The iPhone X is a sensational-looking iPhone – but it obviously comes at a huge cost, and you’ll have to wait to get it. Question marks remain over Face ID as a way of unlocking the phone, but if your face truly does get ‘learned’ over time, it could work well.
The iPhone X is a stunning device, representing the culmination of 10 years of smartphone innovation at Apple.
It’s exciting because it’s the most radical redesign of an iPhone yet, tying together a number of key trends in the industry and adding in a level of polish that will attract legions of Apple fans to upgrade, and spend another couple of years in the iCycle.
iPhone X release date and price
The iPhone X ain’t cheap. It’ll sell for $999, £999 in the UK and AU$1,579 in Australia. Preorders start Oct. 27, and the phone ships Nov. 3. By contrast, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus start at $699 and $799, respectively. (They’re £699 and £799 in the UK, or AU$1,079 and AU$1,229 in Australia.)
Screen, screen and more screen
Right – let’s get down to the new stuff, and when you pull this phone out on the train you can be sure of one thing: it looks entirely different to anything that’s come before from Apple.
It’s rare that we see Apple jumping on a trend this early, but 2017 has been the year when the bezel has begun to disappear from the smartphone, and the iPhone X has jumped emphatically aboard that train.
Apart from the Essential Phone, the new iPhone looks like one of the least-bezelled phones on the market. The lip on the top of the 5.8-inch screen is the only thing that gets in the way of you and the new operating system, with the effect rather stunning.
It’s hard to overstate how beautiful this screen is – and that’s not hyperbole brought on by extreme fatigue. It’s deep, rich and smooth, and draws level with Samsung in the quality stakes easily.
Apple’s users don’t want to move away from its ecosystem, but if certain specs aren’t met these days then envy can develop when phones are shown off at the bar – so the iPhone X has been upgraded to match its rivals, with a resolution of 2436 x 1125 on the new Super Retina HD display.
The LCD screens had a decent contrast ratio and were colorful and bright – qualities that are as engaging as chucking in a load more pixels.
But the move to the OLED display in the iPhone X has definitely brought an upgrade, with the blacks deeper, the colors richer and, well, the overall effect just brilliant.
A better design
But it feels like the new phone takes all of those ideas and smashes them into the future. If there’s one thing that’s pervaded the iPhone age of Apple it’s the laser-focused thinking on design, and the iPhone X takes that on.
The rear, which is now glass, doesn’t feel as premium as the almost-ceramic metal of previous models, but it still feels solid and secure in the hand. The edges aren’t sharp, instead folding into the palm in a way that’s pleasant to hold.
It’s a very light phone as well – and that glass does love to suck up a fingerprint.
The big change to the iPhone mix this year – for the flagship model anyway – is the loss of Touch ID in order to make way for Face ID, the ability to open your phone just by looking at it.
Face ID, which uses a bunch of cameras, including the front-facing camera and IR camera, to scan your face and let you in to your iPhone. What about tricking the phone with photos of yourself? Apple says that won’t happen; it’s made masks to train the phones to distinguish you from your photo… and that of your evil twin. It will work with third-party apps, too.
iPhone X specs highlights:
- 5.8-inch OLED display with 458ppi pixel density
- 2,436×1,135-pixel resolution (Apple calls this a Super Retina display)
- Dual 12-megapixel rear cameras with OIS on both cameras
- Portrait mode with portrait lighting feature
- Front-facing 7-megapixel camera has portrait mode now, too
- No home button
- Face ID to unlock the phone (hold your phone up to your face)
- A11 Bionic processor
- Glass back and front
- A swipe takes you to the iPhone X home screen.
- GIF by Alexandra Able/CNET
- Supports wireless charging
- 64GB and 256GB options
- Water- and dust-resistant
- Animojis make emojis out of you
- iOS 11 software with Siri improvements
- Black and space gray (no gold)
- A new version of iOS
Obviously with the new iPhone X having so much more screen to play with, there were going to have to be some changes to the way iOS works.
Usually at this point we’re talking about the camera on the new iPhone and its ability to focus faster, or take better low-light shots, or about some other new feature that means you can embarrass your children in the future with more clarity.
The camera on the back is bolted on vertically, rather than horizontally, showing that Apple wants you to hold the phone in landscape rather than portrait mode. This is also on account of the front True Depth camera, which takes up so much space and is needed for Face ID.
The front-facing camera is excellent at sensing your surroundings and your face, and the ability to map a mask, or transform you into an animated emoji (called Animoji) is genuinely joy-filling.
We can’t explain it, but there’s something amazing about being able to make an on-screen pig frown.
The camera itself felt fine, very similar to previous iterations – in short, this was all about being able to sense the surroundings rather than taking better photos, which was interesting.
Something every iPhone user wants is more battery life. Whether you’re a power user and can’t get through to the end of the working day without reaching for the charger, or you’re a lighter user but would like to not need a top-up every day, there’s more for Apple to do here.
The battery life of the iPhone X has been extended, with two hours more power than the iPhone 7 from a single charge – and that should be a real help given all the battery-sapping features on display here.
Pumping at the heart of the iPhone X is the new A11 Bionic chipset, designed to handle the heavy lifting the new iPhone is calling on it for.
The new engine is capable of powering the extra pixels that are spread around the front of the iPhone X, as well as handling the huge power the AR sensor is calling for – and on top of that there’s the general improvement in overall performance, and better graphical performance.
This equates to better battery life, thanks to the 10-nanometer manufacturing process Apple is rumored to have employed for its new chipset, allowing it to make things more efficient and thus enabling it to either crank up the power or improve battery life – or balance the two.
The new chip allows for better photo focusing, better face unlocking and all-round power improvements – this is apparently the world’s most powerful phone, which it’ll need to be given the amount of functions it’s got, and the amount of pixels it has to run.
If the planned effect of the iPhone X was to wow with its display, it’s certainly done that. The colors are just so vivid on the all-screen front, and it truly feels like you’re holding one of the iPhone concepts we wrote about years ago.
The AR effects are cool, but they’re not game-changing at this point – we wouldn’t have expected them to be right out of the box, but it’s hard to just say “Oh, we’ll wait to see what happens”.
We’re definitely going to need convincing with Face ID – Apple’s done a good job of explaining why its system is better than anything we’ve seen before, but without trying this day to day it’s hard to know whether it’ll be good enough to replace Touch ID – and the demos weren’t anywhere near convincing enough.
“The real sticking point is the price. At $999 for the cheapest 64GB model, Apple has a hard sell on its hands, and while FaceID and the new camera features are impressive, are they $300 more than the iPhone 8 impressive?”