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iPhone X: The launch that changed everything

The line snaked down the street, back up the street, down again, and back up again. I was outside Apple's flagship 5th Ave. store in New York City and it was still hours before launch. These kinds of lines aren't great for customers, as Apple's retail team has said numerous times and managed to almost eliminate through preorders and pickups in recent years. But, wow, are they powerful visual indicators of the singular cultural popularity of iPhone.

And these were for iPhone X, the most exciting new iPhone since the original.

Some might be surprised by the demand. It starts at $999, after all, which makes iPhone X the most expensive iPhone in the history of the product. But that number is a distraction. Few consumers ever see it. The age of contracts might be behind us but the age of installments has just begun. And, at a buck or two a day, many people can get any iPhone they want.

This was a different launch too. Staggered a month after the release of the similarly powerful but more traditionally designed iPhone 8, Apple made it less about the feeds and speeds nerds care about and more about the features and feel that matter to the mainstream.

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We live in curious times. A decade ago a product recall could kill a company and a single misstatement, sink a career. Last year we literally had phones exploding and people not only refusing to return them but eager to buy another immediately. We had companies and people lying to our faces and we rewarded them for it with success previously unimaginable.

Blame the internet, blame social networks, blame the media or whomever you like. But, as a culture, we now show almost no attention span and offer almost unquestioned brand affinity.

We don't just live lives. We broadcast them. We don't just play games. We watch them being streamed. We aren't informed by reporters seeking the truth. We're locked in a Google- and Facebook-owned echo chamber that algorithmically pelts us with increasingly extreme, almost entirely paid for, brand and agenda marketing. It never tries to challenge or expand our world view or pespectives. It just wants to fatten our brains like fois gras so we don't ask too many questions.

It's a completely different culture than it was just a few short years ago and not just for us but for the companies that have to sell to us.

The culture Apple has to sell iPhone into. Because that's Apple's most important job.

Ten years ago, the original iPhone was reviewed by the biggest tech reporters from the biggest newspapers in America. This year, it was shown off by YouTubers who spoke not just to their own audiences but to everyone YouTube wanted to market content and serve search to. And by celebrities and lifestyle outlets whose audiences aren't looking for iPhone reviews but are looking to see and hear about anything the people and lifestyles they identify with are showing off or using.

Just as newspapers gave way to the visual spectacle of television, even the interactivity and immediacy of blogging has given way to the personality and affinity of social video.

All of that was on display at the iPhone X launch. Old school reporters mingled with television cameras and hosts, website editors streamed next to web video correspondents, and a good portion of the customers who came flooding in in waves were themselves streaming live and commenting back and forth on Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat.

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It's interesting watching Apple, one of the few big tech companies to remain relevant for decades, adapt to this new normal — to the age of streaming keynotes and viral videos. It's interesting watching media trying to adapt — and stressful, as quasi-media myself trying to adapt with them. And it's amazing watching customers care about none of this at all, as they wait in line watching their favorite shows and personalities, searching for whatever hot product or trend they just heard about, and then emulating them as they come in the doors.

There are going to be so many Snaps and Instas of iPhone X today and so many Facebook and YouTube videos to follow. And precious few of them will come from the traditional outlets — at least not until the buzzier and mashier of them aggregate their lists.

While I'm doing my absolute best to explain what OLED means, how Face ID works, the fastest ways to navigate the new interface, what the privacy and security implications are, where augmented reality is going, and a thousand other nerdy details I consider to be critically important for us as a culture to understand and appreciate, I know that the vast majority of people I interact with just want to say hi, get a selfie, and ask what color they should get, how long the battery lasts, and if the one or two features most important to them are still there and work the way they've come to expect.

I think we'll look back and see the iPhone X launch as not simply kicking off the next era of iPhones, but the next era of how Apple sells iPhones, how people buy iPhones, and how those of us in between remain relevant in this new and different era.

I have some ideas about all three of those things. But more on that later.

For now, congrats to all the teams at Apple that worked on iPhone X and shipped the best damn product the company has ever made, and to everyone who got a new iPhone X today. I hope you enjoy your new iPhone and, if you have any questions, you know we're here to help.

And if you haven't already, go read my big-ass iPhone X review because, long after the Snaps time out and the Instas get buried, a lot of the nerdy details in there will still be super useful to you.

Rene Ritchie
Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Even though I have two on order I am hoping to walk in either the Apple store or ATT to get one before my online orders arrive. Looks like the lines are like normal.
  • Rene: Please step back, and stop hyperventilating. You might then notice that the picture is upside down, you have a couple of typos in the text ("I know that the vast majority of people I interact with just want to say hit"), this launch has not "changed everything" and it is NOT "the best **** product Apple has ever made". You are embarrassing. Not only yourself, but everyone who reads this. Please get a grip.
  • Why because he is excited . If you don’t think that it’s the best then fine. All I have to say it’s nice to see someone happy stop being a debbie downer . You can have your opinon but someone writing a happy article is not embarrassing
  • Yet you still read the article and commented. And you'll continue to read his articles, so whatever his style is, it must work
  • You may be upside down with the attitude. The iMore logo was placed properly and isn't it nice of them to let us all rant or compliment the person (Rene in this instance). I'm not embarrassed at all and am used to the snowflakes and liberals that snark at everything that is good because they can't have it or don't fit in. Not to say that is you or well...?
  • ***** I knew one moron would take this into the snowflake/liberal nonsense which is ironic because Rene Ritchie is absolutely the biggest snowflake on the planet. No i think the point (which you missed because your ARE THAT MORON) is that no matter what the subject matter/product discussion/etc is, you know if its Rene Ritchie writing the article that its the most biased thing ever written. He is an Apple shill period! "The launch that changed everything"... you have to be kidding me. Product shortage creates lines, and is a strategic move to look like demand is overwhelming. Stop reading the **** cool-aid and maybe see through your iPhone pink (you know why theyre pink) colored eyes. Sheep get slaughtered. Lots of Baaa Baaaa Baaaaa in here *****
  • haha I was thinking the same thing.
  • Then why come to iMore?
  • Yes as of late the Apple worship has been high!!
  • Not really sure what that means. Obviously Apple fans are excited for the new iPhone…
  • It means the writers are overly excited. They are making the phone out to be the greatest gift to life while barely having time to make a proper review. It’s almost like Apple could put out a chair with an Apple logo on it and they’d say this is the greatest chair every created.
  • Rene is very well known to be a big Apple fan. He lets it out in his writing, probably too much, but there you have it. In his position, you would be pretty excited about a re-designed iPhone with an OLED display, Face ID, amongst other big improvements
  • Look. It’s a nice phone. But there isn’t anything ontologically new or different about it, from a creative standpoint. AirPods are. This is a phone “almost bezel-less” but nothing like the Samsung line. This is a screen technology from “Samsung” used for several years. However, minus the few tweaks to gestures which had to be done to accommodate the lack of a home button, there is nothing new or mind blowing about this device as it relates to the smartphone industry. Enjoy it, but let’s stop the hyperbole and hype. It isn’t accurate. Is it a step in the right direction for Apple? Yes. Is it a good phone? More than likely, yes. But it’s borrowed capital. Enjoy the ideas now that they're finally coming to Apple. But I agree, take a deep breath and let’s see this for what it is. It isn’t a transition from horse and carriage to combustible engine. It’s a Ford using ideas from Chevrolet. Good ideas, yes, but not de novo creativity.
  • I walked right into a line at Best Buy near Minneapolis, MN, and there was no line. I was able to get the iPhone X I wanted without having to wait in lines for long hours and without fighting with anyone else.
  • It the picture supposed to be upside down?
  • I mean, i don't know.. iMore had a lot to say about blue hue and burn-in recently, but seems to have missed this story for some reason... Probably just an oversight or something, I'm sure...