iPhone X review: What you need to know about Apple’s mega hype machine

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If you’re planning to shift to an iPhone, now could be the right time – if you’re ready to splurge for it

The iPhone X is Apple’s most advanced smartphone – and also its priciest.

Where do we even start with this?

Doubling down on what I’ve said a couple of days back, this is the most polarising smartphone mankind has ever seen, dividing opinion even between Apple users.

And – to a certain extent – it looks like Apple is trying to replicate what it did in 2007, when it launched the original iPhone: reinvent.

The 10th-anniversary flagship device is a major shift from previous generations, one that will surely expose users into a whole new way of using the smartphone they’ve come to adore.

After a few days of testing the iPhone X, we’ve uncovered some interesting stuff about it. We’ll try to keep it straightforward and simple – otherwise, we’ll be here forever.

Design

It comes in two colours: silver and space gray. And both have surgical-grade, stainless-steel chrome edges and an iPhone 8-esque glass back. Apple says that, coupled with other finishing enhancements, this is the strongest glass ever on a smartphone.

The iPhone X has the biggest iPhone display at 5.8 inches – though overall is smaller than the previous Pluses.

The usual suspects are on the edges: sleep/wake (side) button on the right, and volume rocker and mute/unmute to the left. The Lightning port remains below.

And everybody knows that the beloved Home button is gone. Kaput. This isn’t without precedent: Apple infamously killed off the 3.5mm headphone jack on the iPhone 7, showing that they aren’t afraid of giving the red card to one of its own. How much will this affect those who’ve grown accustomed to it?

Also, it remains IP67-rated, meaning its water-, splash- and dust-resistant.

New presses and gestures

Here’s how: you’ll have to familiarise yourself with some new moves to make up for the loss of the Home button. Heck, it doesn’t even have virtual buttons below. (Those in parenthesis were how it was done previously.)

To take a screenshot, you have to press the side and volume up buttons at the same time (side plus Home buttons). To call Siri, you need to press and hold the side button (press and hold Home). To reboot the device, or soft reset, quickly press the volume up and volume down buttons in succession, then press and hole the side key until the Apple logo appears; this also applies to the iPhone 8 (hold side and volume down buttons until Apple logo appears). To switch it off, you need to press and hold the side and either volume button simultaneously (press and hold side button).

Now, for the juicier part. With the Home button gone, here’s what you need to do to navigate your way through the iPhone X. To exit an app, slide from below. To open the recent apps tiles, slide from below, hold it, wait for the tiles to show up and swipe to the right. To close an app, you need to hold a tile until red minus signs appear on top of them; this is an extra step, as it would’ve been more convenient if Apple retained the previous method of just swiping a tile up to get rid of it.

Well, there’s an extra step now to close down apps.

Which also means you can’t access the Command Center from below. And where is it? See that notch on top that houses the front camera and earpiece (which isn’t exactly sitting well with everyone)? Swipe down on the right of it and you’ll find the center, which still contains the usual suspects, including connectivity, brightness, volume and music player, among others. Swiping down from the left side, meanwhile, reveals notifications.

Oh, and to wake up the iPhone X – assuming Raise to Wake is disabled – you can either press the side button (as always) or simply give the screen a little tap. To unlock it is an entirely different thing.

Face ID

Which leads us to this: the feature that led to the demise of the Home button and, with it, Touch ID.

Face ID is Apple’s latest answer to the biometric wars on smartphones. And it doesn’t just merely take a snap of your face: to register your likeness, you have to rotate your head gently – ‘draw a small circle with your nose’, as they say – twice. When capturing your face, the new TrueDepth camera system – plus the new, more powerful A11 Bionic chip inside – underneath that notch blasts out 30,000 infrared dots to get a very accurate image of your face. Apple says this is virtually fool-proof, and won’t be bypassed by photos and even Hollywood-grade, just-like-the-real-thing masks.

‘Draw a small circle with your nose’ is what Apple says to register your looks on Face ID.

Apple says Face ID will work with most sunglasses or even if you have a hat on. If your face changes – say, for example, you had a huge beard and decided to shave it off, it will ask for your passcode to verify that it’s you. They also advice children 13 and below not to use Face ID, as their facial features rapidly change doing these years.

And does Face ID accurately work? Yes, it does – although there are a number of times that it actually didn’t, for some reason, taking two or three times before it finally recognised my gorgeous looks. Otherwise, it’s quick to react – even in total darkness.

One interesting thing: Face ID needs to capture your entire face – especially the eyes, nose and mouth. If you close your eyes, it won’t unlock – when closed only one eye, it still worked. I tried covering my mouth; sometimes it worked, most of the time it didn’t. Covering your cheeks won’t affect it, apparently.

So, for example, if you suspect that your beau is doing something fishy behind your back, you can’t just hold up the iPhone X over his or her face while he or she is sleeping to unlock it. (Missing Touch ID even more now?)

I also tried Face ID while holding the iPhone X in landscape and inverted manners – it didn’t work.

It’s accuracy, can lead to something a bit annoying: even if you just want to, say, check the time, without having any intention of using the iPhone X further, it unlocks the device, meaning you’ll still have to press the side button to lock it again. Better be careful before leaving your iPhone X some place where someone can actually access its contents.

Face ID also replaces another key duty of Touch ID: verifying your identity for Apple Pay, as well as logging you in to specific apps that have this feature.

Apple Pay is already fast with Touch ID; it gets even faster with Face ID.

Also, when in standby mode and a notification pops up, it will only show its contents once Face ID verifies you

One more thing before we leave Face ID behind: after five failed attempts to recognise your face, it will then ask for your passcode. How did I figure that out? I did a little experiment by covering my mouth to purposely let Face ID not recognise me: after three fails, it worked on the fourth; after four fails, it worked on the fifth; and after five fails, it asked for my passcode.

Display

The iPhone X sports an OLED panel on its Super Retina HD display and has a 458ppi density. Its brightness is a pleasure to the eyes, and it should be, because Apple says that, while not the first phone out there with OLED, it’s the first to rise to Apple’s standards.

The display clocks in at 5.8 inches, bigger than the 5.5 inches of the previous iPhone Pluses but still smaller overall, with a screen-to-body ratio of about 83 per cent, thanks to the ‘all-screen’ design.

Two things about that all-screen thing: one, the bezels still seem too thick – three millimetres, according to my trusty ol’ ruler. I personally think that a one-millimetre bezel would’ve made it even more glorious.

That notch on top takes a bit of display – though it comes out whole as a screenshot.

And remember that notch we mentioned a while ago? This is another thing that takes away the full monty of the all-screen display. But it’s understandable that there may have not been any other choice – but, again, Apple could’ve made it even slimmer, just enough to accommodate the front camera and earpiece. And I have a suggestion: just like in one particular render before, why not just carve out the holes for those two thingies? I’m not an engineer, but I have an idea how tough that might be to pull off. Well, who knows?

Here’s one more thing about that notch: when you zoom in on an image or video while using the iPhone X in landscape mode, you will find that notch a bit weird dangling from either side. By default, when you view something, it doesn’t take up the entire screen. This means that it’s not maximising the entire screen real estate. It will, however, come out whole if you screenshot it.

Get used to that notch on either side if you stretch a video or photo all the way to the edges.

Ditto for some apps that have not been optimised for the iPhone X. For example, Angry Birds 2, which runs in landscape mode, leaves almost 19 millimetres on both sides, and Super Mario Run, which works in portrait, has 15-millimetre blackholes on top and below.

See what I mean with those ‘blackholes’?

Using these apps makes me feel as if I was using a 4.7-inch iPhone instead, as it appears to cram the app toward the centre. (And in a bit of coincidence, while writing this, an update for Super Mario Run popped up, so now it’s running an all-screen show. Yipee!)

Yes, I’m still playing Minion Rush to this day.

I’m guessing that app developers are scrambling to optimise their apps to make full use of the iPhone X’s screen.

Also, the strip on top (the one with the notch), by default, only shows the time and location icon on the left, and signal strength, data/Wi-Fi and battery on the right. Accessing the Command Center shifts it a bit: signal strength, service provider and data/Wi-Fi on the left, and location, headset, alarm (if enabled) and battery level on the right.

Miss the old layout on top? Pull down the Command Center from the upper-right hand area.

Here’s one more thing that irks me: when you use the virtual keyboard, there’s a really noticeable empty space – save for the emoji and dictation buttons that are located there – below the keys. I don’t understand why it was made that way; finding some other way to slot in those two keys along with the keyboard (or above it, just like when you’re using a browser) would’ve given more space for the main window. The keyboard, in effect, takes almost half of the screen, just like an iPad in landscape mode.

What’s that almost empty space below doing there?!

Camera

The dual-lens camera is back, and both are now armed with optical image stabilisation. It also sports a larger and faster sensor, a new colour filter and deeper pixels. The telephoto camera now has a f/2.4 aperture – compared to the iPhone 8’s f/2.8 – meaning it can absorb more light – 33 per cent more, to be exact.

That 33 per cent more light is as good as advertised; photo below was taken with the lights off, with the only illumination coming from outside the room.

Generally speaking, results are nice, though I could make a case that they are a bit similar to the results in the iPhone 8 (and even 7); pound-for-pound shots are a tad brighter, and using its max 10x zoom also yields the same results as before. The good thing though is that it snaps faster.

No problems with general shots; image below was at 5x zoom.

But the biggest news is on the other side. Of course, aside from everything Face ID, the front snapper now also has Portrait Lighting, meaning you can now also omit the background when taking shot of yourself (available in two of the five filters available).

Nope, this isn’t Photoshopped; it’s Portrait Lighting using the TrueDepth-powered front snapper.

Animoji

If this was a virtual halloween party and we had to pick out a winner for best in costume, everybody would win. And this is your chance to fulfill your dream of finally becoming a poop (sort of).

Animoji is a whole new way to express yourself. To use it, go to iMessages, pick out a contact (who has iMessages) and tap on the Animoji icon below. The TrueDepth system tracks 50 muscles on your face, which mirrors it to the emoji you’ve chosen. You can record your facial expressions along with your voice and send it using iMessages.

Everyone’s dream of becoming a poop can now come true.

You have to remember though that you and your recipient must both have iOS 11 installed. But here’s a bit of good news: your recipient does not need to have an iPhone X to receive an Animoji. So go ahead and pepper them with Animojis and make them green with envy. Currently, there are only a dozen emojis to choose from, but we’re quite sure more will be added to this in the future.

Fun fact: the poop emoji is the only one with eyeballs. You can express yourself more with it (rolling eyes, anyone?).

Battery

This is simple: I started using it at around 8pm, the 10 per cent warning message popped up at around 10:30pm the following day and it conked out shortly after midnight the day after. So with the way I use a phone-calls, messaging, lots of games, surfing, not much of social media (only use it for work) it’s safe to say it’ll last well over a day.

And as far as charging is concerned, it took me less than a couple of hours to get it fully up and running.

And with that notch on top – limiting the number of icons that can be displayed – the option to also show the battery percentage is also gone; it’s nowhere in settings. However, pulling down the Command Center will show it.

One thing I noticed: shortly before the juice ran out, I noticed – for about a couple of minutes or so – the iPhone X started stuttering a bit. I guess that’s its way to tell you that it desperately needs a charger already.

Oh, and like the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, it also supports wireless charging, and works with any Qi-backed mat. Watch out for the AirPower charging mat early next year.

And so.

The iPhone X is a wonderful device – but it’s not without its flaws, though most of them are on the software side, which should be corrected soon enough) Well, it should justify its Dh4,099 (64GB) and Dh4,729 (256GB) price tags, right? Which is what’s mainly going against it: ‘X’is for ‘expensive’. A lot of people are balking at this, but at the same time may be convinced that it’s worth it. If you’d ask me about upgrading from a pre-iPhone 8 device, now’s the right time to do so.

THE LOWDOWN

CPUA11 Bionic chip, Neural engine, M11 motion co-processor
Memory3GB
Storage64GB/256GB
Display5.8″ Super Retina HD, OLED multi-touch, 2436 x 1125, 458ppi, True Tone, P3
PlatformiOS 11
CameraDual 12MP wide-angle/telephoto, OIS, Portrait Mode/Lighting
TrueDepth Camera7MP, Portrait Mode, Portrait Lighting, Animoji
DurabilityIP67 – splash-, water-, dust-resistant
ConnectivityUp to LTE, Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 5.0, NFC; Lightning connector; nano SIM
Battery2716mAh, wireless charging
Key featuresFace ID, Apple Pay
PriceDh4,099/Dh4,729

Goodies: Sleek design and size, TrueDepth system, amazing speed

Baddies: Extremely expensive, Face ID sometimes acts weird, that notch above