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Apple’s most expensive smartphone, the iPhone X

Apple’s most expensive smartphone, the iPhone X, sold out in less than 10 minutes upon being made available for pre-order this morning.

The iPhone X – officially pronounced “10” – costs from £999 with 64GB of storage, topping out at £1149 with 256GB of storage, which is higher than the starting cost of three of Apple’s fully fledged computers.

Despite the price tag, demand is high. The company’s online shop experienced server issues in the minutes immediately following the launch of pre-orders, and the initial allocation of devices, due to arrive on 3 November, had completely sold out by 8:10am in the UK. Less than an hour later, the waiting list had extended to cover the entire first month.

The iPhone X rapidly selling out may not be entirely good news for Apple. The company has reportedly been concerned it will face severe supply constraints for the iPhone X, with a story in Nikkei Asian Review claiming its annual output was expected to be just 20m units, half of what it had initially planned. Another report, from Bloomberg, claimed that Apple was forced to remove some quality control elements from its production line in order to increase output to an acceptable level. In an unusual move, Apple specifically denied that report, saying the claim “that Apple has reduced the accuracy spec for Face ID is completely false”.

The success of the iPhone X is only one half of Apple’s concerns for the immediate future. The company is also trying to balance demand for the iPhones 8, the more conventional smartphones in its lineup for 2017. Initial reports suggest the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus experienced sluggish sales in their first few weeks on sale, by comparison to previous iPhone launches.

This time last year the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus had accounted for 43% of launch quarter sales, according to data from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus account for just 16% of all iPhone sales this quarter, however. The two-year-old iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus phones sold more units, according to CIRP’s data, making up 24% of iPhone sales, while the 2016 iPhone 7 and 7 Plus phones account for 58% of sales in the quarter so far.

The figures suggest that those customers who want what is perceived to be the best iPhone available are waiting for the iPhone X, with those who are happy to settle for what is considered an inferior model deciding to save some money by buying a one- or two-year-old phone instead of the iPhone 8.

“It seems when Apple announced the the forthcoming iPhone X, it changed the market dynamic, and probably depressed demand for the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus,” said Mike Levin, co-founder of CIRP. “Rather than waiting for and buying the iPhone 8, it looks like buyers in this quarter either bought existing models, or decided to wait for iPhone X, later in the year.”

The iPhone 8 is fractions of a millimetre larger in every direction than the iPhone 7. It’s also 10g heavier than the iPhone 7, 5g heavier than the iPhone 6S and 19g heavier than the iPhone 6. Some will tell you that you can notice the difference, but that it’s a good weight. You can’t, and it doesn’t matter.

Because of its 2014 design, the iPhone 8 looks and feels outdated compared to sleeker, more modern rivals, despite still being immaculately made. The large bezels top, bottom and at the sides make the iPhone 8 look almost retro, and not in a good way.

The back of the iPhone 8 is glass, which inevitably makes it more fragile, but to what degree remains to be seen. In terms of the device’s feel, the glass is a double-edged sword. It’s less slippery in the hand than the metal of the iPhone 7, but I found it slipping off sofas, desks and other not-quite-level objects more easily. You’ll probably want to buy a case.

The screen looks great for an LCD and now has Apple’s True Tone system from the iPad Pro, which alters the colours of the display based on the ambient light. Samsung and competitors have had similar systems on their smartphones for years, and it makes the screen more attractive but sacrifices colour accuracy.

Screen: 4.7in LCD 1334x750 (326ppi)
Processor: Apple A11 Bionic
Storage: 64/256GB
Operating system: iOS 11
Camera: 12MP rear camera, 7MP front-facing camera
Connectivity: LTE, Wi-Fiac, NFC, Bluetooth 5, Lightning and GPS
Dimensions: 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm
Weight: 148g
Improved battery life

The iPhone 8 has Apple’s latest and best processor. The six-core A11 Bionic has two high-performance cores and four power-efficient cores and is apparently the most powerful so far because it can use a combination of all six at once.

Performance was excellent, but I struggled to see a real difference in day-to-day speed compared to the iPhone 7. But what I’m very pleased to be able to report is that Apple has finally improved battery life for the 4.7in iPhone.

We’re not talking a two-day battery here, but the iPhone 8 lasted just over 26 hours - setting off at 7am in the morning the phone would make it all the way through to around 9am the next morning without needing to be charged. That was while us

ing it as my primary device and receiving hundreds of push notifications, taking 10 or so photos, watching a 45-minute burst of Netflix, making a short phone call, playing a quick game and listening to around 5 hours of Spotify with Bluetooth earbuds.

It was such a difference to the poor, 14-hour battery life of the iPhone 7 that I re-tested an admittedly year-old iPhone 7 with iOS 11 to see if the new software was responsible. It wasn’t – the iPhone 7 still doesn’t last until bedtime under the same conditions.

Anecdotally, I saw significantly better battery life on a cellular connection, with my hour-plus train journey in the morning consuming just 10% of the iPhone 8’s battery compared to 25% of the iPhone 7’s battery. If, like me, you spend a reasonable amount of the day actively using a smartphone on a 4G connection rather than wifi, then I suspect you will see similar results.

It’s worth noting that almost all of the iPhone’s rivals last longer between charges, and that while the iPhone 8 may last at least 24 hours when new, two years down the road it might be a different story as the battery starts to lose capacity.

When the battery is dead, the iPhone 8 will charge much faster using a USB-C charger with Power Delivery, such as those used for the Google Pixel or USB-C charged laptops and tablets. Unfortunately neither the required USB-C to Lightning cable nor a fast charger comes in the box.

The big new feature for the iPhone 8 is wireless charging, something rivals have supported for five years. It works great, particularly using furniture with built-in wireless charging pads - you simply plonk it down on the spot and it starts to charge. I think it should be built into everything, so it’s good to see Apple finally get on board.

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