Apple holds its most important product launch in years, with expectations for a 10th anniversary iPhone—iPhone X?—plus Watch and TV updates.
iPhone X & iPhone 8: First Look Video
CUPERTINO, Calif.—Apple Inc. introduced a trio of new iPhones Tuesday, making a bet that some customers will be willing to part with upward of $1,000 for the premium iPhone X while others will also pay up to upgrade regular models.
Inside a theater at its new $5 billion headquarters, Apple Inc. worked to conjure the magic that 10 years ago made its iPhone the world’s most valuable company’s most valuable product.
The pricing of the new flagship phone puts it closer to a major appliance or many PCs and represents a test of the enduring cachet of Apple products, already among the priciest in their field.
The products are Apple’s most anticipated in years. The company and its shareholders have endured a slump in iPhone sales growth and the company is facing intensifying competition from Samsung Electronics Co. and others. That anticipation has pushed Apple’s share price up 39% this year to record highs, giving the company an unprecedented market value of more than $830 billion.
The iPhone X boasts advanced features including facial-recognition capability and a 5.8-inch edge-to-edge, high-resolution screen. Apple also unveiled the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, featuring upgrades to last year’s model with new design and features.
iPhones contributed two thirds of Apple’s $215.64 billion in revenue last fiscal year.
Apple is trying to thread a needle, looking to generate buzz and sales with the iPhone X, which will cost from $999 to $1,149, while still getting people to buy the upgraded phones, which will start at $699 for the iPhone 8 and $799 for the iPhone 8 Plus.
Unveiling three phones—the first time Apple has done so—brings risks with forecasting demand and managing production. In an early sign of the challenges, Apple said the iPhone X won’t start shipping until Nov. 3–much later than usual. The two iPhone 8 models will be available for purchase on Sept. 22, in line with its regular timing for new iPhones.
Apple didn’t give a reason for the delay. The Wall Street Journal reported this month that production glitches in summer delayed the new phone’s production schedule by a month and could lead to extended supply shortfalls.
The iPhone X—which also boasts depth sensors and a dual-lens camera system—arrives amid questions about Apple’s innovative strength. Rivals such as Samsung have matched or leapfrogged ahead of Apple’s smartphone features, introducing larger displays using organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology and water resistance before Apple did. Meanwhile, rival smartphone makers in China are closing the gap offering similar features at far lower prices.
That has contributed to slower sales growth: Apple’s share of the global smartphone market slipped to 14.5% last year from 19.4% in 2012, according to Strategy Analytics, a market-research firm.
Apple touted the iPhone X, which it pronounces “iPhone Ten,” as the future of the smartphone. “It is the biggest leap forward since the first iPhone,” said Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook.
Some observers were skeptical. Holger Mueller, principal analyst at Constellation Research, said Apple failed to capitalize on the 10-year iPhone anniversary with a revolutionary new smartphone. “Almost all innovations have been shown by the competition, notably Samsung,” he said.
Tuesday’s event was choreographed to connect Apple more deeply with the mystique of its late co-founder Steve Jobs. It took place in a theater bearing his name at a new campus built based on his design concepts. It kicked off with a song by the Beatles, one of his favorite bands, and with audio of remarks he made about Apple’s product philosophy.
“Steve’s vision and passion live on here at Apple Park and everywhere at Apple,” Mr. Cook said.
Apple shares, which had been rising, slid slightly after the company announced the date of the iPhone X’s availability, ending the day down 0.4%.
Other companies have offered facial recognition, but Apple claimed its Face ID system is superior, blending artificial-intelligence with sensors that map faces in 3D using 30,000 invisible infrared dots.
Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller said Face ID can recognize faces in light and darkness, even if the user changes hairstyle or wears glasses or a hat. He said engineers worked to make sure photographs or masks can’t trick it, and said the chances of someone other than the user unlocking the phone with Face ID are one in a million. That compares with one in 50,000 for Touch ID, the current fingerprint sensor technology that sits on a home button Apple is eliminating for the iPhone X.