What Apple didn’t tell you about the iPhone X

The iPhone X, mystery no more.
Image: Raymond Wong/Mashable

And then it was real.

In a few short moments after the words “one more thing…” appeared on a massive screen during the Sept. 12 Apple keynote, the iPhone X went from a much-rumored tech myth to a real, officially announced product. Soon Apple’s SVP of marketing Phil Schiller was back out to tell us all the new features, from the edge-to-edge “Super Retina” display to wireless charging to the oh-man-it’s-as-much-as-a-MacBook-Air $999 starting price.

But he didn’t tell us everything.

The iPhone X has a bunch of interesting details that Schiller (or anyone) didn’t say one word about during the keynote — especially some notable fine print on the official spec sheet: There are many notable changes from previous iPhones, and some things that were surprisingly left the same. There are also a couple of important things we still don’t know, but now have more clues about.

1. The 256GB model costs $1,149

Image: Apple

It’s bad enough that the iPhone X bast price is $999, but that’s only for 64GB of storage. Apple mentioned a 256GB version, but didn’t give the price on stage. When you select that model on the official preorder page, the site gives you the bad news: The 256GB iPhone X will set you back $1,149, and that’s not even including AppleCare+, which costs $199. Oh my.

2. It supports fast charging

Image: Apple

Apple technically did reveal this during the keynote, but it was on a slide that listed several different features all at once, and it didn’t even get a mention from one of the execs. But the iPhone X (and the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus) will be the first iPhones to support fast charging — a feature that’s practically standard on many Android competitors. Now, if you use your Apple charging plug and cable, you’ll be able to get a 50% charge in 30 minutes.

3. Galileo support

Image: imageBROKER/REX/Shutterstock

The iPhone has had built-in support for the U.S. military-created GPS network for a long time, and it added support for Glonass, Russia’s version of a satellite positional system, back in 2011. The iPhone X — along with the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus — are the first iPhones to support Galileo, Europe’s new satellite system, which came fully online in late 2016. Apple’s also introducing support for QZSS for better positioning in for Asia-Pacific regions. It’s going to be harder than ever to get lost with your iPhone.

4. The screen isn’t as bright as the Galaxy Note 8’s

Image: Lili Sams/Mashable

Per the spec sheet, the iPhone X screen maxes out at 625 nits, which is pretty freakin’ bright (300 nits is considered very good for most screens). But it’s nowhere near as bright as the display on the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. A recent test by DisplayMate found the Note 8 had a maximum brightness of 1,240 nits, which, in the words of DisplayMate analyst Raymond Soneria, was “the brightest smartphone display that we have ever measured.” Maybe next year, Apple.

5. The selfie camera hasn’t improved

Image: Raymond Wong/Mashable

For as much as Apple talked up the iPhone X’s TrueDepth camera system and its ability to recognize faces for unlocking your phone securely and letting you animate your face with poop emojis, the actually specs are exactly the same as the iPhone 7’s. It appears Apple is using the same actual camera as that models while complementing it with better sensors and improved image processing. Still, it would be nice to have more than 7 megapixels.

6. It supports HEIF and HEVC format

This is no surprise since Apple announced the format in June at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), but the new iPhones both support the new HEIF (high efficiency image format) and HEVC (high efficiency video compression) formats. These new ways of storing photos and videos use better compression so you get more out of your memory. With the new formats and a little like, that 64GB iPhone X might not fill up as fast as you think (we hope).

7. Notification Center is where it always was

With no home button on the iPhone X, you navigate it somewhat differently than other iPhones, and a swipe up takes you back home. The only problem: That’s how you usually call up Control Center. Well, that moves up to a swipe-down on the top right. Another problem: The top is where Notification Center is supposed to be. Well, it’s still there. Swiping down from anywhere on the left or middle will call up the Notification Center, as before. Problem (more or less) solved.

8. There are two different iPhone X’s

Image: Apple

And I’m not talking about storage. Apple is making the iPhone X with only two different flavors of modems (two different SKUs, in industry parlance). Different countries use different frequency bands for wireless connections, and it’s tough for a single model to be compatible with them all, so the two iPhones are meant for different regions. For the iPhone 8, however, there are four different models. What’s going on?

It’s impossible to know until we see the first teardowns of the iPhone X, but here’s my suspicion. Apple is currently trying to diversify its modem suppliers, using Qualcomm modems in some of its iPhone 7’s and Intel modems in others. This is probably also the case for the iPhone 8, but, most likely, only one of those suppliers gets to be in the iPhone X (my guess: Qualcomm).

This could have a nice upside for consumers. Partly because of a messy legal war between Apple and Qualcomm, Apple throttles the performance of its Qualcomm modems so they have parity with the slower Intel modems, and all iPhone 7 owners get the same performance. But if the iPhone X has only Qualcomm modems, that could mean no throttling and faster modem performance for Apple’s top-of-the-line iPhone.

Again, all that’s a guess, but it seems to fit the facts. We won’t really know the answer to the modem question — and whether or not all these changes are actually any good — until the iPhone X gets into the hands of reviewers and teardown engineers. We can’t wait.

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