Rather than a formal review of the iPhone X, I’m going to be writing a series of articles over the next week or so detailing how it comes across in real-world use, as I spend time with it and learn more about how it works and performs. Frankly, there are already enough expert reviews of this new device available for you to dig into. I hope this series will add a little contrast by approaching the device from a practical perspective. Also, it will give me the ability to answer and respond to questions and try things that you, the readers ask about as they come in.
Look and Feel
This ground is already well covered by other reviewers, but it is worth mentioning from the perspective of a Plus-size iPhone user and fan. The X feels tiny in comparison to my 7 Plus. In a good way, but the difference is still very striking, especially considering that the screen is the same size. While I am very impressed, it does leave me more excited for a potential Plus version of the X that is rumored to be coming next year.
As for looks, the iPhone X is pretty stunning. I can’t speak for the Black version of the X, but my Silver version is very appealing visually. The back and sides positively radiate in bright light. You can see your reflection from pretty much every surface on this phone when you get it out of the box. We’ll see how difficult it is to keep it that way over time.
As for the touchy subject of the notch, it isn’t a big issue for me, There are some apps that haven’t been updated yet that have problems with it.
Flipboard is one, as the top navigation bar of the app is obscured by the notch. I’m sure this and other app issues will be sorted out of the next couple of weeks as developers get more hands-on time with the actual phone. As for the look of the notch, like most other reviewers have said, you get used to it pretty quickly. I don’t think it detracts from the look of the X, and as some have mentioned, its uniqueness adds brand recognition to that would otherwise be a completely blank slate. Like it or not, that probably isn’t an accident. Anyway, once apps have been updated to deal with it, this will be a non-issue.
On the subject of updating apps for the iPhone X, many of them will appear with black bands at the top and bottom of the screen until the developers revisit them.
I did find it interesting that Apple’s own Apple Store app still has the black bars. I guess they’ve had more important matter on their minds recently.
As for feel, the X is definitely more hefty for its size, with the stainless steels and glass casing weighing more than the aluminum frame and shell of the iPhones 6, 6S and 7. It actually feels good, though. I can imagine a larger version feeling a little too heavy, so Apple may make some alterations to keep that in check next year, but the added weight makes the X feel more substantial. It’s hard to explain fully, but the added weight makes it feel more like an object than just a commodity phone. This is exactly the kind of area where Apple makes their money, but sometimes they go above and beyond. The iPhone X is one of those designs.
In yesterday’s post, I made a comparison between the iPhone X and two older iPhones that I will elaborate on now. I think that the X is a change point for Apple the way that the original iPhone and the iPhone 4 were before. The original iPhone is pretty obvious, because of the stark contrast between it and other smartphones at the time. It had a large screen (again, for the time), and was actually quite thick and heavy. However, the aluminum and glass construction made it feel premium in a way that no other smartphone maker besides Nokia had ever come close to. It wasn’t just a phone. It’s appeal as an object drew people to it, as well.
However, despite the visual appeal and new factor of the first iPhone, it wasn’t the one that propelled the platform to mass market success. It was the iPhones 3G and 3GS that pulled that feat off. Practicality prevailed and Apple had to move to a plastic back and a more generic design to achieve better results. The strategy worked, as the cellular performance of the phone improved, it was a durable design, and was in turn, more conducive to mass market success. Still, you could tell that the these were designs born of necessity, not creativity.
The iPhone 4 took the iPhone in a completely different and unique direction again. It was absolutely striking. No one else has come up with a mass market phone design this out of the box before or since. As we all know, it wasn’t perfect until the antennas were shuffled around when Verizon version came out early the next year. Then everyone else got that little addition with the iPhone 4S the following Fall. Still, as fas as the look and feel of smartphones goes, the iPhone 4 still stands apart as a completely unique and forward-thinking design.
While the iPhone 5 was no less impressive, it was simply the logical next step. It was basically just a slimming down of the previous design with a little added screen real estate. Apple does deserve credit for handling the antennas in such a way that the back could return to metal construction, but it wasn’t the same kind of leap forward in design that the 4 was. Similarly, the iPhone 6 through 8 design was simply about the next evolutionary step of increasing the overall size of the phone screens.
Now we have the iPhone X. While it isn’t as radical a design departure as the iPhone 4 was from the 3GS, it is still a significant step forward from the iPhones 6 through 8. If nothing else, the removal of the Home Button is enough to insure that. However, the differences are bigger than just one change, as significant as that one is. The bezel-less design of the screen is also a huge shift. For good or bad, the notch and the screen separation and new gesture paradigms that come with it are certainly unique. I also can’t leave out the translucence of the back (at least on the Silver model) and the polished stainless steel edges. When you put this device in your hand, it feels different from the first second.
I have always felt that the iPhone had more of a premium feel and higher quality construction than any other smartphone. The only ones that ever came close were a few HTC models (the One comes to mind) and the Nokia Lumia phones. Other than that, even the plasticky 3G and 3GS felt better than their direct competition. However, for example, I didn’t feel like my iPhone 7 Plus was worlds better than the Galaxy S7 and 8 and Pixel in terms of feel and construction. Those are well-made and designed phones. They may not be as substantial, but they are much better than what the Android competition used to offer up. So, while I felt that the metal construction of the 7 Plus felt a little higher-end, the gap between them wasn’t significant.
That is not the case with the iPhone X, and it’s the reason that I chose the original iPhone and the iPhone 4 as comparison points. Those two phones represented a major leap forward in the design and quality construction of the smartphone. They looked and felt completely different than the competition. While I wouldn’t say that the iPhone X is a innovative a design as the iPhone 4, since the 4 included the first ever truly high resolution phone screen, I would say that it is definitely Apple’s next big leap forward in premium smartphone construction.
The parts and concepts that the iPhone X uses aren’t anything new. Samsung reduced its bezels earlier this year and has been all in on OLED screens for a while now. They have added facial recognition, however poorly done. Still, there has never been a Samsung device that has been put together this well or used materials like these, and they seem to be fine adding hardware features, especially security features, that start off half-baked.
The success of the iPhone X is classic Apple. They are taking pieces and technologies that are already available from others, refining them, adding and subtracting where necessary, and integrating them into a beautifully designed whole that looks amazing. The addition of True Tone also helps to balance out some of the inherent color issues with OLED. Their glass casing braced with stainless steel at the edges both looks and feels better than any comparable smartphone. Face ID, like TouchID before, leaves the competition in the dust in both accuracy and ease of use. If the iPhone X proves anything, its that Apple hasn’t lost a step when it comes to its biggest strength. They can mass produce and sell premium design and construction better than any other company on the planet.