Let's just get this out of the way. This is the best iPhone Apple has ever made. My first iPhone was the 3G and so this is my 11th iPhone (3G, 3GS, 4, 4s, 5, 5s, 6 Plus, 6s Plus, 7 Plus, 8 Plus). When I think back to the big shifts a few come to mind
- The 3G - applications, fast internet, a great web browser
- The stainless and glass iPhone 4 and Retina display
- The "taller" iPhone 5 with an extra row of icons
- The 5s with Touch ID
- The Plus sized iPhone 6 which thrust giant sized phones into our lives
- 6s with faster Touch ID and can’t remember what else
- The Plus sized iPhone 7 with two lenses and the buttonless Touch ID
- The Plus sized iPhone 8 with true tone and true motion screen
The reality is that for the iPhone 6, 7, 8 Apple has been perfecting something that is a bit over 2 years old. That's not a bad thing, just not life changing. The camera on the phone has gotten so good that in a few more years we'll probably never see point and shoot cameras again. Computational photography will re-define what we think of as "good" and "artistic" and maybe SLRs will get squeezed soon. The thing is there is more computing power being applied to photos as they are captured that it is really getting hard for a traditional camera to keep up. The iPhone has more sensors, more context of the world around you and can create images that your traditional camera simply can't and will never be as convenient for instant sharing.
But the iPhone X is nothing like the iPhones of the last 5 or so years. It's an entirely new beast.
I have been using an iPhone 8 Plus for a few weeks now and have already gotten used to some of the "new" features found in the X and of course iOS 11. So the surprises of the iPhone X are even more profound for me. Yesterday was a magical day of discovery - ways this phone would make my daily interactions better and more delightful. There are months ahead of small things and big things that I will appreciate and come to define a new set of expectations.
In the time Apple has already made us used to seamless interoperability of watches, headphones, tablets and computers. iMessages are effortless to read and reply to, headphones work across phone and watch and so on. It's a powerful ecosystem that will command Apple nearly 85 billion dollars in revenue this quarter. That's right, Apple is on path to having a market cap of nearly 1 trillion dollars.
So, let's get into the details on what I love about this phone.
If you are coming from a plus sized phone the first thing you will notice is that this phone is smaller (a lot) and lighter. It fits in my pocket again. Years of keeping my phone in my back pocket, jacket or out on the table are now over. I can return to the normalcy of having a phone that is not a tablet size. I'm cherishing these moments where I still feel the impact of this as I will soon forget and this will become normal.
At the same time you give up very little as a result. The screen of the X is nearly the same size as the plus. It's a bit narrower and taller.
If you are coming from a regular sized iPhone you will gain a lot of new features such as the two camera lenses (wide angle and telephoto) as well as a larger screen.
If you are using an iPhone 5SE by choice - well I'm not sure this review is for you.
Bravo to Apple to building a phone that is right in between the two sizes. It's Goldilocks "just right".
Here you can see the relative size of the iPhone 6, the X, and the 8 Plus.
I'll tell you that you get used to the new size right away and then realize how oh so horrible it's been using the giant iPhone plus for so long.
Wow. It's stunning. Bezels stink! Take them all away! It's a thing to behold.
iOS 11 changes
There are some subtle changes to iOS 11 that I have noticed. In reality this OS is really different on a X and non X phones.
- The status bar has changed due to the "notch" and things like battery % are always hidden in control center. I personally like this a lot.
- There is more teaching UI in the setup of the phone. This is welcome and helps people learn the gestures right away
- Notifications are in privacy mode (can't read the content) till you are recognized via Face ID
- The lock screen has an improved flashlight and camera button (press and hold) that are almost like hardware buttons
- The screen wakes up when you touch it
- Quitting apps is a lot harder. Apple probably did this to break people of this bad habit since it really doesn't do what people think it does. To quit apps now you have to get into the switcher, and then press and hold and then you can remove the app
The screen is a lot taller. this means that reading web pages, emails and so on are better. It reminds me of moving to the iPhone 5 from the 4. At first it was a bit odd, but you quickly get used to it. This article goes into the details of how it's different.
To me the biggest change in daily use is the Home bar. It's subtle but Apple really added some nice new features without any hardware home button.
I won't do justice to describing how you can now switch applications REALLY FAST so watch this video to see what I mean. This is an excellent video. At the 32 second mark you'll see the new home bar app switching in action. These gestures are impressive and powerful - and much faster than the home button.
The biggest problem with the new Home bar is that once you get used to it, you start doing this gesture on all other iOS devices. To me that's a sign that Apple was successful in teaching us a more natural way to use our devices and our brains and bodies like it.
To be honest, it's the most invisible feature of the new iPhone. I forgot about it. I have not had a single Face ID failure in 2 days. It works with my eye glasses and without. It works in pitch black darkness and in glare (by comparison my Surface devices don't work in glare very well). By the time you lift your phone and are ready to touch the screen you are unlocked and ready to go. Note - I disabled the feature where you have to have "attention" - eyes open to improve the unlock.
So in short, non issue - it's great and hurry up and bring to our other devices.
Super cute and fun. Let's see if this is another Apple dud like the dumb Apple Watch features that they removed. I do feel that this will be a big hit with lots of people the same way regular emoji are and I have already used a few times. It took me a bit to figure out there are two kinds of Animoji - static and animated. The animated once project your voice and are cool.
The overview video Apple made does a nice job covering this.
The iPhone already has some of the best camera technology and it's even better on the X. The iPhone X improves the telephoto lens (54mm) but a half stop and adds an image stabilizer. The front facing camera gains portrait mode like the dual camera models.
The white iPhone X is stunning. If I were to do it again this is the one I would have gotten. They are both black on the front, the only difference is the sizes - the silver / white phone is stainless and the black phone black. The polished stainless reminds me of the original iPhone and the iPhone 4.
Weird things and new things
I've tried to capture things that are weird or that I don't like. There is really just one and it's this huge amount of space below the keyboard.
Can't really figure out what is going on here. On the Apple keyboard you gain a larger space bar because the globe and mic are in the bottom area. Google and others have not adjusted their layout for the X yet. Speaking of Google - zero Google apps have been updated for the iPhone X. Shame. I don't give Microsoft top marks on this one either - but many are already updated (like OneDrive!)
There are other surprises and hard things.
- Taking a screen shot - Volume up button + Power button
- Turning off phone - Volume down button + Power button
- Apple Pay - some double tap of Power button - this one sucks
- Siri - press and hold power button
I was frankly surprised that there wasn't teaching UI for this.
This is an iPhone that is deserving of the name iPhone X. It's been a remarkable 10 years.