The wait is finally over. Apple’s 10th Anniversary iPhone, the new iPhone X, was announced in early September alongside the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and Apple Watch Series 3. While they all shipped three weeks later, most of the Apple world waited breathlessly for the release of the X. The new X marks the first major design change overall to the iPhone more or less since its release a decade ago, and with that change comes a small learning curve, and a very promising future.
Out of the box, the new iPhone X is a marvel. My review unit is a 256GB in Space Grey. I pondered a 64GB, but I was offered a 256GB and took it. The reality is, with iCloud, the average user doesn’t need nearly as much as local storage as in the past. Photos and videos are the biggest storage hog, but with iCloud Photo Library, your phone’s storage is optimized and your pictures are downloaded when needed, and the space recovered. Even with my almost 20K pictures, I still could have done a 64GB. But 256 is what I have, and I am loving it.
The first thing you notice out of the box, is the complete lack of a home button. We’ve had a home button since the first iPhone, but to keep up with the competition, Apple has lost the home button, and turned the X into an all-screen phenom. We have a virtual touch bar that resides on the bottom of the screen, and the user has new gestures to learn that replace the home button altogether, and do so pretty magnificently. Swiping up from the bottom is like clicking the home button, it returns you to the home screen. Pulling down from the top right corner along the much-discussed ‘notch,’ access Control Center. This replaces the upward swipe from the bottom on previous iPhones. Battery percentage, the headphone indicator for AirPods, and Wifi calling status now only show on the control center screen, saving room on the top for the notch. Swiping down on the very bottom engages Reachability, which is pretty fantastic on the X. Previously, this was a double tap on the home button. With Reachability engaged, the entire screen slides down, making one-handed operation a breeze. Engaging multitasking has also changed; previously, you double clicked the home button, and your app switched would show. To close an app on previous iPhones, you simply swiped the app up from the app switcher and it would close. With the X, a swipe half way up to the center of the screen, then pause, will bring up the app switcher, along with nice haptic feedback. To close an app, now simply force press on an app and a little red dash appears. Click on the dash, and the app closes. Some of these gestures certainly could have remained the same within reason, but Apple seems to know best, so odds are they have plans for the old gestures, and bigger things to come.
The new iPhone X screen is all screen, and it is jaw-dropping. The TrueTone display has perfect color, and the new Super Retina OLED screen is simply the most beautiful display I’ve ever seen on a mobile device, and rivals some of the best 4K television OLED displays I’ve seen from LG. It is beyond vibrant and sharp, and the Dolby Vision HDR takes video to the next level, even on this small device. It is an OLED, however, so be forewarned Apple has already said that some slight burn in is possible if you leave high-contrast paused images on screen for too long. Unlike plasma though, the burn in should also go away over time, so certainly nothing to panic over at all. The rounded corners of the OLED are also magnificent, and give the phone a completely unique look. The display and lack of home button are enough to make this the best iPhone by a mile ever. But, of course, there’s more.
How about fast charging? Utilizing the USB-C to lightning standard, Apple now has 29W fast charging, which can charge your iPhone X dramatically faster than before. Apple doesn’t supply the fast charger though, and it will set you back close to $100 for it. It is a cool feature for the traveler in a hurry. Better than that? Finally….Qi wireless charging. Like the iPhone 8 series, the X supports the Qi wireless standard at 7.5W. At launch, Apple does not yet have a first party wireless charger, but will have a slick one next year called AirPower. For our test, I am utilizing the Belkin Boost Up wireless charger. Its a simple piece, and aesthetically looks like something Apple made. Plug it into the wall, and you are ready to go. Simply place your phone on it, and it starts charging instantly. Love, love, love wireless charging. IKEA sells furniture now with built-in Qi wireless charging, so you can have them hidden all over your home if you so desire.
So let’s talk about the much-maligned notch. Is it distracting? Is it ugly? Yes and no. It is initially distracting, and actually makes the screen almost look like a screen protector the first time you go through your initial setup. It isn’t ugly, its just unusual. After a day or so of use, you don’t even notice it anymore, and once you realize what the notch is hiding, you come to appreciate it, if not love it. The notch contains the 3D-sensing facial recognition camera system, or the TrueDepth camera. This camera projects millions of near-IR dots on your face, and this new system replaces Touch ID fingerprinting. Face ID is the Apple moniker for the system, and it is nearly flawless. It senses your face, the depth of your head, movement from your eyes, nose, mouth and ears. This system prevents photos from opening your phone, and makes it tougher for someone to coerce you opening your phone against your will. You can easily disable Face ID by simply holding the side button down for 5 seconds. This will force the unauthorized user to enter your code, which obviously you aren’t going to give up easily.
Face ID so far has been 99% for me, with a few caveats that simply take a little adjustment. Direct sunlight hitting the sensors has been a hair problematic for me, but only some of the times. Having a hand in front of my face or a pen in my mouth, Face ID fails. It works fantastic in a dark room, and I was able to open it seamlessly in a movie theater with zero failure. Your notifications are hidden on your lock screen until it Face ID’s you, and this is great for those have snooping eyes around them.
The speed of the phone is tremendous, far and away the fastest mobile device I’ve ever tested. The battery so far has been quite stellar as well, with close to all-work day usage easily attainable. 3GB of onboard memory make for a robust machine that will blow the doors off the competition. The new rear camera system is no slouch either, with a vertical array of the dual-lens system. The telephoto lens now has optical stabilization as well, so shooting video and switching between lenses has never produced a better image. Portrait mode now has Portrait Lighting, and can add cool lighting effects you can see in real-time, or even change after you have shot your image. The front camera now also has Portrait mode as well.
The iPhone X is the phone I have waited for. The fastest phone on the planet, with the most beautiful display I have ever seen. The only negative of owning the iPhone X? I find myself having to use my inhaler now twice as much for my asthma, because the iPhone X keeps taking my breath away. Run, don’t walk, to your local Apple Store and pick this beauty up before you are left in the cold. The learning curve is easier than you think, and you’ll have it down in no time.