The pre-release hype about Apple’s iPhone X (shipping started on November 3) was insane – even by the annual ‘new-iphone-is here‘ frenzy standards. In a recent survey involving respondents from four nations, it was revealed that 35% people were planning to buy the latest flagship model (the figure was only ~18% in August, indicating that excitements have been growing). However, not much is known for sure about the post-release performance of iPhone X. The total component demand (i.e., the components that make up iPhone X) in November was, surprisingly, a significant 30% lower than expectations. What’s more, the sales in December are likely to be even lower – and experts have not painted a very rosy picture for 2018 either (demands might have an alarming fall from March onwards, even forcing Apple’s hand to revise the sales estimates for the quarter).
All, however, is not doom and gloom for the ambitious new flagship iPhone. For the first time in years, Apple has really given a facelift to its most-sold product – and iPhone X does pack in more than a handful of interesting features. Also, the gloomy predictions can turn around in the course of the next couple of months or so (the holiday period will be crucial). Over here, we will highlight some great and some ‘not-so-good‘ features of iPhone X:
(The Good) – The Camera Is More Powerful Than Ever Before
The dual 12MP rear cameras (the main f/1.8 and the f/2.4 telephoto) are excellent, as we have come to expect from the recent line of iPhones. With the iPhone X, it is well and truly possible to capture DSLR-esque snaps on the go. However, we would here focus particularly on the front camera of the device – or what Apple calls the ‘True Depth Camera’. It powers both the unique Face ID feature (which has replaced Touch ID in iPhone X) as well as animojis (which, again, are unique to the latest flagship handset). Apart from a powerful infrared camera, the module contains a dot projector, a 7MP camera, a dot projector, a flood illuminator, an ambient light sensor and a proximity scanner. There is a mic and a speaker inside the designated front camera notch as well. With the front camera of iPhone X, users can check out the interesting ‘Portrait Mode effects’, as well as do aperture-reduction (also available on iPhone 7 Plus).
(The Not-So-Good) – The Price Is A ‘Never-Before’ For A Smartphone
2017 might well be dubbed as the ‘year of the super-expensive smartphones’. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 started to push matters with its price tag of $930 (T-Mobile) – and Apple has taken things to an altogether higher level by pricing the iPhone X (64 GB model) at $999. If you want to get the 256 GB-variant, you will have to cough up a whopping $1149 (the world’s very first phone to have a four-figure price…so, yay!). And that’s not all, since buyers also have to go for the $199 AppleCare+ package (up from $129). iPhone X might be the ‘future of the smartphone’…but it is not a future everybody will be able to, or be interested in, taking a part.
Note: It will be interesting to note the price-points of the 2018 iPhone models. iPhone X has probably set a benchmark.
(The Good) – The OLED Display Is Stunningly Beautiful
Let’s just say, never has a phone display looked this good. The LCD display panel of earlier models has made way for a high-quality OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display. The True Tone display is easily one of the USPs of the device, with unmatched clarity and sharpness – as reported by early users. It’s not that the Cupertino has broken new grounds with the OLED display (both Galaxy S8 and Xiaomi Mi Mix have it) – but the implementation has been remarkable. The screen size is 5.8”, and the display resolution of the Super Retina display is an impressive 2436×1125 (458 ppi). What’s more, iPhone X is the first iDevice to have an display compatible with HDR (high dynamic range). There are several differences between iPhone 8 and iPhone X – and the beautiful OLED display is arguably the biggest.
(The Not-So-Good) – The Camera ‘Notch’ Is An Irritation
The UI of iPhone X would have been perfect, only if the integration of the True Depth camera did not result in the fairly large ‘notch’ near the top of the display. It obscures the view, of photos (in portrait/landscape modes), of videos (sizeable portions from the side are not visible), and of apps with white/light backgrounds (most of the graphics near the top are blocked out). Add to that the ‘camera bump’ on the back – and all on a sudden, the design of iPhone X does not seem so smooth after all. To ensure stability on a flat surface, it would be ideal to purchase a separate case for the handset. You will probably get used to the notch over time – but while watching any media content, it will remain a hindrance.
(The Good) – Face ID Is Certainly The Future
Facial recognition on smartphones is something Android OEMs have been trying their hands on since 2012. Even so, no other company has been able to achieve that level of seamless efficiency and perfection as Apple – with the Face ID feature on iPhone X. Contrary to early rumors, Face ID cannot be ‘fooled’ with pictures of the users – with the tool creating unique visual IDs with the help of infrared dots for drawing up facial maps. The process of setting up Face ID is fairly straightforward too. With the help of Face ID, you can do a wide range of tasks – right from logging on to apps to authenticating payments via Apple Pay (a double-press on the designated button is required, followed by a glance). A straight comparison between Touch ID and Face ID reveals that the former is slightly faster – but the face mapping functionality ultimately wins out, with its end-to-end functionality in the background. It would have been nice to have both Face ID and Touch ID on iPhone X though. The more options…the better!
(The Not-So-Good) – The Continued Absence Of Headphone Jack
Oh yes, Apple has no plans of bringing back the 3.5 headphone jack (iPhone 7/7 Plus were the first models to not have the port). This has been a decision that has been met with mixed reactions at best – but the latest flagship iPhone does not have the headphone port either. There are, however, wireless headphones available – although neither Beats Studio 3 cans nor the Apple AirPods are particularly cheap. Also, there is a small dongle and lightning earbuds packed in the box with iPhone X. Pairing with compatible Bluetooth headsets is also an option. The absence of the headphone jack is not going to make a major difference to those who love their music on the go, but it is an inconvenience, nonetheless.
(The Good) – The Processor Power Is Top-Notch
In terms of speed and overall performance, the iPhone X beats most of its Android competitors hands down. The device gets its power from the powerful A11 Bionic hexa-core processor (which is a significant step up from 2016’s A10 Fusion processor). The phone comes with a built-in RAM of 3 GB, and the new processor has already topped several phone benchmark tests by a distance. In general use, iPhone X might not seem appreciably faster than a high-end Android device – but the former always has some extra processor power for developer tasks or official Apple tweaks. iOS 11 works like a charm with the underlying A11 Bionic processor – and playing heavy games, or viewing heavy media content is an absolute breeze.
(The Not-So-Good) – Not The Ideal Device For One-Handed Use
Face ID replaces Touch ID in iPhone X – and that is only the tip of the iceberg, as far as the new gestures and controls that iOS users have to learn, to master the new device. The list of notifications can be accessed by swiping downwards from the left corner – while doing so from the right corner opens the Control Center. An upward swipe takes users to the Home screen, Siri can be called by holding down a side button, an upwards swipe-and-hold launches the app multitasker, while applications can be also be closed by swiping up from the bottom. Given that many of the important controls involve swiping from the corners – it seems that the iPhone X will not be ideal for using with one hand (unless, of course, someone has HUGE hands!). Most people will have to use both their hands to properly use the handset.
(The Good) – Fast Charging Is Finally Here
With the fairly sturdy and elegant aluminum and glass shell, the latest line of iPhones (iPhone X, iPhone 8/8 Plus) has finally received the wireless charging feature. It adds to the convenience factor of users in a big way – since the phone no longer needs to be unplugged from the AC power source whenever a call comes in, or tracks from the playlist have to be changed. Of course, you can also charge it with the regular lightning port and cable. iPhone X goes from 0% to 50% charge in half an hour. Apple is new, and by most opinions, late in the wireless charging game – with Samsung and Google Pixel phones having this feature for some time now. It’s a good thing that the Cupertino company has finally sat up and taken notice.
Note: iPhone X also officially supports Galileo – the latest European satellite system. iPhone 8/8 Plus offers this support too.
(The Not-So-Good) – The Need For Updated Apps
With iPhone X, Apple has gone for a major design overhaul – the first of its kind since the step up to iPhone 6 in 2014. As such, the onus is on third-party developers to separately update their iPhone applications for iPhone X – so that their graphics/visual elements do not appear messy or awkward (or simply get blocked, due to the camera ‘notch’). There have been reports of non-updated apps appearing black at the top, or blocking the battery indicator, in the new handset. Apps have to be redesigned in a manner that their screens are entirely visible, the responsiveness is high, and the overall UX is fluid and immersive. As of now, many popular apps do not yet have ‘iPhone X-friendly’ versions – and it will take some time for all the major applications to come up to speed.
(The Good) – Animojis Take Face Mapping Forward. And They Are Super Fun.
Is the chance of your face being transformed into that of a cartoon animal that mimics your facial movements worth shelling out $999? Bypassing that debate for the moment – it has to be said that Animojis represent a seamless merger of software and hardware capabilities in iPhone X – with the result being a piece of magic that has been absent for a worryingly long time in the post-Steve Jobs period at Apple. The True Depth camera, with the 3D mapping sensors and the front camera lens, create these animojis. The cartoons can replicate the users’ facial expressions, talks and general movements – offering a somewhat silly, but yet, very interesting source of fun. The range of Animojis available is excellent, and the best bit is that they can be shared with people who do not use iPhone X. It will be interesting to track whether the novelty factor of animojis wear thin with time.
Note: Apple has already run into legal troubles over animojis. Emonster, a Japanese company, has sued Apple on the grounds of trademark infringement.
(The Not-So-Good) – The Removal Of Touch ID
Face ID, on most instances, is a reliable and powerful new-age facial recognition tool. However, for the millions of users who had got used to the Touch ID biometric sensor – the complete absence of it from iPhone X has been somewhat surprising. There have been occasional reports of the device not correctly ‘recognizing’ the user – particularly when (s)he is wearing glares or caps or other accessories (covering a part of the face will, of course, also result in Face ID not working). For optimal performance of Face ID, the distance between a user’s face and the device has to be 25-50 cm. There are security clouds too – with the chance of someone managing to point the device at a user being relatively more than somehow getting/misusing the thumb impressions of the latter. Touch ID debuted on iPhone 5S, and since then had grown into the most powerful biometric smartphone unlocking system. Face ID – with all its apparent merits and technological nuances – is still unproven.
Note: To be fair, it would have been impossible to create the bezelless, edge-to-edge display of iPhone X with Touch ID. It’s a classic case of getting one or the other.
(The Good) – A Truly Compact Device That Makes The Best Use Of Its Form Factor
The iPhone 8 Plus is 6.24” tall – but its screen size is only 5.5”, due to the presence of fairly large bezels. On the other hand, the screen size (diagonally, edge-to-edge) of iPhone X is actually more than the height of the device (5.8” vs 5.65”). In other words, the $1000-iPhone does deliver more screen real estate to end-users – and that too, within a smaller, more compact, form-factor. For things like playing mobile games, or checking out the news, or reading digital books – the larger display screen of iPhone X serves as an advantage. At 1920×1080, the display resolution of iPhone 8 Plus is also some way below that of iPhone X.
(The Not-So-Good) – Battery Percentage Indicator Not On Display
Not a deal-breaker in any sense – but still, the option of checking out whether there is close to 90% battery juice, or if the phone is about to die, directly from the display was mighty useful. Such information is not immediately apparent from the battery icon, and users have to dig deeper to find out how much battery life their iPhone X handsets have remaining at any time. There have also been some instances of users failing to place the device on the charging pod correctly – as a result of which, no charging has taken place. These are relatively minor gripes though. If someone is eager to give iPhone X a try, the absence of the battery indicator on the screen will not stand in his/her way.
The Final Word
The iPhone X is an amazing phone. It brings in a bevy of new features – with the design excellence and the Face ID recognition system being right at the forefront. For those who love a bit of goofy fun, Animojis can be excellent companions. The A11 Bionic processor promises world-class performance. However, the phone is way too pricey – and the jury is still out on whether its extra features make it worth a buy over the $699 iPhone 8. Also, according to unconfirmed reports, Apple is eyeing the release of 3 new iPhone models (1 LCD, 2 OLED) next year – and all of them will share the design and (most of the) features of iPhone X. In less than a year’s time, iPhone X might no longer be that exclusive a device.
The excitements among Apple fans worldwide over iPhone X has proven that this handset, however expensive it might be, has a market. The reports of component demands slowing down can also be misleading – since Apple might simply have stored more resources to build the handset. It will be fascinating to see how well (or otherwise) iPhone X does in the next couple of quarters or so.