iPhone had been stagnating on its design for quite a while and with the iPhone 8, it’s 4 years in a row that Apple has stuck to a single form factor. Just to put that in perspective, Samsung Galaxy Note 8 has gone from looking like a thick bezzeled phone to its now sleek, curved glass, 18.5:9 aspect-ratio look. It’s been a while and I’m pretty sure Apple felt that too. Which is why a design change was necessary, and soon.
Keeping the importance of the iPhone in shaping modern pop culture and its iconic relevance, redesigns are no doubt a stressful decision, even for a behemoth like Apple. But it had to be done, and it had to be done at the right time. With the iPhone’s 10th anniversary coming up, the launch of a new design seemed propitious.
Build, Display and The Notch
The iPhone X may seem like Apple’s reaction to the new 18:9 display trend, but on a closer look, there’s so much more than that. Apple has given you a bigger screen than the iPhone Plus phones in a form that’s significantly reduced. So while the iPhone Plus has always felt better on bigger hands, the iPhone X seems like Apple has finally hit the sweet ‘one size fits all’ spot. It’s as thin as the Plus phones, and despite having a glass back and stainless steel edges, it isn’t as slippery to hold as I had assumed it would be.
The infamous notch is quite a divisive decision on the X – while there are many who mind it, there are a lot who don’t. In my personal opinion, the notch never really came in my way. On any smartphone, the top half centimetre is dead space anyway since it carries carrier information, battery levels etc. which is exactly what I get to see here as well. Where it does become bothersome for most people is when you’re reading in landscape mode, or watching a video in ‘fit to aspect ratio’ mode. True, that is an obvious oversight, or even a design flaw by Apple, but to me, it’s a minor inconvenience. Of course, if you do all these things regularly or even play a lot of games in landscape mode, this could be a dealbreaker for you. But as the rumours go. The notch is here to stay, and it seems that it’s going be Apple’s design for at least another generation of devices. So it’s only a matter of time before developers get smart and start accommodating the notch in their app designs. But again, that’s just my prediction.
Notch aside, the screen itself is fantastic. I can see why Apple was so keen on getting an OLED display on the iPhone X, as the difference in the sharpness, black levels and overall colour tone is noticeable up front. The increased screen resolution makes text in optimised apps appear crisp, and better looking than what the competition has on offer. The True Tone setting, which is turned on by default warms the colour tone of the display according to the available light. It’s not as prominent as the Night Shift mode, but with True Tone enabled, you will not need a drastic measure like Night Shift under most circumstances.
New Navigation Style
I love the home button on iPhones. As much as Android has denied it over the years, the Home button’s utility and multi-functionality has been a stroke of genius by Apple. This is why there are a lot of questions raised when Apple decided to remove it in the iPhone X. The good news is swiping works; the bad news is that it still needs work. Let me explain.
Swiping up for the home screen is flawlessly implemented. I tried it in numerous applications, numerous circumstances and it worked every time. Of course, it’s nowhere close to being as convenient as a physical home button, but it’s not a dumb idea in any way. Going back to my iPhone 7 instantly has me swiping the screen up instead of using the home button, simply because my muscle memory found it equally convenient.
Where the gesture does not work a hundred percent is swiping between the apps. The double-click on the Home button for the app carousel worked really well. Here you’re required to swipe up from the bottom and hold in the middle of the display. Nowhere near as convenient and also a hit or miss in terms of accuracy. You do have the option to simply swipe left or right from the bottom, but if you have a lot of apps open at any given time, there will be a lot of swiping.
The third major change in navigation is the Control Centre which now requires a swipe down from the top right. Not the most convenient spot for it, especially considering we were used to swiping up all this while, and will continue to do so (at least this year), in all other iOS devices.
It’s fantastic! No other phone camera I’ve tested gives crisp images while retaining the right colour tones, like the cameras on the iPhone X.
The 12 megapixel vertical dual camera array uses a similar logic as the horizontal dual camera setup seen on iPhone 8 Plus. The second lens also provides optical zoom, which is pretty helpful. Apple has added a number of great features too that make the most of the new depth-sensing tech. Portrait mode now has new options including the studio light mode which makes the background completely dark highlighting just the subject in the foreground. There are other such modes as well that play with the contrast and colour tones to give you a variety of new portrait shots.
There’s even an addition of extra modes for live images, that now add effects like a boomerang and long exposure. We will definitely be seeing the results of these on platforms like Instagram for years to come.
While the iPhone has been getting a tough competition from the rivals in terms of camera quality, this time, Apple has pushed the envelope in a big way. As a result, the iPhone X produces some amazing results in photos. While other manufacturers have gotten it right with the noise reduction, low light photography and overall image sharpness, the iPhone X produces images show all this, while maintaining a natural colour tone that breathes new life into the results. This is even more evident on the phone’s gorgeous OLED display. This time, the portrait mode works just as well from the 7 megapixel front camera too, thanks to the new sensor for Face ID. Speaking of which, we do need to talk a bit about Apple’s other most controversial feature.
There have been numerous instances reported recently where Face ID was fooled using 3D printed masks, and Apple has also claimed that it may not work with children, family members and twins. So it’s definitely not anywhere as secure as Touch ID, which is a shame seeing how Touch ID doesn’t exist on the iPhone X. If you care about having an unlockable phone, then skip Face ID and stick to a passcode, like the old-fashioned way. But, by doing that you’ll be missing out on the most convenient feature on the device.
The Face ID makes it super easy to unlock your phone by just looking at it. It makes a bigger difference when it unlocks secure apps that would otherwise depend on Touch ID, like the App Store, Paytm, or just about anything else that needs to verify your credentials. It’s ridiculously convenient to the point, that you’d hate going back to a fingerprint sensor.
That said, the unlocking speed of the iPhone X has taken a hit. With the iPhone 8, you can pretty much unlock the phone by the time it’s out of your pocket if you hold it with the thumb on the Home button. Here, the Face ID plus swipe up gesture is a bit slower than that. It would have been great if Apple had retained the Touch ID in some form. But, I guess it had to go keeping the design aesthetics in mind.
Though parts of my review may sound overly critical of the iPhone X, there’s no denying it’s the best flagship smartphone available today. It delivers on looks, functionality, and boasts a set of cameras that blow the competition out of the water. Of course, there’s the big question of price. Is it worth its starting price of Rs 89,000?
The simple answer is NO. You shouldn’t have to spend that kind of money on a smartphone at present, especially with the spectrum of choices that the market has to offer. You won’t be taking a hit in any way if you opt for the iPhone 8 instead, which even at its high price seems reasonable to the iPhone X. Of course, when it comes to fans, there’s little room for logic, and iPhone X is going to do brilliant numbers even in a market like India. Rest assured, if you can afford to blow up a lakh on a smartphone, you’ll have a device that will be amazing at everything it does, and will give you boasting rights for a long time… or at least till next year’s versions are out.