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For over a decade, the iPhone was the embodiment of the smartphone’s concept in the peoples image. The iPhone 8 represents the culmination of Cupertino’s vision while the iPhone X is a different product altogether, the beginning of what will happen in the coming years.
The two smartphones have many things in common, including the A11 Bionic processor, wireless charging, portrait modes. Both are water resistant, have the same connectivity, as well as the same storage options, 64 and 256GB.
What the iPhone X doesn’t have, apart from the golden color, is the Home button, Touch ID and the frames. Apple took all this away, making an interface based on gestures, Face ID, and True Depth Camera. The result is the front part dominated by the screen, set in a design that recalls, in part, that of the first generation iPhone.
We spent a week with the iPhone X using it as our main smartphone. To date, it is without a doubt the most fun Apple smartphone of recent years, although it is not free of defects. There are some things I would have done differently, as we will see in the course of the review.
Construction, design and ergonomy
Making a sort of return to the past, with a clear reference to the iPhone 4, Apple chose glass for the front and back cover of the iPhone X. The frame is made of stainless steel, and the Cupertino company has placed horizontal poly carbonate bands on the frame that hide the various antennas.
The glass, front and rear, is the same used in the iPhone 8, created by the close collaboration with Corning and designed to offer a special resistance.
There are no other colors except Silver and Grey. The first has a lucid frame and resembles closely the look of the first-ever iPhone. On the Grey one the frame is opaque, and resembles the satin coloration of the Apple Watch.
The use of glass, together with the Cupertino company’s choice of rounding corners, makes for a slippery iPhone X. This means that it is certainly advisable to use a case.
In any case, the front part is dominated by the large screen of 5.8 inches. In this sense, Apple has managed to intervene on one of the aspects that, over time, has caused the greatest criticism on iPhones, namely the presence of particularly pronounced frames, which added to the phones dimensions when compared to the diagonal of the displays.
On the iPhone X, the 5.8-inch screen has been embedded in a smaller overall body than the one on the iPhone 8 Plus which has a 5.5-inch display. In this way you can take advantage of a big screen without giving up on portability.
Design consistency is interrupted only by the front “notch” in which Apple has inserted all the hardware components for the True Depth Camera. Cupertino had to make this choice since there was no possibility of inserting it below the screen.
It is certainly an aesthetic detail to which you get used over time, although some may not like it, but is the price of having a True Depth Camera, which we will explore later in the review.
The choice to round the corners creates a sense of continuity between the front and rear glass and the steel frame. There is also an IP67 certification.
The iPhone X is the first mobile phone with an OLED screen. We’re talking about a 5.8-inch display with a 1125×2436 (458 PPI) resolution, the biggest, in terms of diagonal, that has ever been implemented on an Apple phone. From the beginning there was curiosity about the performance of this panel, especially in regards to the already excellent LCD that Cupertino has always used in its mobile devices.
The first big advantage is undoubtedly the rendering of blacks, which in the iPhone X become virtually endless. Apple has also done an excellent job in terms of color, with the OLED screen that manages to reproduce them faithfully, in line to what we have come to expect from Apple smartphones.
Excellent brightness, perfectly managed automatically by the relevant sensor, as well as outdoor visibility. I did find a light shift towards blue by tilting the screen, nothing to write about but it is still honest to point out.
Wide Color support is present, it’s the name that Apple gives to the DCI-P3 color space, with the display that in order to create the image has a greater number of color gradations available thus representing the colors more faithfully. True Tone technology is also present and depending on the environmental conditions adjusts the “temperature” of the panel.
In other words, the OLED technology has been developed in a very convincing way. It will be interesting to check, over time, the durability of these panels, especially in relation to the burn-in effect, which is making a lot of fuss in relation to the Google Pixel 2 XL.
The iPhone X comes with iOS 11 and we will focus on what’s new specifically for this smartphone: gestures that replace the Home button and the new organization of the status bar due to the presence of the notch that contains the hardware components of the True Depth Camera.
Regarding the gestures, you simply have to get used to them. It will take some time to use them instead of the Home button, especially if you have owned an iPhone for years. In short, here is how they work:
- Unlock/Return to Home: swipe up from the Home indicator;
- Switch between applications: swipe left from the Home indicator to return to the previous app, swipe right to go to the next one;
- Multitasking: swipe up from the Home indicator while pressing down to view the display tab. Swipe left or right to switch between applications;
- Close an application: gesture for multitasking. Check the app’s “tab” to close, and then click on the ⛔️ icon.
And then there are also the combinations designed by Apple that involve the physical side button (the power button):
- Device awake: Click the side button once;
- Siri: click and hold the side button;
- Off/SOS: click and hold both side button and volume button;
- Disable Face ID: While screen is off, click and hold both the side button and volume button;
- Apple Pay: double-click the side button;
- Screenshot: click the side button and “volume up”;
- Reset: click “volume up”, “volume down”, then click and hold the side button.
In short, the absence of the physical home button inevitably forced Apple to move some features to the power button. It will necessarily take some time to get used to them.
The status bar, due to the presence of the True Depth Camera (notch), was divided into two portions. On the left we find the time and the GPS icon, on the right the icon for the telephone reception. Again, you need to get used to it, especially since you need to access the Control Center to view the alarm clock or the battery percentage.
In any case, iOS 11 runs smoothly without any lag, as is expected from an Apple device. The feel with the iPhone X is that you have in your hand the smartphone that best showcases this new version of the Cupertino company’s mobile operating system.
The beating heart of iPhone X is the A11 Bionic SoC paired with 3GB of RAM. It’s the same hardware that we find on board the iPhone 8 Plus. The smartphone is always responsive, even under a heavy load, while gaming for example.
In addition, the excellent performance during web browsing is further exalted from the border less display. Scrolling through web portals on such a large screen and with this detail is really a pleasure, especially for the continuity effect that is visually achieved by the choice of having the corners rounded.
Excellent heat dissipation as well, with the iPhone X shell that is almost always cool. Something we liked with the iPhone 8 Plus and is nice to have in this tenth anniversary Apple phone.
Camera and Face ID
Face ID is Apple’s new face recognition system, replacing the iconic Touch ID and Apple’s answer to the quest of making accessing a protected device faster and more functional.
During setup the system projects 30,000 infrared light points on your face and stores them inside the device, without sending any sensitive data to the Apple server. The Cupertino company focused on this aspect several times, further reiterating its attention to the issue of privacy.
The phone retains the original face scan images, so Apple can be able to update the neural network system without having to re scan your face from time to time. This way, the original data can be automatically applied to the new neural network system and you can simply continue to unlock your iPhone X.
You need to move your face during configuration, so that the Face ID can capture it from a variety of angles and create a depth mapping.
All this thanks to the so-called neural engine, which is based on neural networks, contained within the new iPhone X A11 Bionic SoC, capable of performing 600 billion operations each second. This allows Apple to support the action of Face ID with a machine learning system that can learn new information about your face every time you unlock it.
Once registered with Face ID, a sort of “attention detection” system ensures that your eyes are open and that you are actively and deliberately looking at your device. This is in order to avoid unintentional unlocks, and I must say that these have not occurred during our trial period.
The iPhone X can “see” your face in low brightness conditions. Not to mention the possibility to be able to unlock the phone while wearing a hat, or after growing a beard. I have to say this Face ID feature is really fast and very good.
The only thing I didn’t like about the unlock part is that I still have to swipe upwards in order to access Home, after obviously the face has been recognized. An additional step, in my opinion, that’s not useful at all.
Face ID is involved in other operations, such as confirmation of operations with Apple Pay, or Animoji. In both cases, the feeling is that the Cupertino company has created a technology that is already perfectly integrated into the ecosystem, an aspect of fundamental importance in the logic of having to replace the Touch ID.
The 7MP front sensor, with f/2.2 lens, delivers great shots with an absolutely convincing portrait mode. Shooting in this mode gives you a bokeh effect. To further better the shot you can improve the way the light impacts on the subject’s face, an action that can be done even after taking the photo.
The iPhone X captures all the information of the subject, and is able to improve/simulate the illumination on the face, increasing the depth, as well as completely eliminating the background, with the aim of achieving a true artistic photo. It works, you just have to get one initial shot in good light conditions, and the result is guaranteed.
On the back cover we find a dual camera with a 12MP f/1.8 main lens coupled to a second 12 MP f/2.4 one. Everything is supported by an optical image stabilizer (for both sensors), a 2X optical zoom and a quadruple LED flash.
Very good is the “slow sync” function, which is activated when you shoot at night, or in poor light conditions. In practice, this function combines longer shooting times with timed flashes that improve both subject and background exposure, for a better final image.
The rest is done by the new ISP, which deals with whites balance, focus, exposure but also subjects, background, movements, so as to optimize each shot according to different conditions. The camera is not only better from the hardware point of view (sensor, lens, etc.), but it is also smarter thanks to software algorithms that make extensive use of the raw processing power of the new SoC.
For example: the iPhone X recognizes patterns, such as sky, fabric, snow and ice, or a concert scene, and uses this information to adjust shooting parameters and avoid scenes devoid of detail or for improving them.
Mind you, pulling the iPhone out of your pocket and taking a photo is not enough to take a professional shot. It may be enough in good lighting condition, but in every other case you need a little bit of focus and a steady hand. But after that, you don’t need much more. In short, we are in front of a high-level camera, which also excels in video recording (4K at 60 fps, Slow-Motion Full-HD at 240 fps).
The iPhone X offers 802.11 ac Dual-Band standard. No reception problem, with the smartphone that can keep the connection even in particularly critical areas. There is also Bluetooth 5.0, NFC (usable for Apple Pay), GPS A-GLONAS® with support for Galileo and QZSS, with a satellite fix virtually instant.
The iPhone X also offers LTE Advanced, however it does not yet reach a gigabit. Apple has always been conservative, willing to wait for the next generation chipsets that can offer a better balance between performance and energy efficiency.
Autonomy and wireless charging
The iPhone X integrates a 2,716mAh battery. On standby, power consumption is virtually zero, while the A11 Bionic architecture is exploited in such a way as to ensure minimal battery impact under load. The result is a smartphone that can easily last a full working day.
For wireless charging, Apple has adopted the Qi technology, a widely used standard. I find wireless charging very convenient, not only because it requires you to place the smartphone on a surface, but also due to the lack of a wire that often makes the operation of using the smartphone uncomfortable while charging.
The induction system is designed to work with a case in place, but if this is true for Apple’s original cases it doesn’t necessarily mean so with the 3rd party ones.
There is something new in the Apple world, something different. It is not excluded that many people may not yet be ready for the new features introduced by this smartphone, which partly changes the user experience that the Cupertino company has accustomed us to with their mobile devices.
If you love your iPhone with a Home button and Touch ID, and you need faster speed, better cameras and new features like wireless charging, then it makes sense to choose an iPhone 8 or 8 Plus.
If you’re ready for something new the iPhone X can be the right choice.
It’s expensive and it will take some time to get used to the new user interface. However, the iPhone X is not just the new Apple smartphone today, it represents what iPhones will be in the future.