What is the iPhone X?
The iPhone X – or iPhone 10 – is a hugely important device for Apple. Not only does its release coincide with the 10th anniversary of arguably the most important tech product of the past decade, but it’s the first iPhone in four years to undergo a major redesign.
It’s also the best iPhone I’ve ever used – but it comes at a cost. A pretty hefty one
iPhone X long-term review: How does it hold up?
The iPhone X saw a big change to the long-established iPhone formula, and currently, it’s difficult to say if it’s been a complete success. Having used the phone solidly since its release, my thoughts regarding the iPhone X seem to change on a weekly basis.
The screen is the best I’ve seen on such a device, and performance is smooth and slick.
My biggest annoyances with the iPhone X are with the software. iOS 11 is fine, but the lack of thought behind the X-specific UI becomes more frustrating by the day. I often find myself struggling to pull down the Control Center; and the wasted space when the keyboard is open remains odd. Most apps I use have updated to the longer layout, but few have really built themselves around the new size.
I’m really hoping iOS 12 focuses on making the X feel better to use day-to-day – and also fixes the terrible notification system.
Face ID, for the most part, works well, but struggles when I’m not paying it full attention. I don’t think it’s ever worked on my first try in the morning, and it fails even if part of my face is covered.
Battery life has remained steady and the camera is only beaten by the Google Pixel 2 XL – but then you’d expect no less from a £1000 device.
iPhone X – Design
Apple has been coasting for too long with the design it introduced for the iPhone 6, but that all changes with the iPhone X – in a big way. You don’t need me to tell you the iPhone X is a huge departure from the iPhone design of old – just look at the pictures. Not only does it look good, however; Apple has done a fantastic job at actually making it feel rather good in the hand.
The aluminium sides have been swapped out for stainless steel – as seen on the Apple Watch – and the front and rear of the device are glass. I received the Silver variant for review – and, unfortunately, it wasn’t long before it was covered in fingerprints, those shiny sides being a particular magnet. This is a phone that looks fantastic straight after a wipe-down; not so much a few hours after it’s been in your greasy palms.
Also of concern is how the iPhone X will fare over time. No matter how unscientific they might be, drop tests indicate that the finish here doesn’t lend itself well to wear and tear. After all, the stainless steel Apple Watch I’ve been using is a scratched-up mess. As a result, my iPhone X has spent much of its time inside an Apple case, but this certainly sees it lose points in the glamour stakes.
It’s around the front of the iPhone X that the magic happens, though. The iPhone 8 has an extensive bezel running around the display, but the iPhone X doesn’t. Similar to the Samsung Galaxy S8, Apple has pushed out the screen to the edges here, significantly reducing the bezel. A noticeable black border remains, but it 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 single iPhone iteration until now. As a result, there’s no Touch ID fingerprint scanner. Instead, the iPhone X sees Apple introduce 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’. You’ll find the notch at the top of the display, where it somewhat disrupts that all-screen look. There’s been much controversy concerning the notch with regards to it completely ruining the immersive experience. Once you begin using the phone, however, I’ve found that it simply blends into the background.
Sure, you notice it when the screen is on, plus it juts into video if you’re playing something full-screen. But in all other instances it fades into the background. Certain apps – Apple’s Music being one – use software trickery to blank out the notch, and some apps clearly need to be updated to ensure important buttons aren’t hidden by it.
In the space either side of the notch you’ll find the battery indicator and time. Annoyingly, you can no longer see the battery percentage remaining or whether you have a pair headphones connected without opening the Control Center. The bigger annoyance is that the battery and signal indicators aren’t in line with the bottom of the notch, so they dip slightly below and look rather weird.
I do feel that the notch gives the iPhone X a bit of character and a distinctive look, something lost by the dismissal of the Home button. I’m sure Apple would get rid of it in an instant if it could cram this tech inside the bezel; but it does feel as though the company wants to use it as a distinguishing feature while it’s here.
iPhone X – Screen
The iPhone X sees Apple switch out its usual LCD screen tech for an OLED panel for the first time. Samsung, Google and many other Android phone makers have been using this technology for some time now, and it’s nice to see Apple finally joining the fray with a product other than the Apple Watch. This is also the highest-resolution screen ever on an iPhone, with a slightly odd 2436 x 1125 pixels, plus there’s support for the DCI P3 colour gamut and Dolby Vision HDR.
OLEDs offer better contrast, true 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 criticism for poor viewing angles and an odd blue tinge. Even the excellent screen on the Samsung Galaxy S8 is prone to suffering poor viewing angles.
Apple’s OLEDs come from Samsung, and while there’s a small shift to blue if you tilt the device off-axis, it’s far less noticeable than on the Pixel 2 XL. Apple says it’s made a fair few tweaks to this panel, and the company’s optimisation of it is certainly different to Samsung’s approach for its own Galaxy S8 and Note 8 panels. Colours on the iPhone X are more natural and the saturation isn’t quite so intense.
- Stunning screen
- Much-improved telephoto camera
- The best-looking iPhone ever
- Impressive battery life
- Face ID is so much better than a fingerprint sensor
- Software needs more optimisation for the taller display and notch
- No fast-charging plug included
- Very expensive