iPhone X – One Week Later

I’ve been using an iPhone X as my phone for a week now and wanted to share my observations as well as some tips after giving it some real world use time.

TL;DR

I really like this phone. Adapting to its new gestures was less painful than I expected. Face ID works great. I’m still not sure if it is worth $300 more than an iPhone 8, but I am very happy with it.

Screen

Coming from a Plus sized phone, I still find the phone to be narrow. In hand the phone feels great, but I do notice that text appears to break earlier than I would like. Despite that it is taller, I’m not sure I’m seeing more content.

Typing isn’t bad on it, but I would like the extra room back on the keyboard. Non-Plus sized iPhone users should have no problems though as the width is the same as before.

The extra height is appreciated, especially now that Twitter is allowing for longer tweets. Being able to see more on your phone is always good. Videos are actually a little bit larger than on Plus sized phones.

A new feature on the X is that you can wake the phone by tapping on the display. I know that LG phones have had this for a while, but I’m really happy to see it on the iPhone. It is very convenient if the phone is sitting on a table and you just want to check your notifications.

I’m not sure that I’m sold on the OLED screen. For the most part it looks just fine, but I do find some bright colors (especially yellows) to be too bright. Start up the IMDB app and you’ll see what I mean. There is color distortion when the phone is viewed at an angle which is endemic to all OLED displays.

I do have to say that that total screen does make other iPhones look old. When I go back to using the iPhone 6 I use for work the square corners stand out.

Apps need to be updated to take advantage of the full screen display. Those that are not updated still work but have black bars above and below. They are fully functional and act as they would on an iPhone 8. Many apps mainstream apps have already been updated (which is great) but many have not. Apps that are not updated do stand out. Several of the Google apps (GMail, Inbox, Calendar, News) are in need some attention.

The ‘Notch’

The area on the top of the phone where speaker and sensors live (aka “the notch”) the takes a chunk out of the top of the screen. It take a little getting used to as it stands out.

Information on the status bar is moved around or removed. For example, while there is a battery usage indicator on the “right ear”, if you want to see the actual percentage you have to go to Activity Center as there isn’t enough room otherwise.

One nice thing they did with the new “ears” is that the indicators that displayed below the status bar (green for phone calls and blue for hotspot) are replaced by changing the background color of the time in the left ear. This is really nice as the indicators are now up in the status bar and don’t take up part of the app’s space.

The goofiness of the notch becomes less noticeable over time as you learn to block it out. It is very noticeable in landscape however.

New Gestures

I was worried that the new gestures required by the removal of the home button would be difficult to get used to after using an iPhone for 10 years. To be honest, the swipe up for home quickly became normal and I caught myself trying that gesture on other iPhones. The single swipe up to unlock the phone (along with Face ID authentication) works really well.

I’m using an Apple leather case which does not cover the bottom of the phone at all so there is nothing to interfere with the gesture. I’m not sure if this becomes an issue with other cases, especially bulkier ones like OtterBox.

The gesture for the task switcher is to drag up to the center of the phone, but there is a shortcut for this. Dragging up a little and then to the right or left will also activate the task switcher.

Swiping left or right on the home indicator bar will switch apps. This is very handy when you’re going back and forth between two apps such as Safari and Notes.

Access to activity center by swiping down from the upper right is still awkward. Apple needs to do something about that going forward.

I was happy to find that the “notch” area is live in that you can tap on it to scroll to the top of a view or drag down on it to open the notifications screen. You don’t have to reach to the right “ear” for these things.

I don’t use “reachability” (the ability to scroll the top of screen down so that you can reach the top of the screen more easily) but that is available with a swipe down from the home indicator bar. This is turned off by default, but available from Settings if you want.

Battery

Battery life has been much better than I expected. I wasn’t making it through a whole day on a charge at first, but after fully restoring the phone and updating the OS I am now in a “normal” usage pattern and am easily getting through an entire day with 30%-40% left at the end of the day. I’m sure that will get worse over time, as capacity diminishes on all Li-Ion batteries, but for right now I’m very happy.

Face ID

After a week, I do have to say that Face ID works really well. I don’t even think about it when I unlock the phone, which is the whole point. Many apps are already taking advantage of this. Starting a “secure” app (such as 1Password) without having to do anything is nice. Security becomes invisible. Going back to a Touch ID system feels old.

I don’t think Face ID is actually faster than Touch ID, but it feels more convenient. I expect it to get faster in future models. I read that when you configure Face ID, hold the phone farther away to make Face ID work faster. I haven’t tested it though so I can’t confirm or deny.

Notifications on the lock screen are, by default, set to be hidden until the phone is unlocked. In this state notifications appear, but without any content. For example, you will see you received an iMessage, but not see the content until you look at the phone. I thought this was pretty cool at first as a security measure but soon found it to be more annoying than helpful. In this state you lose the ability to glance at your phone to see the incoming messages which is useful when you’re in a situation where picking up your phone to look at it may be awkward. This can be disabled in Settings.

One place where Face ID does not work better than Touch ID is Apple Pay. The new system requires double tapping the side button and looking at the phone before tapping the point of sale terminal. While this certainly isn’t terrible, it isn’t as fast or convenient as the Touch ID method of placing the phone on the terminal with your thumb on the fingerprint sensor. At the grocery line it probably isn’t a big deal but if you are going to use it to get on a train every day, I can see where this would slow you down.

Animoji

The technology that makes Face ID possible also enables animated emojis or ‘Animoji’. While technologically impressive and fun to play with, I haven’t used it other than to experiement and send a message to my kids. I don’t expect to use it much.

Case

The iPhone X has the first new body design since the iPhone 6 was released in 2014. Like the iPhone 4, the X has a glass back which, also like the iPhone 4, can crack or shatter if the phone is dropped. Third party testing called iPhone X the “most breakable iPhone”. To make matters worse, repairing an iPhone X’s screen is more expensive than other iPhones ($279 vs $169 for Plus phones). AppleCare+ and/or a case may be a worthy investment.

I always put my iPhones in a case and this one is no different. I opted for the Apple Leather case. I really liked the leather case on my 7 Plus and like it on the X for the same reasons.

  • It is not bulky
  • It is grippy in the hand, but slips easily into and out of a pocket. (The Apple silicone case is the opposite.)
  • The metal buttons (volume and power) work really well. (The iPhone 6/6s leather case had bumps instead of actual buttons which are hard to press and to feel.)
  • The case removes the camera bump so the phone lies flat

I’m not sure how much it will protect the phone in a fall, but even if the back cracks it will be hidden behind the case.

Conclusions

I have been enjoying the iPhone X greatly. More than I thought I would. The smaller size feels better in hand and in a pocket. Face ID, the new screen, and new gestures make the phone feel very new but it is still an iPhone so all the apps, content, and services I used before are all still there. The adjustment period is very short.

Given all this, the iPhone X is really expensive at $999 with 64GB or $1149 with 256GB. I’m still not sure it is worth $300/$200 more than an iPhone 8/8 Plus. If you like the Plus sized phones, the iPhone 8 Plus is a great phone with all the speed of the X along with improved cameras and wireless charging. I expect there will be an iPhone X Plus next year these users could wait for.

The iPhone X is the future of family of iOS devices. I would not expect there to be another new Touch ID based iPhone or iPad from Apple.

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About Lee J.

Mobile Guy!
This entry was posted in Opinion and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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