and identify your face, it seems inevitable that it will eventually become capable of responding to gestures, as well as voice and touch.

Everything machines

Just like his fallen friend and former boss, Apple’s Chief Designer, Jony Ive, always seems to speak truth couched in riddles.

Speaking to Wallpaper, he said:

“I’ve always been fascinated by these products that are more general purpose. What I think is remarkable about the iPhone X is that its functionality is so determined by software… because of the fluid nature of software, this product is going to change and evolve. In 12 months’ time, this object will be able to do things that it can’t now.”

If you think about the powerful A-series processor inside the iPhones X and 8. If you consider their sophisticated graphics performance, and mentally compare the capability of these machines with computing devices, it becomes clear that, iteration by iteration, the smartphone is replacing many of the general-purpose tasks previously transacted on a computer.

All it takes is the software to run that task.

Today’s iPhone X is already quite capable of doing much more than last year’s iPhone, now it’s up to the developers to create solutions that fully exploit that power. The user experience means the object becomes increasingly defined by the software it is running.

What next? Augmented by new user interface paradigms, AI and major improvements in voice, mobile devices will become the primary computing device for many. Apple’s focus on video and photography will maintain for the next decade, too.

Quality costs

Apple’s iPhone X sets another new gold standard for mobile devices: price.

Starting at $999 and climbing to $1,149 in the U.S.A., the company has managed to convince consumers that a device they interact with more frequently than with any other gadget to transact a fast-growing array of tasks is worth paying for.

Some argue that at that price we may as well be buying a computer, which rather misses the point: the iPhone X IS a computer.

We’ll always need computers

The iPhone X signals new generations of ultra-powerful wearable devices, even while Apple’s moves in wearables and cloud/AI computing hint that at least some of the tasks we once used computers for will become completely ambient and virtual.

That’s all good, but we’re always going to need computers around to handle the big tasks – why else has Apple just added 360-degree VR video editing to Final Cut Pro X? We’ll always need computers for some tasks.

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Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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