Apple iPhone X First Impressions: What You Get For Rs 89,000
The story was first published on 13 September, 2017. We are re-contextualising it before the availability of iPhone X from 3 November.
Its outstanding successes notwithstanding, Apple needed to wow its detractors and on-the-fence consumers with its 10th anniversary iPhone, the iPhone X (that’s X for ten, a la the Romans) and dispel the notion that the company was slowing down on its hallmarks of innovation and design.
Right on cue, at the spectacular new venue, the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple Park, Cupertino, Tim and his band of merry men unveiled the phone Apple’s probably been itching to launch for a few years now.
Design Refresh for iPhone
iPhone X gets a superior edge-to-edge screen, with advanced facial recognition-based biometric security, compressed into a form factor not significantly bigger than the smaller ‘non-Plus’ iPhones from the past couple of years.
The big change with the X, one that will differentiate it from the 8/8 Plus, is the inclusion of the gorgeous edge-to-edge display, and if you’re used to using an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus, you’re immediately going to notice (and appreciate) how much more screen you have access to in a form factor that’s barely bigger than the 4.7-inch-sporting iPhone 8.
The all-glass rear design is a tad slippery, but it enables wireless charging, a fair trade-off.
The screen-to-body ratio and lack of the thick top and bottom bezels means that the X can rightfully take its place in the “near bezel-less” list of flagship phones for this year – this is a design that befits a flagship device in 2017.
iPhone Goes Bezel-Less, Finally
That said, the design isn’t quite the outrageously sexy Infinity Display we’ve seen in the S8 and the Note 8 series, and I like the thin-bezel design to the LG G6’s – a gorgeous, expansive display in a sensible, mature, almost function-first design.
The OLED panel used was, under the bright lighting conditions of the hands-on area, spot on in terms of brightness levels and color reproduction, and it checks off all the boxes you’d want from a 2017 flagship – a tall almost-2:1 display (1125x2436 pixels) with HDR10 and True Tone support and a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio.
It’s also worth noting that though it feels all-screen, thanks to the notch at the top of the display that packs in the TrueDepth camera system, it really isn’t, and you feel it most when watching videos.
Either watch it with black bars on the side (typical issue with 16:9 content on 18:9 screens), or go full-screen and have a bit of the screen cut off by the sensor area.
The tradeoff for all that screen is the loss of the home button with the Touch ID fingerprint sensor.
The lack of a home button is addressed via somewhat initially confusing on-screen gestures – swipe up to go to home screen, pause mid-swipe to see your open apps and swipe down from the right of the notch to bring down Control Center – but the gestures didn't feel quite so alien after 20 minutes of trying this across various demo devices.
Say Hello to Face ID
The lack of Touch ID is a slightly more nuanced issue. Its replacement – Face ID facial recognition – may well be more secure than Touch ID, but it brings with it some inconveniences.
I set up one of the X devices with my face and while it’s snappy to unlock the phone simply by looking at it, it more often than not involves you picking up your phone and bringing it to your eye level for the tech to work. Across a number of demos, Face ID felt distinctively slower than Touch ID, as is the case with Samsung’s Iris Scan, for example.
Certain scenarios like unlocking while pulling out of a pocket or with the phone lying on a table just can’t be done as easily/at all. Yet, this is a feature that needs extensive testing, so we’ll give you the update once we get our hands on an iPhone X unit in the next few months prior to the 3 November India launch.
The facial recognition tech is put to good use on the Animoji feature, which maps your face using the front facing TrueDepth camera and applies it to several popular emoji (like a dog, a cat and a pile of poop). How well it will last past the honeymoon period is yet to be seen.
I was impressed with the camera setup on the X, OIS on the telephoto camera is welcome, as is 4K shooting at 60 fps. But in particular, I liked the new Portrait Lighting feature – you can change the lighting (Natural, Studio or Stage, among others) on your subject while taking the shot, or do it after the fact while in the photo gallery. This is going to seriously up many a selfie game, I can tell you that.
What We Think
Apple’s had some experience with not going first to the head of the class with the assignment, instead focusing on getting it right and executing to a higher standard when it finally rolls it out.
This isn’t the first phone with an OLED display, neither is it the first with thin bezels, dual-camera OIS, a 2:1 aspect ratio or wireless charging, and we hope to answer this one question over the next few months, as we get to experience the iPhone X further – has Apple hit one out of the (Apple) Park?
(Tushar Kanwar is a technology columnist and commentator and has been contributing for the past 15 years to India’s leading newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at @2shar.)