I have had the iPhone X for about a week now. There seems to be a lot of talk about this new phone. Some people are loving it while others are scorning it for various reasons. I have been due for a phone upgrade for a while now and we did happen to get a couple of these at work for testing. So, after a week of using it how does it stand up?
Well in short it is an iPhone. It is a very good iPhone, but fundamentally it does everything previous iPhones did and continues to tread the path of design aesthetic that Apple has been known for. As you can imagine, this is going to lead to some strong opinions on the design. My general impression has been that those who are the strongest critics of the new phone are not Apple fans or iPhone users to begin with. The design choices Apple has made very much stay with their design methodology and whether you agree with that or not really just comes down to you as a user. Here's the thing, you don't have to like Apple’s choices and there are tons of other phones out there if you prefer something else. I do think what Apple has done is interesting though. So let's take a look at what I like and what I don't like.
What I really like
I simply love the screen. It is bright and crisp and very responsive. The change to the near edgeless design is really fantastic. I really like the look of the rounded corners on the screen. Going back to my iPad with the square corners and the bezels really feels like a step back. I really like how the corner information like the battery and cellular network are tucked away out of the main viewing area with the black tab, but they also still feel cohesive with the background continuing through to the screen area. It is hard to describe, but it does feel like an amazing design aesthetic.
While we are talking about the screen we might as well talk about the black notch at the top. I have found this to be a non-issue when using the phone and it "disappears" after a few moments. The dual depth cameras and IR sensor that are included in that notch really are a nice asset, and I feel like the phone’s design aesthetic would be worse if the black bar did continue across the entire top.
There is a "notch remover" app in the iTunes store now which creates a black bar across the top of the screen and quite frankly, I think it looks terrible. The phone feels unbalanced. But, to each their own.
The camera is great and the dual camera setup on both the front and the back adds a lot. This is one of those things that could justify the extra price tag for most people. The portrait photos look fantastic and the low light ability is a huge step up from my iPhone 6. I do wish that Apple had done a bit more with the photo filters or given us something a bit more on the software side.
Face ID is a really cool addition and it works really well. I just wish it didn't involve the removal of the touch ID because I still prefer that in some instances. There are times when you simply don't want or can't bring your face directly to the phone.
So what Don't I like?
The Hardware Design
The phone feels amazing in your hand and it has a nice "heft" to it. Unfortunately this feels like a super fragile phone and the back is made of glass. It is extremely slick in your hands and I feel like this is an instance of Apple just moving with blinders. They really should do a better job of hitting their design aesthetic while making a phone that isn't this fragile. What's the point of making something so pretty if you have to put a case on it?
Also the continued "bump" from the rear camera. I can't believe that we still have this. Just make the phone thicker so it can rest flush on a table.
The Removal of the Home Button and Touch ID
Despite the new edge to edge screen and Face ID, I miss the home button and Touch ID. Touch ID feels like a more secure feature, especially for Apple Pay. While the new screen gestures are easy to get used to, you still lose something without the home button.
I used Apple's "Reachability" feature a lot on the old phone. The new phone is almost impossible to use with just one hand. The reachability mode was previously accessed by double tapping the home button. It now has to be turned on in the accessibility menu. Actions now have to be accessed via a little "bar" on the bottom of the screen. Unfortunately, while holding the phone in my hand I can't really reach the bottom of the screen. It makes for an awkward experience at best and at worst an opportunity for the phone to slip right out of your hands.
I really would have liked to see something on the bottom of the screen. The notch actually mirrored on the bottom of the screen with that touch line and haptic feedback would be really cool I think. You could get the gestures you want while still having a physical component for your hand to be guided to when using the phone. I really want to see touch ID come back.
iOS 11 UI changes
Some of the UI changes to accommodate the loss of the home button also are not quite there yet. I like what Apple did by moving them to the corners. I have been using the hot corners on my Mac for years, so this make sense to me, but they are not that responsive. Opening the App Switcher is a crap shoot and it just doesn't feel good. It is also difficult now to figure out how to turn off the phone and force close apps. Unfortunately I feel like these changes were driven by the hardware, and while some of them are good, some just don't hit the mark.
Overall, this is a nice phone. I like the camera features, but it is too hard to try and justify the prices for this first round. I hope to see the screen design get into future phones and iPads, but I want to see the Touch ID come back.