iPhone X: Initial Impressions

If you saw my post the other day, you would know that I got the iPhone X on launch day.

It has now been almost 48hrs since I first setup the device (at the time of writing), so I’d like to share my initial impressions. I’ll categories them into each category and address common queries throughout the post:

Design/Notch:

The design has really grown on me since I opened the box, and I really love the stainless steel band and all glass design. It looks gorgeous and weight of it all together makes the device feel very premium.

I noticed the glass on the back like some others online have said, is a lot gripper than expected. I can easily say it is quite a bit gripper on the back then a Galaxy S8.

I did put a tempered glass screen protector and fully-protected case on my phone, mainly from the point of view that I do not want to damage the device at all. And no, I did not get and not a big fan of AppleCare, from the view of waste of money.

Without a case, it was definitely hard to use the screen easily on a flat surface due to the protruding camera on the back, but the case I got which only sticks out 0.3mm more than the rear camera, is all that is needed to make it not rock.

Now to address one of the main concerns most people have with this phone… the notch.

I don’t see it as that big of an issue. Yes it is there and yes it can be slightly annoying when watching a movie on it that takes advantage of the full width of the display in landscape mode, but it’s not that big of an issue.

When watching a lot of videos, particularly on YouTube which are in a 16:9 ratio, there’s black vertical bars on each side so, it’s likely only going to be an issue when watching movies if that is a concern for you.

I also found that in those cases that I watched movie trailers that used the full screen, that I was resting my left thumb over the notch area, which made it a lot easier to watch when videos are full screen.

In portrait mode, notch does disappear when you have black status bar or using a dark mode, like in Twitter app on iOS, but with colour around it in portrait, once you are engrossed in the content on your screen, you mainly forget it’s there. I was skeptical slightly based on what other tech reviewers have been saying, but it is mainly true. I don’t see myself looking at the notch anymore than I did looking at the camera and speaker on my 5s, with it’s fat bezels.

In short, I don’t find the notch (called the TrueDepth Camera System) to be a real issue, but I definitely want all of it’s components under the screen when I upgrade my phone eventually. I wouldn’t delay upgrading your phone purely because of the notch.

Display:

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The Super Retina Display (which name is weird), being made out of OLED is a big setup in display quality.

Side by side comparison to my iPhone 5s, it made me wonder how I used my 5s for so long. The colour are more vibrant, blacks are incredibly dark and colours are vibrant.

Putting it next to a Galaxy S8, the colours are not as overly saturated like on Samsung AMOLED displays, but are what I would argue is a sweet spot of a real-life colour representation. The colours that do stand out, tend to be because of the colour choices used in iOS, like the new App Store icon.

I am glad I waited for this design of the iPhone X because it used almost all of the front of the device now. The case I put on covers essentially all the bezel around the display (including the notch) so it makes me feel like I only look at the display and no bezel at all.

I also tweeted with Rene Ritchie from iMore, who said in this initial impressions that the screen updated a lot faster, but after clarifying it with him, it’s the screen can recognise your finger input at 120Hz (up from 60Hz presumably), but still only displays content on the screen at 60Hz. In short, the screen is a lot more responsive, but the screen itself does not show smoother animations, like ProMotion does on the latest iPad Pros. This is likely a limitation of OLED, but ProMotion will be one of my main incentives for upgrading my phone in future years.

During setup, it gives you an option to turn on True Tone Display which it was already on during setup, but you can press to see it when turned off and as soon as I did I thought the blue was quite intense, so I kept True Tone on. It is that subtle that you essentially forget it is turned on, but it is better for your eyes.

Software/New Navigation:

When Apple first announced the new navigation controls of swipe up to go home, swipe up and pause for multitasking etc. I was not 100% confident that this was the best way to go.

IMG_5676
Home Indicator at the bottom is the primary form of navigation.

I can tell you now after a couple of days usage, I am confident that all devices in the future that have a full-screen design, will adopt this method of navigation.

That being said, I do think that Apple’s iPhones and iPads currently on sale, present the most fragmented navigation of any year of iOS devices, since the original iPhone. The iPhone 8 vs. iPhone X vs. iPads running iOS 11, all have slightly different forms of navigation. Swipe up from bottom gets you the following on each:

  • iPhone 8: Control Centre
  • iPhone X: Home Screen
  • iPads with iOS 11: Multitasking with Control Centre on right side.

I think what will happen is these methods will all be used in the future, but future iPads with the iPhone X like design of bezel-less display, will adopt the X’s navigation gestures.

There are only 2 things I am not the biggest fan of in the iPhone X. The first being accessing Control Centre from the top right (which can be resolved with Reachability) mainly when using it in my left hand, but is not that bad when done in my right hand (yes I’m right handed).

The other thing is that I have quickly come to learn in multitasking that you can’t immediately swipe up on apps listed to dismiss like all other versions of iOS, but if you long press on one app and the red minus buttons appear you can then swipe up on them to dismiss. This certainly makes sense from a not doing it accidentally point of view, but I hope they add a toggle in settings to allow swipe up on apps to dismiss in multitasking without needing to do the long press first. It makes sense for this option to not be set by default though, I completely understand why Apple did what it did. They might have also done this to make it harder to delete apps from multitasking which uses more battery as clearing out the RAM.

Camera:

I haven’t had much of a chance to use the camera on the X yet, but I did take a few quick photos and the colours are very accurate to real-life and really good for adapting to the lighting in each shot. Quite sharp and no grainy effect at all when zoomed in from a photo taken with either lens. Will likely explore more in-depth for the full review.

iOS 11 also brings ARKit support, and I’ve tried the app “TapMeasure” where is your Augmented Reality Tape Measure, and it is actually quite compelling how accurate it is. I tried measuring the length of my desk on it and it was exactly the right length. High recommend you download it if you are running iOS 11 on an iPhone 6s or newer.

Face ID:

Now the next area of the phone that has got a lot of criticism is Face ID.

Face ID is one of those technologies, where if you know how it works and how to adapt to using it, it works perfectly.

Since I set it up and used it Face ID in it’s intended conditions, it has yet to fail on me.

I was a fan of the idea of Face ID from the point of view of reliability, speed, accuracy and security.

I tend to have sweaty hands quite a bit, which got incredibly annoying with using the iPhone 5s. I must of had an unsuccessful rate (meaning I need to go my PIN in the end), of 1 in every 5 unlocks. On my iPhone X in the ideal conditions such as pull phone out of pocket and stare at phone, it works EVERY SINGLE TIME!

The times it doesn’t work for me, it’s likely because I am not in full view of the TrueDepth camera system. An example of this is when it is on my desk and I lean over slightly with it flat on the table, it doesn’t work, but if I lean more and put my head more over the phone itself, then it works perfectly.

I also setup Face ID on initial setup with a 3 day growth and later on when I shaved, both partially and fully, it still recognized me. From what I’ve seen, if you get into this scenario and it doesn’t work, it would probably be best for the algorithm if you set it up when clean shaved then it would learn your face when you grow the beard again.

I am getting into the phone as fast as I am doing the swipe up gesture, so performance is not really an issue for me. Probably on par with how fast Touch ID 1st generation is on iPhone 5s and 6/Plus.

Also 3rd party apps including one of my own, worked out of the box with Face ID when programmed for Touch ID, and other uses for Face ID such as unlocking your locked notes, authenticating purchases on the App Store and using Face ID to go into iTunes Connect are all now done a hair faster than Touch ID but works every-time.

Also to touch on it briefly, Animoji’s whilst looking stupid are actually incredibly fast and accurate to replicate your facial expressions on screen. I am also one that likes all of these Animoji Karaoke videos going viral on Twitter currently.

In short, I have a very positive first impression of Face ID but will leave my full perspective for the final review.

Speakers/Headphones:

I watch quite a few videos on my phone, particularly YouTube and the stereo speakers are really good.

I thought I’d be able to tell the sounds apart for what goes to the left and right ear, which I haven’t really noticed yet, but the sound is incredibly louder and a lot clearer than on my 5s. I’m definitely happy with the speakers.

Going from the 5s to the X does have a downside to it, besides Touch ID and the larger form-factor, being the omission of the 3.5mm headphone jack.

I haven’t had much use case for this scenario yet, but did try the Lightning to 3.5mm adapter and it worked perfectly (as it should) and sound was probably on par if not a hair punchier than on my 5s, but overall good.

Only scenario I have is in my car with an cassette to 3.5mm adapter (old school I know), which I’d need to use the adapter with, so I’ll likely keep that attached to it in the car and get another one when I’m in an Apple Store next to use for other use cases.

This whole process of now owning a phone just these past couple of days alone as made me start to think more about getting a cheap but decent set of Bluetooth earphones or headphones. I do own a pair of Bluetooth earphones I got off eBay for like $15, but they never stayed in my ear properly (in-ear design) and had the skipping issue Bluetooth has been known for. EarPods stay in my ears perfectly and the only reason I’m turned off by AirPods is the price of AU$230.

Performance:

I could of talked about this first, but I wanted to save one of the best things for last.

THIS PHONE IS BLOODY FAST!!!

I did the math before buying the iPhone X and figured out the A11 Bionic would be 4x faster in CPU performance than the A7 Chip in the 5s (first to get 64-bit) and it feels even faster than that.

Apps just barely have any lag on it at all. I noticed quite a few frame drops on my 5s which I now do notice on my X. One example is in YouTube if you are playing a video then swipe it down to the bottom right corner as a thumbnail, on my 5s it would like pause half-way for probably 0.5 seconds before completing the animation, where as now it’s almost instant. If that animation was done in a second at 60FPS, I probably saw 35-40FPS on the 5s and now see almost 60FPS on the X.

It’s not just animation though, switching apps via the bottom swipe gesture, loading apps like Super Mario Run are probably 2x faster, opening Subway Surfers is now like 5 seconds instead of what felt like 25-30 seconds. It sounds stupid, but the fact that games open that much faster makes it more of an incentive for me to play games more often on my phone and more graphically intensive games. Apps like Facebook and Twitter also now load in 2-3 seconds instead of 10-20 seconds.

Wi-Fi is also a bit faster with 802.11ac which is a step up from my 802.11n 5s. Haven’t had a chance to test Bluetooth yet, but connects with my watch well.

In short, the phone is ridiculously fast, but I do half wonder if my 5s was just getting even slower because they were optimizing iOS for it less, the older it got. I do hope that Apple takes the time to optimize each device as much as possible, before they drop support for it, so those device can be at least usable, even if it is not the most up to date thing out there. Because who knows if someone inherits an old iPhone, really likes it

Conclusion:

I do not regret getting the iPhone X at all! Being an App Developer made it more of an reason to get this particular model.

I’ll save my thoughts for the full review, but I will say before I wrap up, that I’m not sure if this phone is for everyone, like how the latest iPhone was always made for everyone in previous years.

Mainly due to apps needing to be updated, the new navigation gestures and the price in particular, that all combined is what makes me think the vast majority of people (out-side of the tech world) would not be a fan off this device.

Also curious to see what Apple might do next year and future years, when we know that it’s likely they’ll bring out a larger version of the iPhone X, which I’m telling you know would be far too big.

And that’s a wrap.

Be sure to hit that follow button here and on Twitter to get my full review, which at this stage I’m planning to release late November or early December (hopefully when stock availability meets demand).

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