iPhone X meta review: Setting Apple up for the next 10 years

By

iPhone X first impressions
The iPhone X reviews are here!
Photo: Soldier Knows Best

The first wave of iPhone X impressions and reviews have started to emerge, offering a glimpse of what tech reviewers make of Apple’s next-gen smartphone.

The verdict? The 10th anniversary iPhone is a seriously impressive handset, and quite possibly Apple’s best ever — although one or two reservations remain. Check out our roundup of some of the most interesting observations below.

iPhone X reviews roundup

iPhone X design: Dissing the notch

The iPhone X changes the appearance of the iPhone more than any iPhone since at least 2014’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Most reviewers praise the premium feel of the handset, although just about everyone notes the “sensor housing” notch that takes a chunk out of the edge-to-edge display. The Verge writes that:

“[The ‘sensor housing’ notch in the display is] ugly, but it tends to fade away after a while in portrait mode. It’s definitely intrusive in landscape, though — it makes landscape in general pretty messy. Less ignorable are the bezels around the sides and bottom of the screen, which are actually quite large. Getting rid of almost everything tends to draw attention to what remains, and what remains here is basically a thick black border all the way around the screen, with that notch set into the top. … It’s a huge step up from the surfboard design we’ve been living with since the iPhone 6, but it definitely lacks the character of Apple’s finest work.”

Super Retina display proves impressive

The iPhone X Super Retina display gets plenty of plaudits from the tech pundits. Engadget describes it as “easily among the most impressive [displays] I’ve ever seen in a phone.”

Apple’s True Tone technology helps the Super Retina display look a bit more subdued and natural than the more lurid brightness of Samsung’s phones.

The aforementioned “notch” does impact the display, though. It proves particularly notable in apps that used letterbox effects to add black bars to the left and right or top and bottom of the display. In some cases, this is because they have yet to be updated for iPhone X. In others, they have been updated but let you choose between black bars and an ugly chunk taken out of the screen.

iPhone X software: Bye-bye, Home button

Unlike the departure of, say, the 3.5mm jack a couple of years back, nobody seems to miss the Home button, despite its being one of the most iconic parts of the iPhone design up until now.

“The strongest recommendation I can make for the new ‘no home button’ paradigm is that after just a week, regular home button actions like double tapping feel much too heavy after just a week of using it,” writes TechCrunch. “Ten years of the home button, it turns out, was enough to allow us to move on.”

Not all of the interface elements are quite so well received. Engadget, for instance, notes that:

“Using the new app switcher seems just a hair slower than double-tapping the home button, and trying to close an app takes a little more effort than it should. Instead of swiping up on an app window to dismiss it, you have to press and hold the window, then tap a close button on the corner. The move was necessary since the swipe up does something else, but the process now takes an extra, mildly annoying step. The stock iOS keyboard also has a lot of empty space beneath it, and while Apple uses it for buttons that switch layouts and fire up voice dictation, it’s pretty ugly.”

Animojis make quite an impression

Either everything else is slightly uninspiring, or animjois are just really, really good. The Verge calls them “probably the single best feature on the iPhone X,” and says they are much stickier than “a lot of weird additions [Apple has made] to iMessage over the years.”

CNBC agrees: “It works so well that it’s bizarre. As I stared down at the screen, a chicken looked back at me making the same facial expressions. You can send these to any iPhone or Android user (the latter receives a video clip), and they’re a ton of fun to use.”

Face ID works … mostly

Face ID, powered by iPhone X’s new facial recognition tech, unlocks the phone with a glance. It replaces Touch ID and is probably the most notable upgrade for the new iPhone.

So how does Face ID fare? Pretty well … for the most part.

“The good news is that Face ID mostly works great,” The Verge notes. “The bad news is that sometimes it doesn’t, and you will definitely have to adjust the way you think about using your phone to get it to a place where it mostly works great.”

Basically, you’ve got to be a lot more purposeful with it than you do with something like Touch ID, which you can pull out of your pocket and have unlocked by the time it reaches your face. Unlocking Face ID takes a lot more conscious effort, and means that you need to stare into the sensor while holding it the right distance from your face.

It can also struggle to work under certain lights, although it’s fine in the dark thanks to its IR technology. “Recent Apple products have tended to demand people adapt to them instead of being adapted to people, and it was hard not to think about that as I stood in the sunlight, waving a thousand-dollar phone ever closer to my face,” says The Verge.

Is iPhone X worth its $1,000 price tag?

The iPhone X is Apple’s best ever iPhone, in everything from its display to its wireless charging to its highly praised cameras (including a vastly improved FaceTime camera). There are compromises, however — namely the display notch, occasionally tricky Face ID (although most people seem to love it), and high price tag.

From the sound of things, though, this phone is going to do crazy sales, and it seems that Apple has produced a device to warrant them. For anyone who complained that the last few years’ iPhone have been incremental upgrades, this handset makes the changes you’ve been dreaming of.

Are you planning to get an iPhone X? Let us know in the comments below. We’ll also be back soon with our own iPhone X review, which will be out in the next week.