Apple iPhone X review


Apple’s 10th anniversary iPhone X sets a new gold standard for the next decade of iPhones. Coming hot on the heels of the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, the iPhone X steals the show despite sharing nearly identical internal hardware. The X (pronounced “ten”) is a beautiful, modern sculpture, and iPhone owners finally have a reason to show off their phones again.

A stunning display

Turn on the iPhone X, and it’s easy to forget almost every other phone released this year. Apple’s following the “bezel-less” smartphone design trend, where the edges around the screen melt away to offer an immersive all-screen experience. Technically, other phones may have slightly smaller bezels, but we like the approach Apple took here.

Most of the time, anyway. The notch cut out of the screen to accommodate the front-facing camera can be a little distracting. We prefer the notch on the Essential Phone, which is just a tiny black dot compared to the iPhone’s wide black stripe. iOS gracefully splits the top status bar in half around the notch, and many native apps also tailor their designs to it, but it’s easy to feel a break in immersion when watching YouTube videos and movies on Netflix.

Right now, not all apps support the full display. Apps like Snapchat, Google Calendar, and Google Docs have giant black bars on the top and bottom that make the iPhone X look like an iPhone 8. Apple said all the major social media networks support the unusual screen, and it said many developers are in the process of submitting updated versions of their apps. We saw Slack, for example, adding support yesterday. You’ll likely see apps with black borders around them for a few more weeks as developers continue to issue updates.

The OLED display goes a long way in making amends for these quibbles. The 5.8-inch screen has a 2,436 x 1,125-pixel resolution (458 pixels per inch), and it’s razor sharp. Colors are vibrant, blacks are finally as pitch-dark as many other OLED Android phones, and it was easy to read in direct sunlight.  You’ll have a hard time pulling your eyes away from this screen.

The X is a beautiful, modern sculpture, and iPhone owners finally have a reason to show off their phones again.

As on the iPhone 8 and iPad, Apple’s True Tone technology detects the lighting condition you’re in, and adjusts the screen’s tint to make it more readable. It works extremely well, and made the screen warmer — and easier on the eyes — in our harsh office lighting.

The phone’s all-glass rear is almost the same as the iPhone 8 Plus, except the dual-camera setup has turned to a vertical orientation. Apple says the front-facing depth sensors and cameras took up a lot of space up top, and the rear camera wouldn’t fit sideways. With only the Apple and iPhone logo printed on the glass, the back looks minimal and sleek. The vertical orientation is a dead giveaway you have the iPhone X, as it’s a pretty unusual camera orientation and placement on a phone.

One noticeable difference is the power button, which now perhaps should be called the “lock button.” Still situated on the right edge, it’s more elongated than before, which makes it easier to find and press. We say lock button because to turn off the iPhone X, you need to press the lock button and the volume up or down buttons. Tapping on the lock button just wakes or turns off your screen, but you can double tap it to activate Apple Pay, or press and hold it to launch Siri.

The mute switch is on the top left, and the volume rocker sits below. There’s still no headphone jack, and the only port is for your Lightning cable at the bottom edge, between the bottom-firing speakers. For music, you’ll either have to pair wireless earbuds with the Bluetooth 5 technology on board, or you can embrace the dongle life with the included Lightning to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter.

What we like most about the iPhone X is its size. It feels compact — it’s slightly larger than the 4.7-inch iPhone 8, but it has a bigger screen than the 5,5-inch iPhone 8 Plus. The X is comfortable in the hand, and it feels remarkable to have so much more screen real estate than a cumbersome “plus-sized” phone.

Speedy and a gesture-based iOS

You’ll find the same A11 Bionic processor from the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus powering the iPhone X. We haven’t seen any flaws in performance — the interface is fluid, and switching between apps is fast. Games like Monument Valley 2, Transformers: Forged to Fight, and the augmented reality game The Machines ran smoothly. Our iPhone X benchmark scores reaffirmed our experience.

  • Antutu: 206,010
  • Geekbench 4 CPU: 4,231 single-core; 9,877 multi-core

The Antutu score is slightly less than what we’ve seen on our iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, which received respective scores of 214,492, and 222,462. It’s still higher than any other Android smartphone we’ve tested. The Google Pixel 2, for example, scored 146,876, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 received 167,946. Geekbench scores were nearly identical against the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, but it absolutely eclipsed the Android competition. That’s not to say those Android phones are slow: They’re incredibly high-performing phones that do the job well. The iPhone X, though, executes things a little better.

The iPhone X also introduces a new way to interact and navigate with iOS. If you noticed, we didn’t mention a home button earlier — it’s officially no more. What replaces it? Gestures. Access the Control Center by sliding down from the top right shoulder, and pull down the Notification Center from the center notch area. If you’re in an app, you’ll see an elongated bar at the bottom: Swipe it up to go back to the home screen.

If you swipe it up and pause, you will see all your previous apps for some quick multitasking. You can also switch between apps by sliding your finger from the bottom left to the bottom right, kind of like drawing an upside down U. All the animations are beautiful and responsive, and it’s fun to execute largely because it’s so new. After spending almost a week with the iPhone X, we’ve fully acclimated to the new gestures. Our main gripe, however, is accessing the Control Center. We constantly find ourselves opening it when intending to open the Notification Center, especially when using the phone one-handed.

Hardware actions are also different. Trying to quietly activate Siri? Just tap and hold the lock button. Taking a screenshot is easy too — tap the lock and volume up buttons at the same time. You’ll even get the option to mark the screenshot up. You can press and hold the lock and volume down button to turn off the iPhone, or to access SOS emergency services, and double-tapping the lock button brings up Apple Pay.

These gesture-based interactions are a thoughtful way of navigating the home button-less iPhone X. The animations are slick, fluid, and futuristic. iOS 11 also brings a whole lot more customization, such as the redesigned Control Center, and you can check out our in-depth iOS 11 review to see what’s new.

Face ID and Animojis

Face ID is the hallmark of the iPhone X, and a huge gamble for Apple, since it completely replaces Touch ID. Instead of swiping a fingerprint, just look at your phone, and it unlocks.

In our initial review, we didn’t think it worked well and found it slower to be Touch ID. It has since improved greatly, and Apple told us there’s a quicker way to use Face ID. Rather than raising the phone, waiting for the padlock to unlock, and then swiping up to go to the home screen, simply swipe up the lock screen when you want to go to your home screen. You’ll see a quick Face ID animation — if it recognizes you — and voila, you’re through.

Comparing it with Touch ID on an iPhone 8, we noted the fingerprint sensor is ever-so-slightly faster, but the difference is quite small. Face ID is fast. There are still moments when Face ID would not recognize us, but these have been getting less and less frequent. Apple said Face ID gets better over time because it’s continually updating its model of you, which is why it recommends to never reset your Face ID.

It works incredibly well in the dark, which is surprising, but you’ll always want to make sure you aim the front camera towards your face. It can get a little tricky with certain angles, and so it’s likely better to use a pass code when it’s lying flat on a desk. You can always tap the screen to have it light up.Face ID

Face ID still feels like a work in progress at times. It’s something we still actively think about when using the iPhone X, though this may subside the more we get used to using our face to unlock our phone. Despite this, we still like it over Touch ID. It’s convenient.

Since Face ID is replacing Touch ID, you may run into some odd issues getting it to work in lieu of a fingerprint sensor.  For example, with our  Discover banking app, it initially asked us to sign in, and the app’s respective settings only made note of activating Touch ID. After enabling it, closing the app, and re-opening it, we got a message indicating the app “was designed to support Touch ID. It has not been updated for Face ID.” It still gave us the option to use Face ID, and we were able to quickly jump into these apps securely with just our face. Most of our apps that required a pin entry or password were able to use Face ID effortlessly, and this is because Apple said Face ID uses the same framework as Touch ID.

You’ll see a note like the one to the right to force iOS to use Face ID for an app that only supports Touch ID. Since our initial review, the Chase app has added support for Face ID, and it’s now a toggle you can turn on in settings. You should know, it will ask you to type your password in every 90 days to confirm your identity.

The other big feature you can use these 3D-mapping sensors and cameras for is Animoji. Open the Messages app and you’ll find a new option to send an animated emoji to a friend, or an Animoji. It tracks your facial expressions — with surprising accuracy — and records whatever you say, kind of like motion capture used in movies. You can send this to anyone, on Android or iOS, and they’ll be able to see it because it’s a standard video file. It’s a fun feature we think people will like, but it’s not necessarily a reason to buy the iPhone X. It would be great if you could send Animojis to people through different messaging apps.

Another great camera

The iPhone X has a very similar camera to the iPhone 8 Plus: Both feature a 12-megapixel wide-angle lens with an f/1.8 aperture, but the 12-megapixel telephoto lens has a wider f/2.4 aperture over the 8 Plus’ f/2.8 aperture. This helps in low light situations with 2x optical zoom, as well as Portrait Mode as it uses the telephoto lens.
Both cameras also have optical image stabilization, a first for Apple. It helps prevent blurriness with shaky hands when you’re zooming in on objects with the optical zoom. It also can improve photos taken in Portrait Mode, as it relies on the telephoto lens.

The rear camera is undoubtedly stellar. It offers great color accuracy, lots of detail, and best of all, virtually no shutter lag. Launch the camera, tap the shutter icon, and the iPhone X will take photos faster than you can say “Cheese!” In brief comparisons with our favorite camera phone, the Google Pixel 2, we did find Google’s Android phone to feature better dynamic range and slightly more detail. We’ll do a more extensive test between the two phones soon.

You won’t see much of a difference between the iPhone X against its predecessors, namely the iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone 7 Plus. We’ve added some comparisons below.

iPhone X:

iPhone 8 Plus:

iPhone 7 Plus:

Overall, we liked the iPhone X’s photos the most, though you’ll really have a tough time telling them all apart. In low light scenarios, the iPhone X edged out with sharper images and less grain — especially in Portrait Mode. The iPhone X and the iPhone 8 Plus dealt with dynamic range better than the iPhone 7 Plus; for example, the iPhone 7 Plus’ photo with the cars on the road is too dim overall, whereas the iPhone 8 Plus and X brighten the foreground without overexposing the background sky. We did like the color accuracy on the iPhone X and the 7 Plus more than the 8 Plus (except in low light), which made photos look a littler more reddish than normal.

Portrait Mode adds a blur behind a subject, offering a DSLR-like look, but the star feature is Portrait Lighting, which lets you fake different studio lighting options. This was first introduced with the iPhone 8 Plus, but our eyes are on what the iPhone X brings — Portrait Mode and Portrait Lighting to the 7-megapixel front-facing camera. You can finally make those selfies look far more professional, and the iPhone X does a solid job. It works just as advertised, but the output isn’t as good as the rear dual-camera setup, especially when it’s trying to detect hair. Take a look:

The iPhone X’s blur is strong, and it looks very natural like a DSLR. It has trouble dealing with dynamic range, such as in the last Portrait Mode selfie photo in the park, where the background is overexposed; as well as in the photo of the fence. Hair, especially with the selfie camera, gets messed up easily and is often blurred. The rear camera can make mistakes too, of course, as seen in the photo with the leaves of the tree. Some of these subjects are complicated, though, so it’s understandable when it does trip up. Portrait Mode and Portrait Lighting on the iPhone 8 Plus, as well as iPhone X front and rear cameras are still in beta. Seeing how Portrait Mode improved greatly over the year on the iPhone 7 Plus, we imagine we’ll see the same with selfies on the iPhone X.

iPhone X

Overall, the iPhone X’s cameras let you do so much more than ever before, and the results are almost always still impressive. Our favorite part still remains the ease, accessibility of using the camera — it’s incredibly quick, and we’ve hardly ever seen any shutter lag.

Battery

Battery life on the iPhone X has been fairly average. We’ve been getting through most work days with 30 percent remaining, and that’s with medium to high use. That includes taking photos, streaming music, watching videos, browsing the web, and responding to notifications. There was one particular day where we took a lot of photos, had the brightness on full, and in general played around with various aspects of the phone to find it hit 12 percent by 4:30.

When left off the charger overnight, the iPhone X went from 100 percent to 65 percent after about 8 hours of sitting idle, which isn’t bad, but we’ve seen better on older iPhones.

Our favorite feature, first introduced in the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, is the glass back which makes the iPhone X compatible with the Qi wireless charging standard. Just plop your phone down on a charging pad and you’re juicing it up — no cables needed.

Apple iPhone X Review

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

All three new iPhones support fast charging, but you’ll need to buy a $25 USB-C to Lightning cable separately, which is a silly decision. It should be included. We plugged our iPhone X in to charge with 25 percent remaining, and it was able to go back to 100 percent by an hour and 40 minutes. We used a Belkin dock to charge it up, though, so it will take a little longer than the cable and adapter included in the box.

Price, availability, and warranty

The iPhone X is expensive. The 64GB model starts at $1,000, and the 256GB variant will set you back $1,150. They’re now available for purchase, but you may have to wait a few weeks to nab one — there are some supply shortages.

Apple iPhone X Compared To

Apple offers a standard warranty that protects your device from manufacturing defects one year from the date of purchase. You can grab AppleCare+ insurance, which includes two years of technical support and accidental damage coverage. We recommend using a case and a screen protector as the display can be quite costly to replace.

Our Take

The iPhone X is the iPhone to buy this year. Even from our initial impressions, we’re certain it’s well worth the high price tag, and early adopters are going to love it.

Is there a better alternative?

For iOS users, your best alternatives are this year’s iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. They’re a little more affordable, and they pack nearly identical specifications as the iPhone X. You’re largely missing out on the new design, and Animojis of course. If you’re willing to spend close to $700 for the iPhone 8, we think it’s worth splurging a little more on the X.

Keep in mind Apple is still selling older iPhones. If you don’t need the latest design, fun camera, or Face ID, and just want an iPhone that works, you should consider the iPhone 6S and iPhone 7, which start at low prices from Apple. We should note, the older the iPhone, the fewer years of updates you’ll have left.

If you’re willing to swap to Android, there are plenty of good choices. We recommend the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, because you won’t find comparable hardware and software integration, like Apple, anywhere else. If you’re eyeing other bezel-less phones, the Essential Phone takes the cake for best design, though you may not be impressed with the camera. It’s a steal, though at $500. Naturally, you won’t be disappointed with the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, which can go toe to toe against the iPhone X.

How long will it last?

The iPhone X is IP67 water-resistant, meaning it can stay underwater up to 1.5 meters for 30 minutes. Apple said the rear and front glass is incredibly durable and strong, but it’s still glass. It will likely shatter after a drop on concrete.

Unlike with most Android phones, you’ll get fast version and security updates with the iPhone X. The device will also be supported for four to five years before it stops getting software updates. We expect the iPhone X to last four to five years.

Should you buy it?

Yes. If you’re an Apple fan, this is the phone to buy. We can’t peel our eyes away from the gorgeous OLED screen, and using gestures to move around iOS is pure bliss.



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