Apple iPhone X First Impressions

Posted on December 10, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in iOS with 87 Comments

I waited to purchase an iPhone X so that I could get the SIM-free version. Here are some quick first impressions.

Face ID. As reported elsewhere, Face ID seems to work pretty quickly, but it requires a screen swipe to get into the device, which seems like an odd extra step. It failed when I was wearing sunglasses.

Display. Apple’s first OLED display is beautiful to look at, and less HDR/oversaturated than is the case elsewhere. I really like the curved corners, which fulfill what I assume was Steve Jobs’ dream of making the whole device a rounded rectangle. That said, the bezels are big compared to modern Androids, and, of course, the display doesn’t curve to the edges, as do Samsung’s. The display is also only 5.8 inches, compared to 6-inches elsewhere.

Size. The iPhone X is closer in size to my daughter’s (non-Plus) iPhone 6 S—it’s a bit wider and taller—than it is to my iPhone 7 Plus. The display takes up most of the front of the device, however, so it’s like an iPhone 6/7/8 where almost the whole front is a display. Those looking for a phablet may want to hold out for a rumored bigger X-type device for late 2018.

From left to right: iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone 6 S

Form factor/design. Like other modern smartphones, the iPhone X takes the tall, 18:9-ish aspect ratio of the modern smartphone to iOS. And it looks great. The glass back feels and looks elegant, though I’m worried about durability. The vertically-aligned camera lens give it a unique look. But the curved aluminum (or steel, apparently) side material seems fake to me, somehow, and less premium than the rest of the device. I expect it to scratch off and reveal a plastic underneath.

Navigation. Give Apple some credit here: While the removal of the Home/Touch ID button seems odd in the abstract, navigation is nearly intuitive (assuming you’ve ever used a modern smartphone). All of the edge swipes work exactly as expected—up from the bottom to go to Home, down from the top to display Control Center, and so on—and screenshots were easily guessed: Now it’s Power + Volume Up. No problems here.

The notch. I’ve heard from many that the notch kind of disappears with use. I’m not convinced. It’s particularly noticeable in two places, so far: When the screen is white or light-colored and fills the space near the top, and when an app—sadly, far too many—isn’t designed for the new, tall, and notch display, and it appears letter boxed, in this case with empty black spaces at the top and bottom. It’s noticeable and even a distraction at times.

Camera. I arrived home mid-day Saturday from an overnight flight and 19 hours of travel, so I spent more time configuring the phone than testing the camera. But based on a few quick shots taken outside and compared side-by-side with the Pixel 2 XL, the iPhone X camera system looks solid, with slightly more vibrant colors. (The Pixel 2 XL excels at night/low-light shots too.) The new Portrait mode features look interesting, but there are edge issues, of course. Excuse the grizzled look.

My daughter is very grumpy about the iPhone X: It makes her old iPhone look, well, old by comparison. I’m not sure about it yet. I like the look, but don’t believe that Apple can justify the premium pricing. In fact, I kind of wonder why this wasn’t just the non-Plus design for 2017, with a bigger version being sold as the iPhone X Plus. But whatever. It’s an elegant phone, and beautiful and unique in that way that Apple’s best products are.

More soon.


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