A smartphone is arguably the most import item I take on my travels. My weapon of choice was an iPhone 7 Plus. I loved my iPhone 7. I couldn’t imagine why you’d ever need anything more from a phone. Yet once I’d seen the iPhone X a trip to the Apple store was inevitable. Fast forward over a month – the launch razzmatazz has faded and my iPhone X is part of the family. What do I think of Apple’s new iPhone? Is it fit for my travels? Is it worth buying?
Designed In Cupertino
The iPhone X looks fantastic, reminiscent of the original iPhone – the best looking iPhone Apple has yet made. Perhaps a touch weighty, but the bottom line is it looks and feels like an expensive phone. The mirrored back is just stunning.
There’s the normal lure to upgrade; faster, (A11 Bionic Chip, Neural engine, Embedded M11 motion coprocessor), improved battery life, (+2hrs vs. iPhone 7), better video recording, (4K at 60 fps), better video playback, (High Dynamic Range with Dolby Vision and HDR10 content), etc. However, the main draw of the X is that it’s an iPhone packed with the latest tech. There are other phones out there that share some of the functionality of Apple’s new £1000 phone, but in my experience, Apple’s implementation of new technologies is usually superior to the competition.
Face ID is proof of Apple’s ability to implement bleeding edge technology behind a user experience that works. During setup your face gets scanned twice, (takes less time to setup than Second-generation Touch ID), then, well, that is it. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen, (or raise the iPhone and look at it), and the iPhone X will scan and authenticate your face before displaying the home screen, (or unlocking). There’s sometimes a brief pause to authenticate, but it’s pretty seamless. Glasses on, glasses off – hat on, hat off – makes no difference. Failures are rare. I had more trouble with Touch ID failing to authenticate because of a smudged home button.
No More Home Button
The first noticeable change when unboxing the X is the lack of a home button. At first, it feels wrong. Viewed from above the X doesn’t immediately look like an iPhone. But after just a day with my new phone, a home button felt like a relic. The new gestures feel natural. The ‘swipe up and pause’, gesture to view the app switcher is such an improvement. Equally the ‘swipe from the top left’, to view notifications, (‘swipe from the top right’, to access controls), is just as helpful and gives quick access to the camera app. There are still moments, in a rush that I’ll go for the absent home button, despite there’s no way I’d go back to the old setup.
The rear camera, unlike other areas iPhone X’s hardware, gets a decent rather than a massive upgrade; (larger / faster 12MP sensor, new colour filter, deeper pixel, a new telephoto camera with OIS, improved stabilisation and flash with slow sync), and new Portrait lighting features. These features lack the WOW of first seeing a photo taken in Portrait mode. Even so, they can effectively enhance a photo – especially ‘studio lighting’. Photos taken with an iPhone X do look marginally better Vs an equivalent photo snapped with an iPhone 7 Plus, (which were already very good). The new lighting effects and improved hardware make photos taken on the X closer than ever to those taken with a good SLR camera, but we’re still not quite there yet.
Photos taken with the front-facing TrueDepth camera can now use Portrait mode with lighting effects. All good stuff but, if you have young children the primary use of the front-facing camera will be Animojis – Animated emojis. The hours children, (and if I’m honest adults), can spend animating a Poo is unfathomable. Animojis are a gimmick, but they are a very cool gimmick. The iPhone’s ability to capture facial expressions and lip sync effectively is awesome.
A New OLED Screen
A major selling point of Apple’s iPhone X is the new OLED Super Retina Display with its 1,000,000 to 1 contrast ratio. I never looked at my iPhone 7 and thought its screen needed improving, but the iPhone X’s OLED screen struck me straight away. Principally the saturation of the colours and the clarity, it’s almost like looking at a printed page. The iPhone 7’s display looks washed out in comparison.
The new OLED screen excels under the glare of sunlight, remaining crisp, bright and colourful at all times. Recently I took a call outside on a very bright sunny day. I realised I could see my iPhone’s screen perfectly. I didn’t have to wack the brightness up to full or shade the display with my hand. It’s a hell of a screen.
There is one issue though. If you’re interested in display technology, you’ll know that the use of OLED’s is fraught with danger. Vendors struggle to use them effectively in their hardware, as every OLED screen shifts colours off-axis. The good news is the iPhone X copes admirably with this issue. The bad news is it’s no exception to the rule. Tilt the X on its verticle axis 45deg, and a noticeable shift in the colour spectrum occurs – everything takes on a slight green hue. It pains me slightly that this is an issue on Apple’s flagship device, nevertheless for me the benefits of the OLED screen outweigh the drawbacks of the current technology.
iPhone Plus Vs The iPhone X
My concern when I bought my X was the reduction in the screen size. The X’s screen is narrower than the Plus but slightly taller. The latter depends on including an area outside that labelled as ‘safe’ in the Apple Developer documentation. Apple themselves add an annoying space between the bottom of the display and the onscreen keyboard to avoid this area – a very, un-Apple-like fudge.
People will cite the improved resolution, (2436×1125-pixels at 458 ppi vs iPhone 7 Plus 1920×1080-pixels at 401 ppi), as a reason to compare the screen size of the X to the Plus. However, the truth is you always feel like you are using a standard size phone. Responsive websites displayed full-size on the Plus revert to mobile mode on the X, you find yourself zooming pictures more to catch details, movies feel cramped and are cropped in edge-to-edge mode. There was never a point when I owned an iPhone Plus that I thought I might like an iPad. If forced to frequently browse the web, edit pictures or watch movies on the iPhone X I would feel differently.
It’s Worth Buying
So is the iPhone X worth buying? Coming from a Plus the screen of the new iPhone is too small. Yet the iPhone X does indeed feel like the future. The convenience of the X’s tech, (especially Face ID), and the clarity of the screen make it my choice of phone. An iPhone X Plus would be the perfect phone for me. Until that’s a reality I shall love my X and enjoy using, but I will occasionally look at my partners Plus with envy.
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