SAN FRANCISCO - With its new iPhone X, Apple is setting the ambitious goal for itself of reinventing the smartphone, again.
The flagship handset marking the 10th anniversary of the first iPhone release, is set to hit stores Friday, and with it the California tech giant is out to rev its momentum in a global smartphone market seeing slowing growth and tougher competition.
Apple upped the ante by boosting the starting price of the new handset to $999 for US customers, a price which will be higher in other markets and with extra options.
Apple shares have climbed with the approach of the launch date, seeing a jump this week after it said pre-orders for iPhone X are "off the charts." It will be available Friday in more than 50 markets.
Apple chief executive Tim Cook described the iPhone X as the future of the smartphone, packed with technology including facial recognition, cordless charging and an edge-to-edge screen made of organic light-emitting diodes used in high-end televisions.
"It is a good example of the present, but it isn't the future," said independent technology analyst Rob Enderle.
Enderle said the iPhone X "is a collection of technologies that haven't been together before, but they haven't broken any new ground."
Still, analysts interviewed by AFP see signs of strong demand for iPhone X, perhaps fueled by the company's famously devoted fans who have shunned freshly released iPhone 8 models to wait for the 10th anniversary device.
Apple is expected to benefit from its image of being a company offering products of status and style.
Gartner principal research analyst Tuong Nguyen said Apple "can reveal a thing a rival delivered 3 years ago and suddenly the market goes wild."
Apple has become the world's most valuable technology company by refining existing technologies, like the smartphone, and making them easy, fun, and fashionable.
"Apple is not usually the first out of the gate with something, but they are able to say they have done it better than anyone else," Nguyen said.
Facial recognition and wireless charging are likely to benefit from Apple showcasing them as being part of the future of smartphones, according to Nguyen.
Notoriously secretive Apple also has a history of coming up with surprises, so the iPhone X might be packing more than the market expects, according to analysts.
Wait time for delivery of iPhone X orders at the Apple website quickly stretched to about six weeks, signalling customers are rallying.
"I think the iPhone X is going to do very well," said Technalysis Research president Bob O'Donnell.
"What we really don't know is if it is due to huge demand or short supply. I guess it is a little of both."
ASKING MORE OF SIRI
O'Donnell saw the iPhone X as the first major redesign in the line since Apple added a bigger screen model with the iPhone 6.
Smartphone screens stretching nearly to the edges of handsets is an established feature with the latest flagship smartphones from Apple rivals.
Some analysts see artificial intelligence as technology important to the future of the smartphone, and noted that Apple's digital assistant Siri had some catching up to do on rivals.
"Siri is arguably struggling compared to Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa," O'Donnell said.
Google has made a priority of weaving artificial intelligence into its freshly launched Pixel 2 smartphones, and is poised to release Pixel ear buds that tap into machine smarts to provide spoken language translation in real time.
The use of machine learning is among the promising aspects of face recognition in iPhone, according to O'Donnell.
"Going with biometric facial recognition is interesting, but I feel we are seeing other technology venders do more interesting and useful things," O'Donnell said.
Artificial intelligence could be part of the next truly big jump to the future of smartphones, according to Nguyen.
"What Apple has done well is take stuff other people have done, put it in a device and convince people it is new and exciting," analyst Enderle said.
"That is what they need to do with the iPhone X."
© Agence France-Presse