Apple’s phones have a reputation for featuring some of the fastest mobile processors around, some of the best smartphone cameras, and sturdy construction. The original iPhone was also the first major smartphone to feature a finger-friendly capacitive touchscreen that changed the way we interact with phones.
But for the past few years, Apple’s been playing catch up rather than leading the pack. That’s OK. Apple didn’t really become one of the world’s top tech brands by being the first to do things. The iPod wasn’t the first portable media player. The iPad wasn’t the first tablet. But by the time Apple does integrate a feature, it’s usually pretty well done.
- Bezel-less design – This trend was arguably started by the Sharp Aquos Crystal, but now phone makers ranging from Xiaomi to LG to Samsung have phones with slim bezels. The iPhone X isn’t even the first phone with a big camera cut-out in an otherwise bezel-less top.
- OLED display – The iPhone X is Apple’s first smartphone with an OLED display, which it calls a Retina Plus display (which probably has more to do with pixel density than the display technology). Other companies have been using OLED screens for years. Apple says its screen has better brightness and color accuracy than rivals, but that remains to be seen.
- Wireless charging – I guess it’s nice that Apple is adopting the Qi wireless charging standard, which has been around for ages, because it means you can use existing chargers.
- Fast charging – Apple says a 30 minute charge should take its new iPhones from 0 to 50 percent capacity. This is something you’ve been able to do with top-tier and even mid-range phones from competitors for a few years. It’s nice that iPhone users are finally getting some fast charging love.
- Facial recognition – Apple spent a lot of time during the iPhone X announcement talking about its new Face ID system that will let you login, use Apple Pay, and authenticate third party apps just by looking at your phone, even in the dark. Samsung’s latest flagship phones have an Iris scanner and facial recognition, although it’s unclear if Samsung’s version is as accurate or secure as Apple claims its Face ID to be.
- No home button – With nearly no bottom bezel, there’s no room for a home button. But most Android phone makers ditched physical buttons altogether a few years ago when Google started integrating the navigation buttons into the operating system with softkeys. Most Android phone makers didn’t get rid of the fingerprint sensor though, with some keeping a home button just to have a place for the fingerprint reader, while others put it on the back of the phone.
Those are some of the first-for-iPhone but not-first-for-smartphone features I can think of. Feel free to point out anything else you’ve noticed in the comments.
It’s not a bad thing that Apple is starting to ship phones with these features. It’s also just not all that exciting, because these are mostly features we’ve seen before, in one form or another.