The level of hype surrounding the iPhone X is enough to make anyone feel a little disappointed when the first see the device in the flesh, so I’ll set the stage up front. This phone does not have magical powers. It will not change your life.
On the other hand, the iPhone X is a very nice phone that does a lot of things well, and some of its features are innovative indeed. Its communications functions perform very well. It’s secure in its other life as a camera, the iPhone X is particularly impressive indeed. If you take advantage of this device’s advanced features, it’s worth its cost.
But when you first see the iPhone X, you’re probably not going to be impressed. The phone looks about the same size as an iPhone 7 or 8. But a more careful examination shows the important differences.
First it’s larger than those other phones and second, there’s no fingerprint reader/home button. When you first turn it on, the differences become clearer because the entire front of the phone is all screen.
Or I should say, it’s almost all screen. A notch has been cut out of the top of the handset for sensors and a speaker. This is where Apple placed the infrared floodlight and the dot projector for the facial the recognition system. Then there’s a TrueDepth camera that does dual duty for facial recognition. It also serves as a selfie camera.
Because the 7-megapixel selfie camera is able to recognize depth, Apple has added the capability to use the portrait mode for selfies, which means that you can get a photo that places the background out of focus. You can also use Portrait Lighting, which can add a dramatic look to your photos.
The two 12 megapixel cameras on the rear of the phone can also be used in portrait mode, as they were in the earlier Plus series iPhones. The two cameras include optical stabilization, one of them is a telephoto camera, the other a wide-angle. They handle a limited range for optical zoom and a longer range for digital zoom. Both cameras are optically stabilized, which will go a long way in helping your photos stay blur free.
The cameras on the rear come with a number of useful settings including the portrait mode as well as slow-motion, time lapse and video settings. The quality of the images is quite good it’s been said that the TrueDepth camera on the front made FaceTime images look “Almost three-dimensional.”
Of course there’s more to this device than the camera, and the one feature you’ll encounter most frequently is the Face ID facial recognition. The need to unlock the phone happens frequently, and each time you do that, you’ll need to look at the front of the phone while the facial recognition decides whether it’s you or not.
Most of the time, the whole process takes place quickly enough that you don’t notice, but that’s not always the case.
For example, if you’re on the phone when a message arrives, the notification won’t show up until you lock and unlock the phone, which is annoying. More annoying is that it takes a couple of seconds for this to happen. With the previous fingerprint based solution, Touch ID, this happened almost instantly.
The loss of the home button, in addition to the loss of Touch ID, takes some getting used to. For the most part, it’s just as fast and intuitive to use the swiping motions that replace clicking home button, but there are some exceptions. Now, there’s a series of button presses with the side button, and in some cases with the volume buttons on the other side of the phone.
For example, summoning Siri means you have to press the side button and hold it while you talk to Siri. Shutting off the phone requires a press and hold of the side button and one of the volume buttons.
There’s a series of button press combinations that you’ll have to learn for various functions. Other motions, such a showing recent apps used now requires a swipe from the bottom, which you then hold instead of a double press of the home button. You swipe up from the bottom without holding to dismiss an app or close a folder.
Apple has designed the Face ID so that your biometric data is stored on the phone in an encrypted location. This means that none of the information is being sent to Apple or anywhere else. Apple says in the information on the iPhone X that their facial recognition is significantly more accurate than the Touch ID it replaces, which an error rate of less than a million to one. There are exceptions for twins, siblings and children where the error rate may be higher. The rate for Touch ID is approximately 50,000 to one.
The screen size of the iPhone X, according to Apple is 5.8 inches, measured diagonally, which makes it larger than the iPhone 7 or 8 Plus. But that doesn’t really translate to more screen real estate because the one on the iPhone X is tall and narrow, giving you less usable screen area. But the screen is quite good, with a pixel density of 458 pixels per inch. The resolution is 2436 x 1125 and it works well for long lists.
But as is usually the case, whether this phone with a price starting at $1,000 is worth buying depends on whether you need the advanced features. The security of Face ID alone could be worth it for some users. For others, the quality of the camera will be the feature you need.
The phone’s quality is obvious, and while the Face ID takes some getting used to, everything works as it should. It’s an excellent phone, if you need it’s features and are willing to pay the premium price.