I’m going to call yesterday Day Zero with the iPhone X, and frankly, it was kind of a dud. I was able to form some impressions of Face ID, the look and feel of the phone (which I posted on earlier today), the screen, and the basic gestures, but that was it. My difficulty in getting my phone restored to a current backup threw everything else off, and the fact that I left it restoring when my family and I went to dinner around 7, and then came home and fell asleep before 10 PM didn’t help, either. Thankfully, I left the X charging and connected to WiFi before nodding off, so all of my apps and data were there when I woke up this morning.
Everyone who said Face ID was a big gamble for Apple was wrong….including me
Right off the bat, I have to make an admission- I was wrong about Face ID. In an article written back in July, I said that Apple removing TouchID was not the same as them removing the Headphone Jack from the iPhone 7. I believed that one was trivial and no more than inconvenient for some users, and that the other could potentially hurt the user experience that the majority of Apple users depend on for online payments and security. However, after using the actual iPhone X and its TrueDepth camera hardware for a day, I can safely say that I was 100% incorrect here. Apple didn’t replace TouchID with an inferior technology, or even a great technology that wasn’t quite ready for prime time. They replaced it with something even more convenient that is, my experience so far, just as reliable.
I tried to stay out of the rumor insanity and craziness that surrounded the iPhone X as much as I could stand, but I did weigh in on the issue of Apple going with Face ID alone on the X. Well, now I’m here to eat my crow. The iPhone X didn’t need TouchID under the screen, on the back, or on the Power Button as a safety blanket. Buyers definitely aren’t going to be put off by it, and according to recent reports, all of the rumors surrounding failed implementations of TouchID on the X were fictitious, anyway. All of that debate and handwringing was for nothing. Such is tech journalism and blogging, I guess. Apple does know what they are doing, and it can be easy to lose sight of that from this side of the glass sometimes.
Little touches make a big difference
Apple made a lot of smart decisions with how they implemented both Face ID and the TrueDepth camera system, and their first OLED screen on an iPhone. First off, the default handling of notifications on the X is really smart. Apple has set up the phone to obscure your notifications until the phone is unlocked.
If you use Face ID, this process is seamless, and they immediately fill in around one second after you hold the phone up.
Again, this is a small thing, but it’s still a very smart use of Face ID.
If you decide that you don’t want this security feature enabled, just head over to Settings-Notifications, and switch the Show Previews setting from When Unlocked to Always.
Apple isn’t known for making iOS completely open and customizable, but they actually do a very good job of offering users a lot of flexibility when it comes to both Security and Accessibility features. Another small one that iPhone X users can take or leave is the TrueDepth camera’s ability to control the brightness of the screen and the volume based on detected use. This can be disabled from Settings-Face ID & Passcode.
The Attention Aware Features is an intelligent use of the TrueDepth technology that just adds a bit of extra convenience. I also like that it is decoupled from Face ID, so if you don’t prefer to use that technology, you still get this benefit from the camera.
Another small feature that is making a BIG difference for me is the new keyboard layout. Apple has taken advantage of the additional screen real estate by making the keyboard taller and moving the Emoji and Dictation keys out of the board layout, placing them below the rest of the keys
This is a big help for a guy with large thumbs. I can’t even tell you how many times I have fat fingered the Emoji and the Dictation buttons, even on my bigger Plus-sized iPhone keyboards. Having them offset below the keyboard takes that out of the equation and just makes typing a little easier.
I only have one small complaint/suggestion to do with this feature. When you enable other keyboards besides just the stock standard and Emoji boards, the Emoji icon is replaced with the Globe icon representing multiple keyboards. This keeps the Emoji keyboard as one of a series that has to toggled through.
It would be even better if Apple would alter this arrangement to allow the Emoji board to stand alone. Since this is the most used of all secondary keyboards and they have created plenty of extra room below the standard keys, why not give the Emoji board its own button for fast access? Maybe we will get that in iOS 12.
A refreshing change to the screen
Two big features that are noticeable the moment you start touching the iPhone X’s screen are how fast the response is, and how smooth and fluid all of the animations are. Considering that Apple has placed so much importance on gestures to operate the iPhone X, these features are absolutely critical to the experience. While Apple couldn’t cram the iPad Pro’s ProMotion technology into such small package, they did borrow one key piece- the 120 hz touch sampling rate.
As you can see in the table above, which is from Apple Support, the iPhone X’s Touch Sampling Rate is 120 hz, meaning that the phone can interpret your touch input faster than than any other iPhone before. The X doesn’t match the iPad Pro’s Touch Delivery Rate of 120 hz, but that is likely due to potential battery drain. One of the main purposes of ProMotion is to shift the screen sampling rate down when 120 hz isn’t needed. Without that tech, the iPhone X would probably suffer from poor battery life with the Delivery Rate cranked that high.
I will get into the implementation of gestures on the iPhone X in a future post, but I can tall you that you will notice the improvement of the Touch Sampling Rate, and that the standard Deliver Rate doesn’t hold the experience back at all. The fluidity of all gestures and touch actions on this phone are greatly improved. If you have any doubts, find an Apple Store or retailer with a demo model set up and try it out. Touching is believing.
That’s all for tonight. I will be back tomorrow with some more brief observations. As always, if you have any questions or comments about the iPhone X, feel free to reach out in the Comments section below, on Flipboard, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.