Read the de­fin­i­tive iPhone X ver­dict!

Chang­ing the face of Ap­ple’s smart­phone

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This is the big­gest shake-up in the mar­ket since Ap­ple’s orig­i­nal iPhone de­fined the smart­phone a decade ago. It also seems risky, ax­ing re­li­able key el­e­ments such as the Home but­ton and Touch ID, in­stead in­tro­duc­ing new meth­ods of nav­i­gat­ing and un­lock­ing — and charg­ing a lot more for the priv­i­lege: The iPhone X costs $999 for the ba­sic 64GB model, and an eye-wa­ter­ing $1,149 for the 256GB ver­sion. So what does your money buy you?

The 5.8-inch OLED dis­play is leaps ahead of the screen in the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus for many rea­sons: the sharp­ness, the color qual­ity, the fact that it fills the whole front of the phone. The screen is also taller, but while it looks larger than the iPhone 8 Plus’s 5.5-inch dis­play on pa­per, it’s only marginally big­ger in terms of screen real estate — it’s just stretched up­wards. The term “bezel-less” is not quite ac­cu­rate, ei­ther: There are slight bands around the edges of the screen, but they don’t mar the ex­pe­ri­ence — in­stead they give your fin­gers some­thing to land on.

The notch at the top is some­thing that’s go­ing to di­vide opin­ion. Ap­ple has taken a chunk out of the top of the screen to house the new TrueDepth cam­era, and it en­croaches on the dis­play. In por­trait mode this is hard to no­tice, and the way the sta­tus bar spills around it is nice. But in land­scape ori­en­ta­tion it will an­noy if you ex­pand a movie to fill the screen rather than dis­play let­ter­boxed.

Un­for­tu­nately, many app devel­op­ers are not ready for the taller for­mat, with al­most all apps we used pack­ing black bars above and be­low the dis­play, and those that take ad­van­tage of the as­pect ra­tio dis­play­ing some glitches. Devel­op­ers are likely to quickly fix their code, but right now it’s dis­ap­point­ing.

Un­like the dis­plays on the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, the iPhone X screen in­cludes HDR play­back. It can show movies en­coded in the HDR10 and Dolby Vi­sion for­mats (but not 4K, sadly) and, com­bined with the OLED dis­play, the images of­fer much more depth and re­al­is­tic color re­pro­duc­tion. If you’re watch­ing a scene with ex­plo­sions in it, the ef­fect is in­cred­i­ble.

It’s in­her­ently harder to make out de­tail in darker scenes in HDR movies, but com­pared side-by-side with iPhone 8, the over­all rich­ness, depth, and qual­ity for movies is higher here.

Fa­cial fea­tures

Face ID, Ap­ple’s face-recog­ni­tion sys­tem — which re­places the fin­ger­print-scan­ning Touch ID — is sim­ple to set up: Just spin your head around a cou­ple of times and you’re ready to go. This sys­tem has far ex­ceeded our ex­pec­ta­tions for the new bio­met­ric tech­nol­ogy.

That’s not to say there won’t be some tran­si­tion re­quired from your cur­rent iPhone. There’s a slight delay at times, and you need to be look­ing at the hand­set to make it work. There are re­ports of Face ID not work­ing as well in cer­tain light­ing con­di­tions, but we haven’t en­coun­tered these is­sues.

An is­sue does crop up when us­ing Ap­ple Pay. Where pre­vi­ously you’d

THE iPhone X is easy to use sin­gle­handed; it bal­ances naturally in the hand, with  the glass and metal com­bi­na­tion feel­ing grippy

ap­proach the reader with your thumb over the Home but­ton and it would in­stantly ver­ify pay­ment, with the iPhone X you need to dou­ble-click the side but­ton to ac­ti­vate Face ID, have it reg­is­ter your face, and then it’ll be ready to pay. It’s not a tough sys­tem to mas­ter, but it’s not as easy as be­fore.

An­i­moji, the fea­ture that en­ables you to cre­ate talk­ing emoji us­ing the TrueDepth cam­era, is fun — you can be a talk­ing ro­bot or a poop, among other avatars. The pre­ci­sion of the face map­ping is truly im­pres­sive. But it is a nov­elty, not some­thing you’ll buy this phone for (un­less you plan a ca­reer in An­i­moji karaoke, of course). And while you can share videos of An­i­moji with friends us­ing apps other than iMes­sage, it’s not straight­for­ward to do.

Miss­ing home

iOS 11 op­er­ates a lit­tle dif­fer­ently on the iPhone X. The main dif­fer­ence is the lack of a Home but­ton. This has been re­placed by ges­tures. Swip­ing up from the foot of the screen now does the job the Home but­ton used to do. This takes some get­ting used to, but be­comes au­to­matic after a day or so. Be­yond that, how­ever, Ap­ple has made things a lit­tle too con­vo­luted. To open the app switcher, say, you do a short swipe up­wards and pause for a mo­ment… Go too far and you’ll just ac­cess the Home screen. To shut down apps, it’s no longer a swipe but a press and then a swipe. This doesn’t feel in­tu­itive — and the same can be said for the new ges­ture where you swipe right on the foot of the screen to move be­tween re­cently-used apps.

Con­trol Cen­ter now lives to the right of the notch at the top of the screen, with the no­ti­fi­ca­tions panel on the left. We like the place­ment of these two — hav­ing Con­trol Cen­ter at the bot­tom got in the way of too many apps in the past. If you’re us­ing the iPhone X in land­scape mode, though, you’re go­ing to run into trou­ble. Without the notch to sep­a­rate them, the no­ti­fi­ca­tions panel takes up the bulk of the space at the ex­pense of Con­trol Cen­ter, and you’ll need to swipe ac­cu­rately from the top right cor­ner to ac­cess it.

Gam­ing on iPhone X is strong, in part thanks to the A11 Bionic chip. The new pen­chant for AR gam­ing, where games are played within a plane over­laid on real-world sur­round­ings, is a key part of Ap­ple’s new strat­egy, and we man­aged to play a game of The Ma­chines with aplomb.

And don’t for­get about the ex­cel­lent Tap­tic Engine — it re­ally en­hances gam­ing. You’ll get a real sense of a ma­chine-gun fir­ing, tak­ing hits your­self, or swip­ing through a list with a real click­ing feel in the hand.

Pre­mium price, pre­mium feel

The iPhone X feels like a pre­mium hand­set. While it weighs less than the

iPhone 8 Plus (6.14 ounces com­pared to 7.13 ounces), the iPhone X feels more sub­stan­tial, in a good way. It feels strong and solidly built, al­though early tests show that all that glass won’t stand up well to be­ing dropped. The glass front and back pan­els are also smudge-suck­ers, and the outer band gets cov­ered in fin­ger­prints fast.

But while the rear of the phone is glass, as on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, there’s a dif­fer­ent de­sign lan­guage at play here. Ev­ery but­ton is el­e­gantly em­bed­ded into the rim of the phone, yet there’s a sharp­ness to each key. The iPhone X is sur­pris­ingly easy to use sin­gle-handed; it bal­ances naturally in the hand, with the glass and metal com­bi­na­tion feel­ing grippy, and most thumbs will be able to roam com­fort­ably over the slip­pery sur­face. You’ll need to drag down no­ti­fi­ca­tions and Con­trol Cen­ter with the dig­its of your other hand on most oc­ca­sions, but the iPhone X is a good mix of a large phone screen while be­ing er­gonomic enough to use in one hand.

The front-fac­ing 7MP TrueDepth cam­era can sense depth in­cred­i­bly well, and the Por­trait mode can now be used with the front-fac­ing cam­era to take great self­ies. Not only will this pro­duce a great back­ground blur, but you can also change the light­ing, or cut your­self out of the pic­ture and place your­self on a blank back­ground.

The rear cam­era is sim­i­lar to the one on the iPhone 8 Plus. Both have a 12MP dual-sen­sor ar­ray (for tak­ing zoomed-in pictures, or cap­tur­ing a good depth-of-field), but the iPhone X’s tele­photo lens has an f/2.4 aper­ture, where on iPhone 8 Plus it’s f/2.8 (and only the wide-an­gle lens has op­ti­cal im­age sta­bi­liza­tion). So, the iPhone X de­liv­ers shots rich with de­tail, and low-light per­for­mance is a touch bet­ter than with pre­vi­ous iPhones.

The cam­era could do with open­ing a lit­tle faster from the Lock screen (al­though you can now ap­ply a firm press to the cam­era icon to reach it, in­stead of swip­ing), but it’s hard to fault the nat­u­ral, clear, and crisp pho­tos. Video ca­pa­bil­i­ties are also among the best on the mar­ket, with 4K record­ing at 60fps de­liv­er­ing fluid footage, al­though it will take up a good chunk of space on your de­vice.

Ap­ple has got­ten things al­most en­tirely right with the iPhone X. The price is steep, but you get a high-res OLED screen, wire­less charg­ing, wa­ter re­sis­tance, mil­lions of apps, up to 256GB to store them in, light­ning-fast down­load speeds, AR ef­fects, speedy and re­li­able face recog­ni­tion, great speakers, and sub­lime pho­tos from both front and back cam­eras.

Is it per­fect? Of course not. The notch at the top of the screen irks, and the bezels are a lit­tle too heavy to call it bezel-less. The cam­era isn’t mar­ketlead­ing (al­though it’s very good), and de­spite its in­no­va­tions the iPhone X’s dizzy­ing price is im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore.

All that said, the iPhone X is the clos­est to per­fec­tion Ap­ple has ever come with an iPhone.

The not chat the top of the dis­play will di­vide op in ion—Ap le has taken a chunk out of the screen to house the new True Depth cam­era, which en­croaches on the dis­play

The bot­tom line. If you’re okay with the sky-high price, you’re go­ing to love the iPhone X. Gareth Beavis

The glass back al­lows for wire­less charg­ing — we’ll break down charg­ing op­tions and times in a later is­sue.

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