The iPhone X is here. And it holds your gaze — ahem, literally because of that FaceID — and then make you fall in love with it. Well, that is the kind of impression the iPhone X leaves. Some of you will still be able to avoid falling into its charming ways, or may not get smitten by its jewel-like shine and looks, but most of you will. It’s another matter that after the initial moments are gone, after you have the device for a day or two, you will start to figure out some of its quirkiness. But so far I have found there aren’t many of these. The iPhone X seems almost flawless, and a phone that you will not only fall in love at first sight but will probably stay in love with for some time.
The reason is simple: The iPhone X is unlike any other iPhone Apple has released. It feels like a new beginning, but a beginning made with the best bits from the past. So even though the design retains some familiar elements from the past — the rounded edges, the camera hump, the design of the speaker grills, the button that toggles between silent and ringing mode, and the Apple logo on the back.
But at the same time, there are changes. We will go into details into the iPhone X review — will be out soon — but for now let me share some quick thoughts about the key iPhone X features and aspects.
iPhone X design
This is the biggest differences between the iPhone of the past (or even the present ones like the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus) and the iPhone X. The iPhone X comes with new design, which seems rather radical for Apple, although in the phones like the Mi Mix 2 and Galaxy S8 we have seen it earlier. The iphone X is all screen on the front, there is no home button. On the back there is a glass cover and then there is a metal frame in chrome around the phone. Overall, this is a much better design than the bulky and broad iPhone 8 Plus. It’s not that the iPhone X is a light phone — all that glass and metal adds to weight — but it is still much more compact and feels better in hands. The only niggle is the phone is very slippery due to all the glass and very smooth metal. You will have to use it in a cover.
Talking of cover, that is also necessary because the iPhone X is a fingerprint magnet. It’s so smooth and shiny, and like jewel, that it reflects even small smudges and fingerprint. If you are using it without a case, you will be polishing it against your shirt, t-shirt or whatever you are wearing every 15 minutes.
There are some minor bits that have changed compared to earlier iPhones. The power button is not bigger because it is also used for some of the functionality that earlier the home button offered. The camera hump on the rear of the phone seems overly large compared to how you perceive the same camera module on the iPhone 8 Plus because the iPhone X is a bigger phone. It also sticks out, and takes away from the overall smooth and minimalist approach of the iPhone X.
Finally, that metal frame with chrome finish. I don’t fancy it much. I like my metal frames in matte finish. It’s too shiny on the iPhone X, like plastic pained with chrome. No, this is not about that the build quality. That is fantastic. Very Apple-like. But the chrome finish on the metal frame nears is just too shiny. And then there is the way the metal frame meets the glass edge. It’s not a smooth, rolling edge, similar to what we get in some many others phones, and most notably in the Galaxy S8. When you run your finger on the edge you can feel the gap.
Overall though, the iPhone X is a phone with fantastic build-quality and an eye-catching design. It looks premium, and feel premium. It is the most expensive phone in the market with price of Rs 89,000 and it looks like one. It doesn’t look commonplace. It looks exclusive, and that is something iPhone fans like.
iPhone X OLED screen
Screen is one of the big differences between the iPhone X and the earlier iPhones. This is the first iPhone to use an OLED screen. It’s also an iPhone that uses a large 5.8-inch screen. In comparison the iPhone 8 Plus has a 5.5-inch screen. The iPhone X screen also comes with very high-pixel density as it uses 1125 x 2436 pixels panel.
But beyond the numbers, what about the screen during the actual use? And what about that notch? In my brief use, I found the iPhone X screen to be gorgeous. It is slightly colder than the iPhone 8 Plus screen, which uses LCD, but once you toggle the TrueTone — it’s on by default — that difference vanishes. You see more or less the same colours in the iPhone X that you get in the iPhone 8 Plus. And that means the iPhone X screen too has painting-like appearance. It looks as if it has been rendered onto the phone, or has been painted on it. It’s really subtle, this effect, and it make pictures, videos and colours come alive on the screen.
But the notch, that is something now. You do notice the bunny ears, especially while playing videos. When you use the iPhone X, it is possible that after a while your eyes and brain will adjust and start discounting the notch. But at least in the beginning you are going to be distracted by it and you won’t like, although most people will be able to live with it.
iPhone X performance
This is another part, which just like design, Apple gets perfectly right. The A11 Bionic processor — aided by 3GB RAM — in the iPhone X is very fast and that shows when you use the phone. I have spent just around 24 hours with the device but it is clear that the iPhone X is a fast phone that is not going to have any performance issues. It may have the iOS 11, which powers it, bugs but there won’t be an app out there that won’t run on it because the performance is lacking.
One of the niggles that I had earlier with the iOS was that its animations were far too in your face, and slow. Those issues no longer persist in the iOS 11. The animations are still very flashy, especially compared to what Android has, but they are no longer slow.
Is Face ID flawless?
The Face ID is one of the top features of the iPhone X. It’s easy to setup the Face ID. Hold the iPhone X in front of you, and move your face twice in a circular gesture. And that’s it, you are done. If you are keeping the score, you will know that the iPhone X doesn’t have the Touch ID aka fingerprint sensor. So to lock the phone, you will either need to use the Face ID or a PIN. Or both.
The Face ID uses the front camera and the depth sensing module to identify a person. And Apple says it is very accurate. While I found the performance of the Face ID flawless — particularly in the dark — it is important to note that it likes to see your eyes. Basically face ID works best when you gaze at the phone the iPhone X catches your eye.
But even as it works flawlessly, I have found that the Face ID is not as fast as the Touch ID in practice. Picking the phone up and holding it in front of the face takes just a moment more than picking it up and unlocking it with the Touch ID. Not a deal breaker but it’s something you will notice when you use the phone. Also, I feel that with the Face ID, Apple should have gotten rid of swipe up gesture to go to the homescreen. It should have been unlocking the phone with gaze and directly going to the home screen. That would have also made using the Face ID faster.
What about the missing Home button?
The iPhone X, as noted earlier, is missing the home button. So how do you multi-task? Or go to the home screen from an open app. Well, you use gestures. Holding an open app from the lower edge and then swiping up flicks the app back into the Home screen with a delightful animation and you reach homescreen. Holding an open app from the lower edge and moving it to middle of screen opens up the task switcher from where you can choose between open apps or decide to end an app.
Then there is the power button. It is bigger now. In some cases, you will be double pressing it for some functionality — want to install an app, double press power button at prompt — or using it to take screenshots or switching off the phone by pairing it with one of the volume buttons. The double click of the power button also opens Siri, or you can say “Hey Siri” to summon it.
The iPhone X has front and rear cameras that are very similar to those in the iPhone 8 Plus. But there are two big differences. The rear camera that has telephoto lens for 2X zooming and portrait mode comes with faster F2.4 aperture. It should help in portraits in lower light or better zoom photos. This zoom lens also gets optical image stabilisation, another feature that will help in low-light photography. On the front, meanwhile, Apple uses the depth-sensor module in the iPhone X to offfer portrait mode for selfies, complete with the lighting modes.
I haven’t tried the iPhone X cameras enough to say more but I believe the performance of this phone in photography is very similar to what the iPhone 8 Plus offers. In other words, what this mean is that in good light the iPhone X is going to shine. In low light, it will probably still be behind a couple of phones like the Google Pixel 2 XL, although the differences would be marginal.
The bigger differences I suspect is going to be in the portrait modes. I am also in the middle of reviewing the Pixel 2 XL and when I compare the portrait photos taken with that phone with what I clicked with the iPhone X, it seems that the Google’s AI does better job, especially in low light and especially for the portraits clicked with the selfie camera.
Worth Rs 89,000
Absolutely. If you are an iPhone fan, you need to get the iPhone X. If you are not an iPhone fan, you will be as happy with the iPhone 8 Plus as you are going to be with the iPhone X. But there is something that needs to be said about the iPhone X. It’s not just about the performance, design, screen, cameras battery life (yet to test it) and all these other bits. The good phones are always more than the sum of their parts. They feel special when you use them. The iPhone X feels like of these phones. It feels special.