The iPhone X is a gorgeous fully-functional smartphone with a bright future
The iPhone X (pronounced iPhone 10) is a hugely important device for Apple. It’s the first iPhone in four years to undergo a major redesign. The iPhone X starts at £999/$999 for the 64GB model and £1149/$1149 for the 256GB version
iPhone X – Design
Apple has been coasting for too long on the design it introduced with the iPhone 6 – but that all changes with the iPhone X, in a big way. You don’t need me to tell you that the iPhone X marks a huge departure from the tired iPhone design – just look at the pictures – but Apple has done a fantastic job of actually making it feel good in the hand.
This phone is simply gorgeous. It’s slightly taller than the iPhone 8 (and 7 and 6) but far narrower and smaller than the iPhone 8 Plus. It strikes the perfect balance, especially since you’re getting a 5.8-inch display here.
The aluminium sides are replaced with stainless steel, as they are on the Apple Watch, and the front and back of the device are glass. My unit, the Space Grey option, has already started picking up fingerprints. If I were buying one myself I’d opt for the Silver model, which is actually more like a shiny white.
Around the front is where the magic happens. The iPhone 8 has a huge bezel running around the display, but the iPhone X is different. As is the case with the Samsung Galaxy S8, Apple has pushed out the screen and reduced the bezel. A noticeable black border remains, but this adds a nice contrast to the bright display.
The lack of a thick bezel means there’s no room for the Home button – a feature present on every model of iPhone until now. This in turn means there’s no Touch ID fingerprint scanner. Instead, Apple turns to facial recognition – a bold move.
All of the components for Face ID (infrared camera, flood illuminator, dot projector) are housed in what’s affectionately being called the ‘notch’. This sits at the top of the display, disrupting that all-screen look.
There’s been much controversy over whether the presence of the notch completely ruins the immersive experience, but I can’t imagine it being an issue. Yes, it’s certainly noticeable when the screen is on, and it juts into video if you’re playing it in full-screen, but with everything else it fades into the background. Maybe it will be the cause of greater irritation over time – we’ll see.
Having used Samsung’s face unlock and iris scanners a fair bit, I’ve never been impressed by either their speed or accuracy. So it’s important that Apple’s version, dubbed Face ID, works every single time. Even if it refused to recognize my face one in five attempts it would be super-annoying.
I haven’t had time to properly test Face ID yet, but setup was as quick as Touch ID and it hasn’t failed so far.
iPhone X – Display
The iPhone X sees Apple switch out its usual LCD screen tech for an OLED panel for the first time. Samsung, Google and numerous other Android phone makers have been using the latter technology for some time now, but it’s great to see Apple finally join the party.
OLEDs tend to offer better contrast, perfect blacks and a more colourful picture – but they’re not always perfect. The LG panels used by Google in the Pixel 2 XL have come in for plenty of flack for poor viewing angles and an odd blue tinge.
Apple’s OLEDs come from Samsung and, on first viewing, they don’t appear to suffer with such problems. There’s a small shift to blue if you tilt the device off-axis, but it isn’t noticeable if you’re looking at it straight on.
Apple says it’s made many tweaks to this panel, and it certainly appears to have been optimized differently to Samsung’s approach on the Galaxy S8 and Note 8. Colours seem a lot more natural and the saturation isn’t quite so violent.
There’s also True Tone, which alters the screen temperature depending on your environment. 3D Touch makes a return, too, allowing you to perform alternative actions when you press on the screen with greater pressure than a regular tap.
This is the highest-resolution screen ever on an iPhone at 2436 x 1125, plus there’s support for the whole P3 colour gamut and Dolby Vision HDR.
iPhone X – Software, performance and battery life
Aside from losing the Touch ID sensor, the lack of a Home button leads to big changes in the way that iOS 11 operates. You now swipe up from the bottom of the screen for the home-screen, and swipe and hold to access the multi-tasking menu. I’m so used to hitting the Home button that these gestures are already proving to require extra effort.
The taller screen is also causing issues with apps. Those that haven’t been updated to take advantage of that extra space have ugly black bars and act basically as iPhone 8 apps. Plenty of apps have already been updated, though, so hopefully developers will jump on board quickly.
One of the few iPhone X exclusive features is Animoji. These are, as the name suggests, emoji that you can animate thanks to the Face ID camera. It’s ridiculously addictive turning yourself into a poo or unicorn with your facial expressions, and you’re not restricted to just sending them to other iPhone X owners.
he internals of the iPhone X are exactly the same as those in the iPhone 8 Plus. It’s powered by the A11 Bionic chip, which is ridiculously fast, plus 3GB of RAM. You can read my full iPhone 8 Plus review to find out how it performs in detail, but I suspect the X will be very similar.
Storage options remain identical to the iPhone 8 Plus too – although considering the price of the iPhone X, it would have been nice to see Apple offer the device in 256GB variety instead of the base model’s 64GB.
I haven’t had the iPhone X long enough to estimate battery life, but Apple claims it will last two hours longer than the iPhone 7. This seems an odd comparison, especially since the iPhone 8 is out, but it does give the impression this won’t match the Plus models for endurance.
iPhone X – Camera
On the back of the iPhone X there are two cameras, as there are on the iPhone 8 Plus. Both have 12-megapixel sensors, but one has a telephoto lens for zooming in and utilizing the array of portrait modes.
That telephoto camera is the one that’s been upgraded here, and it now packs optical image stabilization and a wider f/2.4 aperture. Both upgrades should make it better in low light when compared to the 8 Plus, but I’ll have to spend more time with it to see if that’s the case.
Those fancy depth-mapping features that make Face ID possible are also utilized in the front-facing camera. It still takes 7-megapixel photos, but like the rear cameras it can use those Portrait effects to give selfies a more professional look.
The reasons to buy an iPhone X
If you’re debating between buying an iPhone 8 or the X, remember that many of the components inside the 8 Plus and the X are identical, meaning you’re paying an extra $200 for a more compact device with a slightly nicer display.
After a week with the phone, I’ve grown to like it, flaws and all. I assume I’ll eventually get used to all the user interface changes that Apple made somewhat arbitrarily, and I’ll learn how to perfectly place the phone on wireless charging pads so it actually charges, and I’ll remember to move my hand away from my face every time I want to unlock it. I just wish I didn’t have to.
I can see how Apple sees that this is an indication of where the company is heading, where it’s always wanted to head—towards a singularly beautiful device that is just a solid, impenetrable piece of aluminum and glass that knows you and what you want, and provides you with what you need, when you need it.
It’s not there yet. Siri is still generally useless, and FaceID is still not as convenient as the old fingerprint scanner. iOS 11, Apple’s latest mobile operating system, has also been exceedingly buggy since its launch.
Much like many new Apple products since Steve Jobs retook the helms of the company two decades ago, my advice is to wait for the second generation of the iPhone X, whatever that may be.