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Apple’s iPhone X Isn’t ‘Revolutionary’—And Why That’s Fine

November 3, 2017, 2:40 PM UTC

Now that Apple’s iPhone X is on store shelves, the company and its fans will inundate you with talk of this being “the future” and it “revolutionizing” the technology industry. Don’t believe it.

In a press release last month announcing the iPhone X, Apple used the word “revolutionary” to describe both the iPhone X’s design and its Face ID facial scanner. The company said with the iPhone X that at long last, “the future is here.” During Apple’s earnings call on Thursday, CEO Tim Cook said that the iPhone X “is packed with innovative new technologies.” He answered an analyst question, saying the iPhone X “has lots of great new technologies in there that are leading the industry.” Suffice it to say, Apple really, really wants you to believe that the iPhone X offers an experience the world hasn’t ever seen.

The truth, however, is far more nuanced than that.

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Is Apple’s iPhone X a device “packed with innovative new technologies?” If you compare it to previous iPhones, then yes. Is the iPhone “the future?” For Apple, perhaps. But in the broader context, Apple’s iPhone X has features you’ve been able to find elsewhere for years in some cases. And as nice of a device that it is, the iPhone X is the result of an evolutionary process that has brought us to this point.

A New Display—for the iPhone

Let’s start with the iPhone X’s organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screen. It’s a first for Apple (AAPL), and something that makes the iPhone X’s screen bright and beautiful. But OLED has been available in other devices for some time. And Apple’s stiffest competitor, Samsung (SSNLF), bundled gorgeous OLED screens in both its Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8 this year.

Easier to Get Your Juice

The iPhone X is also among the first Apple handsets to ship with wireless charging (it’s also available in the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus that launched last month). Wireless charging isn’t exactly revolutionary: smartphone makers both big and small have been offering the feature for years, and many critics wondered why Apple didn’t offer it in last year’s iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

The iPhone Will See You Now

Facial scanning is also something other companies, like Samsung, were offering before Apple. The Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8, for instance, both have face scanners that can similarly verify a person’s identity and give them access to the smartphone’s software.

Beyond that, the iPhone X is packed with fairly standard features, like a dual-lens camera and near-field communication for mobile payments.

So perhaps Apple’s contention that the iPhone X is a “revolutionary” product is a bit of a reach, and likely used by its advertising team to trumpet its new features. But that’s not to say that there’s something wrong with the iPhone X.

Quite the contrary, Apple’s iPhone X design is one of the best on the market. And with 3D scanning support, Face ID is superior to the feature you’ll find in the Galaxy S8 that can only scan in 2D, making it less reliable. Add that to Apple’s outstanding iOS software, and there’s no reason to believe the iPhone X is anything but a worthy buy.

But we also shouldn’t allow the rhetoric to get out of hand. The iPhone X is the result of years of innovation and evolutionary upgrades to key features we’ve yet to see in an iPhone. And to its credit, Apple has found a way to improve upon what’s out there.

At its core, the iPhone X is what’s possible when you see what others are doing and improve upon it. That’s not a revolution; it’s smart business—and the reason Apple generates billions of dollars in profits each quarter.