It’s been ten years since Apple designed the original iPhone and redefined what a cellular phone was capable of. The device was an example of pure innovation. Not only did it shake up the market and set the new example for the competition to strive towards, it also changed the way users interacted with their phones. Ten years later and Apple aims to relive those glory days by accomplishing that same level of innovative success with the iPhone X. Starting at the always “affordable” price of $1319 CAD, you too can experience what Apple believes to be the next generational shift for smartphone technology.
Starting with design and aesthetics, the iPhone X looks stunning right out of the box. From the near bezel-less 5.8” screen to the polished stainless steel band, the phone feels and looks premium. The button layout remains the same as previous iPhone models, except for the recent loss of the signature home button. It may be a heartfelt loss for some, but this new retina screen and the gesture designed user interface are essential to execute Apple’s vision for the X. It will only be a matter of time before even the lightning port will be removed in exchange for only wireless charging and wireless peripherals.
The only questionable design choice I have with the iPhone X’s design is its glass back. Though Apple ensures that this full-glass design is made of the toughest material on the market, users still manage to drop their new devices and end up with cracked screens and fragile backplates. The professional look is also quickly ruined with fingerprint smudges after a couple days of use, which feels bothersome to maintain. I would have appreciated a matte material, akin to the Google Pixel 2 XL, that would have made the phone feel more sturdy and easy to grip. Instead, my suggestion is to purchase a quality protective case. It may break that sleek silhouette, but at least your heart won’t be pounding furiously when you see the phone hit the floor.
At the heart of the iPhone X is Apple’s A11 Bionic, the same six-core processor used in the recently release iPhone 8 and 8+, running on iOS 11. Comparable in performance to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, the real strength of the A11 Bionic is its high efficiency and neural engine. The neural engine is pretty unique, being powered off two cores and capable of machine-learning. Because this enables the iPhone X to learn through observation, key features like Face ID, AR applications and Animoji are able to be more accurate and consistent than similar features offered on the market today by the competition. To finish off the specs, the iPhone X also manage to pack in their latest Metal 2 software and a 30 per cent faster GPU to assure users they are playing console-quality mobile games and AR experiences at their full potential.
To put it simply, the Super Retina HD display on the iPhone X is the best display currently on the market. Sporting a 2436×1125 resolution, 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, and 458ppi, this true HDR OLED panel delivers an unmatched viewing experience. Everything I watched looked sharp and crisp, but also vibrant and properly saturated due to the wide colour gamut. Compared to the controversial LG panel on the Google Pixel 2 XL, the iPhone X makes that phone look generations older in presentation quality. The implemented use of True Tone technology also takes advantage of one of the powerful light sensors located in the notch, which is capable of adjusting the white balance of the content to the colour temperature of the room so the user’s eyes won’t become strained. At the moment of writing this review Netflix and YouTube are the two primary video apps optimized for the X, with more optimized apps coming down the pipeline through future patches.
It’s time to address Face ID, the core feature of the iPhone X that can make or break the experience for users. Utilizing the True Depth camera, our faces now become our passwords to unlock our smartphones and buy products on the app store. I love the concept and the tech behind this feature, but sorely it did not meet my expectations. During my testing in various lighting situations and facial hair phases, Face ID worked properly about 80% of the time. While the number is still high, people paying top dollar for this device expect a frustration free experience. Similar to the introduction of fingerprint sensors, this is first generation Face ID and the kinks need to be worked out. Hopefully the feature can become more consistent through patches, but in most cases the problems of first generation products like this get worked out in new iterations of hardware.
Once the iPhone X is unlocked it’s time to learn how to properly navigate the device because it is completely different from any smartphone I’ve experienced. The new gesture design interface takes some time to get used to, but within an hour they felt intuitive to use. Swiping up to return home, swiping down on the right corner to bring up the control centre and double clicking the side button to pay for software are just a few examples of how Apple plans to design simplified ways for users to navigate their phones. I can’t say that these gesture were any faster than people using their home or back buttons to execute simple commands, but it was unique to experience and hard to break the habit of using the gestures once I switched back to my personal device.
Despite the iPhone X’s best efforts, the Google Pixel 2 remains the king for smartphone cameras in my eyes. The dual 12MP cameras on the iPhone X do have a couple more features and options to deliver a more diverse experience to users, but the image quality isn’t as detailed or vibrant. That doesn’t mean these cameras are a slouch though. Utilizing an all-new sensor and advanced ISP, courtesy of the A11 processor, the iPhone X still delivers a worthwhile experience to its users. Portrait mode is the perfect solution for people on the eternal quest to take the best selfie and the Apple-designed Video encoder enables videos to be recorded at 4K 60FPS for the smoothest possible footage.
Overall, I feel the iPhone X is the precursor to something greater. While the design and the ideas behind the phone feel like they should set the bar even higher, Apple’s execution on these innovative features leaves room for improvement. The infamous notch feels like it could easily be placed under the display within the next two generations of hardware and through the vast amount of user feedback, new gestures and other creative ways to interact with your phone look to be on the horizon. While it’s hard to justify the hefty price for first generation features, the iPhone X still manages to be one of the definitive smartphones of 2017 and is worth a recommendation for those that can afford it.
A retail version of this device reviewed was provided by the manufacturer. You can find additional information about CGMagazine’s ethics and review policies and procedures here.
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