iPhone X review: Apple doesn’t hit a home run but gets a solid triple

Apple / Hardware Reviews / iOS / Mobile / Mobile Reviews / Reviews / Tech
iPhone X review

The iPhone X gives the impression of an old friend in somewhat new clothing.

TA-ratings-94Yes, we know this isn’t the first iPhone X review but unlike other sites, we had to wait for ours. Hopefully, this iPhone X review will touch on some points others haven’t and will be useful for you. The iPhone X is Apple’s re-imagining of what an iPhone should be but does it jive with my opinions? Let’s find out and dive into this iPhone X review.

Specifications

The iPhone X has the following features and specifications:

  • Display: 5.8″ OLED with HDR
  • Resolution: 2436 x 1125 at 458 ppi
  • Contrast Ratio: 1,000,000:1
  • Brightness: 625 cd/m2 max brightness (typical)
  • 3D Touch capable
  • True Tone capable
  • Oleophobic coating for fingerprint resistance
  • IP67 splash, water, and dust resistant
  • CPU: A11 Bionic chip with 64-bit architecture, neural engine, and embedded M11 motion coprocessor
  • Rear Camera: 12MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras
    • Wide-angle: ƒ/1.8 aperture
    • Telephoto: ƒ/2.4 aperture
    • Optical zoom; digital zoom up to 10x
    • Portrait mode
    • Portrait Lighting (beta)
    • Dual optical image stabilization
    • Six‑element lens
    • Quad-LED True Tone flash with Slow Sync
    • Panorama (up to 63MP)
    • Sapphire crystal lens cover
    • Backside illumination sensor
    • Hybrid IR filter
    • Autofocus with Focus Pixels
    • Tap to focus with Focus Pixels
    • Live Photos with stabilization
    • Wide color capture for photos and Live Photos
    • Improved local tone mapping
    • Body and face detection
    • Exposure control
    • Noise reduction
    • Auto HDR for photos
    • Auto image stabilization
    • Burst mode
    • Timer mode
    • Photo geotagging
    • Image formats captured: HEIF and JPEG
  • Front facing “TrueDepth Camera:” 7MP
    • Portrait mode
    • Portrait Lighting (beta)
    • Animoji
    • 1080p HD video recording
    • Retina Flash
    • ƒ/2.2 aperture
    • Wide color capture for photos and Live Photos
    • Auto HDR
    • Backside illumination sensor
    • Body and face detection
    • Auto image stabilization
    • Burst mode
    • Exposure control
    • Timer mode
  • Video recording:
    • 4K video recording at 24 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps
    • 1080p HD video recording at 30 fps or 60 fps
    • 720p HD video recording at 30 fps
    • Optical image stabilization for video
    • Optical zoom; 6x digital zoom
    • Quad-LED True Tone flash
    • Slo‑mo video support for 1080p at 120 fps or 240 fps
    • Time‑lapse video with stabilization
    • Cinematic video stabilization (1080p and 720p)
    • Continuous autofocus video
    • Body and face detection
    • Noise reduction
    • Take 8MP still photos while recording 4K video
    • Playback zoom
    • Video geotagging
    • Video formats recorded: HEVC and H.264
  • Face ID
  • Apple Pay
  • Capacity: 64GB and 256GB
  • Colors: Space Gray and Silver
  • Size and Weight:
    • Height: 5.65 inches (143.6 mm)
    • Width: 2.79 inches (70.9 mm)
    • Depth: 0.30 inch (7.7 mm)
    • Weight: 6.14 ounces (174 grams)

What’s In The Box

  • iPhone X
  • Wall wort
  • Lightning cable
  • Headphone dongle
  • Apple EarPods
  • Documents and instructions

This phone is amazing to hold and use without a case.

Design

The iPhone X design is an interesting departure for Apple but it also retains familiarity. The materials used are all high-quality, which is what you would expect from Apple. The glass front and back is held together by a stainless steel band and it feels nothing but premium. It also feels heavy in the hand, which lends to the premium feel of the device.

Along the right side of the device is the power button/Siri button which is elongated over previous iPhone versions. The SIM card slot is also located on this side, directly under the power button. Along the bottom, you’ll find the speakers and Lightning port, no headphone jack. While I can understand the complaints of no headphone jack, it’s not a complaint of mine thus doesn’t bother me.

Along the left side of the device is the volume rocker and the mute switch, I love that mute switch. Along the top front of the screen is the now infamous, notch. This is where the Face ID sensors and cameras are housed. Frankly, I didn’t know if I was going to like the notch or not. After a few week of use, I concur with many other reviewers, you don’t notice it after awhile.

The most differentiating thing about the iPhone X is the front screen. Gone is the home button and now you’ve got nothing but screen and notch. The screen comes nearly to the edges, there is a small bezel there but I actually like a thin bezel rather than bezel-less. Of course, the notch gives the iPhone X a look all its own.

The other design difference is the protrusion on the back of the phone, the camera module. Many are calling this a camera hump, but it’s less a hump than a sharp edge protrusion. The iPhone 8 Plus camera module at least attempts to round the edges a bit. This camera looks as if it was slapped on at the last minute. My harshest critique of this design has to be this awful protrusion.

The rest of the phone harkens back to the days of the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS and still retains that rounded corner design. Overall, it’s a nice design. I love the screen, don’t mind the notch, love the build quality, am fearful of the glass front/back combo, and hate the camera protrusion.

iPhone X review

That camera protrusion….collects dust as well.

Display

From the reviews I’ve read online, I don’t think my iPhone X review is going to disagree much on the display quality. This is Apple’s first OLED screen on an iPhone and the screen is made by Samsung, go figure. While it is a Samsung OLED screen, Apple claims it for their own as they’ve calibrated it to their specs.

First, let’s get this out of the way. If you’re expecting a Samsung display like you see on a Note8, you will be disappointed. Yes, this is a Samsung OLED screen but Apple has tuned it to be less saturated and it has a more natural color spectrum. Colors have always been one of the big differences between Samsung and Apple phones and Apple wants to keep it that way.

Apple’s LCD panels have always had a look too them that is more representative of what you see in real life. Apple’s approach with their first OLED panel doesn’t differ that much from the way they treated their LCD’s. Don’t get me wrong, Samsung’s screens are beautiful and millions of people enjoy that oversaturated look and I don’t blame them. Apple just doesn’t roll that way and I actually tend to prefer Apple’s screen calibration over Samsung’s — although the Note8 has a gorgeous screen indeed.

While Apple has treated the OLED much the same as their LCD’s there are huge differences. Colors on this new OLED are much fuller and vibrant. Blacks are deeper and the panel will play HDR content. Whites are nice and white and text is crisp and easy to read.

iPhone X review

The notch isn’t bad at all and the screen is amazing.

This panel is bigger in terms of inches than the iPhone 8 Plus, 5.8″ vs 5.5″. But it is also an 18:9 aspect ratio vs the iPhone 8 Plus’s 16:9 aspect ratio. This means that the screen isn’t much bigger than the iPhone 8 Plus and you actually will lose some screen real estate in landscape mode because of it. It is noticeable if you use your iPhone to browse the web in landscape but not noticeable in portrait mode.

The new 18:9 aspect ratio also means that unoptimized video will have letterboxing on the right and left. You can pinch to fit the video into the whole screen but that will end up cutting some of the top and bottom of the video off. This can get annoying when watching YouTube videos that sometimes have text at the bottom of them.

The “notch.” This cannot be a full iPhone X review without mentioning the “notch.” Yes, it is there and it makes no apologies for being there. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the notch but I can honestly say, I stopped noticing it about a week after using the phone. The letterboxing in videos bothers me more than the notch. Yes, videos do get cut into when you go full screen with the notch, but it’s not really a problem for me. I am more annoyed that the top and bottom of videos get cut off when I fit them on the screen. Not everyone is going to get over the notch, that’s OK, Apple isn’t making any apologies for it either (which isn’t surprising).

Touch responsiveness is excellent and Force Touch works great. Overall, this is a great new OLED panel for Apple. It’s more vibrant than their LCD panel, has better contrast and whites but doesn’t go crazy with oversaturation. The new aspect ratio does weird things with video and you lose some screen in landscape and the notch is easy to get used to.

Software

This particular iPhone X review isn’t going to spend too much time on software. iOS 11 is still iOS. I will say that in terms of usability, iOS has always been excellent. It’s pretty easy to navigate and to use and everything is familiar here. iOS does have its flaws though, notifications are just dumb. Stacked notifications are annoying, why Apple hasn’t figured out how to nest notifications is beyond me.

You will have to deal with a lot of apps that are not optimized for the 18:9 aspect ratio yet. Many of these apps are letterboxed like the video is, which means you have black bars on the right and left. This makes it feel as if you’re using the 4.7″ iPhone 8 and it sucks. Most of the major apps many people use will eventually get updated. But if you’re using an app that doesn’t see much updating, you’re likely going to be stuck with those bars.

I’ve mentioned this so many times I think the horse is dead and has turned to dust, but one more time. I love iOS, except for the lack of user customization. Even just the three basic levels of customization would be nice.

  • Ability to change grid (springboard) size
  • Ability to use custom icons
  • Ability to use widgets on home screens

With the home button gone, you will have to learn some new gestures to operate your iPhone X.

  • Return to your homescreen: Swipe up from the bottom
  • Wake up your iPhone X: Double tap screen or raise to wake
  • Switch between apps: Swipe to the right along bottom of the screen
  • Kill apps/See all running apps: Swipe up and pause…to kill an app swipe away or long press and tap minus sign
  • Reachability: Jump into Settings and turn it on first then just swipe down from the dock to the bottom of the screen to invoke it
  • Screenshots: Press the side/power button and volume up
  • Notification shade: Swipe down from the left edge of the screen
  • Control Center: Swipe down from the right edge of the screen
  • Siri: Press and hold the side/power button

There are other gestures and button combos to learn but the learning curve isn’t that bad and you should get the hang of it within a few days.

iPhone X review

App switching

Finally, Face ID. This was one feature I was convinced I would not like in the least. I was pretty reserved to the opinion that Touch ID is more efficient and faster than Face ID could be. When I first got the phone I was still pretty set in my thoughts. After a few days of use, I began to rethink my position.

Face ID works by blasting your face with thousands of infrared lights that map your face. I have to admit, it works and it works really well. I no longer think that it’s slower than Touch ID but it’s right on par with Touch ID in terms of speed. I think the system learns over time and it only gets faster the more you use it.

I found that Face ID worked nearly every time I used it. On bright days, in the dark, with glasses on, with sunglasses on, with ball caps on, it had a near 100% accuracy for me. There is still a lot of debate over the security of Face ID, we won’t get into that. I will say that the system works well, like other things on the new iPhone, it does require a learning curve.

Overall, iOS 11 has some nice features and it’s still fairly simple to use. It does have some convoluted aspects to it, notification handling sucks. As always, I wish there were more customization options. All that said, iOS 11 still runs damn smooth and because Apple produces the hardware and software, it’s one of the better mobile experiences out there.

Performance

Benchmarks and speed testing isn’t something we do around here, there are plenty of other sites that do those. The iPhone has always been a real solid performer and for my use, it continues to be a solid performer. The iPhone X had no issues getting thru all my tasks including, gaming, web browsing, email, streaming video, streaming music, and more.

Apple does have a new chipset for the iPhone X, the A11 Bionic. Of course, it’s better performing than the previous years’ chipset but it’s also running software and hardware used for AR apps. Apple claims the A11 Bionic is 25% faster than the outgoing A10. None of this is unusual or groundbreaking, we expect that every new iPhone should see performance gains given the price paid for these phones.

Overall, Apple does an excellent job in the performance category, they always have. The new chipset is better than the last and the phone handles everything with ease, no janky scrolling, and everything has run smooth. Of course, as iOS gets updates, we may see issues from time to time, but Apple is usually good about updating quickly.

iPhone X review

Lightning port and speaker.

Speakers/Sound

The iPhone X has stereo speakers, one in the earpiece and one at the bottom. They sound really good for cell phone speakers. I don’t use them much for music listening but do use them for YouTube and video watching. They have a nice full and balanced sound and get very loud. Dual front-firing speakers are still better but Apple has done a decent job with these.

Camera

Camera talk seems to take up a lot of discussion in all iPhone X reviews, or any smartphone review for that matter. It makes sense, people use their smartphones as their primary image capturing device these days. Cameras on phones have come a long way since the days of the flip phone and 1″ display.

For a long time, it made sense to compare one phone’s camera to the other. These days, flagship smartphones are all on level ground when it comes to camera performance. For the most part, users will likely choose one camera over the other purely from an aesthetic choice. The quality of the photos coming from the iPhone X or any other flagship device is pretty comparable these days.

That all being said, the iPhone X takes tremendous photos. They’re crisp but colors are more natural, unlike Samsung’s or Google’s offering. Apple has always tweaked their cameras to favor natural lighting and color and has stayed away from over clarity and oversaturating.

iPhone X review

Portrait mode outdoors.

Portrait mode has been a topic of discussion as well. When compared to the Google Pixel camera, the iPhone X portrait mode seems a bit more out of focus around the subjects hairline. Many have said that because of this, the iPhone camera sucks. I maintain that this is Apple’s intention with portrait mode. When you use a DSLR or Mirrorless camera and a lens with a wide aperture, you can adjust your focal plane. The iPhone’s focal plane so happens to create more bokeh around the subjects head. I don’t think this is a bad thing, it is just another matter of preference.

Photos taken in sunlight, indoor lighting, and natural light all look amazing. Low-light photos are also great, depending on how much light you have. As with any camera, the less light you have the more noise you will see in the photo.

Overall, the camera on the iPhone X is top notch, it stands its own against other flagships. If you were choosing a smartphone simply on camera alone, the iPhone X would most likely make your short list.

Reception/Call Quality

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi reception is excellent. Call Quality is excellent as well, callers could hear me great and I could hear them just as well. Both speakerphone and regular calling were great, the speakerphone was actually louder than expected and welcome. I often use the speakerphone and having that extra volume was nice.

Battery Life

Our iPhone X review isn’t going to benchmark battery life or show graphs. Once again, we present to you our real-world experience and everyone’s use case is going to be different. I run my iPhone with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and screen brightness at 95% all of the time. I also have my Apple Watch and at least 2 other Bluetooth devices connected to it all of the time.

I typically take my phone off its wireless charging pad at 5 am and end the day around 9 pm. I’ve been able to get through my entire day on one charge, that’s about 16-hours. There were a few times I got less when I did more gaming than usual or more video watching than usual. Even with the extra usage, I still managed around 13-hours.

The iPhone X comes with wireless charging, hardly a new tech but at least it’s finally here. The iPhone X is also capable of fast-charging but Apple did not include the adapter for this feature. Some wireless charging pads can take advantage of this but not all.

Overall the battery life is great, for my usage. Your results will vary depending on settings and how you use your phone.

iPhone X review

Simple branding.

Price/Value

This is an expensive phone. There’s no getting around it. Starting at $999 USD for the 64GB and up to $1149 for the 256GB. I think the price is really high but there is value here for those who live in the Apple ecosystem. I do think those who have never had an iPhone will be turned off by this high price and there’s really no reason for them to switch if they have no investment into the ecosystem.

Wrap Up

There’s so much to like about this phone but so much to dislike too. The screen is absolutely awesome, the build quality is second to none, the camera is still one of the best out there, iOS 11 is fluid and easy to use, and the phone performs as well as an iPhone should. The price is high, just stupid high. The camera protrusion is dumb. The 18:9 aspect ratio robs some of the screen real estate.

If your an Apple fan or if you live in the Apple ecosystem, this is a great phone to have. You may also just want to consider the iPhone 8 Plus and miss out on the OLED screen and Face ID. If you’ve never purchased an iPhone before, you may be better served with the iPhone 8 Plus as well or even an Android phone — either is cheaper than the X.

Or if money isn’t a factor at all, then just get the iPhone X and call it a day.

*The reviewer purchased an iPhone X for the purposes of this review.

iPhone X

$999+ USD
iPhone X
9.4

Design

9/10

    Display

    10/10

      Software

      9/10

        Performance

        10/10

          Speakers/Sound

          10/10

            Camera

            9/10

              Reception/Call Quality

              10/10

                Battery Life

                10/10

                  Price/Value

                  9/10

                    Nailed it

                    • Beautiful OLED display a first on iPhone
                    • Wireless charging, finally!
                    • Stainless steel and glass build quality
                    • Face ID
                    • Gestures are fluid and easy to learn
                    • Speakers sound great
                    • Optimized apps look amazing
                    • Flagship quality camera

                    Needs work

                    • The camera hump is the worst design element
                    • Apps that aren't optimized look horrible
                    • Glass build is easier to break
                    • iOS UI still lacks customization
                    • Fast charging brick not included
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