By Jason Snell
November 6, 2017 3:40 PM PT
One week with the iPhone X
So it’s been a week since I took delivery of the iPhone X. When I initially wrote my story about the device, I’d only been able to spend about 12 hours with it. Here’s what I’ve noticed after seven whole days.
Space Gray versus Silver. My Apple review unit is silver; on Friday the Space Gray iPhone X I bought with my own money arrived. With both of them here, I have to admit that I may have made the wrong choice. (Yes, I got to see both models close up at Apple’s media event, but that was a long time ago and I was much more focused on the screen and how it felt in my hand.)
As I mentioned in my initial review, the silver iPhone X looks better than I anticipated. Both phones have a black front bezel, which is good. The shiny silver stainless steel ring is gorgeous, bringing back memories of the original iPod. And the back plate is a sparkly, shimmery silver-white that really looks amazing.
The space gray model, on the other hand… is kind of boring. I had hoped it would look more or less like the Jet Black iPhone 7, but it doesn’t. It’s just a little bit lighter, maybe like a bar of dark chocolate? The color and texture of the aluminum ring and glass back are beautifully matched to one another, but neither matches the, well, jet black of the front bezel and screen. It’s an attractive phone, but much more muted than the flashy, head-turning look of the silver model.
The camera impresses. Over the weekend I went to a college football game. We sit about 20 rows back, and I used to bring a long lens and shoot pictures with my SLR camera. Now, the results of a zoomed-in iPhone X shot weren’t as good as those pictures, but I was startled at just how good my football shots looked. Chalk that up to the telephoto lens with optical image stabilization and a high-quality sensor. My football photos won’t win any awards, but they look way better than I expected—and viewing them on the iPhone X’s OLED screen after I took them was also a treat.
Animoji as performance art. Thanks in part to the facilitation of my former IDG colleague Harry McCracken, my Twitter timeline has been flooded with videos featuring iPhone X Animoji characters lip-syncing to popular songs. It’s bound to be a fad that burns out in a few weeks, but in the meantime it’s fun—and is the kind of advertising that money just can’t buy.
Not to be outdone, I created my own Animoji video featuring one of my favorite scenes from a favorite film. To successfully record Animoji for this purpose, I recommend tapping the arrow at the top of the Animoji window to expand the Animoji interface, and then using iOS 11’s screen recording feature to grab the actual interactions. (The built-in Animoji recorder only works for 10 seconds.) I recorded both of my characters separately, then placed them together with synced audio from the film in Final Cut Pro X and exported the finished result. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out—namely, it’s just as ridiculous as I originally envisioned.
iPhone X as a table-bound slab. I’m loving iPhone X in almost all the places I use it. The gestures are becoming second nature to me. But there’s one use case where it doesn’t really work: laying on a table. And it doesn’t work there for several reasons. The sizable camera bump makes the whole thing unstable. Facing straight up, the Face ID camera can’t see me, so I can’t unlock my phone without leaning way over the table or picking the phone up. And attention detection can’t detect me, so after 30 seconds the screen dims.
I hadn’t realized how much I left an iPhone unlocked on a table for a minute or two. The iPhone X is more aggressive about locking the phone (and dimming the display), and Face ID is no help. I suppose in the end, the phone will train me—but right now it’s one of the areas where my old way of using my iPhone no longer seems to apply.
Requiem for Control Center. I’m dissatisfied with the relegation of Control Center to the upper right corner of the screen. That corner is inaccessible to me when I’m using the phone one handed. (I can shimmy my hand around a bit and reach high spots on the screen, but the upper right corner is just too far away.) It’s all made me realize how often I used Control Center functions.
Perhaps Apple will add some feature to make Control Center more accessible. I like this idea from my pal Lex Friedman, who suggests that the optional Reachability shortcut (swipe down in the home indicator area) could be mapped to other functions, including Control Center, instead. Sounds like a great idea to me.
While we’re at it, I’d like the buttons on the lock screen to be customizable as well. It’s great that I can turn on the flashlight with one pleasant, haptic-filled 3D touch command from the lock screen. It’s great that I can activate the camera with a similar gesture (though it’s also redundant, since I can swipe from right to left to do the same thing). It would be even greater to drop a couple other commonly used Control Center features on there. Or swap them in for buttons (like that camera one) that we don’t really need.
As much as iOS 9 and iOS 10 laid the groundwork for many aspects of the iPhone X interface, it’s important to remember that this is still Apple’s first take at the software for this phone. Maybe feedback from users about issues like the exile of Control Center will prompt Apple to reconsider some of its decisions in a future software update. I hope so.
Add a case or not? Along with my iPhone X review unit, I got an Apple-branded silicone iPhone X case. I’ve been using it sporadically this week, and it’s been making me consider whether I’ll put a case on my iPhone X. This phone is going to be very expensive to repair, which makes me more inclined to use a case or buy AppleCare+. I generally avoid cases on my iPhones, though I made an exception for the 6 and 6S because they were just so slippery.
That said, the Apple case is very nice—I especially like how it fits perfectly around and negates the camera bump. The silicone makes it hard for me to take it out of my pants pocket, so if I get one, I’ll probably opt for the leather. A $50 case isn’t cheap, but it’s cheaper than AppleCare—that is, if you believe that Apple’s thin leather case will really spare the phone’s glass from being shattered on a drop. I’m not entirely sure I do.
Wireless charger preferences. My iPhone X review bag from Apple also included Mophie’s Qi charging pad, and I have to agree with iMore’s Rene Ritchie, who told me a couple of weeks ago that he vastly preferred the Mophie charger to the Belkin model that I had already been using. The Mophie model is smaller, shorter, and more grippy than the Belkin. There are plenty of other Qi charging options out there, too, though apparently a forthcoming software update will enable faster charging for the iPhone, and only some chargers will be able to take advantage of that? With the arrival of Apple’s AirPower mat due sometime next year, this is an unsettled category, to be sure.
My iPad doesn’t work right. A week is long enough to have rewritten many of my time-honored iPhone gestural routines, but it’s also introduced some confusion. Now when I switch over to my iPad Pro, I find myself flipping up from the bottom of the screen to go to the home screen—and of course, that doesn’t work. In iOS 11, the iPad Pro got its own set of new gestures for showing the Dock and displaying the multitasking switcher, and they’re similar to those on the iPhone X, but they’re not the same. I hope it only takes me one more week to find a way to allow the two different gestural languages to coexist together.
But I will say this: Having the iPhone X definitely makes me wish for a new iPad Pro with a TrueDepth front camera and, presumably, no more home button. It’s hard to believe that such an iPad isn’t coming in 2018 or 2019 at the latest. It will take some time for the iPhone X’s new features to make their way into the rest of Apple’s product line, but they absolutely will.
If you appreciate articles like this one, support us by becoming a Six Colors subscriber. Subscribers get access to an exclusive podcast, members-only stories, and a special community.