For sure, the crazy-expensive $1,000 smartphones introduced this week are sleek and superpowered, things of beauty and wonder.
I’ve been conducting a hands-on with the 6.3-inch-screen Samsung Galaxy Note 8 in stores Sept. 15.
And many a fanboy and girl were drooling Tuesday as Apple’s Tim Cook and company explained the whys and wherefores of its $999 (and up!) new darling — the 10th-anniversary, 5.8-inch-screen iPhone X (pronounced ten), which Cook proclaimed “the future of the smartphone.”
The iPhone X offers several improvements in common with the Note 8, it turns out. But honestly, spending a grand for these multimedia marvels doesn’t make sense for phone-toters just making and taking calls.
If you now have a case of new-phone envy just because your two-year-old Apple or Samsung model ain’t what it used to be, it might behoove you to check out options for replacing the phone’s worn-down battery or cracked screen.
Hello, Gorgeous: As in today’s top (LG and Sony) TVs, the best images in the new top-end Apple and Samsung phones are enabled by self-illuminating OLED — organic light-emitting diode — displays, which outclass backlit LCD screens for playback of web pages, phone-shot images, and some streaming content.
Samsung and Apple also eliminate the bezel (picture frame) around the screen to squeeze a larger image into a package you can still grip with one hand, though having glass wrap the edge makes the phones more vulnerable to breakage.
This advanced image-tweaking doesn’t come cheap. According to industry analysts at the tech industry survey firm UBS, the wholesale price (cost to manufacture) for last year’s top iPhone 7 Plus backlit LCD display was $60 per unit, while the new OLEDs are about $85 wholesale. On the way to market, all costs are marked up. Apple reportedly builds in at least a 37 percent profit margin.
And if, God forbid, you have to replace the integrated display module: The cost will be close to $400, estimated Hiren Patel at iRepairWorks, 1358 South St. That’s why current Samsung phones with OLED screens “are much less often repaired than the LCD screens on iPhones, which run $70 to $129 to replace.”
Cook stressed that the new iPhone X’s glass — shared with the new $699-and-up iPhone 8 and 8 Plus — is “the most durable ever in a smartphone … reinforced by a laser-welded steel and copper structure.”
Photo friendlier: Both the new one-grand phones feature twin, image-stabilized lenses on the back “business” side — one optimized for wide-angle shots, the other pulling in tighter telephoto images. Cooler still, the phones “dual capture” images from both lenses simultaneously, allowing you to retroactively change if you want the background to be in or out of focus. (Like its predecessor 7 Plus, the Apple 8 Plus also has twin rear lenses. And the 8 and X models offer processor-tweaked portrait-lighting modes for both back and “selfie” cameras that let you emphasize certain face/scene details and shade others.)
Better security: You’ll be able to unlock the new high-end Apple and Samsung phones with face recognition. Having registered an image of you, the phone will wake up when it sees you staring at the screen. Apple’s “Space ID” system beams 30,000 invisible infrared dots to “recognize you even in the dark and adapt to your physical changes.” The tech is so secure you’ll be able to use it for Apple Pay and third-party apps like One Password and E-Trade.
Super chips: Arguably, there’s enough processing power and memory here to launch a missile. Apple’s six-core independently running array in the X (also steering the new and cheaper 4.7-inch-screen Apple 8 and 5.5-inch 8 Plus) will be working it for dramatic augmented-reality effects, more games, and cute stuff like Animojis — emoji messages that mimic your facial expressions. Samsung deploys its quad-core processors in the Galaxy Note 8 for enhanced note-taking and drawing with the onboard S-Pen, foreign-language text translation, and double-duty (with connected keyboard, mouse and monitor) as a desktop DeX computer.
Wireless charging: Another sweet thing Samsung has offered for several phone generations, “Qi”-standard wireless induction charging, will finally be available with Apple 8, 8 Plus, and X. You simply rest the phone on a special base unit that magnetically radiates energy into the device. Great for the bleary-eyed (no tiny plugs), but not without its issues. “Induction charging demands a glass-backed phone,” said iRepairWorks’ Patel. “That makes dropping your phone doubly dangerous.”
Some pundits predict the X will claim just 20 percent of Apple phone sales. But given the way Apple has priced the 8 and 8 Plus — starting at $699 and $799, then inching to $949 (for an 8 Plus with 256 GB of memory) — it shouldn’t be that hard for Apple Store folks to talk customers up. The 8 and 8 plus will arrive in stores Sept. 22. The X kicks into pre-order mode Oct. 27, with initial inventory shipping Nov. 3.