The iPhone X is one of the most controversial, talked about smartphones in years and, for once, it isn’t because it’s simply the latest Apple handset.
- Edge to edge display
- Face ID is brilliant
- Superb camera and screen
- Too expensive
It’s because it heralds a number of firsts: it’s the first time Apple has used OLED technology in one of its smartphone screens; it’s the first time it has removed the home button; and it’s the first time the firm has used facial recognition as a means of authentication.
The screen that makes the iPhone X so special. As I already mentioned, it’s the first time Apple has employed OLED technology, but it’s also the first iPhone to remove the big bezels from above and below the screen.
Inside is Apple’s A11 Bionic processor, which we’ve already seen in the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, a choice of 64GB or 128GB of storage and dual cameras on the rear of the phone, too.
Key Photographic / Video Specifications
- Dual 12MP sensors
- 28/56mm equivalent focal lengths
- F1.8/2.4 aperture
- On-sensor phase detection
- Quad-LED flash
- DNG Raw capture and manual control with 3rd party apps
- 4K video at 60 fps
- 1080p 120/240fps slow-motion video
- 7MP front-facing ‘TrueDepth’ camera with F2.2 aperture
- 5.8-inch, 2436×1125 OLED
- Apple A11 Fusion chipset
- 3GB RAM
- 64/256GB storage
- 2,716mAh battery
- Wireless charging (Qi compatible)
The iPhone X is available in two colours: white, with a chrome silver trim, and black, with a shiny dark grey trim. There’s no surprise about the positioning of the phone’s various physical elements. Aside from the lack of home button and the power button, which has moved around to the right edge, they’re all in the places you’d expect. Other things from previous generations also remain in place, with dust and waterproofing to the IP67 standard and no 3.5mm headphone jack. I’m still of the opinion, incidentally, that removing it was a misstep.
The positives are the same as they are with every other 18:9 aspect ratio, low-bezel phone, it a high screen-to-body ratio, which essentially means more screen real-estate for a smaller size of phone. So, while it might have a larger 5.8in screen than anything we’ve seen on an iPhone before, it’s considerably smaller and lighter than the 5.5in design Apple has been using for the past three years. And those trademark rounded corners and edges mean the iPhone X is just as comfortable to hold and slide into a tight pocket.
iPhone X with screen is that there’s no longer any room for a home button on the front nor, surprisingly, a fingerprint reader. Instead, Apple is moving to a new biometric approach, with Face ID the primary means of unlocking the phone and using Apple Pay. Face ID works by using the phone’s “True Depth” camera to project infrared dots onto your face – 30,000 of them, in fact – and producing a 3D model of your face that it stores internally alongside a two-dimensional infrared image. It then uses the same sensor to scan your face, match it against the stored model and unlock your phone – in a fraction of a second.
Setting it up is as simple as enrolling a fingerprint on an iPhone 8 Plus. Just line up your face in the provided circular loupe and move it around so the sensor can build up a full model of the planes and contours of your mug. Do this a couple of times and you’re ready to rock and roll.
Unlocking with Face ID works perfectly, both for those with glasses and without. You don’t have to look straight at the phone either. Even with the phone placed to the left side or right side, I only have to press the side button or double tap the screen and it’ll see my face and unlock.
Face ID works more reliably and is a touch more flexible than Samsung’s iris recognition tech work, which doesn’t work at all if you have putted glasses. And it’s good to know that Apple provides protection against accidental unlocking – while you’re sleeping for instance – by implementing a system Apple calls Attention-Aware, which checks that you’re awake and alert before unlocking the phone.
You’ll also find that the same system can be used to prevent the phone dimming the display or lowering the volume of alerts if it detects your face is in the vicinity and your eyes are open.
Yes, you can also use the Face ID camera to track your facial movements and map them onto an “Animoji” as well, and this is great fun. What isn’t quite so fun is the repositioning of the Control Centre. Yes, in addition to removing the home button, the action for calling up the place where you can quickly update settings such as screen brightness, flight mode and volume has moved: you now have to drag your thumb down from the top right corner.
Performance and display quality
Performance, as always seems to be the case with current generation iPhones, is superlative. The new Apple A11 Bionic chip is inside, coupled with 3GB of RAM, and it produces very similar benchmark results to the iPhone 8 Plus. So it’s basically faster than any other phone on the market in terms of its CPU and graphics processing grunt.
As for that display, which don’t forget is Apple’s first OLED effort, well it’s truly excellent. It has a resolution of 2,046 x 1,125, which delivers a pixel density of 458ppi and it’s the best iPhone display ever made.
It comes with twin optically stabilized 12MP rear cameras, a 7MP front-facing camera with ‘TrueDepth’ technology, artificial background blur and specialized lighting effects, DNG Raw file capture, and of course is otherwise a highly capable and extremely speedy mobile device.
X has two cameras on the rear, both 12 megapixels, both using Sony sensors. One is a wide angle camera, the other a telephoto. The key difference between this and the iPhone 8 Plus is that the telephoto camera has a slightly brighter aperture at f/2.4. It’s optically stabilised, too, just like the main f/1.8 camera.
The other camera is essentially the same unit as found in the iPhone 8 Plus, and the results from it in good light and bad are the same. It isn’t as good as from the Pixel 2, which has the best camera on the market, but it’s a match for all its other rivals. Exposures are bang on, autofocus is reliable and it handles noise more elegantly than, say, the Huawei Mate 10, whose camera has a brighter aperture, but tends to soften images with over-processing.
Portrait mode works just as nicely as ever and if you enable HDR you’ll find that it’s effective, yet subtle, lifting out details nicely in highlights and shadows without making your shots look artificial.