iPhone X Review : Your (expensive) ticket to the future

More than a decade has passed since the first iPhone came along, changing the way we think about smartphones forever. The iPhone X was supposed to do the same, at least that’s what the hype surrounding its release told us. Now that it’s out, you might be questioning whether it was worth all that fuss, not to mention its insane Rs 95390/$999 starting price. We’re here to answer your queries with our in-depth review of the iPhone X.

Specifications:

– OS: iOS 11
– Display: 5.8-inch Super Retina OLED, 2436 x 1125 pixels
– CPU: A11 Bionic
– Storage: 64GB/256GB
– RAM: 3GB
– Camera: 12MP + 12MP rear, 7MP front
– Weight: 174g
– Size: 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7mm
– Connectivity: 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fiac, NFC, GPS, GLONASS, Bluetooth 5.0

Display:

iPhone X Notch

While Apple would have you believe that the iPhone X is all screen, anyone with eyes can see there’s a prominent interruption up top. Commonly referred to as the notch, this little island has sparked divisive reactions. On a day-to-day basis though, we found that the black strip faded into the background when the phone is held vertically since it doesn’t really interrupt anything on the display.

The same can’t really be said for when you turn to landscape mode. Some apps like YouTube and Netflix let you expand the video to fill up the screen, but you’d risk losing out on some details as a result. It’s not ideal, but it’s just something you’ll have to live with since no one’s rushing to make videos tailored to the iPhone X yet.

Notch problems aside, the iPhone X’s Super Retina 5.8-inch 2436×1125p HDR display truly is stunning to look at. Apple is making full use of its OLED upgrade, with pitch blacks and vibrant colors blending together for a great 1000000 to 1 contrast ratio. The difference in black intensity was immediately obvious when we compared it to our iPhone 6S’ positively gray LCD panel.

iPhone X YouTube Original
iPhone X – YouTube Original
iPhone X YouTube Full Screen
iPhone X – YouTube Full Screen

With a maximum brightness of 625 nits and a pixel density of 458ppi, sunlight legibility and color reproduction was always excellent. There’s also the iPhone X’s useful True Tone feature which automatically adjusts the white balance according to where you are.

We noticed that the iPhone X’s screen shifted to a light blue hue when looked at from an extreme angle. This is standard behavior for OLED panels, with even Apple acknowledging that this might occur in its support pages. You can rest assured that it’s not very noticeable. We tried watching some videos from such off-angles and didn’t notice any major drop in image quality or color.

Apple has also admitted that the iPhone X could suffer from screen burn-in like all other OLED screens after extended use. It’s tried to mitigate this problem and to its credit, we didn’t observe any image retention while using the phone. Try not to keep the same static image at maximum brightness for an extended period of time, and you probably won’t observe it either.

Design:

iPhone X Back

The iPhone X looks incredibly stylish and feels great to hold in your hands. It’s a bit on the heavier side at 174g, but never caused us any strain. The all-glass body and stainless steel frame give it a premium touch and make sure the device catches the light from all angles. Both are fingerprint and smudge magnets, so it’s best to have a case handy.

This will also help you safeguard all that vulnerable glass. Apple might claim it’s “the most durable glass ever in a smartphone,” but numerous drop tests have proven otherwise. We actually noticed a few scratches on the OLED display after use, so perhaps a screen guard might be in order as well.

You’ll find the volume rocker and Ring/Silent button at their usual places on the left and a slightly bigger Side button and SIM card slot on the right. The Lightning port is centrally located at the bottom, flanked by a dummy grille hiding the barometric vent on the left and loudspeaker on the right.

iPhone X Bottom

The headphone jack is still gone, but you do get IP67 certification to keep out water and dust. The earpiece is nestled within the notch up front and serves as the second speaker for stereo sound.

The notch houses a number of parts which Apple collectively calls the TrueDepth Camera system. Starting from the extreme left, you’ll find the Infrared Camera, Flood Illuminator, Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor, Speaker, Microphone, Front camera, and Dot projector.

iPhone X Camera Bump Comparison
iPhone X Camera Bump Comparison

Flipping to the rear, Apple didn’t hold back on the camera bump for the iPhone X. It’s fairly thick and will cause the smartphone to tilt slightly when kept on a surface. This is where a case might come in useful again since it will level things up so the iPhone X rests flat. The antenna lines have gotten eliminated almost entirely, with only 4 small white strips remaining behind on the steel band.

Sound:

iPhone X EarPods

Apple hasn’t really hyped on the audio capabilities of the iPhone X in its promotional materials, but sound is easily one of the phone’s biggest strengths. We were pleasantly surprised by how loud the iPhone X got in large spaces or even in a separate room. The stereo speakers always played crystal clear audio without any distortion and full bass even at the highest level.

The bundled Lightning EarPods were yet another surprise, delivering loud sound with deep bass even in noisy outdoor conditions. The difference in quality was especially noticeable when we compared it to the iPhone 6S’ 3.5mm EarPods which we attached using the included Lightning to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter. The older earphones were much quieter in comparison with a significant lack of depth.

Face ID:

iPhone X Face ID

Here we come to Face ID, the splashiest new feature the iPhone X has to offer. The TrueDepth Camera projects 30000 dots onto your face to create a facial map which is then read by the infrared camera to check if it’s really you. The setup process for this takes less than a minute and just involves revolving your head around in a circle, far easier than Touch ID’s multiple fingerprint presses.

When Face ID works, it works extremely well – night or day. It’s a lot more seamless to open Lock screen notifications now since there’s no secondary step to authenticate your fingerprint. Apple’s also included a neat feature which hides the content of Lock screen notifications by default until you actually look at the display.

This is great for privacy hounds, but it can get a bit annoying when your iPhone X is at a distance and you just want to glance at a notification without having to pick up the device. Disabling this involves going to Settings > Notifications > Show Previews and choosing Always.

By our estimates, Face ID is about as fast as Touch ID (tested on an iPhone 6S running iOS 11) when it comes to unlocking, typically taking less than a second to authenticate us. However, you will have to train yourself in the ways of correctly positioning your face. Place the iPhone X too close or too far and it’ll fail. Apple recommends a distance of about 25cm to 50cm, but it’s not like you have a ruler around to measure just how much that is.

There were times when it was on a desk and it failed to unlock if we put our head close above it while sitting on a chair. Speaking of desks, you’ll have to get used to lifting up the iPhone X to gain entry instead of just placing a finger. We found ourselves frequently using the passcode option in such scenarios since it was too much effort to reach out and raise the handset.

Another potential source of irritation is an in-built security feature which requires you to be looking at the iPhone X before it unlocks. This is great for preventing robbers from pointing the phone at your face and taking off, but it can be aggravating when you’re not in a position to point your eyes at the device.

You can disable it by heading to Settings > General > Accessibility > Face ID & Attention and then toggling ‘Require Attention for Face ID.’ While you’re there, you’ll notice there’s another option dubbed ‘Attention-Aware Features’ which checks for your attention to do things like dim the display and lower the volume of alerts. Both are pretty useful when you’re reading something or snoozing an alarm.

These are minor grievances, pretty much on the same level as when you have wet or greasy fingers and can’t get Touch ID to work. Perhaps things will get better with the next generation of Face ID, just as it did with Touch ID.

Software:

iPhone X Home Indicator

Ripping off the Home button has forced Apple to entirely rethink the way gestures work on the iPhone X. In its place is an omnipresent Home indicator, a thin bar at the bottom which follows you around wherever you go and only disappears when playing videos. Swiping up on it will lead you back to the Home screen and unlock the smartphone.

While we personally didn’t mind the Home indicator’s constant presence on every app’s screen, there are plenty of folks who hate it and think it ruins the user experience. That’s a fairly valid point, especially since most people will eventually get used to flicking upwards without needing a bar to tell them they can do this.

There have been some fears that having a software alternative to the trusty physical button could lead to trouble when an app freezes and you need to make a quick exit. The two occasions this happened with WhatsApp and Google Chrome, the Home indicator continued to function and let us out without any hiccups.

Apple has come up with 2 ways to multitask on the iPhone X. One is to lift and hold the Home indicator till the App Switcher appears and the other is to slide left or right on the bar itself to hop between the last used apps. We loved the second in particular since it let us quickly switch between apps without any extra movements.

iPhone X Hands

It didn’t take us too long to learn the new gestures and forget all about the Home button, but it was hard to break out of old iOS habits. For instance, the Control Center has to be summoned from the right ear instead of from the bottom. We found ourselves swiping up instead of down all the time.

We were forced to access Control Center a lot more often than we did before because the notch makes it impossible to see the battery percentage and Bluetooth status. It would have been nice if Apple had found a way around this since this is the kind of information which should be viewable at a glance.

Making things a bit more frustrating is that pulling the Control Center down can be very difficult one-handed. Apple has a Reachability feature for this very purpose, letting you drag the screen down with a double tap on the Home button. But there is no such button on the iPhone X, leading the firm to make up a new gesture which you’ll just have to get used to.

First of all, you have to activate Reachability by heading into Settings > General > Accessibility and then sliding the Reachability toggle to green. Then you have to train yourself to swipe down on the bottom edge of the screen at approximately the distance between the second half of the icon dock and the Home indicator. This took us quite some time to perfect, and we had to be careful not to accidentally trigger it.

iPhone X Animoji

The Notifications Center is paired next to the Control Center on the left ear. While it’s easy to distinguish these vertically, it’s harder to make out in landscape. We were a bit puzzled on how to do this initially, but eventually resorted to flicking the extreme left and right ends instead of fumbling around trying to figure out where one ended and the other began.

For some reason, the Lock screen has a virtual button for flashlight and Camera. Again, it took a while for us to suss out that merely tapping or swiping wasn’t going to activate them and only 3D Touch would. Apple doesn’t allow you to customize these buttons, which is a shame since it would be nice to have shortcuts to frequently used functions right on the Lock screen.

The Camera button is especially mystifying since iOS already allows you to swipe left to activate the camera from the Lock screen. On a positive note, Apple lets you wake up the iPhone X with a double tap instead of relegating this only to the Side button. Android users have had this feature for years, so it’s nice that iOS has finally caught up.

Apple’s infused a bit of fun into the iPhone X with the introduction of Animoji. You can choose from a collection of emoji like a robot or chicken and then record a short 10-second clip of yourself as that emoji to send on iMessage.

The feature was a bit glitchy for us, especially when it came to the eyes. There were even some occasions when it failed to match our facial movements with our voice. It’s clearly still a work in progress and will hopefully get better at tracking faces once it’s been refined a bit.

Camera:

iPhone X Camera

The vertical dual 12MP + 12MP cameras on the rear of the iPhone X are supposed to enhance AR experiences and serve as a striking style statement. In practice though, we found the position of the lenses to be extremely irritating since our fingers kept popping up when trying to click photos. There were plenty of times we shot something only to find an errant finger interrupting the image from the corner.

Fingers aside, the iPhone X does exceedingly well on the camera front. Both the f/1.8 wide-angle and f/2.4 telephoto lens have gotten OIS support this time round, a big plus since the pair can now work in sync to prevent blurriness even in low-light surroundings. You can zoom up to 10x closer to your subject, with pretty solid results in our tests.

We were very impressed by the iPhone X’s performance in all sorts of lighting conditions, from early morning fog to late night trips to the beach. It consistently let sufficient light in even when there was little around, although this will naturally result in a significant drop in sharpness and rise in noise. Colors and details were usually well-preserved in dim environments.

Apple has placed a Quad-LED True Tone flash unit in between its dual cameras and bestowed them with a new feature called Slow Sync flash. This basically slows down the shutter speed so that some light can enter and the subject doesn’t end up looking washed out. This worked as advertised, but there was never any hiding the artificialness of the photo.

Images taken in well-lit surroundings were consistently sharp, bright, and colorful. HDR (High Dynamic Range) is switched on by default, but you can change that by navigating to Settings and scrolling down to Camera.

We took snaps with and without HDR and found that the tech made a big difference to photos by properly balancing exposure levels to deliver images which were more true-to-life. Autofocus worked like a charm thanks to the new Apple-made image signal processor (ISP).

Portrait mode is now accompanied by Portrait Lighting which tries to recreate the effects of a professional studio setup anytime, anywhere. It’s still in beta though, so results may vary in each individual case.

Natural Light is your standard-issue portrait with a sharp subject and blurred background. Studio Light adds more light to the face. Contour Light increases the contrast between light and dark. Stage Light carves out the subject and paints the background black. Stage Light Mono does the same, but in black-and-white.

We had fun playing around with the various options and were generally pleased with the results. Stage Light occasionally let some elements of the background in, but that can be attributed to its still-experimental nature.

Coming to videos, the iPhone X can shoot 4K footage at 60fps. The quality was outstanding, featuring vivid colors, great dynamic range, a fluid frame rate, and intricate details. As one acquaintance put it, it doesn’t look the videos were shot from a smartphone camera at all.

One particularly frustrating quirk which Apple has carried forward over the years is that you’ll have to go to Settings > Camera if you want to change the video resolution. There’s still no option to shoot photos in a 16:9 aspect ratio, so you’ll just have to shoot in 4:3 and then edit that if you want it in widescreen.

Finally, we come to the 7MP selfie camera. Portrait Lighting makes an appearance here as well, using the TrueDepth Camera’s smarts to highlight your face and tastefully blur out the rest.

iPhone selfies have generally been average over the years, but the iPhone X breaks free of that with good quality snaps which were high on details and color accuracy. They were also slightly low on sharpness and featured a healthy dose of noise, but nothing deal-breaking.

Performance:

iPhone X Games

iPhones have earned a reputation as the fastest handsets around and the iPhone X doesn’t break from that pattern in the least. Apple’s latest and greatest A11 Bionic chip makes sure everything works smoothly and multitasking is a breeze (once you learn how to).

There are 6 cores inside the A11 Bionic, 2 for performance and 4 for efficiency. The iPhone X typically keeps things separate, but it is capable of combining all 6 when it’s needed. The processor can conduct 600 billion machine learning operations per second, making sure Face ID, Animoji, and Portrait Lighting keep up with you in real-time.

We played plenty of games on the iPhone X and it didn’t falter even once. A lot of them didn’t take full advantage of the screen, so you might have to deal with black bars while playing. Apple’s big push this year is on AR apps, optimizing the A11’s GPU to handle 3D games and augmented reality experiences.

The iPhone X managed to handle whatever AR game we threw at it. The AR scene is still in its nascent stages though, so we wouldn’t recommend buying the device just to play around with a virtual dragon or transform your room into a zombie-killing battleground. All iPhones starting from the iPhone 6S onwards support ARKit, so the iPhone X’s main advantage here is its superfast SoC.

Battery:

iPhone X Charge

Apple made a big point of talking up the iPhone X’s battery life, asserting that it lasts for 2 hours longer than the iPhone 7 thanks to the A11 Bionic’s dedicated efficiency cores. This is great marketing speak, but in real life the iPhone X’s battery performed just like other iPhones.

The iPhone X will last you through a day of average usage doing things like watching YouTube videos, calling, texting, streaming music, and reading eBooks, but high-intensity tasks like watching 4K videos at full brightness, playing demanding games, and shooting videos and photos will drain power at a quick clip. We noticed that the back of the device got a bit warm during these tasks, but not to the extent that it was uncomfortable to hold.

The iPhone X is clearly intended to be a powerhouse smartphone, so it would have been ideal if Apple had found a way for it to perform at the highest level without having us reach for a charger. Speaking of, it takes about 3 hours for the phone to go from 0% to 100% with the bundled adaptor.

That’s way too long, but you’ll have to invest in a fast charger if you want to speed things up. We don’t understand why Apple couldn’t have included it in the box instead of selling it separately. After all, this is a premium device and it should come with the very best. Much has been said about the iPhone X’s wireless charging support, but here again you’ll have to buy the accessory on your own.

Pros:

– Fantastic OLED display and elegant design
– Great photos and videos in all sorts of lighting conditions
– Excellent loudspeakers and EarPods
– Fluid performance
– Face ID worked well when held properly

Cons:

– The notch is a blemish in landscape
– Software gestures take some getting used to
– Expensive
– Face ID has a desk problem
– Fast charger not included

4 on 5 Rating

Verdict:

The iPhone X is undoubtedly one of the best iPhones Apple has ever come up with, packed to the gills with exciting features. But is it worth Rs 95390/$999? We’d say no, but there are plenty of individuals out there willing to pay top dollar for it. For those who can afford it, this is an easy buy. In spite of all the tiny frustrations, we genuinely enjoyed using the handset as our daily driver. Taking all things into consideration, we’re going with 4 out of 5 stars for the iPhone X.