What People Who've Actually Used the iPhone X Are Saying
The iPhone X is arguably the most hotly anticipated Apple device in years, jam-packed with features and design tune-ups that the company promises will raise the bar for all future smartphones. Following a whiz-bang presentation during which Apple execs flaunted its flashy new Face ID tech, camera specs, and slick new bezel-less display -- not to mention an eye-popping $1000 price tag -- expectations are exceedingly high for people hoping to score one of the anniversary edition pocket computers when they officially hit stores this Friday, November 3.
Reports of a severe production shortage are leading many to believe the device will be tough to come by for a while, but several lucky reviewers have already had the chance to go hands-on with one. So, to help you sort out whether the iPhone X will deliver on the hype, we've rounded up choice tidbits from reviews that've hit the web in recent days.
Face ID works really well... most of the time
In its review, Wired describes the new face-scanning tech as secure, but a bit annoying:
"Does it work? Pretty much. It seems reliable at fending off intruders. I have thrust my phone into several people’s faces—though considerably fewer than the million punims that Apple says I’d have to try before a false positive—and it has not fallen for any of them. I even offered up my own head shot to the camera: no go. How it has dealt with my own real-life face is another matter. There have been times when, despite a clear view of my face, the iPhone X has ghosted me. (Apple tells me that perhaps I wasn’t making what the iPhone X considers eye contact. I wouldn’t want it to turn on every time my face was within camera range, would I?)
The Verge has some mixed feelings:
"The good news is that Face ID mostly works great. The bad news is that sometimes it doesn’t, and you will definitely have to adjust the way you think about using your phone to get it to a place where it mostly works great.
I had a lot of problems pulling the iPhone X out of my pocket and having it fail to unlock until Apple clarified that Face ID works best at a distance of 25 to 50 centimeters away from your face, or about 10 to 20 inches. That’s closer than I usually hold my phone when I pull it out of my pocket to check something, which means I had to actively think about holding the iPhone X closer to my face than every other phone I’ve ever used. “You’re holding it wrong” is a joke until it isn’t, and you can definitely hold the iPhone X wrong.
Face ID works great in the dark, because the IR projector is basically a flashlight, and flashlights are easy to see in the dark. But go outside in bright sunlight, which contains a lot of infrared light, or under crappy florescent lights, which interfere with IR, and Face ID starts to get a little inconsistent."
CNET found Face ID to be more impressive than it expected:
"This is by no means a final test, but the bottom line is that most of the 'real world' tests worked and showed me that Face ID is more resilient than I expected. Face ID didn't mind my sunglasses. Scarves presented some challenges, but that makes sense if they're pulled up over your mouth since they're hiding essential aspects of your face. All the tests worked far better than Samsung's face unlock feature on the Galaxy Note 8 -- though Samsung kept its fingerprint reader on, as an easy backup.
The iPhone X occasionally asked me to re-enter the passcode after a failed Face ID attempt, then locked out further Face ID efforts until I entered the passcode again. If you've used Touch ID, this will remind you of trying to use an iPhone with wet fingers."
The improved cameras are very, very good
Techcrunch found the X's image stabilization ability to knock it out of the park (they tested it at Disneyland):
"I really got a feel for how much the stabilization in the telephoto lens affected my shots when taking pictures of landmarks at night. These shots of the Guardians of the Galaxy tower really highlight the difference in sharpness that you see with a stabilized lens.
The second big way that a stabilized telephoto lens improves your images is in Portrait Mode, especially in anything but bright sunlight. The stabilized lens gives you more confidence to flip it into Portrait Mode in any light that supports the feature. Adding stabilization essentially allows you to shoot all the way down to the low-light cap on the portrait effect itself, which is great.
The telephoto also produces much more pleasant-looking results with a little bit of depth-of-field compression and good bokeh even on “non-portrait” images. It turns the X into a stabilized candid lens that feels great for ‘street photography’ style images. You realize just how much the very wide angle standard lens limits your creative choices once you start shooting more with the telephoto."
The Verge fell in love with the front-facing camera's ability to capture Animojis:
"Of course, the main thing the front camera can do is take Animoji, which are Apple’s animated emoji characters. It’s basically built-in machinima, and probably the single best feature on the iPhone X. Most importantly, they just work, and they work incredibly well, tracking your eyes and expressions and capturing your voice in perfect sync with the animation. Apple’s rolled out a lot of weird additions to iMessage over the years, but Animoji feel much stickier than sending a note with lasers or adding stickers or whatever other gimmicks have been layered on."
CNET found that the new front-facing camera can indeed elevate your selfies, as long as you know what you're doing:
"After 10 hours on the streets of San Francisco, mostly in and around Fisherman's Wharf, I was impressed by how Portrait Mode transformed the everyday selfie into a respectable and elegant photo. I also realize that might not be as easy as it sounds.
The biggest problem I had while shooting was that outdoors, in direct sunlight, the front-facing camera was unable to operate in Portrait Mode. A warning popped up, telling me the subject was too bright. By adjusting the angle of the camera or the angle of my head, I was often able to get the photo I wanted — but not always."
Battery life is also very good
Most reviewers were granted just 24 hours to test the X, so most outlets' thorough battery life tests are pending, but The Independent did find it to be long-lasting:
"The main logic board in the iPhone X is double-sided, so space is freed up for a bigger battery. And each day the iPhone X got me through to nighttime ready for its nightly recharge. It’s not that it was breakthrough battery life compared to, say, the iPhone 8 Plus, mind.
That’s because there are so many more pixels on the X’s screen, and so many things to keep you using the phone. I’d say I spent quite a bit of time each day unlocking the iPhone with Face ID just because I was fascinated by it.
Even at the end of my busiest day, it still had 10 per cent of juice left by bedtime."
Mashable found it to deliver on its promise, too:
"Battery life is rated at a robust 13 hours for video playback. My initial experience with the phone didn't get me that far, but that was because I choose to restore the iPhone X from my iPhone 7 backup. The more data you have on your phone, the harder the new iPhone will work to catch up, especially when connected to Wi-Fi. Over the next two days, and as the iPhone X caught up to my backup data backlog, I watched my battery life get better and better. As I write this, I have 47% battery life left after 8 hours of use."
It's big and powerful, but much less bulky than you might imagine
CNET thinks Apple nailed it with the size and feel:
"I think the X is in the sweet spot that the older iPhone sizes could never perfectly be. It's a good-feeling phone with a nice, large screen."
Wired was impressed with how much power was packed into such a relatively smaller package, compared to other Plus-sized models:
"The iPhone X is a big screen in a compact form factor—Cinerama in a phone booth. Though the device itself is only slightly bigger than the standard iPhone 8, its screen is roughly the same size as that of the iPhone 8 Plus. When you take into account its 'Super Retina' capabilities (another Barnum-esque name concocted by Apple’s marketers), that screen will persistently reassure buyers that emptying their wallets for an iPhone X wasn’t folly. I found the display a noticeable, and greatly pleasurable, advance over my 'old' iPhone 7, whether watching The Big Sick, streaming a live football game, or simply swiping through Instagram."
Mashable is a big fan of the size and feel, too:
"Yes, there are similarities between the iPhone X and, especially, the iPhone 8 Plus, but the way the iPhone X looks, feels and, most importantly, works, puts it on a different plane."
There are a few new design details that take some getting used to
According to The Independent, the "notch" atop the display where the True Depth front-facing camera system sits is a bit of an eyesore, at least at first:
"At first, it’s something that really dominates what you see. It takes a chunk out of the Home screen, for instance, which has consequences for the information revealed in the top line of the display, of which more in a moment.
Your eye is really drawn to it when you’re viewing a photo on the screen and you zoom in. Or when you’re using an app like 1Password, the excellent password saver that I literally could not manage without, which has been optimised for the new display shape. Or watching video, which you can choose to view letterboxed or full-screen, but for one notch.
And then, you suddenly realise after a few days’ use, you barely notice it, in fact viewing a photo at maximum magnification again emphasises how the display dominates the phone as the photo sneaks into the top corners."
The Verge agrees:
"Covering the entire surface of the phone with the screen has consequences. There’s no getting around the fact that some of the sensors, camera lenses, microphones and speakers need to be forward facing; Apple addresses that by lining them up on a blacked-out notch on the top of the screen—kind of the Area 51 of the new iPhone. (Conspiracy theorists note: When you take a screenshot, The Notch disappears!) It’s an aesthetic setback (what would Steve Jobs have said?), but you get used to it, like watching a play when someone with big hair is off-center in the row ahead of you—a tiny distraction in your peripheral vision that you eventually get past."
However, Techcrunch found the notch to be a non-issue:
"In use, I have to say, the notch is just zero problem for me. I don’t give a rat’s ass about it. I know I’ll probably catch heat but I’m not carrying water for Apple here. I think it is absolutely a compromise but, after using Face ID and the True Depth camera for other stuff, I am willing to deal with it."
The Verge also found the bulky "bump" of the rear-camera to be distracting, but only at first:
"The camera bump on the back is huge; a larger housing than the iPhone 8 Plus fitted onto a much smaller body and designed to draw attention to itself, especially on my white review unit. There are definitely going to be people who think it’s ugly, but it’s growing on me."
Of course, as with every new Apple product -- and especially one with as much buzz as the iPhone X -- it's guaranteed that lots more people will have strong opinions once they're in the hands of millions of users. Until then, hopefully the above snippets can help you weigh whether it's worth dropping a cool grand on your next smartphone.