Apple’s flagship iPhone released to the masses on 3rd November 2017 and having had the iPhone X since launch, here are my impressions of Apple’s new shiny slab of technology after using it for one month.
First a bit of history: I’ve been using an Apple iPhone since the iPhone 3G. I have upgraded to every major iPhone milestone, skipping any S-model in-between. So in summary, my iPhone journey has contained an iPhone 3G, iPhone 4, iPhone 5, iPhone 6 and finally an iPhone 7. I was never a fan of the Plus size models – the form factor was way too big for me and my pockets – however when the rumours surfaced that there was going to be a new iPhone with a Plus-size screen in a 4.7” form factor, the thought of upgrading to an iPhone 8 went straight out the window, along with many other potential buyers I would imagine.
Since its arrival, the iPhone X hasn’t disappointed. I decided on the black 256GB version, because I was always riding just over 64GB of content, and when you’re paying this much for a smartphone, paying that little extra doesn’t seem too much to swallow, plus the resale value will be better 1-2 years down the road.
Whilst unboxing the iPhone X for the first time, my first reaction was that the glass-incased iPhone felt more weighty than the 4.7” iPhone, mostly due to the increased size and glass materials, but it felt premium in quality, and I soon got used to it, and viewing the edge to edge display for the first time was mesmerising.
Let’s address the elephant in the room. The notch. The protruding front-facing sensor never seemed to bothered me since I first saw the leaks online. I think it gives the iPhone X some character, and it distances itself from being just like any another rectangular bezel-less smartphone releasing this year.
The various interactions with the ‘horns’ on either side have been well thought out, and Apple’s strict guidelines help developers think more about how to work with them, rather than completely avoid them. It’s because of this strict ruling of Apple’s, you don’t really focus on them in games or applications. The overall impression of seeing a game or app’s content stretch to all corners of the screen overshadows any disappointment that the notch would give you, everything just works around it, to a point that it renders it invisible – as odd as that sounds.
Face ID Security
Without a physical Home button, Apple has given Touch ID the boot, in favour of what Apple claims to be an even more secure face-scanning technology – Face ID. In short, it works. It works really well in fact. The only time I have had issues with it, is when wearing sunglasses. This is where I had to take them off, in a kind of Clark Kent/Superman reveal way, before my iPhone X could recognise who I was.
There are times where you want to just unlock the iPhone X whilst it’s flat on the desk, and to do that you have to adopt a similar posture to looking down into a well at the iPhone for it to unlock, or you just have to pick it up, which you’ll likely do anyway if what alerted you is important.
If you’re iPhone X is docked in a desk cradle or car mount, with your face only a glance away, Face ID comes into its own and is a perfect, seamless and enjoyable experience. Instantly unlocking with a quick tap to wake and a swipe up to view your home screen. Calling ‘Hey Siri’ and when asked to unlock your iPhone by simply glancing over to it, is great, and is really handy when trying to be hands free or behind the wheel of a car.
This is the best thing about Face ID, it is that even though you have a secure and passworded smartphone, accessing it with Face ID doesn’t feel like it is even there. It’s totally seamless. The whole experience feels very passive, and it isn’t something that requires you to feel like you are going out of your way to unlock the device, like a thumb press. The swipe up afterwards (to access the home screen) is something you have to do anyway, however with Face ID seamlessly handling the security part in-between, you never think that you’ve stepped through the security process already. With the iPhone X, security takes a back seat, and I think that’s how it should be with ‘biometric’ security.
Apple Pay With Face ID
With the switch to Face ID, Apple Pay now needs a quick check of your face before allowing you to place it on to the reader. At first this made me a little more socially awkward than when using Touch ID, but a after month it’s no longer a problem for me.
When in a queue, you can double tap the side button, get recognised by Face ID and wait before you need to touch the contactless reader. I have also found you can just as easily get recognised by Face ID by looking down that the iPhone X, rather than holding it up to your face, like someone checking their makeup in their compact mirror.
Overall, it isn’t a big of an issue as I first thought, and it looks far less worse than the Spiderman web-firing arm gesture you have to do adopt when paying with an Apple Watch.
The camera on the iPhone X has been proven to be one of the best in class. Without ever having a iPhone-Plus, this was my first dual-lens iPhone.
Finally I could play with Portrait mode, of which I’ve had results that were a bit hit and miss sometimes. When it does work, it works really well, and it gives photos from the iPhone X that SLR-lens quality.
With only a month in though, I’ve yet to put the camera through its paces, but I know that with Portrait mode and the telephoto lens, my next batch of holiday photos will be certainly fantastic!
5.8-Inch Super Retina Display
Photos, movies, apps and games look great on the iPhone X’s new Super Retina display. This is the first display of this kind on an iPhone, the OLED screen helps display great colour tones that appear very natural and life-like. The technology also turns off any black pixels too, which makes for the deepest of blacks, and it also helps with improving battery life – giving an extra two hours over the iPhone 7. The display can also produce High Dynamic Range (HDR), thanks to the high 1,000,000 to 1 contrast ratio. Colours quite literally pop out at you, and this is greatly enhanced with its deep blacks.
Watching films fill up the entire 5.8-inch screen is a pleasure to behold. Thanks to video streaming app updates from Netflix, Vimeo and YouTube, you can now stream high-resolution HDR content to the pixel-packed iPhone X display. It’s taken a while for major application developers to update their apps to the iPhone X display, but in its first month, the majority of my daily ‘go to’ apps now support the increased display.
A11 Chip Speeds and Gestures
The iPhone X is a bit of a power house. The Bionic A11 chip inside manages to tackle anything I have given it. I’ve never seen it stutter or struggle with an app or game and with the evolvement of iOS, I hope it stays that way, or at least until its replacement arrives!
It has taken me this whole month of owning the iPhone X to discover all the many gestures this iPhone listens out for. There are the usual gestures to trigger Control Panel and viewing Spotlight, to new ones to close down apps and launch the last used app.
I’ve covered a few of my iPhone X gesture discoveries here. Most of these are not covered by Apple’s tiny bundled manual, or in their own Tips App.
Accessories and Wireless Charging
It happens every time; you buy a new iPhone and suddenly your old case and accessories no longer fit or work with it, so you immediately go on the hunt to buy new ones.
Over the past month I have done the usual case purchase. I usually go for Apple’s own leather case option, but this year I wanted something a little more discreet, so I purchased a slim case from Totallee. This cheap ‘skin’ case does the job, but I know it will not protect it from a front facing drop on to something abrasive, so I may be returning to Apple’s leather option soon.
Wireless charging is, let’s face it, is a lazy man’s charging solution. The Qi charging mats still connect to a sort power cable, so all you’re saving is the small seconds of time plugging the lightning cable in. The one area this proves handy though is in the car. I recently bought a Neotrix W5 wireless charging magnetic mount for my car. It’s a great device, and my review will be on here soon. Wireless charging has not been the fastest. Around 5-6% every 30 minutes at 5W. If you treat wireless charging as an overnight or whilst you travel charging solution, it doesn’t disappoint.
If you want to charge in quick time, the iPhone X supports that too. Sadly, fast charging cannot be done out of the box though. An official Apple USB-C and USB-C to lightning cable, both sold separately, are required to charge the iPhone X from 0-50% in 30 minutes. This option isn’t cheap. Luckily, I could use my 12” MacBook USB-C 29W charger, and I found the cheapest place to get a USB-C to Lightning cable was from eBay or Amazon.
What I Don’t Like About the iPhone X
There is very little to not like with the iPhone X. The whole experience is very glowing, but if I was asked to nit-pick, then there are a few things that I hope Apple address in future iOS updates and in the next hardware replacement…
Accessing Control Center is no longer a single-handed task, and that’s a disappointment. With the ‘swipe up to go home’ gesture taking priority on the iPhone X, the gesture to invoke Control Center has been moved to a ‘pull down from the top right horn’ gesture, and as a result you’re doing this mostly with the finger on your other hand. I really hope Apple considers 3D touching at the bottom of the display and swiping up to invoke Control Center, as iOS evolves.
One of the issues that’s come from the introduction of the notch is that there is no default percentage display of the battery level. Apple has moved the percentage display to the top of its Control Center layout. You can’t simply glance at it anymore. Instead you have to pull Control Center down to check your remaining percentage. I hope Apple soon allows us to customise what is displayed in the left and right side of the notch. The left side of the notch is really wasted space, and by moving the mobile signal bars back to the left side would allow the additional space to place the percentage inside the battery icon.
I can understand why Apple’s decided to not include a 128GB option, but with the premium price Apple are asking for the iPhone X, a 128GB option would have suited me just fine, and I am sure it could sway some people who are sitting on the fence too.
As a device costing over $1000, I would have liked Apple to have bundled the required items for fast charging, or perhaps a wireless charging mat, or maybe some Apple AirPods. Especially when you hear how much the iPhone X costs to make. It would have made the premium price easier to swallow.
And finally, Aniemojis. Although a fun technological marvel, I’ve only used them just a handful of times. As I write this review, I don’t know why Apple are using just this feature alone to advertise the iPhone X. I don’t understand the demographic they are targeting here and whether they (or their parents) would be able to afford this flagship iPhone.
All-in-all, if you can afford it, hands down the iPhone X is the best iPhone. It is a game changer for them. Maybe not at the same level as the first iPhone, but it is a major milestone for Apple. The kind of leap it was for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 6. There is so much to love about Apple’s new smartphone, and if rumours are true, it is good to see Apple will be continuing with this design in revisions to come. So you better get used to the notch – It’s hear to stay!