The Two-Way

Apple Unveils Three New iPhones, But The Watch Sends Shares Up


Apple's Schiller presents the iPhone's new facial-recognition feature, called Face ID.
Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP

Apple's Schiller presents the iPhone's new facial-recognition feature, called Face ID.

Early leaks of new designs had stirred anticipation for Apple's new smartphone — and on Tuesday Apple delivered on all the predictions with a $699 iPhone 8 and a $999 special-edition iPhone X (as in "10"). The 10th-anniversary iPhone is the biggest redesign in years, with an all-screen front that eliminates the home button and can use facial recognition to unlock the display.

But it was the new Apple Watch that got Wall Street — and many tech observers — excited on launch day.

Apple has yet to release any actual sales numbers for the watch. But CEO Tim Cook says that the Apple Watch has now become "the No. 1" watch in the world — beating even traditional watchmakers like Rolex.

And the new series of the Apple Watch is getting a major upgrade: It can operate without an iPhone at all. The $399 version can connect to the cellular network directly, independent of the phone or Wi-Fi availability. That means a user would be able to leave the iPhone behind and still answer phone calls, check email or stream music.

Where in the past Apple heavily touted its smartwatch as a gadget for the fitness-minded, Tuesday's presentation made an additional pitch for more broad uses, like errands or general health monitoring. Apple said it is working with medical researchers to test whether the watch can detect heart problems.

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Apple shares rose 1 percent when the new watch was revealed, later erasing the gains as the product launch continued, introducing the new 4K Apple TV and the new iPhones — and confirmed all the earlier leaks.

The new-generation iPhone was pitched as the next step in the evolution of the smartphone. "No other device in our lifetimes has had the impact on the world that the iPhone has," Cook said, noting this year's anniversary of the 2007 launch of the original iPhone.

Apple analysts touted the new iPhones' impressive photo cameras and leaps in adapting to the display of augmented reality — digital images imposed over visuals of the real world.

In some ways, Apple is also catching up to competition — it is finally adopting wireless charging for its devices and, on the iPhone X, ditching the staple home button in favor of a sleek screen that covers the full front. Apple is also switching the display to a brighter, sharper one called OLED — ironically, manufactured and propagated by Apple's most bitter rival, Samsung.

Apple is also not the first company to use facial recognition — some Windows laptops have a similar feature, for example. But Apple, with its massive devoted fan base, adds a new level of mainstream appeal.

The 3-D face-scanning capability, which Apple calls Face ID, will replace the fingerprint scanner that used to live in the iPhone home button.

"Face ID learns your face. It learns who you are," said Apple executive Philip Schiller, describing how the camera will be able to tell whether the user has grown a beard, started wearing glasses or put on a hat. He also said Apple engineers worked to make sure that Face ID could not be tricked by a photograph or even a mask that looks like the user and would unlock the phone only when the user looks directly at it, eyes open.

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