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 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
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.
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.
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.
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!