Apple’s one trillion dollar gamble

By Chris Burton, Co-Founder of All Things Business

It’s widely assumed that 2018 will be the year that Apple will reach a market valuation of one trillion dollars. While Apple won’t be the first public company to reach the landmark (that honour goes to PetroChina that briefly topped one trillion dollars on the Shanghai stock market in 2007) the iPhone maker is the biggest public company in the world, a fact that still seems remarkable even in these technology driven times.

In fact, technology companies occupy 4 of the top 5 spots in the list of most valuable companies in the US, ahead of Johnson & Johnson, ExxonMobil and J.P. Morgan Chase. It was widely reported that Apple now has larger cash reserves than the UK and Canada combined and Apple owes much of this to the success of the iPhone.

Scary to think, but it’s been a decade since the launch of the first iPhone. In 2007, Apple was a very different company. Steve Jobs still steered the ship and Apple’s iPod was king of the mp3 players. At the Macworld Conference & Expo event in January where Steve unveiled his ‘one more thing’ and introduced the iPhone, I was floored. That November, I was first in the queue at 2am outside an O2 store on launch day to be one of the first to experience what I felt would be the future.

10 years on, Apple was expected to have something special up its sleeve to mark the event, so the world watched with interest as the company unveiled its new iPhones, the 8 and the X.

With its market value holding around $900billion, a positive reception and strong sales of the iPhone X in particular could push Apple past the one trillion dollar valuation. To achieve this, Apple needed to set a new benchmark again with its latest phone.

Released just six weeks after the iPhone 8, Apple’s iPhone X is in many ways Apple’s riskiest move in recent years as it represents a ‘reboot’ for the platform and will serve as the direction for its handsets moving forward.

8 weeks with iPhone X

You can’t judge a phone on first impressions, so we spent 8 weeks with iPhone X to test out its credentials and see if it’s really the biggest innovation in years as promised.

Apple hasn’t updated the design of the handset since the iPhone 6, and many (myself included) have been disappointed by the lack of innovation and continued use of the ‘surfboard’ design that carried through to the iPhone 8 and 8 plus.

So I was pleasantly surprised when the form factor was updated to fit more snugly in the hand. Apple appears to have conjured up some of its famous ‘magic’ to include a bigger screen than the plus sized phones, in a much smaller package. The glass back reminds me of the iPhone 3G’s ceramic back and to me feels much less slippery than aluminium, which is good to know when you consider the hundreds of pounds it would cost to replace the back if dropped.

You’ve probably heard about the most obvious changes including FaceID and the lack of a home button. As a fan of TouchID and a frequent user of Apple Pay I was initially skeptical to let the home button go, but Apple has done a neat job of replacing the functionality with gestures.

I said you shouldn’t judge a phone on first impressions, but if you did, the iPhone X would score highly. All because of that eye-catching edge-to-edge screen. Apple’s first OLED screen in a handset is bright, with rich colours, deep blacks and blinding whites. It’s a noticeable improvement, and reminds me of the first time I saw a retina screen in action.

Some of my favourite features are hidden behind the scenes. The iPhone X captures touch gestures at twice the speed of other iPhones. When combined with the powerful A11 bionic processor, the system feels responsive in a way I haven’t experienced in a phone before. In fact, the A11 chip outperforms Apple’s latest MacBook Pro in some benchmarks.

The iPhone also sports a flexible display that folds under itself at the bottom, hiding the hardware that’s powering the screen. It’s not something you can see, but it allows the display to fill the entire bottom of the device without the need of a bottom bezel. It’s a typically ‘Apple’ solution to a problem. Cutting edge technology that’s only purpose is to make you forget the device is even there.

Which leads us on to the ‘notch’ at the top of the screen. A design decision completely at odds with everything I just said about making the technology disappear. The notch shouts out from the top of the screen, apps wrap content around drawing attention to it, and in some landscape modes it can seem downright odd cutting into your TV shows or web browsing experience. It’s this notch that houses the advanced cameras that power FaceID and it has divided opinions. Personally I don’t mind it, but I know others who dislike it. I’d recommend you see it in person before deciding to buy the phone.

Several years ago I stopped taking a camera with me and started relying on my phone. Apple has consistently included great cameras in the iPhone and the X is no different. There are endless comparisons online between the camera of iPhone X, Google Pixel 2 and Samsung’s flagship devices, however they’re all now at a level where whatever your choice, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a device capable of taking stunning photos. The Portrait mode introduced with iPhone 7 was one of my favourite features, producing great images with a convincing depth of field effect. iPhone X brings Portrait mode to the front cameras along with animated ‘animojis’ that are great fun.

As a side note, on a recent holiday I bought a waterproof camera to get some fun photos at a waterpark. It was a disposable film camera and took 24 awful photos. As I was at the waterpark I noticed teens all taking photos with their phones, even flying down waterslides and retrieving them from the bottom of the pool. It was only then that I realised just how water resistant these phones have become.

The iPhone X is full of contradictions. Hardware that’s designed to ‘disappear’ as you use it, with a notch that’s hard to ignore. A device that feels great in the hand but rocks slightly on a desk due to the camera bump. Water resistance that makes it harder to damage, but a glass back that’s fragile and costs a fortune to replace.

It feels in some ways like the first version of a new generation of phones. As such, a few hardware and software issues have appeared. My phone has been replaced (once, easily and for free at a Genius bar) due to random restarts and freezing.

The people who want to be at the cutting edge of phones have probably already made their decision and jumped in for an X or similar flagship Android phone. For the rest of us? No one feature jumps out as making the phone a ‘must own’. Wireless charging is neat and the phone certainly feels new enough to warrant an upgrade from an iPhone 6, 6s or 7.

The iPhone X is an expensive phone that feels expensive. If you have a habit of dropping phones, you might have to wrap the phone in a case, but by doing so you’ll be missing out on some of the magic. The price of admission is high, but for me it’s worth it to have the best phone I’ve ever used.