Apple iPhone X

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The iPhone X is the huge leap forward that Apple’s handsets needed after ten years, and it’s even better in 2019 thanks to its iOS 12 updateAside from the original iPhone in 2007, this iPhone is having the biggest impact on Apple’s smartphone direction ever.

Update: The iPhone X has been updated to iOS 12.1.3, but it has also been superseded by the iPhone XS. We’ve updated this review accordingly.

Apple itself is calling it the future of the smartphone, the embodiment of what it’s been trying to achieve for a decade. But while the iPhone X is all about premium parts and an all-new experience, it’s a huge gamble for the Cupertino brand too, as it tries to reclaim some leadership in smartphone innovation.

Losing known, reliable elements like the Touch ID fingerprint scanner, the home button; introducing new methods of navigating and unlocking the phone – and charging a lot more for the privilege – seems risky for a company that was already treading new ground by doing away with the traditional headphone jack.

But the iPhone X is the handset we’ve been demanding from Apple for years – a world away from the increasingly-tired designs that those who just want a new iPhone have had to make do with. 

Watch our review the of the iPhone X’s design below.CLOSEVolume 0%

The fervor around this phone tells that story – everyone wants to know if the iPhone X is worth having, partly because it actually represents a new iPhone, and that fervor is such that they don’t seem to care about the cost.

So… is the iPhone X worth having? Will it change the direction of an industry where many of the specs Apple has put in – fast charging, wireless charging, bezel-less displays and face recognition – are already on the market?

We’ve had the iPhone X in our grasp for over a year now, and it’s easily one of the best smartphones around – even in the face of the newer but similar iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max – but there are still a few things that might throw even long-time Apple fans.

IPHONE X SPECS

Weight: 174g
Dimensions: 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7 mm
OS: iOS 12
Screen size: 5.8-inch
Screen Resolution: 1125×2436
CPU: A11 Bionic
RAM: 3GB*
Storage: 64GB / 256GB
Battery: 2,716mAh*
Rear camera: 12MP+12MP (both OIS)
Front camera: 7MP

*According to Chinese filings

iPhone X price and release date

  • Released on November 3 2017 worldwide
  • Still expensive in 2019
  • Comes in 64GB and 256GB storage sizes

It’s almost pointless to discuss the iPhone X price – it launched as the most expensive flagship phone on the market and it’s still pricey now, but iPhone users are more willing than most to look past cost. 

But, while the focus here is going to be on the technology, we still need to at least mention the price and release date. It’s out now, having launched worldwide on November 3 2017. The price is harder to swallow. 

At launch, the iPhone X cost $999 / £999 / AU$1,579 for the basic, 64GB model. If you wanted the larger 256GB model it cost $1,149 / £1,149 / AU$1,829.

Since then of course the iPhone XS has launched and as a result Apple has stopped selling the iPhone X. You can still buy it elsewhere though, and are looking at a starting price of around $900 / £780 / AU$1,479. That’s a slight drop, but not as much as you might expect for a phone that’s over a year old.

Although it’s expensive for sure, you can use our iPhone X deals page (UK only) to ensure you get the best value contract available.

Screen

  • By far the best screen on an iPhone prior to XS
  • Clear, vibrant colors
  • Notch at top slightly irks, but doesn’t get in the way

The first thing you’ll notice about the new iPhone is hard to miss: the new screen blazes into your eyes the second you pick up the handset.

The 5.8-inch OLED display is, quite simply, the best thing Apple has ever crammed into an iPhone, or it was, until the iPhone XS arrived. It’s leaps ahead of the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus for so many reasons: the sharpness, the quality, the fact that it fills the whole front of the phone, and the color reproduction.

It’s also using a new, longer, screen, but while it looks larger than the iPhone 8 Plus’ 5.5-inch display on paper, it’s only marginally bigger in terms of actual screen real estate – it’s just stretched upwards, so it’s taller, not wider.

OLED technology means you’re getting deeper blacks and more blinding whites, so everything from websites to the photos you take in will look a little better. 

Some will point to the fact that Samsung has been using OLED screens on its phones since the first Galaxy, but Apple counters that by saying it’s only now that the technology is good enough for its phones.

On the face of it that sounds defensive, but when you use the iPhone X you can see it’s a screen that’s incredibly, well, Apple. 

It’s not the sharpest or most colorful screen on a smartphone, but it’s clean, crisp and doesn’t suffer from terrible color shifts when you move it around. It’s a great display to look at from all angles, and that’s what you want on a mobile device.

It’s also been dubbed the best in the world, by the esteemed DisplayMate testing, showing that it’s the brightest and more color-accurate OLED on the market and good off-centre brightness shifts – showing Apple can tune the tech from Samsung really well.

The term ‘bezel-less’ has been bandied about for the iPhone X, but that doesn’t really tell the right story. Yes, there are slight bands around the edges of the screen as this isn’t a curved screen iPhone, but they don’t mar the experience – they give the fingers something to land on, preventing accidental touches of the screen.

Apple could reduce these further in the future and offer a more visually-appealing iPhone, but on the X the experience is still striking.

Talking of visual appeal, the notch at the top of the iPhone X is something that’s been divisive, and that’s fair. Apple has taken this little chunk out of the top of the screen to house the new TrueDepth camera, and it encroaches on the display. A lot newer Android phones, including the OnePlus 6, copy this style, though even newer phones such as the OnePlus 6T are offering much smaller notches.

In portrait mode it’s hard to notice it’s there, and the way the notifications bar spills around it is nice. 

However, place the phone in landscape mode and it’s far more noticeable; it’s an irritant when you’re watching movies, as when we wanted to expand them to fill the screen (one of the real beauties of having a longer display) elements of the action were cut out by the notch.

The longer screen is also thinner though – this means there’s less real estate for typing. We didn’t notice this at the start, but when flipping between the X and an older iPhone, you’ll really see there’s less space for your digits to tap onto.

While we’re talking about that longer screen, the 18:9 format is something we’ve seen on a number of other phones this year, and in the Android world the apps are largely encoded to fill the display just fine.

On the iPhone X, however, that’s not the case, with many apps we used packing massive black bars above and below the display. That’s quickly started to improve though, and each day more apps update for the longer screen.

The issue with apps using the black bars is that it makes the iPhone X look like any other handset from Apple – even an iPhone 3GS – and given the screen is the main visual differentiator on this phone, and you want every app to fill the display nicely. There are now very few apps left that have these bars above and below, with most expanding the screen to fill the whole front of the phone and curve around the notch.

The new display on the iPhone X also showcases a new feature for Apple: HDR playback. The phone can show movies encoded in the HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats, and combined with the OLED display the images offer so much more depth and realistic color reproduction.

If you’re watching a scene with explosions in it, the effect is incredible on the iPhone X – much like with all OLED screens.

However, it’s inherently harder to make out detail in darker scenes in HDR movies – that’s something you’ll need to adjust to. 

Compared to the LCD screen of the iPhone 8 Plus, there are times when you can see less of the action, but compare them side by side and you’ll see that the overall richness, depth and quality for watching movies is just higher on the iPhone X.

Like the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, the X uses a True Tone display, which mimics the lighting conditions around it and will adjust the white balance accordingly. It’s not a reason to buy the phone on its own, but it’s a really premium little extra that you’ll grow to like.

Face ID

  • Facial recognition is very impressive
  • Animoji is novelty, but shows camera’s power
  • Contactless payments are more inconvenient

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Face ID – Apple’s facial recognition system that replaces the fingerprint-scanning Touch ID – is simple to set up, with the iPhone X encouraging you to put your face into view at the start; spin your head around a couple of times and you’re ready to go.

That’s all you need to do in order to be able to unlock your phone with your face, and as long as the iPhone X can see your eyes, nose and mouth you’ll be able to get into your handset easily.

And we really do mean easily – Face ID has far, far exceeded our expectations for the new biometric technology. We’ve used facial recognition on other phones many times, and it’s been erratic and, well, terrible.

Watch our review of FaceID below.CLOSEVolume 0%

Apple’s facial recognition tech is leagues ahead of anything else on the market right now – it’s proved almost flawless in our testing.

Whether you’re in a pitch-black room, in low light or on the move, you simply raise the iPhone X up, look at the screen and you’re unlocked, and it’s the same for both unlocking the phone and using apps. As mentioned, we were worried this might be a sticking point for the iPhone, but Apple has nailed it.

That said, some people are finding a few issues with the service – our US mobiles editor Matt Swider has noted that it doesn’t catch his face every time, for instance. While we said it works on the move if you raise your iPhone to your face, if it catches part of your face, it’ll fail and eventually lock you out of your phone and require a passcode. Some people will yearn for the days of the Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

So that’s not to say there won’t be some transition required for existing iPhone users. There’s a slight, slight delay to unlocking at times (although it doesn’t get in the way), and you need to be looking at the handset to make it work – although we did manage to unlock ours while looking elsewhere at times.View image on Twitter

It can even work if you’re wearing sunglasses, as long as the infrared scanner that’s actually checking out your face can penetrate the lenses. It won’t work in all cases – it depends if your shades are able to let the infrared beam pass through.

However, we’d guess that in such instances you’ll need to hold the phone a little closer, or use your passcode – much like when you can’t open an older iPhone using Touch ID because you’ve got a wet thumb.

A bigger issue will be if you’re someone who leaves their iPhone flat on the desk, and uses their thumb to check out notifications – you’ll now have to pick the phone up and look into the screen to see your updates. 

We compared the two unlock methods side by side, and it was at that point that we realized Touch ID is a little faster than Face ID – which makes us start to wonder why Apple changed things at all.

While Face ID is a brilliant implementation of facial recognition, and is more secure, it’s still not as predictable as your finger finding the same spot time and time again to unlock your device. 

We get that there’s no space for the home button any more, but there’s no reason why Apple couldn’t have shoved the fingerprint scanner onto the side of the phone, in the same way as on Sony handsets. 

We suspected that Apple might have been experimenting with this option, given that the side button is now larger than before, but Apple’s designers are claiming such a thing was never a consideration.

Another issue with Face ID as against Touch ID is when using Apple Pay. Where previously you’d approach the reader with your thumb over the home button and it would instantly verify the payment, with the iPhone X you’ll need to double-tap the side button to activate Face ID, have it register your face, and then it’ll be ready to pay. 

It’s not a tough system to master – after a single attempt we were able to replicate it time and again – but it’s not as easy as before, which is irritating. You’ll sometimes believe you double-tapped the side button, thinkyou didn’t actually double tap it, tap it one more time to be sure, and realize you did double tap initially and triple tapped. This turns off the phone right as Apple Pay pops up, making your quick payment slower than paying with cash. Sometimes the Apple Pay menu is too slow.

Face ID is enabled by the TrueDepth camera, which is housed in the notch at the top of the phone, and one has to wonder whether Apple has shifted to the facial recognition technology to simply have something new and exciting to help sell the new iPhone.

There’s no doubting that the facial mapping camera is powerful – it’s incredibly accurate – but there’s not much you can do with it right now, as few apps have taken advantage of the feature. Given the TrueDepth camera is probably adding a fair bit to the cost, perhaps that’s part of the reason to push Face ID.

Another thing the TrueDepth camera facilitates is Portrait mode, where the background is blurred in your selfies, and it’s excellent. 

We’ll speak more about that in the camera section, but the new technology has allowed Apple to create one of the best front-facing cameras on the market.

Animoji

You’ve probably heard a fair bit about Animoji already, the feature that enables you to create talking emoji using the TrueDepth camera and your own face.

It’s a really fun system – you can be a talking robot, cat, dog, unicorn or piece of poo, among other avatars. The impressive thing, though, isn’t that you can send an animated emoji to your friends, but the sheer accuracy of the facial mapping.

Whether that’s a flicker of the eyebrows making a unicorn’s ears flap, or raised eyebrows pushing an alien’s brow upwards… it’s something you won’t have seen elsewhere to this level of quality.

But it’s a massive novelty. It’s not something you’re going to buy this phone for, and after a few days you’ll forget it’s there. This is very much something Apple does – adding in a feature that’s not a deal-breaker, but which could be useful in the future.

And while you can share the videos with friends in apps other than iMessage, it’s not easy to do. And if your friends don’t have an iPhone X, you can still send them Animoji, but they’ll want to reciprocate and won’t be able to. This feature really needs to roll out to other apps – or at least those developers need to code in a similar option. Apple hasn’t done that yet, though it has added four new Animoji masks with the iOS 11.3 update.

This is a feature that will delight children, and we can see how developers could create some really cool apps for kids using the front-facing camera on the iPhone X; but we’re still in the ‘wait and see’ phase as to whether the TrueDepth camera is going to be a gamechanger or just a nice piece of expensive hardware.

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