Read the definitive iPhone X verdict!
Changing the face of Apple’s smartphone
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.
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.
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.