Review: Apple iPhone X

Pros: Face ID is a game changer. New Super Retina OLED screen provides a whole new level of display quality. iPhone “Plus” dual-lens camera system in an iPhone 8-sized package. Wider aperture and OIS on 2X lens should provide better 2X photos. Front TrueDepth camera empowers Portrait Mode and Portrait Lighting for selfies as well as other advanced technologies. iPhone 8 Plus battery life in a smaller iPhone. Nice boost in screen real estate over standard-sized iPhones. Retains museum-quality design of the iPhone 8 models and takes it up a notch with the stainless steel frame. New gesture control scheme is fluid and intuitive.

Cons: The higher aspect ratio means the screen isn’t actually larger than the iPhone Plus models, despite the larger diagonal. The front TrueDepth camera notch and rear camera bump detract from an otherwise great aesthetic. Lack of Touch ID makes Apple Pay slightly less convenient. OLED screen may be subject to image retention and burn-in. Higher price and increased repair costs from prior iPhone models.

For the past ten years, Apple has taken a largely iterative approach to the iPhone’s iconic design. While the design aesthetic changed with new models, from the sandwiched glass design of the iPhone 4 era to the very thin rounded edges of the iPhone 6 and beyond, the top and bottom bezels, earpiece slot on the top, and home button on the bottom means that on the face it’s always been clear that you’re looking at an iPhone.

Ten years later, Apple has clearly decided it’s time for a change, and the result is the iPhone X. Announced alongside two more traditional iPhone models, the iPhone X takes the venerable smartphone design in a whole new direction while still preserving the Apple aesthetic that defines the device as an “iPhone.”

Review: Apple iPhone X

Apple has pulled no punches in building up the iPhone X as a groundbreaking device, and in fact it’s so bleeding edge that the company tacitly acknowledged with the release of the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus that not everybody will necessarily be ready for the new design and technology — not to mention the price.

Review: Apple iPhone X

The iPhone X is considerably more expensive than its siblings, but it also unveils several technological improvements that we’re certain will define the next era of the iPhone. It’s an impressive device, but of course the real question remains whether it’s worth both the financial and experimental commitment to these new technologies, or whether you’re still better off staying with the more established, traditional models. We’ll take a closer look at Apple’s new flagship iPhone X in the next few pages and try to answer those very questions.

Design

Physically, the iPhone X comes in slightly larger than the iPhone 8 (and other 4.7-inch iPhone models), measuring 0.3 inches taller by 0.14 inches wider, and a fraction of an inch thicker. It’s enough of a difference that you won’t be able to use an iPhone 8 case, but in the hand it feels about the same as every other 4.7-inch iPhone that Apple has released since 2014.

Review: Apple iPhone X

The iPhone X features the same glass backed design that Apple debuted with the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus earlier this fall, but adds a “surgical grade” stainless steel frame, which takes the museum-quality aesthetics of the device up a notch further. Apple also continues the trend it began with the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus of removing the fine print from the rear of the iPhone; thanks to the new E-LABEL Act, the unsightly FCC and other industry certification markings are gone, which adds an extra bit of elegance to the design.

Review: Apple iPhone X

Unfortunately, the camera bump is still here, and it’s even more prominent than on prior iPhone models, detracting from an otherwise perfect aesthetic. Despite the iPhone X being only slightly larger than an iPhone 8, the camera bump is actually bigger than the one on the iPhone 8 Plus as it still has to include both lenses and now incorporates the LED flash. It also protrudes slightly more than on the iPhone 8 Plus, and the edges are squared rather than tapered. The camera bump is actually enough to prevent the iPhone X from laying face-up on a flat surface without wobbling. However, as attractive as the iPhone X is, you’ll probably want to use a case anyway due to its all-glass construction and very high repair costs, so as far as we’re concerned the camera bump is largely a non-issue for all but the most aesthetic purists.

Review: Apple iPhone X

The iPhone X also follows the lead of the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus in reducing the number of storage capacities available, coming in the same 64 GB and 256 GB configurations of its older siblings, albeit at considerably higher prices — the iPhone X carries a $200 premium over the iPhone 8 Plus and a $300 premium over the iPhone 8, and in fact you can get a 256 GB iPhone 8 Plus for $50 less than the entry-level 64 GB iPhone X.

Apple has also reduced the color options further with the iPhone X; while the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus went back to the three standard colors of Silver, Gold, and Space Gray, the iPhone X drops gold from the mix, providing Silver and Space Gray as the only color options.

Display

On the front, the iPhone X features a 5.8-inch OLED display that covers almost the entire front face of the device. However, despite the longer diagonal it’s actually not larger than the 5.5-inch iPhone 8 Plus display, since it uses a higher 2.17:1 aspect ratio, as compared to the more standard 16:9 (1.77:1) used since the iPhone 5. The iPhone X screen measures approximately 5.3 inches by 2.4 inches, giving it a total surface area of 12.72 square inches. By comparison, the iPhone 8 Plus screen measures 4.8 inches by 2.7 inches, for a total surface area of 12.96 square inches. In other words, the screens on the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X have the same surface area presented in two different shapes.

Review: Apple iPhone X

Basically, the iPhone X is to the iPhone 8 what the iPhone 5 was to the iPhone 4s — the new screen is taller rather than wider, and the iPhone 8 Plus and older 5.5-inch models still remain in a class by themselves in terms of screen size.

For practical purposes, however, this means that you do get as much space in most apps on the iPhone X as you do on the iPhone 8 Plus — it’s just laid out differently. For instance, all other things being equal you’ll have about the same amount of text on the screen when reading a book or a Messages conversation, but on the iPhone X it will simply be presented on a narrower and taller screen. For the most part, the iPhone X is great in portrait mode and we’d put its screen size on par with the iPhone 8 Plus for that purpose, and definitely a step up from the iPhone 8. Keep in mind, however, that much like the transition from the iPhone 4 era to the iPhone 5, apps will need to be updated to take advantage of the larger display. Apps that have not yet been updated will look almost exactly like they would on an older iPhone, and in fact thanks to the true blacks of the OLED display, the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen in that mode become almost indistinguishable from the actual bezels on the iPhone 8.

Review: Apple iPhone X

Unfortunately, landscape mode is another matter entirely. Firstly, for the purposes of landscape mode, the iPhone X works just like the iPhone 8 — not the iPhone 8 Plus. The home screen won’t flip into landscape mode, Safari doesn’t provide tabbed browsing, and despite the extra screen width apps like Messages and Mail don’t provide the two-column view that they do on the Plus models. The extra screen real estate on the iPhone X is also of no real advantage for watching movies, TV shows, or even YouTube videos unless you like to watch them zoomed and cropped; otherwise videos play in the same size as they do on the iPhone 8, with black bars on the sides of the screen that would simply be the bezel on other iPhone models.

Review: Apple iPhone X

However, even though the size of the screen may not be an improvement in all cases, the quality of the screen is a massive leap forward. The real improvement in the new iPhone X screen is that Apple has finally gone with an OLED display. Dubbed “Super Retina HD” the new display is nothing short of gorgeous, with a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio (as compared to the 1400:1 offered by the iPhone 8) and the kind of actual deep black typical of an OLED display. Apple’s also pushed the screen up to 458 ppi. While this represents only a 14 percent increase in pixel density over the iPhone 8 Plus, it’s a very noticeable and impressive 40 percent increase compared to the iPhone 8.

The display also features High Dynamic Range (HDR) support, providing a much more vivid display of color and lighting. Combined with the True Tone display (which is of course still included on the iPhone X), the result is images that look as good on the iPhone screen as they do on paper. Similarly, Dolby Vision and HDR10 are now supported for watching videos, providing an impressive viewing experience despite the smaller screen.

Review: Apple iPhone X

Unfortunately, the new display still has one downside common to all OLED displays — when viewed off-angle, there’s a slight shift into the bluer range in color and hue. Apple also acknowledges that the display can be subject to the same “image persistence” and “burn-in” issues found on other OLED displays, but suggests it’s only an issue in “extreme cases” and claims to have engineered the iPhone X display to reduce these effects as much as possible. We definitely had no issues with the display during our testing of the iPhone, and as an additional benefit, the Face ID system allows for attention monitoring so you can more easily set your auto-lock interval as low as 30 seconds without having to worry about your screen dimming while you’re actively looking at your iPhone.

Review: Apple iPhone X

Finally, although we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention “the notch” that has caused much discussion and angst, there’s really not much to say about it other than the fact that it’s there. It looks weird, and we’re not a fan of the design at all, but it’s also not as big of a problem as it appears at first glance. For whatever odd reason, Apple has effectively chosen to highlight the notch in all of its marketing photos, which of course include full-screen colorful wallpapers, videos, and games — it’s almost as if Apple is proud of it, or at least wants to point it out in such a way as to make it obvious that it doesn’t consider it a problem. However, in actual day to day use of the iPhone, the notch for the most part just kind of blends into the background and we quickly forgot about it — at least when using the iPhone in portrait mode.

Review: Apple iPhone X

Landscape mode is another issue entirely, however, and we actively disliked the notch for games and zoomed-in videos. For those purposes, it just feels “weird” somehow, because Apple has chosen to display video playback all the way to the edge of the screen, so the notch becomes a piece cut out of whatever you’re doing. Similarly, many app developers have had to work around the notch by explicitly moving app controls in from the edge of the screen — we saw several apps early on that despite having been updated for the iPhone X still had controls either missing or cut off by the notch, and subsequent updates by developers to fix these issues. All of that having been said, however, the notch won’t be an issue at all if you prefer watching videos in their normal aspect ratios, since in this case it just blends in transparently to the black bars that will already be on each side of your videos.

Gestures and Controls

One of the things that clearly had to go as part of Apple’s goal of creating a completely bezelless iPhone was the venerable home button. Having been an iconic part of the iPhone’s design since the very beginning, over the years the home button had grown from the single purpose function of returning to the home screen into a way of accessing Siri, Apple Pay, accessibility features, Reachability, and of course incorporating the Touch ID sensor for authentication.

With the iPhone X, Apple removes the home button and redefines the entire user interface in some interesting new ways, and it actually only took us a couple of hours with the iPhone X to come to the conclusion that for the most part, it’s a very nice step forward.

Review: Apple iPhone X

The iPhone X now includes a horizontal bar at the bottom of the screen that has been unofficially dubbed the home indicator, which gives you both a reminder and a target point to swipe on, and conceptually replaces the home button. A simple swipe up on the home indicator takes you to the home screen, whether from the lock screen or from whatever app you’re in, similar to a single press of the home button. Continuing to swipe up when leaving an app will bring up the app switcher, much like a double-press of the home button would. It works well and Apple has done a good job of designing the user experience to give it a very fluid and natural feel — it’s almost fun to watch your apps shrink back down into their icons when you’re returning to the home screen, and there’s a nice “bounce” to the process of bringing up the app switcher. You can also swipe left and right on the home indicator to quickly switch between recent apps without bringing up the app switcher, essentially replacing the 3D Touch gesture from other iPhone models.

Review: Apple iPhone X

Despite rumors of its demise, the Reachability feature is also still present on the iPhone X, which is a good thing as it’s almost essential with the taller screen. The feature is off by default, so you’ll need to take a trip into your Accessibility settings to enable it, but once enabled a short swipe down on the home indicator will trigger reachability. It’s not the easiest gesture — it took some time for us to get used to it, and it’s still a little bit hit and miss for us — but it does work.

Review: Apple iPhone X

With swiping up from the bottom now used for home button functions, Apple has also had to move the Control Center elsewhere — it’s now accessed by swiping down from the top right corner where the battery and signal strength indicators appear. It’s definitely more awkward to quickly access, but the good news is that even though the indicators stay up top you can trigger Reachability and then swipe down from the middle of the screen. Bringing up Control Center is also now the only way to easily see your battery percentage, since the status bar has been minimized to accommodate the notch. Swiping down from anywhere else at the top of the screen lets you view your notifications, as on prior iPhone models.

Review: Apple iPhone X

If there’s one thing we didn’t like about the new home indicator, it’s that there seems to be no way to turn it off. Some apps seem to have figured out to hide it, but this appears to be up to the individual app developers, so there are still a lot of games where it’s going to stay prominently displayed at the bottom of the screen, which we feel sort of ruins the experience of the otherwise immersive new display.

Review: Apple iPhone X

The elimination of the home button has also necessitated the remapping of other controls as well, in mostly reasonable ways. Pressing and holding the side button triggers Siri (although of course “Hey Siri” also still works), and a double-tap of the side button brings up the Wallet app for Apple Pay — although this now works from anywhere rather than just the lock screen. A triple-tap of the side button can be used to trigger Accessibility features.

Review: Apple iPhone X

More advanced functions have been moved to volume and side button combinations. Taking a screenshot now requires pressing the side button and volume up button simultaneously, which is actually an easier interaction as you can now take one-handed screenshots. To turn off the iPhone, the side button and volume down button are used, which also provides an opportunity to activate Emergency SOS similar to the Apple Watch. Should you need to perform a forced restart of the iPhone, you’ll need to go through the rather inscrutable process of pressing volume up, then pressing volume down, and then holding down the side button until the Apple logo appears (this last one isn’t actually new to the iPhone X — it has been adopted on the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus also).

With only a couple of exceptions, we found the new control system to actually be easier once we got used to it — which really only took us a few minutes. Swiping up from the bottom quickly became so intuitive on the iPhone X that we found ourselves constantly bringing up Control Center out of habit when we picked up the iPhone 8 Plus again. Double-tapping the side button for Apple Pay mirrors the Apple Watch experience, and works no matter what else you’re doing on your iPhone, and the side button also allows you to bring up Siri while holding the iPhone in a more natural way. For most users we definitely wouldn’t say that the new control scheme is any reason to shy away from the iPhone X.

Face ID

Face ID is the main technical feature that distinguishes the iPhone X from the iPhone 8 models, and along with the removal of the home button (and corresponding Touch ID sensor), essentially redefines the classic iPhone user experience that we’ve all come to know over the past ten years, ushering in a whole new generation of iPhones.

Review: Apple iPhone X

While many had justifiable concerns about how well Face ID would work — concerns that were further exacerbated by rumors that Apple was cutting corners on accuracy — we’re happy to report that Face ID not only works, but it works brilliantly well in our experience. Although Apple had made great strides in increasing the performance and efficiency of its Touch ID system, the unavoidable reality is that placing a finger onto the home button still required a user interaction. Face ID, by contrast, requires virtually zero effort during normal iPhone use. The situations where Face ID failed were all pretty obvious and expected — trying to unlock the iPhone when holding a coffee cup in front of our face to take a drink, wearing a scarf outdoors, or having our hand in front of our face. However Face ID didn’t skip a beat when we put on glasses, sunglasses, or even after one of us lost a front tooth.

Review: Apple iPhone X

At its most basic level, of course, Face ID is used simply to unlock the iPhone. A new padlock icon appears at the top of the iPhone X lock screen so you can visualize whether the iPhone is locked or not, and as long as you’ve set up Face ID and are looking at your iPhone, the locked padlock image should switch to unlocked in under a second. You’ll still need to swipe up to open the iPhone to the home screen, but that’s an interaction that’s understandably required to avoid missing any lock screen notifications. Keep in mind, however, that you do not need to wait for the padlock icon to unlock before swiping up to go to the home screen — you can just tap once on your iPhone X screen to wake it up and swipe up right away. Face ID really “just works,” and the very best and fastest way to use Face ID is to pretend it’s not there.

Speaking of lock screen notifications, however, the iPhone X has another small trick up its sleeve that surprised and delighted us more than anything else on the new iPhone. If you have lock screen previews turned off on your notifications — which many users do for privacy purposes — they’ll automatically morph from private preview notifications to showing actual content as soon as Face ID authenticates you. It’s hard to describe how useful and magical this particular interaction is; although the same thing is possible with Touch ID iPhone models as well, you have to place your finger on the Touch ID sensor to unlock your iPhone, while with the iPhone X you merely have to pick it up and look at the screen. Much like Touch ID improved security by making it more convenient for users to put passcodes on their iPhones, this new Face ID feature will make it easier for users to keep their notifications private. It’s a relatively small thing, but to us it’s easily one of the coolest user interactions on the new iPhone X, and the quintessential example of the convenience that Face ID provides.

Review: Apple iPhone X

Face ID also goes beyond the lock screen, of course. Any app built for Touch ID will be able to automatically take advantage of Face ID without any updates being required by the developer. Note that we came across only one app in our testing — a banking app — where this wasn’t the case, however since the app had been updated for the iPhone X we suspect the developer may have specifically disabled Face ID for whatever reason. Other Touch ID apps, even those that hadn’t been updated in two or three years, worked fine with Face ID, simply providing a notification when first launched that they’re designed for Touch ID and offering to let you choose whether you want to use Face ID with them or not.

This is actually another enhancement that Face ID offers over Touch ID. You can now control which apps are allowed to use Face ID under the Face ID & Passcode section in the iPhone X Settings app. The effect of turning off Face ID for a third-party app is dependent on what other authentication methods the app requires; some apps like Starbucks will simply let you directly into the app, while others like 1Password will revert back to requiring that you enter your master password instead.

Review: Apple iPhone X

Another useful security boost that Face ID brings to iPhone X users is protecting Safari Autofill passwords. Other iPhone models require you to use Touch ID to bring up your full list of passwords, however saved passwords are automatically filled on websites where you’ve saved them without needing to authenticate. This is presumably to avoid the more invasive user experience of bringing up a Touch ID prompt as soon as you visit a website. However, since Face ID only requires that you be looking at your iPhone screen — which most people are going to be doing when surfing the web — it can confirm that it’s actually you looking at it before pulling anything out of your otherwise-secure iCloud Keychain. If you don’t want this extra level of security, however, you can turn it off in the Face ID & Passcode section in the iPhone X Settings app, which will revert to just autofilling with no additional authentication required, as on Touch ID iPhone models. However, we can’t see any reason why you’d need to shut it off — it’s another great example of how Face ID provides increased security without getting in the way of how you use your iPhone.

Review: Apple iPhone X

Overall, we were thrilled with Apple’s Face ID implementation, but despite all of the positives, we did find one small downside for Apple Pay users. Face ID does work quite well with Apple Pay — as long as you’re looking at your iPhone X when you trigger it. However, it may require many users (including us) to change how they use Apple Pay. With a Touch ID-enabled iPhone model you could put your finger on the Touch ID sensor and place your iPhone near an NFC terminal; the iPhone would detect the NFC reader, light up with your default Apple Pay card, and authenticate your fingerprint, all within a second or two. This allowed the iPhone to be pulled right out of your pocket and waved over a POS terminal in much the same way as you would with a plastic payment card. Sadly, with the iPhone X this is no longer possible, since of course Face ID requires you to look at your iPhone screen to authenticate Apple Pay.

The upside, however, is that Apple has made Apple Pay more accessible on the iPhone X. Borrowing a cue from the Apple Watch, you can now bring up Apple Pay with a double-tap on the side button regardless of what else you may be doing on the iPhone — even if you’re in the middle of a game. This worked from the home screen on Touch ID iPhone models, but it was sometimes awkward to do without unlocking your iPhone and ending up at the home screen instead. On the iPhone X, the method for bringing up Apple Pay is both more obvious and more deliberate, and we quite liked that aspect of the new Apple Pay design. Somewhat inscrutably, however, the iPhone X still wakes up when you hold it near an NFC terminal, even though you’ll still have to look at it and double-press the side button to authorize a payment. This automatic NFC detection seems unnecessary with Face ID, and we found ourselves wishing it could at least be turned off, particularly in light of the number of non-payment NFC terminals in places such as event venues and public transit stations that also inadvertently trigger Apple Pay.

Review: Apple iPhone X

Since Face ID authentication works automatically as long as you’re looking as your iPhone, Apple Pay also still requires an extra step for in-app payments so you can avoid accidentally spending money. Much like on the Apple Watch, you’ll have to double-click the side button to confirm that you actually want to complete a transaction.

Cameras

The rear camera on the iPhone X is almost identical to the one found on the 8 Plus with two notable improvements in the telephoto lens — optical image stabilization and a wider aperture (ƒ/2.4 vs ƒ/2.8 on the iPhone 8 Plus). The addition of optical image stabilization will be a welcome feature for users who regularly use the 2X lens, but it’s important to note that it’s about stabilizing the movement of the iPhone, not necessary the movement of subjects within the photos. It also doesn’t appear to make any noticeable difference in taking Portrait Mode shots, although that might be simply because we’re already used to holding the iPhone fairly steady in that mode in the first place; Portrait Mode isn’t the type of feature where you’re typically “shooting from the hip.”

Review: Apple iPhone X

Contrary to what you might naturally assume, the wider ƒ/2.4 aperture on the iPhone X telephoto lens actually doesn’t directly improve low light performance, but instead improves low light photo quality. The reason for this is that none of the dual-lens iPhone models automatically use the second lens when you zoom in; iOS actually decides which lens to use based on lighting conditions, and since the standard wide-angle lens has a much wider ƒ/1.8 aperture, when shooting in low-light conditions it may opt for a digital 2X zoom through the main lens if iOS determines that will provide a better quality photo than using the telephoto lens. A wider aperture on the telephoto lens means that iOS is more likely to use an optical zoom on the iPhone X in low light situations, rather than opting for a digital zoom through the main ƒ/1.8 lens. So the practical upshot of the ƒ/2.4 lens is not that the iPhone X can take photos in lower lighting conditions than the iPhone 8 Plus could, but simply that you’ll get better 2X photos in those lighting situations.

Beyond those changes, however, performance of the rear camera on the iPhone X was identical to the one on the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, to the point where we’d say that there’s almost no reason to buy the iPhone X over the iPhone 8 Plus primarily for the rear camera. On the other hand, since the iPhone X provides all of the camera capabilities of the iPhone 8 Plus in a package the size of an iPhone 8, it may be a huge boon to those users who have been longing for the better camera system of the iPhone Plus but haven’t quite been able to bring themselves to go to a larger iPhone model. The dual-camera system is enough of a differentiator that we’ve given the Plus-sized iPhones a higher recommendation over the past two generations, so it’s a really great thing to see it in a smaller iPhone model.

Review: Apple iPhone X

Of course, while the rear camera on the iPhone X is virtually the same as the iPhone 8 Plus, the front camera is a whole new ballgame. Apple’s new TrueDepth camera not only powers Face ID, but it offers the kind of technical improvements that allow Apple to enable Portrait Mode and Portrait Lighting on the front-facing camera without an extra lens. Instead, Apple is able to use the TrueDepth 3D mapping technology to collect the same type of data that the second lens is used for on the rear camera and analyze that in the A11 Bionic chip and iOS 11 to create depth and lighting effects. At this point, front-facing Portrait Mode and Portrait Lighting both work pretty well, but we’re not yet convinced they’re quite up to the same standards as the rear camera. Part of this may simply be some fine-tuning required on the software side, since we imagine the depth-mapping algorithms for the 3D sensors are different from those of a dual-lens system. We found for example that the front camera had a bit more trouble distinguishing edges of subjects in Portrait Mode than the rear camera did.

Review: Apple iPhone X

The TrueDepth camera opens up a world of possibilities beyond the built-in Portrait Mode, however, as demonstrated by Apple’s new Clips update, which introduces a whole new collection of “Selfie Scenes” that allow you to be animated against a variety of 360-degree backgrounds and even apply sophisticated camera filters to make yourself look like a charcoal sketch or a Star Wars hologram.

Other than the addition of the Portrait features, however, it’s important to note that the front camera specs aren’t any different from the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus — the resolution is still only seven megapixels with an ƒ/2.2 aperture, so the iPhone X front camera won’t give you better pictures, but it does have the potential to give you cooler ones.

Review: Apple iPhone X

Although it’s not really a photography feature, one other whimsical benefit that Apple has added as a result of the front camera is of course the much-popularized Animoji. We can’t deny that there’s something very cool about having a cartoon emoji match your facial expressions, and it not only adds a “wow” factor, but it spawned a whole Animoji Karaoke fad on Twitter the weekend the iPhone X was released. While Animoji will definitely appeal to certain types of users, the novelty wore off pretty quickly for us.

Performance, Battery, and Charging

The iPhone X doesn’t offer any surprises in terms of CPU performance, considering that it includes the same new hexa-core A11 Bionic CPU found on the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. To review, the newest Apple-designed chip packs in four low-energy efficiency “Mistral” cores alongside two “Monsoon” high-performance cores, and promises a 70 percent performance boost over the iPhone 7 when running on the low-energy efficiency cores and a 25 percent boost when running on the high-performance cores, as well as a graphics performance increase of 30 percent over the A10 Fusion, courtesy of the three-core GPU.

Review: Apple iPhone X

While the iPhone X is plenty fast, however, if you’re expecting any performance boost over the iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus, you’re not going to find it here. Geekbench scores were basically on par with the iPhone 8 models, and in side-by-side comparisons with an iPhone 8 Plus, the iPhone X performed at the same pace.

As we said in our iPhone 8 review, while the A11 offers desktop-class performance, it’s not something you’re going to actually notice during normal iPhone use. We’ve reached a point of significantly diminishing returns when it comes to noticeable iPhone performance increases, and the iPhone X doesn’t “feel” any faster when used alongside an iPhone 7, and — for now at least — all of the iOS games we tried perform just as well on last year’s iPhone. However, we think the A11 Bionic is really about powering a whole new era of smartphone applications in areas like augmented reality and some of the under-the-hood machine learning features like the new Portrait Lighting features in the Camera app, not to mention the amount of number crunching required to make Face ID work.

Review: Apple iPhone X

The iPhone X packs in a 2,716 mAh battery — basically the same capacity as the one found in the iPhone 8 Plus. For the most part, this results in about the same battery life and charging performance as the larger iPhone model; although Apple’s specs oddly suggest an hour less runtime for wireless video playback and Internet use, we didn’t actually find any significant differences in this area.

Charging times are also exactly what we expected and also the same as the iPhone 8 Plus. Fast Charging with a USB-PD-capable power source gets the iPhone X back up from dead to a 50 percent charge in 30 minutes, after which charging slows down, reaching 80 percent in a little over an hour, and then taking another full hour to reach a full charge. Sadly, despite the premium price tag of the iPhone X, Apple continues to pack in only a standard five-watt power adapter in the box, so you’ll be looking at full recharge times of close to four hours unless you’re willing to spring for a better power adapter.

Review: Apple iPhone X

For those who may be wondering, the iPhone X also still charges wirelessly at the same five-watt speed as the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, meaning that — for now at least — investing in a wireless charging pad will not end up charging the iPhone X any faster than simply using the included power adapter. Apple is presumably still planning on increasing this in a future iOS update, but as of iOS 11.1 this hasn’t happened. As we’ve mentioned before, however, wireless charging pads do offer an extra level of convenience that for most users will let you more easily keep your iPhone closer to a full charge, but if you’re a road warrior who needs quick top-ups on the go, you’ll be much better off investing your money in a fast-charge capable power adapter.

Conclusion

After a week of using the iPhone X, we can say with confidence that Apple has created a revolutionary and almost magical device. While it may not be as significant as the original iPhone, it introduces several new technologies that redefine the experience and move the needle significantly ahead. It’s a very welcome change after three years of considerably more iterative iPhone releases.

Review: Apple iPhone X

Devices that live on the bleeding edge of technology always create some understandable reservations about how well the technology is going to work, and many other smartphone manufacturers have a history of producing cool new gimmicks that overpromise and under deliver. This is not the case with the iPhone X. Face ID works brilliantly well — to the point where you can pretend it’s not even there; in fact if it weren’t for the appearance of the Face ID logo most of the time you really wouldn’t even know it’s working. Yet, despite how quickly and efficiently it works, it’s astonishingly hard to fool, even with identical twins in at least some cases. Add to this the new absolutely stunning Super Retina HD display and the advanced capabilities offered by the TrueDepth camera, and there’s definitely a great deal to really like about the iPhone X.

Review: Apple iPhone X

Except for the price, of course — really the only thing that holds the iPhone X back from being THE smartphone to buy this year. Even the entry level iPhone X is slightly more expensive than the top-end iPhone 8 Plus, and the iPhone X carries a $300 price premium over the same-capacity iPhone 8. This may be a tough pill to swallow for a device that otherwise offers the same performance and core features, and this is even more true with users who may be torn between the iPhone X and the iPhone 8 Plus — the X doesn’t actually offer a larger screen, and in many ways is a step backward from the Plus model iPhones with a more limited landscape mode and videos that will still only play as if they were on a 4.7-inch screen.

Review: Apple iPhone X

The bottom line is that what you’re getting for the extra money is the exact same CPU and almost the exact same rear camera as an iPhone 8 Plus, while gaining Face ID, the better screen quality (OLED with a higher pixel density) and the ability to use Portrait Mode, Portrait Lighting, and other advanced features such as Animoji with the front-facing camera. For a $200 price difference, this may be a tough call for iPhone Plus users, especially if you’re comfortable with the size of the larger iPhone.

Review: Apple iPhone X

On the other hand, the iPhone X offers something that many non-Plus iPhone users have been waiting for since the iPhone 7 Plus debuted last year — the more advanced dual-camera system that allows for 2X optical zoom and Portrait Mode photos. With the iPhone X, you’re getting all of this in a package that’s basically the same size as a standard 4.7-inch iPhone, and for many users, that may help to justify the $300 price premium — especially if you find the size of a Plus model to be beyond what you want to deal with.

Review: Apple iPhone X

There’s absolutely no question in our minds that the iPhone X is a great device, and it’s definitely the way forward, but it’s also fair to say that most of the technologies it offers are in the “nice to have” category that enhance the iPhone user experience rather than being fundamental to it. Users who are hesitant to spend the extra money will be just as well served by the current iPhone 8 lineup, but for those willing to take the plunge, the iPhone X will not disappoint.

Our Rating

A-
Highly Recommended

Company and Price

Company: Apple

Model: iPhone X

Price: $999 – $1,149

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