iPhone X: little sizzle, long wait, many memes

September 13, 2017 18:31
An iPhone X is displayed during an event at the Steve Jobs Theater. The device, coming a decade after the original model, is Apple's first major redesign since 2014. Photo: Bloomberg

The new iPhone debut came with less sizzle as e-gadget fans and industry observers had already known far more than they should, thanks to the steady diet of leaks and insider information that inundated the media and online forums months before the Sept. 12 product launch at the Steve Jobs Theater in Apple Park, the US tech giant’s new corporate headquarters in Cupertino, California.

Specifications of iPhone X (read “ten”), the 10th anniversary flagship edition, packed with ultra-high-end functionalities in an ultra-thin build that sports an edge-to-edge 5.8-inch screen, are exactly what the rumor mill was grinding in the weeks leading up to the announcement.

Amid the volley of spoilers, the reception was far from being ecstatic. The veracity of leaks and guesses prompted many to wonder if the revelation was a systematic inside job.

When the novelty is gone, Apple’s “leakgate” may cost the profitability of numerous scalpers in Hong Kong itching for the new iPhone bonanza, who used to rake it in during previous launches.

The iPhone X comes with a hefty price tag, HK$8,588 for 64 gigabytes of storage and a whopping HK$9,888 for 256 GB, two thirds of Hongkongers’ per capita monthly wage of HK$15,500 and almost four times the mainlanders’ monthly disposable income of 2,155 yuan.

The phone’s belated availability due to a manufacturing bottleneck -- online booking won’t start until more than a month later on Oct. 27 and the very first batch of iPhone Xs won’t land in the hands of the lucky few until Nov. 3 -- may further smash the jackpot of speculators and hoarders.

Also, some fans are not amazed by the cachet of what Apple has to offer for the iPhone’s 10th anniversary. A tall, glossy screen that covers nearly the entire face of the iPhone X notwithstanding, some feel the two “horns”, segments on the top of the screen split by a bar of front cameras, sensors and a speaker, look just odd to them. Apple said it spent years crafting the new device, still, the rare cameras pop out from the otherwise amalgamated glass cover on the back.

Thus it’s not surprising that some traders on the grey market have opted to stay put. In the good old days, they stockpiled phones, sat back and let buyers fall over each other.

Tenants in Mong Kok’s Sin Tat Plaza, which used to be a hive of activity in its heyday of iPhone spectacles, believe the trading buoyancy may be short-lived, if there’s any, subject to the actual initial iPhone X supply north of the border.

Apple will start shipping the latest model both in Hong Kong and mainland China simultaneously on Nov. 3. Yet, a few years ago, China would be among the second or third batch of markets to be allocated new iPhones, enabling a months-long window when local scalpers can simply dictate the price in front of large scrums of Apple diehards from the mainland.

Sin Tat dealers say they still get orders from buyers in China, India, Russia and the Middle East but the number is dwindling, and the new phone can hardly throw a lifeline to their ailing business.

But some are still optimistic, that the rarity of the iPhone X makes it an ideal gadget for the tacky nouveau riche to flaunt. They expect the phone to initially change hands at HK$18,000 for the 256 GB space grey model, meaning a markup of more than HK$8,000.

The renminbi’s gain over the Hong Kong dollar this year may also be an added incentive for mainlanders, a rough discount of 15 percent on the mainland price.

Nonetheless, the irony is that not a few Sin Tat shop owners believe savvy local buyers may switch to the older generation of iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, well-rounded models released just a year ago, for cost-performance as their prices have been slashed by up to HK$900.

Feedback among Apple fans in the mainland is largely polarized, with the majority saying they would take time to decide if they want to upgrade, since all buyers will have to wait anyway.

Still, that doesn’t stop many from creating memes and spoofs that channel the latest iPhone.

“Caveats” have been given that with the iPhone X’s Face ID facial recognition technology, ladies who like to powder their faces or put on thick makeups should unlock their phones before removing cosmetics, in case the iPhone X can’t recognize them. The same to those wanting to have any plastic surgery like a nose job. Others suggest Apple should warn twins against buying the iPhone X.

And what about if one needs to call the police after being punched in the face but his iPhone doesn’t recognize him?

Others say that since Apple senior vice president Craig Federighi failed to use his face to unlock his iPhone X and had to try again, raising the device and staring at it in embarrassment during Tuesday’s launch, people should not judge iPhone X users who are selfie addicts. Perhaps they are just having trouble unlocking their phones.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks about the iPhone X during a launch event, touting its facial recognition and edge-to-edge display, among other features. Photo: Bloomberg
Apple’s chief design officer Jony Ive (second from left), and Tim Cook (third from left) showcase the iPhone X. Photo: Bloomberg
An attendee takes a photo of an iPhone X during an event at the Steve Jobs Theater. Photo: Bloomberg
Memes channel the new iPhone X's Face ID feature, a facial recognition technology that allows the user to unlock his phone with his face. Photos: Internet
Some Apple diehards will switch to the latest premium model on offer, even though their iPhone 6 or 7 are still in good working order. Photo: Internet

EJ Insight writer