For some reason, after all this time, Verizon is still willing to send me toys to play with. Most recently they sent me over the iPhone X, with which I spent the last month as my daily driver. The iPhone X is the first major rethink of Apple’s mobile offering in a long time and the biggest change to the iPhone’s design, ever. It’s no wonder that it has caused more of a stir than any other new iPhone has in years. The big questions, is, though: is it worth all of the hype?
If there’s one thing that Apple has always been good at, it’s making a pretty device. Apple’s design has been so distinct and well-noted that it has been the center of a major lawsuit that seemed to never end. Year after year they push the limits of design to make the most gorgeous devices on the market and the iPhone X is no exception.
For the first time ever the iPhone comes sans chin and forehead nor, more significantly, the home button. More on that later, but between all of those design changes, and the fact that they went with an OMOLED display this time, culminates in an absolutely stunning device. My old Google Pixel looks utterly hideous by comparison and going back to it after using the iPhone X was rather sad having to look at those great big bezels again.
Life Without the Home Button
Seeing as how the home button is gone, Apple had to do a lot of thinking about how the navigation would go on their latest iPhone iteration. For me, in this regard, it wasn’t love at first sight but I did start getting used to it eventually.
Swiping up from the bottom of the screen is the bread and butter of this new navigation method. A normal swipe from the bottom serves the same purpose that the old home button did; it takes you back from whatever app you’re in to the home screen.
After that is where things start to get a little more complicated. If you want to use the app switcher you need to swipe up from the bottom and then hold it for a moment until the screen populates with all of our open apps. You can also swipe horizontally across the bottom of the screen to quickly swap between your most recent apps. If you want to kill an app, you need to swipe up, hold, hold down on the app that you want to kill until the “close” symbol appears, and then you can swipe away on the app you want to close or tap the close symbol to close the app.
You may recall that holding the home button down would, on older iPhones, summon Apple’s personal assistant, Siri. Without there being a home button, that’s no longer much of an option. Now, instead, you need to hold down the power button to bring up Siri.
Now, you may be thinking, how do you power off the phone if not with the power button? Well, for some reason that job is done by either holding down the volume up or down button and the power button until you get the prompt to swipe and turn off the screen. Careful, though, because holding and releasing the volume up and power buttons for a shorter period of time is how you take a screenshot.
All of this comes together, in my mind, as a pretty disastrous symphony of what happens when you make a design change for its own sake without considering the consequences of that change. But like I said, you get used to it.
One of the major redeeming qualities of the iPhone X is that the battery life is absolutely incredible. Every day (which for me starts at 6am and ends at around 11pm) when I get around to plugging the phone back into the charger when I go to bed, the phone is still at about 50%.
What I found to be even more impressive, though, is that the idle time is simply stunning. When the phone arrived from Verizon it was already on and at 90%. I put it on my desk for four days before putting my SIM card into it (don’t tell the folks at Verizon, they don’t like it when I do that) and then spent a whole day with it and it was at 60% when I got home from work. I know that it’s a new phone and it won’t be like that forever, but it was really impressive.
I don’t really have much to say about the camera. It’s the same camera that they had in the 7S – that’s not to say that it isn’t great, it is, but why drone on about it? We’ve gotten to a point with pretty much all smartphone cameras where they’re all really good for the fact that they’re tiny mostly-unmoving lenses/sensors. It’s a great time to be alive: phones have cameras that can take great pictures. Moving on.
Some of you may have noticed that there’s a notch in the top of the screen on the iPhone X. Believe it or not, that was an intentional design decision. Actually, I think it’s a pretty good and clever decision. In order to maximize the screen to device footprint ratio, Apple used bendable screen tech to allow them to wrap the display drivers under the bottom of the device and behind the actual display. On the top they still had to have the camera and sensors somewhere and they wanted to avoid an unfortunate forehead when they had gone through all of the trouble to make the bottom look perfect and frankly, the way that they did it looks better than the weird little hump that Element made on their phone. It would be better if it wasn’t there, but it’s a necessary evil that you pretty much stop noticing after the first five minutes. I actually almost forgot to write this section.
The biggest problem, in my mind, is that it’s caused changes to the core OS and thus probably caused a lot of the issues that I’ve seen during testing. Developers to Apple’s ecosystem need to write around that notch and I don’t think they were given an ample amount of time to adjust. In time, most apps will be written to accommodate it but until then:
The Other Stuff
I like to think that I have a reputation for seriousness and lack of bias. On occasion, I still have people that accuse me of having some hatred toward Apple, despite the fact that I’m typing this review on my Macbook Pro and gave the iPhone 7 a glowing review. All of this is a preface to say that there are a lot of reasons to like the iPhone X, most of which is its look: it is a beautiful phone; but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Far from it, in fact.
- “Face-ID” isn’t as secure as Touch-ID, it just isn’t. Apple can use as much marketing speak as they want but it’s honestly irresponsible to sell it as if it were. Need proof? Here’s a video of a kid unlocking his mom’s phone with his face:
Face ID, in my experience, is also slower than Touch ID. I’m not saying that fingerprint sensors are perfect and Face ID is still better than no lock on your phone, but touting it as an improvement is either straight up dishonest or Apple has been drinking too much of their own Kool-Aid. Move the fingerprint sensor around to the back, it’ll be fine. On the bright side, at least we got some version of swipe to unlock back.
2. iOS 11 is a buggy-ass nightmare. There were several times throughout testing that I found myself in a situation where an app would just be a black screen and I’d have to kill the app (see above terrible change) to get it to work again. What’s worse, it didn’t just happen in third-party apps. I even had the camera app stop working one time and I had to power cycle the phone to get it back.
Apple: You don’t have to make a new version of iOS or Mac OS every year. Take a year off and work on improving your existing code. You can thank me later.
3. This isn’t a particular gripe having to do with this iteration of the iPhone or iOS but I’m going to keep saying it until hell freezith over or something changes: notifications on iOS are bad. Every time your phone gets a new notification, it’s a new line on an endless list of times that your phone made a noise. But wait, there’s more! In iOS 11, once you’ve seen the notification at least one time on the lock screen it gets buried in a black hole of older notifications so it doesn’t get super cluttered. Thanks Apple!
Like I’ve said before, the iPhone X (pronounced ten) isn’t without its benefits. The phone is stunning to look at, it takes great pictures, it has fantastic battery life, and to some people the most important thing is that it belongs to a seamless ecosystem that makes your life easier when you keep buying Apple products. For some, those are enough but I can’t recommend this phone. If you have to have a new iPhone, get an 8. Let everyone else be the beta-testers. Personally, I think I’ll stick to my Pixel.
Buy it anyway: