Apple iPhone X review

Apple’s 10th anniversary iPhone X sets a new gold standard for the next decade of iPhones. Coming hot on the heels of the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, the iPhone X steals the show despite sharing nearly identical internal hardware. The X (pronounced “ten”) is a beautiful, modern sculpture, and iPhone owners finally have a reason to show off their phones again. We’ve only had our iPhone X review unit for a little less than a day, so this review is very much a work in progress. We’ll expand on our evaluation of the phone as we continue to put it through its paces.

A stunning display

Turn on the iPhone X, and it’s easy to forget almost every other phone released this year. Apple’s following the “bezel-less” smartphone design trend, where the edges around the screen melt away to offer an immersive all-screen experience. Technically, other phones may have slightly smaller bezels, but we like the approach Apple took here.

Most of the time, anyway. The notch cut out of the screen to accommodate the front-facing camera can be a little distracting. We prefer the notch on the Essential Phone, which is just a tiny black dot compared to the iPhone’s wide black stripe. iOS gracefully splits the top status bar in half around the notch, and many native apps also tailor their designs to it, but it’s easy to feel a break in immersion when watching YouTube videos and movies on Netflix.

Right now, not all apps support the full display. Apps like Snapchat, Slack, and Google Docs have giant black bars on the top and bottom that make the iPhone X look like an iPhone 8. Apple claims all the major social media networks support the unusual screen, and it’s expecting many developers to update their apps before the launch on Friday. We’ll have to wait and see.

The OLED display goes a long way in making amends for these quibbles. The 5.8-inch screen has a 2,436 x 1,125-pixel resolution (458 pixels per inch), and it’s razor sharp. Colors are vibrant, and blacks are finally as pitch-dark as many other OLED Android phones. You’ll have a hard time pulling your eyes away from this screen.

The X is a beautiful, modern sculpture, and iPhone owners finally have a reason to show off their phones again.

As on the iPhone 8 and iPad, Apple’s True Tone technology detects the lighting condition you’re in, and adjusts the screen’s tint to make it more readable. It works extremely well, and made the screen warmer — and easier on the eyes — in our harsh office lighting.

The phone’s all-glass rear is almost the same as the iPhone 8 Plus, except the dual-camera setup has turned to a vertical orientation. Apple says the front-facing depth sensors and cameras took up a lot of space up top, and the rear camera wouldn’t fit sideways. With only the Apple and iPhone logo printed on the glass, the back looks minimal and sleek.

One noticeable difference is the power button. Still situated on the right edge, it’s more elongated than before, which makes it easier to find and press. The mute switch is on the top left, and the volume rocker sits below. There’s still no headphone jack, and the only port is for your Lightning cable at the bottom edge, between the bottom-firing speakers. For music, you’ll either have to pair wireless earbuds with the Bluetooth 5 technology on board, or you can embrace the dongle life with the included Lightning to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter.

What we like most about the iPhone X is its size. It feels compact — it’s slightly larger than the 4.7-inch iPhone 8, but it has a bigger screen than the 5,5-inch iPhone 8 Plus. The X is comfortable in the hand, and it feels remarkable to have so much more screen real estate than a cumbersome “plus-sized” phone.

Speedy and a gesture-based iOS

You’ll find the same A11 Bionic processor from the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus powering the iPhone X. In our brief time with the phone, we haven’t seen any flaws in performance. The interface is fluid, and switching between apps is fast. We’ll put it through its paces and will update this review when we can make a final verdict on performance, but if it’s anything like the iPhone 8 Plus, it’s miles ahead of the competition.

The iPhone X also introduces a new way to interact with iOS. If you noticed, we didn’t mention a home button earlier — it’s officially no more. What replaces it? Gestures. Access the Control Center by sliding down from the top right shoulder, and pull down the Notification Center from the center notch area. If you’re in an app, you’ll see a black bar at the bottom: Swipe it up to go back to the home screen.

If you swipe it up and pause, you will see all your previous apps for some quick multitasking. You can also switch between apps by sliding your finger from the bottom left to the bottom right, kind of like drawing an upside down U. All the animations are beautiful and responsive, and it’s fun to execute largely because it’s so new. It will certainly take some getting used to, because we found ourselves constantly tapping the bottom center expecting a home button.

Trying to quietly activate Siri? Just tap and hold the power button. Taking a screenshot is easy too — tap the power and volume up buttons at the same time. You’ll even get the option to mark the screenshot up. You can press and hold the power and volume down button to turn off the iPhone, or to access SOS emergency services, and double-tapping the power button brings up Apple Pay.

These gesture-based interactions are a thoughtful way of navigating the home button-less iPhone X. The animations are slick, fluid, and futuristic. iOS 11 also brings a whole lot more customization, and you can check out our in-depth iOS 11 review to see what’s new.

Face ID and Animojis

Face ID is the hallmark of the iPhone X, and a huge gamble for Apple, since it completely replaces Touch ID. Instead of swiping a fingerprint, just look at your phone, and it unlocks.

It works well most of the time, but it’s still not as fast and reliable as Touch ID – which lets you unlock your phone as you draw it out of your pocket. In a few instances, it just wouldn’t recognize our face, forcing us to use the PIN code or try again. It’s also annoying that even after the iPhone X recognizes your face, you still need to swipe up from the bottom to get to the home screen — it should already take you there.

It worked incredibly well in the dark, which is surprising, but you’ll always want to make sure you aim the front camera towards your face. It can get a little tricky with certain angles, and so it’s likely better to use a pass code when it’s lying flat on a desk. You can always tap the screen to have it light up.Face ID

Face ID still feels like a work in progress at times. It’s slower to get into your phone with, and it’s something we actively think about when trying to use our phone — we always need to double check it unlocked our device, and we didn’t have this issue with Touch ID.

Since Face ID is replacing Touch ID, you may run into some odd issues getting it to work in lieu of a fingerprint sensor.  For example, with our Chase and Discover banking apps, it initially asked us to sign in, and the app’s respective settings only made note of activating Touch ID. After enabling it, closing the app, and re-opening it, we got a message indicating the app “was designed to support Touch ID. It has not been updated for Face ID.” Still, it gave us the option to have it use Face ID, and we were able to quickly jump into these apps securely with just our face. Most of our apps that required a pin entry or password were able to use Face ID effortlessly.

The other big feature you can use these 3D-mapping sensors and cameras for is Animoji. Open the Messages app and you’ll find a new option to send an animated emoji to a friend, or an Animoji. It essentially tracks your facial expressions — with surprising accuracy — and records whatever you say, kind of like motion capture used in movies. You can send this to anyone, on Android or iOS, and they’ll be able to see it because it’s a standard video file. It’s a fun feature we think people will like, but it’s not necessarily a reason to buy the iPhone X. It would be great if you could send Animojis to people through different messaging apps.

Another great camera

Apple iPhone X Review

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The iPhone X has a very similar camera to the iPhone 8 Plus: Both feature a 12-megapixel wide-angle lens with an f/1.8 aperture, but the 12-megapixel telephoto lens has a wider f/2.4 aperture over the 8 Plus’ f/2.8 aperture. This should help in low light situations with 2x optical zoom, but we haven’t had a chance to try it yet.

Both cameras also have optical image stabilization, a first for Apple. It should help prevent blurriness with shaky hands when you’re zooming in on objects with the optical zoom. It also can improve photos taken in Portrait Mode, as it relies on the telephoto lens.

Portrait Mode adds a blur behind a subject, offering a DSLR-like look, but the star feature is Portrait Lighting, which lets you fake different studio lighting options. This was first introduced with the iPhone 8 Plus, but our eyes are on what the iPhone X brings — Portrait Mode and Portrait Lighting to the 7-megapixel front-facing camera. You can finally make those selfies look far more professional, and we’re impressed with what we’ve seen so far. It works just as advertised, but the output isn’t as good as the rear dual-camera setup. So far, we’ve noticed it doesn’t detect hair particularly well.

Battery

We can’t quite comment on the iPhone X battery just yet, but the glass back means it is compatible with the Qi wireless charging standard. Just plop your phone down on a charging pad and you’re charging — no cables needed.

Apple iPhone X Review

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

All three new iPhones support fast charging, but you’ll need to buy a $25 USB-C to Lightning cable separately, which is a silly decision. It should be included.

We plugged our iPhone X in to charge with 25 percent remaining, and it was able to go back to 100 percent by an hour and 40 minutes. We used a Belkin dock to charge it up, though, so it will likely take a little longer than the cable and adapter included in the box.

Price, availability, and warranty

The iPhone X is expensive. The 64GB model starts at $1,000, and the 256GB variant will set you back $1,150. They go on sale on November 3, but you may have to wait a few weeks to nab one — there are some supply shortages.

Apple iPhone X Compared To

Apple offers a standard warranty that protects your device from manufacturing defects one year from the date of purchase. You can grab AppleCare+ insurance, which includes two years of technical support and accidental damage coverage. We recommend using a case and a screen protector as the display can be quite costly to replace.

Our Take

The iPhone X is the iPhone to buy this year. Even from our initial impressions, we’re certain it’s well worth the high price tag, and early adopters are going to love it.

Is there a better alternative?

For iOS users, your best alternatives are this year’s iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. They’re a little more affordable, and they pack nearly identical specifications as the iPhone X. You’re largely missing out on the new design, and Animojis of course. If you’re willing to spend close to $700 for the iPhone 8, we think it’s worth splurging a little more on the X.

If you’re willing to swap to Android, there are plenty of good choices. We recommend the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, because you won’t find comparable hardware and software integration, like Apple, anywhere else. If you’re eyeing other bezel-less phones, the Essential Phone takes the cake for best design, though you may not be impressed with the camera. It’s a steal, though at $500. Naturally, you won’t be disappointed with the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, which can go toe to toe against the iPhone X.

How long will it last?

The iPhone X is IP67 water-resistant, meaning it can stay underwater up to 1.5 meters for 30 minutes. Apple said the rear and front glass is incredibly durable and strong, but it’s still glass. It will likely shatter after a drop on concrete.

Unlike with most Android phones, you’ll get fast version and security updates with the iPhone X. The device will also be supported for four to five years before it stops getting software updates. We expect the iPhone X to last four to five years.

Should you buy it?

We’re still exploring the iPhone X, but our tentative response is yes. We can’t peel our eyes away from the gorgeous OLED screen, and using gestures to move around iOS is pure bliss. Keep checking back as we continue to refine this review with more detailed takeways from our ongoing tests!

Editor’s Recommendations

Looking for a new device? These smartphone deals can save you up to $500

Fall is a great time of year to get a new smartphone. With companies like Apple and Samsung rolling out new flagship devices, it’s your chance to take advantage of slashed prices and limited-time offers. If your phone needs an update but you don’t want to wait for Black Friday to score a discount on a new device, here are the top 10 smartphone deals available right now, including a few sales on unlocked smartphones, as well as some carrier offers that can save you as much as $500.

The carriers’ best smartphone deals

Cellular service providers regularly offer enticing incentives to get you to switch to their plans, so if you’re looking for a new carrier, you can save a good chunk of change or even score a free device by taking advantage of one of the best smartphone deals from Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon:

Best unlocked smartphone deals

Carrier offers typically require you to sign up for a specific service or to trade in an old device to get your discount. These Android smartphone deals, on the other hand, let you enjoy big savings on these unlocked mobile phones when you buy them outright:

  • LG G6: If you still want the LG G6 but didn’t find the carrier offers tempting enough, then you can score one from Jet for $448 and save $202. This unlocked 4G LTE model is compatible with GSM and CDMA networks.
  • Huawei Honor 8: The Huawei Honor 8 might not be the “flagship killer” that some hyped it to be, but it’s still a good, budget-friendly Android phone with solid hardware. The unlocked Honor 8 is compatible with GSM networks and normally retails for $450, but it can be yours for $300 from B&H, a $150 savings.
  • LeEco Le Pro 3: LeEco has been gaining popularity lately as a maker of affordable yet quality Android devices. The unlocked Le Pro 3 GSM smartphone is currently available for $199 on Amazon after a nice 43-percent discount shaves $151 off the usual price.
  • Moto G4: The Moto G is still one of the best budget Android smartphones on the market today, and B&H has the unlocked fourth-generation model on sale for $130 after a $70 discount. You can also grab the larger G4 Plus for $185 and enjoy a savings of $115.
  • LG G5: New flagships always come with big price cuts on last year’s models, so if you’re not fussy about having the latest bleeding-edge hardware, then the LG G5 is still a great Android phone. A brand-new unlocked one can be yours for $250 ($280 off) from B&H.
  • LG V20: There are a number of carrier deals going on the LG V20 (one of the best phones on the market if you’re a photography junkie), but you can also grab an unlocked one for $350 from B&H and take $200 off.

Looking for more great mobile phone deals and other discounted electronics? Check out our DT Deals to score some extra savings on our favorite tech.

Update: Added the new Sprint iPhone X, T-Mobile LG V20, Verizon iPhone, AT&T Samsung Gear S3, and unlocked LG V20 offers. Removed expired deals and updated prices.

We strive to help our readers find the best deals on quality products and services, and choose what we cover carefully and independently. If you find a better price for a product listed here, or want to suggest one of your own, email us at dealsteam@digitaltrends.com.

Digital Trends may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers.

In their first Russia hearing, tech giants try to placate Congress (with mixed results)


On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee kicked off the first of three hearings this week examining the relationship between social media and Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The hearings mark the first time that lawmakers will hear testimony from Google, Facebook and Twitter around how their platforms were and are manipulated as part of Russian political disinformation campaigns targeting U.S. voters.

“This is really a critical hearing,” Committee Chair Lindsey Graham declared in his opening remarks. “It marks the first time we will have heard from the three agencies about exactly what is going on and what exactly they are prepared to do to stop it.”

Graham struck a friendly note early on, informing the panel that “the purpose of this hearing is to figure out how we can help you.”

Predictably, the tech representatives weren’t fooled by a group of lawmakers that appears increasingly eager to regulate their ad operations.

As Tuesday’s hearing was the first of three, the big question is just how cooperative the three companies would be. All three elected to send their general counsel rather than top executives to the hearing, a move that signaled they’d prefer to remain tight lipped and well within the comfort zones they’re used to in friendlier territory. They mostly succeeded, even when things got a bit awkward for a trio of companies far too accustomed to exercising near total control of the narrative around their products.

None of these tech giants are used to having their feet held to the fire, and some members of the committee, particularly Louisiana Senator John Kennedy and Minnesota Senator Al Franken, proved eager to do so. When Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch, who bore the brunt of the committee’s ire, responded tepidly to his line of questioning about the company’s responsibility, Franken rebuked the panel explosively.

“You put billions of data points together all the time… you can’t put together rubles and a political ad? How did you not connect those two dots?”

Kennedy picked up a line of questioning threaded early on by Graham, turning to exactly the kind of rapid fire questions that the tech companies dispatched their legal reps to dodge.

Kennedy: “Did China run ads in the last election cycle to try to impact our election? Did Turkmenistan?”

Stretch: “Not that I’m aware of”

Kennedy: “How can you be aware? You’ve got five million advertisers and you’re gonna tell me that you can trace the origin of all of those advertisers?”

Stretch: “No sir, I cannot”

Kennedy: “That’s your testimony under oath?”

On the issue of banning foreign currency in political ads — and many other issues, including how they’ll deal with shell companies — the trio was non-committal. They refused to endorse Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s bipartisan Honest Ads Act when pressed, gesturing that they would be willing to cooperate on legislation but they’d really prefer to self-govern (since that’s gone so well). Klobuchar took that opportunity to skewer the regulation-phobic companies. “There wouldn’t be an outside enforcer of any of your policies, is that right?,” she demanded. They reluctantly admitted she was right and surely took notes for how to handle tomorrow’s likely continuation of questioning around that legislation.

That sheepish admission and others were about the only candid moments that the hearing produced, as it swung from Russian intelligence operations to Islamic extremists and even to a predictably useless interlude from Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who squandered his time with a distracting line of questioning that accused the companies of partisanship.

The exchanges set a tone for tomorrow’s intelligence committee hearings, which are likely to be meatier and more aggressive, particularly in the Senate. In round one, Google, Facebook and Twitter cooperated, but they weren’t particularly helpful, opting to mostly cover their asses with pre-planned statements and platform reports designed to appease lawmakers and stave off regulation. All three were eager to tout their own home remedies for political disinformation campaigns — hire actual humans, build AI, et cetera — but remained unwilling to conduct the kind of deep self examination necessary to inoculate themselves outright.

Featured Image: Richard Sharrocks/Getty Images

Slack went down, and naturally workers ran to Twitter to vent about it

Slack went down, and workers were left scrambling.

The popular workplace collaboration client suffered “connectivity issues” late Tuesday afternoon (PDT), affecting access to the service worldwide.

Slack responded to tweets about the outage on Twitter, and on its status page — which had also been working intermittently — it said they were “actively investigating” the problem.

At the time of writing, Slack’s outage has lasted for more than half an hour.

Image: mashable screenshot

From people who use Twitter, there was plenty of freaking out.

For websites like Imgur, it was a good opportunity to spruik its product.

Mashable has reached out to Slack for comment. 

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Apple releases iOS 11.1 with new emojis, bug fixes, and more

Why it matters to you

The iOS 11.1 update to Apple’s iOS 11 operating system has officially been released and includes new emojis. There are also several security and bug fixes.

Can’t get enough emojis? If you’ve got an iOS device that supports iOS 11, you’re in luck. Apple just released dozens of new animals, mythical creatures, food types, and smiley faces for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch’s emoji library in iOS 11.1.

The update includes over 70 new emoji characters such as animals, mythical creatures, clothing options, and more. Among the highlights are a vampire, crazy face, pretzel, pie, T-rex, and a mermaid.

ios 11 1 emoji 2

They’re part of Unicode 10, the encoding standard hashed out by the eponymous Unicode Consortium. It’s a surprisingly complicated process: Every calendar quarter, the Consortium’s 12 major voting members — a group that includes Oracle, Google, Facebook IBM, Apple, and Yahoo, among others — take recommendations from the public and propose letters, digits, symbols, and emoji for revisions of Unicode.

The update also comes with some small design changes for several emojis. You might notice the bee, snail, dolphin, and others are now somewhat different. The new designs are more realistic and detailed than prior versions.

The Photos app on iOS 11 has received improvements as well. Issues with blurry photos, Live Photo Effects, and swiping between screenshots have been addressed or resolved. The update has also fixed an issue which saw some photos not displaying in the People album when users restored their device from an iCloud Backup.

The Reachability bug that has been around since the initial release of iOS 11 has now been fixed, too. It also brings back the 3D Touch App Switcher — which allows iPhone users to perform a 3D Touch gesture at the left edge of the display and bring up the multitasking App Switcher.

There’s also a built-in keyboard feature that offers a variety of emoji symbols when typing in a specific word. For example, when you type in the word “love,” your suggestions will pull up three different types of heart emojis to use. Other new features include a new camera icon under the Restrictions section, and new animation for the lock screen as well as when tapping the status bar to scroll up.

With the release of iOS 11.1 also comes bug fixes and security improvements. One of these specifically addresses the prior exploit that allowed hackers to access all modern Wi-Fi networks — known as KRACK.

Update: Apple releases 11.1 with new emoji symbols and several other features

Editor’s Recommendations

AT&T will open AI marketplace to the public next year

Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

Thanks to AT&T, you may soon be able to build your own AI-powered app. 

The Acumos “AI Marketplace,” launched with open-source nonprofit the Linux Foundation, is currently open for “initial access” to companies who pay a registration fee. The platform will be released to the public, for free, in early 2018. 

Acumos will provide a platform through which developers can select AI capabilities (such as location tracking and facial recognition) and string them together to create apps. The interface will be easy to use, according to Mazin Gilbert, AT&T Labs’ vice president of advanced technology.

“The goal of Acumos is to lower the barrier to entry to AI and increase adoption and deployments of AI services,” Gilbert told Mashable. “The platform is designed to support a set of different users ranging from core machine learners who wish to tune and upload their favorite model to developers who would like to deploy AI services on third party cloud.”

“Students with no computer science or engineering degree would also be able to use Acumos to test out different applications,” he added. 

AT&T has been researching and utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning through AT&T Labs, its research and development division, for decades. The company uses AI for cybersecurity and customer service. 

AT&T has also been heavily involved with open source initiatives in the past, such as the Open Network Automation Platform, which launched earlier this year.

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Next year’s iPhones won’t have the new TrueDepth tech on its rear camera, says analyst

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The iPhone X‘s release is imminent (and we can tell you all about it in our review), but that hasn’t stopped the rumor mill from churning out reports about Apple’s next generation of smartphones.   

The latest speculation about Apple’s 2018 offerings is more concerned with what the phones won’t have, rather than what new features are coming. Apple won’t bring the iPhone X’s innovative new TrueDepth front-facing camera system to the rear camera, according to an investors note from respected analyst and supply chain source Ming-Chi Kuo that was provided to AppleInsider

Apple will instead focus on launching the phones on time and stabilizing shipments by avoiding the difficulties that reportedly plagued the X’s production. Kuo previously predicted that TrueDepth tech will become the norm across all future iPhone and iPad models, completely replacing physical the physical home button. 

Kuo thinks Apple will concentrate on “reducing costs and selling prices,” which could potentially make the high level technologies in the current X more accessible to consumers next year as they’re implemented across other devices in the iPhone line.

The analyst believes TrueDepth will eventually make its way to the rear of the iPhone — just not so soon. The technology is still in its infancy, and there are other issues beyond the supply chain and production challenges. Kuo thinks that Apple still has work to do to expand its AR ecosystem and platform, ARKit, since AR functionality would likely be one of the main draws to a rear-facing TrueDepth rig.

We don’t know much about Apple’s plans for next year, but some rumors have already leaked out. An early report claimed that Apple is working on two new phones with 5.28-inch and 6.46-inch OLED displays, which would serve as fitting complements to the 5.8-inch X if Apple releases three devices again.

On the supply side, LG might be providing batteries for the 2018 iPhones, while Samsung is rumored to supply both OLED displays and chips. The next generation of devices could be without Qualcomm’s modem chips, too, as Apple is said to be testing out Intel and MediaTek chips as Apple and Qualcomm are embroiled in a messy dispute

Apple typically doesn’t comment on rumors, however, and the company goes to extreme lengths to keep its development plans secret. We won’t know for sure what’s coming with the next generation of iPhones until next fall when they’re (presumably) officially unveiled. Start the countdown now.    

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I finally understand what the iPhone X ‘notch’ is for

I had an epiphany the other day. 

I was finalizing my review of LG V30, which would be my third review of a “bezel-less” phone in a row. And as I struggled to find the words to describe the V30’s design, which is so similar to all the other big-screened Android flagships that came out lately, I finally realized that the iPhone X’s “notch” is not only a good design choice — it’s a necessary one. 

With the notch, the iPhone X has one extremely important advantage over most other flagship smartphones: It’s different. 

Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t like the notch. I’d still prefer the iPhone X without it — the idea of a phone that’s essentially just a screen is so wonderfully futuristic that I’d be the first in line to buy one (I’ll actually be the first in line to buy the iPhone X anyway, but that’s because it’s kinda my job). 

But in a sea of Android smartphones with very slim bezels, the iPhone X will be immediately recognizable when you pull it out of your pocket. You’ll get the “oohs” and “aahs” and “is that the new one” comments. You’ll get the jealous looks. Perhaps this is not why you, personally, are interested in the iPhone, but the reality is that a lot of people will be buying a $999+ phone for the exclusivity. And the notch, as odd as it may be, separates the iPhone from every other phone out there. 

This is why the screens on Samsung’s flagship phones curve over the edges — a design choice that doesn’t actually serve any functional purpose (Samsung will say otherwise, but really, it doesn’t). 

The fact that smartphone makers are trying to make their phones stand out from the rest isn’t exactly new. In fact, I’m sure a few readers will call me out for stating the obvious with this text. But the rumors about the mythical new iPhone went on for years. It was supposed to be, well, just a screen. No bezels, no notches. The pinnacle of Apple’s elegant, simple design. So when the iPhone X came out looking as it does, many (me included) saw the notch as an eyesore. It’s so distracting, so clumsy, so un-Apple-like.

And yes, just a few weeks ago, I thought that Apple would look to get rid of the notch as soon as it can — as soon as it can find away to somehow make the speaker and the front cameras invisible. Perhaps even in a year’s time. Now, having been swarmed with Android phones that all have a beautiful, big, notch-less screen, I don’t think Apple will remove the notch from the iPhone X’s successor. The last thing Apple wants to do is drown in a sea of Androids. 

The last thing Apple wants to do is drown in a sea of Androids. 

In fact, it’s the Android phone makers that have a problem. A few years ago, phone designers could at least use that home button below the screen to make the phone stand out. Now that phones are just screens with tiny bezels, all you’re left with is the screen (and the phone’s back, but there’s only so much you can do with the back). And it doesn’t matter if it’s a top-notch (no pun intended) OLED or a lowly LCD: All screens look very, very similar. That joke app, that adds a software “notch” to your Android phone? It might not be a joke after all. 

The phone is a utility device, but it’s also a fashion statement. Perhaps we’d all be most comfortable in blue jeans and black turtlenecks, but people like to dress differently; they like to make a statement with the way they look, and the smartphone is a big part of that. Especially if it costs a thousand dollars of more. 

Ultimately, the notch might turn out to be the iPhone X’s best feature. It’s so distinctive that it will become that one little thing that separates the iPhone owners from owners of, well, all other phones. On the iPod, it was the white colored earphones and cables. On the MacBook, it’s the Apple logo on the back. And on the iPhone, it’s going to be the notch. 

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Senators grill tech companies about Russian interference, but don’t get very far

A bipartisan group of Senators grilled tech companies today about how Russians used their platforms to interfere in the 2016 election, calling on them to better monitor abuse in the future. A subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary committee challenged top lawyers from Facebook, Google, and Twitter on the potential use of shell companies to hide advertiser identities, the malicious use of bot networks, and the limited capabilities of existing ad review policies. But despite the bipartisan appeal of criticizing the tech companies in public, it’s not clear what, if anything, will come of the critiques.

Facebook, Google, and Twitter sent top legal officials to Washington this week for a series of hearings about Russian interference in 2016 election. In prepared statements, which leaked yesterday, executives pledged their commitment to fighting foreign interference while disclosing that the problem was bigger than they had previously admitted.

Senators asked the lawyers a wide range of questions, largely focused on Facebook. In perhaps the most pressing exchange of the day, Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana asked Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch how the company could possibly keep track of all five million advertisers on its platform. “You don’t have the ability to know who every one of those advertisers is, do you, today?” Kennedy said. “Right now? Not your commitment — I’m asking about your ability.”

In one of the more heated exchanges of the day, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) pressed Stretch on why the company had allowed the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency to buy political ads using Russian currency. “How did Facebook, which prides itself on being able to process billions of data points and instantly transform them in the personal connections with its user, somehow not make the connection that electoral ads, paid for in rubles, were coming from Russia?”

Franken called on Facebook to reject the use of foreign currencies to buy political ads. But Stretch demurred. “It’s relatively easy for bad actors to switch currencies,” Stretch said. “So it’s a signal, but not enough.”

In its prepared testimony, Facebook disclosed that 126 million people had been served content from Russia-linked pages between January 2015 and August 2017. Of that, 29 million people saw it because they had liked one of the Russia-linked pages that Facebook has subsequently removed. The rest saw the posts after they spread organically thanks to likes, comments, and shares that propelled them forward virally. Facebook also deleted 170 Instagram accounts, which posted about 120,000 pieces of content.

Google disclosed that a Kremlin-linked account spent $4,700 on advertising on YouTube, posting 1,108 English-language videos to 18 YouTube channels. The videos generated 309,000 views during the election cycle.

But despite senators’ raised voices, they got little out of tech company executives beyond their prepared statements, other than a commitment to continue working with senators. Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat, asked: “In an election where a total of about 115,000 votes would have changed the outcome, can you say that the false and misleading propaganda people saw on your Facebook didn’t have an impact on the election?” Stretch responded: “We’re not well positioned to know why any one person or an entire electorate voted the way that it did.”

Earlier this month, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill, known as the Honest Ads Act, that would require new disclosures for online political advertising modeled on requirements for print and broadcast media. During today’s hearing, one of the authors, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, asked tech executives whether they would commit to supporting her bill. None would.

In an effort to get ahead of federal regulation, tech companies have announced plans to regulate themselves. Mark Zuckerberg laid out a nine-point plan for limiting foreign actors’ ability to influence elections, including new requirements that political ads be labeled and available for public inspection. Twitter announced it would build a “transparency center” where political ads bought on its platform can be publicly viewed.

Today’s hearing was the first of three this week for the tech companies. Tomorrow, the executives will appear before the Select Intelligence Committees of the House and Senate, where they are expected to face similar questions.

The Cary42 is a gorgeous wooden arcade box for the extremely wealthy

We’ve covered Swedish designer Love Hultén’s magnificent retro gaming machines plenty of times before on The Verge, and his latest effort — the Cary42 two-player arcade console / attaché case — continues his work of merging handmade wooden hardware with retro gaming.

The Cary42 is best described as a larger, upgraded version of Hultén’s original R-Kaid-R console, that doubles the controls to allow two players to enjoy classic games together. It features a 12-inch LCD display, stereo speakers, a 12V DC Power supply, and 16GB of storage preinstalled with 100 games (but its expandable over USB, so you can add as many emulated games as you can fit.)

The default version of the Cary42 is made out of solid American walnut, and features black and white arcade buttons. But Hultén says that he’s happy to discuss further customizations, including custom mother-of-pearl inlay, should you be into that sort of thing.

Sadly though, it’s probably not likely that you’ll have to make that kind of decision, since Hultén is only making 50 Cary42s. Oh, and each one costs €2,599 (roughly $3026.24), not including shipping or VAT, which means that it’ll probably be restricted to the truly wealthy.