iPhone X: Almost perfect

iPhone X is what Apple calls the future of the smartphone. For the iPhone, the X is a huge step forward. It changes the iPhone experience as you know it, so much so that Apple included a guide for the new experience. There’s a lot of new things on the iPhone X, ranging from big things like the new and improved cameras to smaller things like the screenshot shortcut and the default ringtone.

I pre-ordered the iPhone X on day 1, and I somehow managed to be ahead of hundreds of thousands of Apple fans and get it delivered on launch day. Since there are already a lot of in-depth reviews of the iPhone X out there, I decided to write a short article sharing my experience with the device so far. In other words, this is not a review.

The packaging of the iPhone X isn’t anything fancy, it’s just the good old white box with the big render of the phone on the front. But when you actually start up the device, you will start to see all the changes.

First up, there’s the new OLED display. iPhone displays have always looked gorgeous, and the Super Retina Display display of the X isn’t any different. It’s crisp, vibrant, and it simply looks beautiful. The display also includes Apple’s optional TrueTone display feature, which will adjust the display depending on your surrounding environment. But at the end of the day, this is still an OLED panel, which means you will eventually start noticing burn-ins, and hardcore techies likely won’t be a big fan of the diamond PenTile pixel layout of the display either.

But a big part of the iPhone X’s display and design is the notch. I was worried about the notch at first, but after using it for only a few hours, I really don’t even notice it. Most of the apps I use already support the iPhone X, and they adapt to the notch perfectly fine. Microsoft has updated some of its apps like OneDrive, OneNote, To-Do, etc. to include iPhone X support, but important apps like Outlook, Xbox, and Skype don’t support the X yet. But millions of other apps are yet to be updated to the iPhone X — and that’s the main problem with the iPhone X’s new notch.

When an app doesn’t support the iPhone X, you will see enormous virtual bezels around the app. And these bezels are very, very ugly. They essentially turn your $999 iPhone X into an iPhone 8 and it’s almost intolerable in some cases. In fact, every time I need to open an app like Spotify that doesn’t support the X, I want to close it as soon as possible. To be fair, though, X support will likely start arriving for most of the popular apps over the next week or so — but until then, you’ll have to suffer from Notch Hell. Of course, the notch is quite noticeable when you are watching videos on YouTube stretched to fill up the screen, but you can alternatively watch it without zooming in to help ignore the notch.

And yes, there’s no home button on the iPhone X. And that just might be my favourite feature of the device. The new gestures that replace the home button are incredibly intuitive, and they feel so much more natural than the physical home button. You can simply swipe up from the bottom in apps to get to the home screen, or you can swipe and pause to get to the multitasking screen. You won’t get used to the gesture for the multitasking drawer right off the bat, and timing the pause requires a lot of patience. But here’s a trick: you can swipe left/right on the home bar to switch between apps. I feel like the lack of the physical home button on the iPhone X is actually a big plus for the device: the new experience feels natural and it literally just works. There’s a problem, though: the home bar takes up a bit of space, and the iOS keyboard has a huge empty space at the bottom which is quite annoying.

Apple’s new Face ID tech is arguably the biggest change on the company’s new iPhone. Face ID is built on the company’s new TrueDepth IR camera and dot projector tech, which not only powers the new authentication system, but it also powers the best feature of the X: Animojis. It’s very easy to setup Face ID on the X, and once setup, unlocking your phone becomes dead easy…when it works.

When you pick up the X, it will automatically light up and start looking for your face to unlock, and then you just need to swipe up from the bottom to unlock it. The feature works most of the time, but it will fail once in a while. In terms of speed, Face ID is actually very fast. It gets even faster when you don’t even wait for the lock indicator on the lockscreen to change after authentication — so just pick up the phone, look at it, and swipe up. It’s as easy as that. I do kinda wish there was an optional feature that would automatically take you to the homescreen as soon as the device is unlocked, though.

The problem with raise to wake and Face ID is that it doesn’t work all the time. When I’m laying down and pick up the phone, raise to wake doesn’t get activated at times. Additionally, Face ID struggles to authenticate your face when it’s a bit too close or a bit too far away from the phone, and that can be a problem in some cases.

There’s a pretty neat feature of Face ID: when the device is locked, you will see notifications without revealing the content of the notification. And as soon as you look at the device and verify with Face ID, these notifications will show the content which is a neat litle touch that will help with your privacy concerns. This is optional, so you can turn it off if you aren’t a fan.

Face ID is also required for Apple Pay and purchases on the App Store, where it’s a bit clumsy. Using Face ID for Apple Pay worked flawlessly for me — you just need to double press the (now bigger) power button on the side to bring up your cards, authenticate with your face, and then tap your phone against the terminal to pay. Similarly for the App Store, the X will ask you to double press the power button to start authenticating with Face ID — this is slower than it should be, and it could be much better if the X just started authenticating with your face as soon as you install or purchase something from the App Store.

Animoji is one of the headline features of the iPhone X, and it’s actually very fun. Not everyone will obviously love Animojis, but the iPhone X is all about the future, and millennials like myself are going to be all over this. The cool thing about Animojis is that they are very expressive, mostly because of the tech built underneath the notch of the device. You can share Animojis on iMessage, and then export them as regular videos that can be shared on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and other places. Animojis are extremely fun, but there are only 12 of them for now, but Apple will probably be adding more with future software updates.

Animoji is already blowing up, and some of the early iPhone X owners have already started making some amazing karaoke videos out of them:

Apple has upgraded the cameras on the iPhone X too. The upgraded cameras are almost the same as the cameras on the iPhone 8/8 Plus, which are excellent cameras that will take beautiful photos. The iPhone X’s camera can now shoot slow-motion videos at 1080p, too. The big focus, however, is on the new portrait mode. Like the Google Pixel 2, the iPhone X can now take portrait mode photos with the front-facing camera.

Unlike the Google Pixel 2, the iPhone X’s portrait mode on the front facing camera struggles almost everytime. The regular portrait mode isn’t too bad, but the new studio lighting effects simply look like terrible photoshop edits. Google has done a much better job with the portrait mode on the front-facing camera of the Pixel 2 and Apple is way behind here. The camera of the X is still one of the best on the market though, but Apple has still done a solid job with the cameras of the iPhone X here. The new studio lighting effects? Not so much.

The battery life of the iPhone X is supposed to be two hours more than older iPhones, and in my limited usage, the phone’s been performing very well so far. I have been actively using the phone since this morning and it’s only at 69% at the moment of writing this article. I haven’t used the device long enough to really be able to comment on its battery life, but so far it’s been holding up very well. The device supports fast charging as well although you’ll need a Type-C to lightning cable and a charger which can easily cost up to $50, I think it might just be worth it for the faster-charging speeds. There’s support for wireless charging, too — but then again, you’ll have to spend quite a bit for a wireless charger and I just don’t think the price of wireless chargers justifies their benefits just yet.

The iPhone X may just be the perfect phone. It looks and feels amazing, it’s fast, it has decent high-end cameras, and more importantly: it gives you a peek at the future. This is just the first version of Apple’s vision for the smartphone of the future — and it is not perfect — but upcoming iterations will refine some of the flaws of things like Face ID. And that’ll cost another $999.

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