It's been a long time coming for Apple fans, but the iPhone X is finally starting to get into people's hands. There have been a rash of hands-on impressions over the last two days, and people seem to be mostly positive about their experiences with Apple's new flagship.
Here are a couple of videos:
A couple of notes about what I've seen and heard about the iPhone X so far.
- The OLED screen on the X appears to not have the same problems that people are currently experiencing with the Google Pixel 2. It's obviously too early to learn about any potential problems with burn-in, but people seem to be happy with the display on these things.
- The Notch still baffles me. I've been buying and using Apple products for a long time now, and I don't think I've ever seen a design decision quite as off-putting as the notch on the screen of the iPhone X. I understand that there needed to be room at the top of the display for a front-facing camera, microphone, and speakers, but there were just more elegant ways to design around this than the notch.
To be fair, people have been noting that you kind of forget about the notch after you have been using the phone for awhile, but I don't think that forgives bad design. No one should be happy to have a sizable chunk of your screen obscured when you go to watch a video in landscape:
There are going to be apps that are not optimized for the notch, and since this phone's design will be the minority when it comes to the total iPhone population in the wild, it may take awhile for your favorite apps to be optimized for the new form factor.
- The biggest worry I have about the iPhone X out of the box is how well it's facial recognition works in real life conditions. An edge-to-edge display means the X is completely reliant on this new technology to preform the most basic, yet vital, operation of the phone: unlock. In the verge video, Nilay Patel, said he had some issues getting the phone to recognize his face when he was at a brightly lit deli. I was shocked to hear that he had any problems at all. Think about how annoying it would be if your phone didn't unlock even 1/100th of the time. Now imagine you are out in public, say waiting in line at a deli, and have to keep brining the phone up to your face to get it to unlock. Yuck.
To be fair, other reviewers have said they have not experienced any problems with the facial recognition on the X, but we are obviously in early days here. There's no way for Apple to test all of the different ways this phone can fail from a software standpoint until these units are in the wild, and I'm certain once they have relevant data they will throw their entire weight at smoothing out any wrinkles in Face ID. However, be there any hardware limitations in these phones that cause Face ID to fail on a regular basis, it will be the biggest crisis the company has had to face since the release of the original iPhone.
- I'm already a hard pass on Animojis, and I think it's insane that they are playing such a big part in a lot of these first impression videos. Maybe I'm just an old crank, who needs to learn how to live a little, but seriously, get off my yard with that garbage.
- The most important feature of a smartphone for me is the camera, and it will be awhile before we know how well it stands up to other flagships when it comes to taking pictures. For as much as Apple lauded their front-facing portrait mode photos, MKHD said in his impressions video that the Google Pixel 2 actually was outperforming the X in that arena.
This is the first time in awhile that I'm actually in the market for a new cell phone when a new version of the iPhone hardware is set to release. It would make since for me to buy an iPhone this time around now that I'm mostly invested in Apple ecosystem, but I'm not sold on dishing out a cool grand to have the newest and flashiest phone on the market. That's not too say that I'm unimpressed at what Apple has seemingly accomplished with the X. There is no doubt that we are going to be living in a future in which phones have no bezels, and rely on facial and audible recognition to accomplish all kinds of tasks, but I wouldn't bank o a first generation product to be really great at these sorts of things. I've been in the tech game long enough to know that early adopters always got burnt in one way or another.
In a year win which Apple has released the iPhone 8, which in many ways is the pinnacle of their design language of the last five years, I would caution those who are chomping at the bit to buy the next big thing. Most people purchase a new cell phone around every two years. Even if you were to buy an iPhone 8 this year, I don't think you would be missing out on much. I have my doubts that the current iPhone X design is going to be the way that iPhone's look three or four years down the road. If you are one of the many who have already pre-ordered the X, I hope that it is worth every penny you paid for it. When they announced this phone back in September I was expecting a leap frog product that would make other phones feel automatically dated by comparison, but I'm not sure the X is that phone.