OUR EARLY VERDICT
The iPhone X is a sensational-looking iPhone – but it obviously comes at a huge cost, and you’ll have to wait to get it. Question marks remain over Face ID as a way of unlocking the phone, but if your face truly does get ‘learned’ over time, it could work well.
- Screen is stunning
- New user interface is intuitive
- Portrait Lighting is effective
- Face ID was erratic in demos
- Cost is so, so high
The iPhone X is one of the most exciting phones released this decade – but not because it offers anything particularly innovative or new.
It’s exciting because it’s the most radical redesign of an iPhone yet, tying together a number of key trends in the industry and adding in a level of polish that will attract legions of Apple fans to upgrade, and spend another couple of years in the iCycle.
But this change doesn’t come cheap, and nor will it appeal to those who enjoy a degree of continuity in their upgrades.
This is a new way of interacting with your iPhone, a way that allows you to enjoy more of iOS at any one time, and alters the way you use apps with the increased screen size.
iPhone X release date and price
Let’s get the important bit out of the way first: the iPhone X is one of the most expensive flagship phones ever made. It’ll retail at $999 / £999 / AU$1,579 for the basic model.
You don’t need us to tell you that’s a lot of cash for a smartphone – the cost of creating this new all-screen device has meant Apple’s ramped up the price, presumably both to offset the higher development and production costs and to protect its higher margins.
In terms of when you’ll be able to get your hands on it, the iPhone X release date has been set for November 3, with pre-orders going live on October 27.
It’ll be coming to the major territories first, with the UK, US and Australia all tipped to be included in the first wave of shipments.
We’d heard for months of a possible delay to the iPhone X, thanks to the complexity of component manufacture forcing the timescale back – it’s rather surprising to see that it’s happened though, as recent rumors seemed to have taken the schedule change off the table.
That said, even the first release wave looks likely to be rather limited as rumors of stock delays have surfaced once more – if you want an iPhone X, getting one in 2018 is pretty unlikely.
Screen, screen and more screen
It’s rare that we see Apple jumping on a trend this early, but 2017 has been the year when the bezel has begun to disappear from the smartphone, and the iPhone X has jumped emphatically aboard that train.
Apart from the Essential Phone, the new iPhone looks like one of the least-bezelled phones on the market. The lip on the top of the 5.8-inch screen is the only thing that gets in the way of you and the new operating system, with the effect rather stunning.
Sat next to last year’s iPhone 7, the iPhone X is a completely different device. The effect of the wider and fuller screen is going to really impress, especially if you’ve not held the Samsung Galaxy S8, which has a similar display.
It’s hard to overstate how beautiful this screen is – and that’s not hyperbole brought on by extreme fatigue. It’s deep, rich and smooth, and draws level with Samsung in the quality stakes easily.
However, what’s different here is that the screen on the iPhone X extends right to the bottom of the device, with the physical home button nowhere in sight.
That’s going to be one of the biggest changes for any Apple fans looking for continuity in their iPhone experience, as they’ll need to alter the way they whip through their phone.
The resolution of the screen has – thankfully – been upgraded from the iPhone 7, as the sub-HD pixel count wasn’t really something Apple could hope to get away with in 2017 in the face of such strong competition from the rest of the industry.
Apple’s users don’t want to move away from its ecosystem, but if certain specs aren’t met these days then envy can develop when phones are shown off at the bar – so the iPhone X has been upgraded to match its rivals, with a resolution of 2436 x 1125 on the new Super Retina HD display.
The only reason the pixel count needed to be upgraded was that there’s a definite boost to be had with the sharper screens that makes apps look better and web-browsing a more beautiful experience – and with Apple charging as much as it is for this phone, it needed to bring a better screen.
But what the Cupertino brand has always been good at is making the experience good without worrying too much about the spec list – which is why the fact that previous iPhones didn’t have the sharpest screens weren’t as detrimental to sales.
The LCD screens had a decent contrast ratio and were colorful and bright – qualities that are as engaging as chucking in a load more pixels.
But the move to the OLED display in the iPhone X has definitely brought an upgrade, with the blacks deeper, the colors richer and, well, the overall effect just brilliant.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 has been dubbed the best display on the market – and now Apple is using the same technology in its iPhones.
The overall mix of technology is great, and really brings about a special-looking iPhone, rather than Apple rehashing the same tired design again.
Does the iPhone X ‘lip’ get in the way?
One of the big talking points about the iPhone X is the ‘lip’ at the top of the phone, where a section of the ‘all-screen’ display was cut out to place the cameras.
The True Depth camera at the top is needed for Face ID, so it makes sense that a small portion would need to be kept for all the technology – but it does ruin the aesthetic somewhat.
But the question is: does this ruin movies or apps? Well – not really. The first demo, The Machines, is augmented reality and needs to make the most use of as much screen as possible to be truly immersive.
It doesn’t get in the way, as the huge display takes the attention in other ways. Other apps may need to be coded to take advantage of the full screen – so the lip doesn’t disrupt anything – but the apps should scale naturally.
The screen is 18:9 (although that’s not been confirmed by Apple) so a movie that’s in a standard 16:9 format won’t fill the display – we couldn’t see anything that allowed you to extend it to the edges, but in doing so you’d lose some of the action.
This means that – again – the lip doesn’t really get in the way, with the effect of being full screen limited to apps and internet browsing… and for that, the loss of screen real estate isn’t that bad.
In short, yes the lip doesn’t help the aesthetic, but it’s not a massive hindrance. And now designers are using the notch to improve their apps, letting people add a special gesture in there as well.