The iPhone X – that’s iPhone 10 – is a big deal.
Sure, life will go on after the iPhone X, and there will, just as sure as night follows day, be an iPhone XI (or whatever Apple calls it).
But still, you know it’s a big deal when you hear that, allegedly, the iPhone X was the iPhone Apple’s chief design guru Jony Ive “always wanted to make”.
Think about that for a second. That means every iPhone EVER, prior to the iPhone X, was on some level a bit of a big compromise from Ive’s original vision.
Even the original iPhone, logically, wasn’t what Ive wanted it to be.
This iPhone, the iPhone X, is intended to be the original vision of the iPhone, as it always should have been. The BEST iPhone; the culmination of all the original designer’s creative abilities. There’s quite a lot riding on that!
So here it is; the biggest thing to happen to the iPhone since, well, the first iPhone. Or as some might say, since the iPhone 4, which is still considered by many to be the best looking iPhone ever. Also it was the last MAJOR overhaul in the series which sold INSANE numbers (the iPhone “Supercycle”).
Apple is marking the tenth birthday of its globally famous smartphone line with one of the most revolutionary designs to come out of its Cupertino design labs – not to mention one of the most expensive.
Retailing for around £1000 SIM-free, the iPhone X – or “10” as Apple would have you say – is a bold move which makes some huge bets on various features and functions, stripping away elements such as the familiar Home button and Touch ID to accommodate its grand vision.
But does it work, and is it worth the sky-high asking price? We’re about to find out.
iPhone X review: Design & Display
It would be remiss to approach the iPhone X’s design without first talking about that massive 5.8-inch screen. It’s the first on an iPhone to use AMOLED tech, and the results are incredible; colours really pop, contrast is solid and everything looks vibrant and punchy.
Make no mistake: THIS is literally what you’re paying for – design. The iPhone X’s internals are slightly different than the iPhone 8 Plus’ but not by such amount that warrants the disparity in pricing.
So, basically, to justify paying the additional sum of money for the iPhone X, you need to be 100% sold on the design of the phone itself. Personally, I like it; it’s smart and stylish. But whether I’d pay £1000 for this is another question entirely.
It’s kind of like the deal with Tesla cars; they’re mightily expensive and, for the most part, they don’t look anyway near as good as they cost. Again, in this respect, I’d much rather grab myself a BMW i8 than a Tesla, as it you just appear to get a lot more bang for your buck.
The same kind of applies to the iPhone X and a sway of Android phones. Phones like the LG V30, the Pixel 2 XL, the Galaxy Note 8… the list goes on.
The shift from LCD to OLED hasn’t been without its issues – we’re already hearing reports of burn-in occurring – but it seems like this is the future of mobile phone display tech, and it’s likely that the vast majority of owners will have moved onto a new model before the screen begins to deteriorate. OLED screens are also kinder on the battery, too.
The display’s 1125 x 2436 pixel resolution and 19.5:9 aspect ratio are typically non-conformist, but that doesn’t matter when you’re the only company that makes the iPhone; there’s no need to worry about alienating other OEMs, as is the case with Google and Android.
Apps are already being updated to support all of this new real estate; compared to the screen on the iPhone 8 – which, it’s easy to forget, has been released almost alongside the iPhone X – this feels vast and expansive, and it’s genuinely hard to go back to a smaller display after using it for any length of time.
The trade-off is that Apple has had to put a “notch” at the top of the screen to house elements such as the front-facing camera, powerful speaker and the Face ID camera – the latter of which we’ll come to shortly.
At first it annoyed me but the longer I spent with the phone I came to accept it was just part of the design; in fact, you could argue that it gives the phone’s massive display an identity which allows it to stand out from other, big-screen mobiles. After a week of use I wasn’t bothered by the notch at all.
With the headline-grabbing screen out of the way, we can move onto the rest of the phone – which, ironically, is actually quite conservative in comparison. The rounded edges popularised by the iPhone 6 remain in place, while the glass back calls to mind the iPhone 4 from way back when.
Apple’s designers have clearly hit upon a design language that they feel stands the test of time – and it’s hard to disagree when you look at how many other “rounded” handsets exist on the market.
The phone – which is water and dust resistant, it should be noted – is attractive but not jaw-droppingly so – but then it doesn’t need to be when the focal point is that massive screen.
iPhone X review: Software & User Experience
Including that massive screen has forced Apple to make some sweeping changes with the design of the iPhone X – changes that seasoned Apple fans might find hard to stomach, at least in the short term.
The Home button has been relegated to history, and to drop back to your main home screen now you have to perform a swipe-up gesture with your finger.
To see your running apps – something you’d normally double-tap the Home button for – you have to swipe up and then hold your finger on the screen until you feel a vibration. Personal AI assistant Siri is now activated by holding down the power button, which means that to turn off the phone entirely you have to hold down power and press one of the volume buttons.
It’s a lot to take in initially – especially after years of things being exactly the same across each new iPhone – and even after several days of use I found myself reaching for the non-existent Home button to exit apps.
No Home button of course means no Touch ID fingerprint scanner either, and it is here that we encounter perhaps the most dramatic change Apple has introduced in the iPhone X – you unlock it with your face.
Employing a 3D mapping camera not entirely dissimilar to Microsoft’s now defunct Kinect on Xbox 360 and Xbox One, the iPhone X scans your face in three dimensions and then uses it to determine if it should unlock.
It’s remarkable technology that leaves Google and Samsung’s previous face detection systems in the dust, and when you first get your iPhone X you’ll be blown away by how well it works – and, of course, how adorable the iMessage-based “animoji” characters are.
Using these, you can literally speak into the phone and it will animate a series of cute faces which can then be sent to friends and family. Essential? Nope. Amusing? Most definitely.
Face ID works in darkness and can even detect your face if you’re wearing a hat or a scarf; it’s a truly remarkable achievement. However, it’s not an agreeable replacement for Touch ID, in my humble opinion.
During the week I spent with the phone I noticed that it failed to work properly when I was wearing my glasses – a consequence of light reflecting off the lenses, I assume (Face ID won’t work if it can’t see your eyes, a failsafe employed to prevent people from using your face to unlock your phone when you’re asleep) which means I had to pause and remove my specs in some situations – hardly convenient when you’re walking down a busy street.
At other points, Face ID worked but took a few seconds to detect my face – even when I held the handset directly in front of me, at eye level – making me a prime candidate for any nearby naughty person who might fancy grabbing my £1000 handset and making a run for it.
The simple fact is Apple has replaced something that works brilliantly – Touch ID – with something that works brilliantly “most of the time”.
Touch ID’s advantages were obvious; you could unlock your phone literally from the moment you laid your finger (well, thumb) on it. It was incredibly accurate and fast, making it the perfect means of securing your device – hence the fact that the entire smartphone industry has adopted it.
Face ID, in comparison, simply doesn’t work as well to be considered a suitable substitute. Sure, it’s technically stunning and means you can unlock your handset when you’re wearing gloves or your hands are – ahem – otherwise engaged, but it doesn’t do the job as well as Touch ID; Apple could have placed a fingerprint scanner on the back of the phone to give people the best of both worlds, but we’d imagine that will have to wait for a future model, if it happens at all.
Outside of these changes, things remain largely the same. iOS 11 is slowly but surely maturing into a decent piece of software, even if some irksome bugs remain.
Despite the new gestures and change of screen size, things are pretty familiar here, with certain features being carried over to all other (supported) iPhone models. Augmented Reality gaming is one such element, and it works really well in the titles we tested.
In terms of performance, the iPhone X is a beast. Apple’s A11 Bionic chipset benchmarks better than any other chip you could mention on the market – including Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835, which is found inside pretty much every top-tier Android phone this year.
The result is a slick and responsive user experience and superb gaming capabilities. This is the year’s most powerful phone, without any doubt.
iPhone X review: Battery, Memory & Camera
The iPhone X’s 2716 mAh battery might not seem massive when compared to Android rivals but the phone performs about as well as other iPhones have done in the past – basically, don’t expect to get more than a day of use out of a single charge and you’ll be fine.
Fast-charging is now included, but you’ll need to purchase a special charger – the one in the box charges at the normal speed. Wireless charging is also possible this year, but again, you’ll need to outlay more cash to buy a compatible charging pad – you didn’t think you’d get everything you needed for phone’s £1000 asking price, did you?
The base model comes with 64GB of storage which should be enough for most users – those who consider this amount to be too small can pay extra for the 256GB option instead. With this being an Apple phone, there are no means of adding more memory in, but you can make use of cloud storage services such as iCloud, Google Photos and Apple Music to free up space.
The dual-camera setup made popular by the “Plus” size iPhone models has been included here, with one standard 12-megapixel snapper being assisted by a second telephoto sensor with x2 optical zoom. Both feature OIS. The jury is still out on how much of a difference x2 optical zoom makes on a smartphone, but the “portrait” shooting mode – which blurs out the background on close-up shots for a really cool bokeh effect – is undeniably special.
iPhone X review: Conclusion
The iPhone X is certainly one of the most significant phones Apple has ever produced; it marks a massive departure for the company from a design, interface and technology perspective, with the big display, unique face unlock system and a whole new set of gestures for customers to learn.
The result is a device which pushes the boundaries of mobile technology and power, but also runs the risk of alienating some fans; Face ID, as great as it is, just doesn’t feel like a viable replacement for Touch ID, which was perfect in my opinion.
Apple’s tech is impressive and certainly comes across as a very innovative way of overcoming the removal of the Home button, but it remains to be seen if it’s the kind of feature which becomes accepted by the rest of the industry – in the same way Touch ID has – or if it becomes another “3D Touch” and is largely ignored by everyone but Apple itself.
Quirks aside, the other big sticking point is the price. At over £1000, the iPhone X is the most expensive phone Apple has ever produced and is twice as costly as some of the best Android devices hitting the market right now.
What that amount of cash gets you is a powerful handset which contains groundbreaking new technology and a gorgeous screen, but whether or not all of that makes it worth so much more than the OnePlus 5T (around £500 SIM-free) or the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 (around £440 SIM-free) is perhaps down to personal preference.
For me, personally, Apple’s asking price is WAY TO HIGH, especially when you factor in that you can could technically buy TWO OnePlus 5T handsets for the price of one iPhone X.
The design is lovely, it functions brilliantly, but when push comes to shove you have to ask yourself: is this phone worth twice the asking price of one of the best Android phones around right now? I don’t think it is and, personally speaking, I’d much rather have the OnePlus 5T and spend the left over money on a week in Lisbon.
Apple customers have always paid through the nose for their brand loyalty, but this year it feels especially hard to see the value in such a mammoth purchase when much cheaper alternatives are available; even last year’s iPhone 7 is a viable choice, given that it runs iOS 11 perfectly well, retains the Touch ID scanner and costs less than 2017’s other iPhone release, the iPhone 8.
Thanks to MobileFun for lending us the iPhone X used in this review!