For a company that has become almost defined by its measured adoption of new technologies the iPhone X feels almost risky.
This combined with the high cost places Apple in an interesting position which is that it not only has to convince us that the iPhone X is a step in the right direction but one that’s actually worth paying a considerable premium for.
This is the best-looking iPhone since the iPhone 4 and it’s certainly one of the best-looking gadgets out there.
With the pearlescent white back from the iPhone 4, the polished steel band from the iPhone 3G and the curved clamshell design from the iPhone 6 this is a ‘hall of fame’ of Apple’s best design ideas.
The result is a device that looks very distinctive and feels expensive.
It is slightly thicker than both the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus and in terms of weight it sits neatly between the two.
This, combined with the fact that it’s only slightly larger than the iPhone 8, means you end up with a phone that feels safely planted in the hand.
With no home button the iPhone X now sports a larger side button that has been slightly lowered on the right-hand side, two volume buttons and then there’s the silent mode rocker. A phone should be judged on the ‘clickiness’ of its buttons and thankfully the iPhone passes this test admirably.
There is, of course, no headphone jack with the remaining design elements including the Lightning port, speakers and earphone.
In terms of how sturdy it looks, reports have suggested that even a small drop can cause significant damage to the glass. Apple’s response is that it is their strongest glass yet. Our opinion? Get a case.
The hype around this phone has been at times, almost tiring. Yes it’s an exciting gadget, no it’s not a source of infinite renewable power.
In any case much of the hype has been, in our view, focusing on the wrong feature. Face ID is great, the camera is outstanding but honestly, the reason you should get excited about this phone is the display.
It’s a 5.8-inch OLED Super Retina Display and it covers the entire front of the device.
OLED displays are without doubt the technology to beat thanks to the fact they’re more power efficient, have better colour reproduction and can offer incredible contrast ratios.
This is the best display Apple has ever used. HDR and Dolby Vision content looks stunningly good while pictures and video pop off the screen thanks to how bright it is.
A pixel-smoothing technique means that as the screen curves around the phone there are no artefacts instead the whole thing looks as though it just hovers in the middle of the device.
The only comparable display we’ve seen come close to this is that of the Samsung Galaxy S8 or the Note 8. That’s not actually that surprising when you learn that the display on the iPhone X was actually made by Samsung.
The iPhone X features a dual-lens camera system on the back that’s very similar to the cameras found on the iPhone 8 Plus.
There are some minor differences however which is that in addition to the optically stabilised (OIS) 12MP wide-angle lens the iPhone X now has a OIS 12MP telephoto lens too.
Quite simply this means that videos are now going to look a lot smoother even at long distances.
In addition the telephoto lens now has a f/2.4 aperture compared to the f/2.8 found on the iPhone 8 Plus.
This makes a big difference to low-light photos. There’s less noise and greater clarity in darker environments and in particular environments where there are some areas considerably more lit than others.
The biggest improvement for us however comes in the form of Portrait Mode. This effect allows you to take a close-up image of a person or object and have the background blurred.
Thanks to the TrueDepth Camera (we’ll come on to that in a moment) on the front of the phone you can take Portrait Mode photos using the front and rear-facing cameras.
Both are absolutely superb. There’s a noticeable improvement in the way that the iPhone detects the foreground and the background which results in a far clearer distinction between the two.
One of the defining new aspects of the iPhone X is the removal of the home button and that means the removal of its fingerprint reader called Touch ID.
In its place is a new facial recognition camera system which features a TrueDepth camera and authenticates using something called Face ID.
How does it work? It’s actually pretty remarkable. An Dot Projector will project 30,000 tiny dots onto your face and create a 3D map of your face (it is not a photo). It then converts this information into 1s and 0s. This is stored within an encrypted enclave directly on the phone where it will stay until you choose to erase it.
It works if you have a scarf on, if you grow a beard or if you have glasses.
In our experience the accuracy is pretty spot on but there are times at extreme angles or if you’re not paying attention that it will ask you to re-authenticate.
It’s also not instant. You can in theory pull the phone out and immediately swipe to unlock but sometimes there will be a half second pause where the phone just checks to make sure it’s you.
Despite it not being as fast as Touch ID, it is arguably more convenient. One of the best features is a privacy system that hides the content of a notification until you glance at the phone, glance away and it becomes hidden again.
There are also concerns about relatives or twin siblings being able to unlock Face ID. There have certainly been examples on YouTube where it appears this has happened. While we’re less concerned about an evil twin, kids being able to get access to their parents’ phones is slightly more concerning. Apple claims that Face ID is actually more secure than Touch ID with a 1/1,000,000 chance of it being fooled.
Ultimately what is clear is that Apple has got something very special here with Face ID but it’s something that will, just like Touch ID, improve over time.
Finally (and rather reluctantly) we have to point out that the TrueDepth camera also allows you to create talking emojis. They’re called Animojis, you’ve probably seen them on Twitter and we’ll be brief in saying that yes they work great, and yes you can become a talking poo.
With the lack of a home button the iPhone X now employs a series of gestures to get around iOS 11. Swiping up from any screen will take you home while swiping up to the centre will take you to the multi-tasking screen.
There have been some complaints about this and in our view they’re just not accurate. We’ve actually found it so much easier to navigate around the phone using these gestures and after a brief adjustment period we’re now at a place where we wouldn’t want to go back.
Elsewhere there are some very minor software hiccups present in both iOS and in certain apps. Developers are clearly still working on their updates to support the new screen but this is of course just a matter of time.
We’re also not a massive fan of the way that Apple has implemented some of its UI. Text on some buttons is no longer centred which just feels out of place with Apple’s usual attention to detail.
Finally while we don’t visually mind the notch it does actually result in a minor loss of functionality. You can no longer see if you have an alarm set or if you have Bluetooth headphones connected without dragging down the control centre. It adds an extra step where before there was none.
Finally there’s wireless charging. We’re not going to pretend that Apple’s breaking new ground here in fact it’s probably the last company to finally get on board with the technology.
Now it’s here though we’re definitely not complaining and thanks to the sheer size of Apple and the effect it has on other industries you’re almost certainly going to start seeing more wireless charging pads in furniture, coffee shops and other public spaces which is good news for everyone.
The iPhone X also supports Apple’s new fast-charging capability using its USB-C power unit. Yes it requires buying some extra hardware but the difference in charging speed is huge.
Battery life in general has been pretty good. You’re certainly not going to get two days out of it but we’ve yet to reach a point where the X hasn’t comfortably made it through both a full day and then an evening.
There’s absolutely no doubt that this is Apple’s best iPhone ever. It’s staggeringly powerful, incredibly well made and has probably the best screen we’ve ever seen on a smartphone.
It has an all-day battery-life, wireless charging and in our view, the best camera on a phone. Face ID is also a worthy replacement for Touch ID but in our testing we’ve found that it’s not a perfect system, yet.
It is also extremely expensive, costing £999 for the base model or £1,149 for the 256GB version.
If any phone was going to cost over £1000 then Apple has done in our opinion a very good job in justifying that cost. Whether or not you’ll want to fork out is of course up to you.
In many ways iPhone X is the ultimate gadget. It’s a tiny piece of technology that can do so many different things and yet it do all of them extraordinarily well.
Who should buy the iPhone X?
If you want the absolute apex of what Apple can create then iPhone X is the smartphone for you. It has a stunning display, incredible camera and Face ID blends security so effortlessly into the background that you barely even notice it. As we said earlier, this is the ultimate gadget. Just whatever you do, buy a case.
Who shouldn’t buy the iPhone X
Apple still make two excellent smartphones in the form of the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus. No their displays aren’t as good but they are significantly cheaper and still offer the same seamless software experience that is iOS. The iPhone X is a serious financial commitment.
The iPhone X is available now and costs £999/64B or £1,149/256GB.