To borrow from a somewhat stale — but still relevant — tech cliché, Apple’s newest crop of iPhones might feel more evolutionary than revolutionary, especially to enthusiasts and early adopters. But for retail, there’s more to read between those elegant, softly rounded lines.
While the new iPhone XS, XS Max and XR represent an increasingly fragmented lineup of Apple phones, the technology baked into them point to Apple’s real intentions — and it’s not just to ply the market with multiply sized and priced devices to target a broader range of tastes. Notably, the devices all feature the A12 bionic processor chip, which is, according to Apple executive Phil Schiller, “the smartest and most powerful chip ever in a smartphone.”
The company described it as the industry’s first 7 nanometer chip, a processor that features a six-core central processing unit, a four-core graphics processing unit that’s about 50 percent faster than its predecessor, and a more powerful Neural Engine, which manages artificial intelligence computations.
Along with other hardware improvements, they feed into the devices’ better cameras, faster performance and beautiful displays.
“Faster speeds matter a lot for both buyers and sellers,” said Steve Yankovich, vice president of buyer growth and verticals for eBay. “Speed of experience while on mobile is key to higher conversion…higher-resolution screens will help buyers enjoy shopping more. Product photos, for example, will look sharper.” As one of Apple’s earliest partners and developers, the company’s growth has long hinged on the iOS ecosystem, so it tracks the iPhone’s hardware and software changes with intense interest.
In particular, Apple’s development trajectory in AI and augmented reality matters to a retail and e-commerce industry exploring new experiences, whether for branding or shopping.
“Improved performance and calibrated cameras for augmented reality will mean we can bring new, more compelling experiences to life,” Yankovich explained.
When it comes to artificial intelligence, hardware capable of doing more computations on the device itself matters, in a scenario the industry dubs “edge computing.” For instance, Siri interactions used to be slow and annoying, as the device sent spoken commands to the cloud and waited to receive them back. Hang-ups due to dodgy coverage areas were common, prompting some users to ignore the voice assistant or shut it down. Siri still connects to the cloud, but it works better now than it used to and developers can work more with it in the latest version of the iPhone software.
Natural language processing is just one area. AI-driven augmented reality — which Apple demoed onstage during the press event — gets a boost from these new iPhones. And it’s worth noting that expectations have long been ramping up for an Apple-developed AR headset. If Apple is working on such gear, then it’s hard to imagine better groundwork for it than these devices. The upgrades could make for more powerful companion technologies.
Of course, none of that matters if the smartphones don’t appeal to consumers. On that score, the iPhones may have nothing to fear. According to social listening and analytics company Talkwalker, Apple’s announcements have garnered quite some social media buzz, with posts numbering more than 890,700 between midnight and 2:30 p.m. on Thursday.
If social is an indicator of interest, then the phones look like the new belle of the mobile tech ball. The iPhone XS, in particular, appears to be the most intriguing to social users. The 5.8-inch model attracted more than 614,100 posts, while the larger 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max spurred more than 435,100 posts. The budget 6.1-inch iPhone XR nabbed 371,800.