By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
Update: MacRumors has reported that Ming-Chi Kuo has further “clarified” his position, saying Apple will keep the X line, but the first generation won’t become a lower cost alternative, as Apple will EOL it while pushing the iPhone X ver. 2.
With all its hype and fanfare, Apple’s tenth anniversary iPhone has many cool features including Face ID, a million color OLED screen, portrait lighting and 4K capture at 60 fps in LOG. It was the was destined to be the smartphone of the future, tailor made for mobile filmmaking. So if the rumored reports are true, Apple may be considering cancelling the iPhone X by the end of summer [update: only the first-gen model].
The report comes from Forbes, which cites KGI Securities Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo’s look into sales of Apple’s top of the line mobile device for Asia. Kuo’s hit rate when it comes to rumors is second to none, and his analysis indicates sales for the iPhone X have lagged in China, where users are more likely to buy the iPhone 8 Plus for its slightly larger screen.
Apparently, mobile devices are all about screen real estate in the Chinese market. One could say “as in China, so goes the world” when it comes to mobile phone design. And while the iPhone X has a near bezel less screen, it’s that infamous “notch” made by the Facial ID camera array that is a non starter for many consumers. Because of the tiny sliver of screen loss the notch creates, the iPhone 8 Plus actually delivers a little bit more screen, even if it does have a bezel. Add to that its $1000 price tag and high cost to repair, and its easy to see why in China, the iPhone 8 plus is the once and future king.
This a waning interest in the tenth anniversary iPhone is bolstered by a report from Cowan, which indicates sales are at a historic low for the device. But I think there’s another reason Apple is going to discontinue the iPhone X, and that’s because it was an Anniversary model to celebrate ten years of iPhones. As a result, Apple was able to experiment with a lot of new technologies including Face ID. Many believe that Face ID was a last minute substitution, as Apple hadn’t perfected the under screen fingerprint reader before it was time to begin production. It was available, and with a few tweaks to the screen that created that infamous notch for the sensor array, Apple had a workable solution which could buy them time to refine the under screen fingerprint reader for a later generation (though many iPhone X users say the notch isn’t as noticeable).
Apple has a patent for something called “Ultrasound based force sensing and tech sense”, which uses input force and ultrasonic pulses to verify and compare a fingerprint with a scan stored in its secure enclave. Samsung has also been granted an under screen sensor patent, and then there’s Synaptics, which pioneered the whole concept, so the pendulum seems to be swinging back towards fingerprint reading in a major way.
Analysts expect under screen sensors to be a huge deal in 2018 as phones continue to migrate to a bezel less design. To that end, Apple may close the books on the iPhone X after only a year of sales. Something similar happened to the iPhone 5C back in 2014.
But to be fair, Kuo’s analysis is focused on investment, and doesn’t necessarily have a technological bent. While the same report indicates that sales of the iPhone X are down, Apple on the whole will enjoy a 5% growth based on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus picking up the slack. Kuo expects that growth to double by year’s end as Apple plans three new S models, plus an iPhone 8SE in 2019.
Even the best tech experts can get it wrong when it comes to the Cupertino rumor mill.