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Apple's iPhone X could be make or break for the world's most valuable company

  • The iPhone X begins shipping on Friday
  • Expectations are high for the $999 device, which could be make or break for the company
  • Augmented reality has been talked up by CEO Tim Cook but there are no killer apps yet.
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks about the new iPhone X during a media event at Apple's new headquarters in Cupertino, California on September 12, 2017.
Josh Edelson | AFP | Getty Images
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks about the new iPhone X during a media event at Apple's new headquarters in Cupertino, California on September 12, 2017.

Apple's iPhone X goes on sale Friday, and it's without a doubt one of the most important device launches in the company's history.

At a $999 starting price, the flagship device has to impress, and prove that Apple can still innovate. The U.S. technology giant has been criticized at times for not being the market leader when it comes to technology.

Many of the features on its phone have been pioneered by rivals like Samsung.

But Apple's iPhone X – pronounced as "ten" – is packed with high-end features. The FaceID system, which lets you unlock the phone with a scan of your face, requires very advanced sensors. And Apple has continued to innovate on its own chips. The A11 bionic chip in the iPhone X is made specifically to carry out tasks requiring artificial intelligence.

Apple told CNBC on Friday that demand for the iPhone X is "off the charts." But it has been well publicized that the company may not have enough phones to satisfy demand, and this could mean delayed deliveries for weeks.

So far, the noise seems encouraging. But the danger is that the wait time could also push people toward a cheaper iPhone 7 model, or cause them to hold off buying any other Apple devices. That could be bad news for Apple's earnings set to be released later this week.

But more importantly is the long-term effect of this phone. When it was launched, Apple showed off the augmented reality capabilities of the device. Chief Executive Tim Cook told CNBC earlier this year that the iPhone will become "even more essential" with AR.

New apps with AR could open another revenue stream for Apple. Just as the App Store has become successful, a new breed of AR apps could open doors. But that very much depends on AR taking off in a big way. Cook has been convinced for a long time that it will. But there are still no killer applications for it.

If AR fails, what will Apple's unique selling point be for the phone? The almost bezel-less display has been matched, and rivals are managing to create AI chips to challenge Apple. Spending $999 for a phone you can unlock with your face hardly seems sensible.

But then again, Apple users are fiercely loyal and will continue to upgrade no matter what the price. Ultimately, that has been one of Apple's biggest assets — its ability to lock users into the iOS world.

With shares up over 42 percent this year, expectations at sky-high levels and anticipation for the new device so high, Apple has little room to disappoint. The success of the iPhone X could be make or break for the world's most valuable company.

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