iPhone X: First Impressions

The day we’ve all been waiting for finally arrived last Friday–iPhone X (pronounced “ten“) launch day!  I have to admit, this was the most excited I’ve been about an iPhone launch since Apple announced the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus back in September 2014.  The long lines have returned, and with them a sense of excitement I haven’t felt in a few years about an iPhone launch.  In the lead up to the November 3rd launch day I have been consuming as much information, video and text, about the iPhone X as I could get my hands on.The iPhone X reveal was extra special as it was announced to the public during the inaugural keynote address at the Steve Jobs theatre on the new Apple Park campus in Cupertino.  The expectations and excitement for this “all new” iPhone design have been off the charts.  I’ve had my iPhone X for about 5 days now, and even though it’s still very early, I wanted to share some of my first impressions and thoughts thus far, and follow up in the coming weeks with more in-depth dialogue and how-to’s to get you started with your new iPhone X.

Design

The iPhone X has an all-new design–which everyone has most likely seen by now.  The front and back of the phone is covered in glass–just like the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus.  This allows for wireless charging on an iPhone for the first time–although any charging mat you use must be plugged in to charge your iPhone.  The fact that the iPhone X is covered in glass makes it beautiful–and foolish not to have some sort of case installed on it, at least part of the time.  I hate putting cases on my iPhones, but I’m glad I did this time when I dropped it on the street riding my bike the first damn day I had it home!  Luckily for me, it survived the fall and landed screen side up with zero marks on it.

 

The All New OLED Screen

Wow!  I love the new 5.8″ OLED display used on the iPhone X.  This is Apple’s first foray into the OLED display realm, and I’ve got to say, its impressed the hell out of me so far.  Do to the challenges created with implementing OLED display technology, Apple has never been confident in using them in its flagship phone.  Up until the iPhone X, Apple has strictly relied on LCD displays with all previous iPhones.  This year however, they worked closely with Samsung Display–yes you read that right, to design an OLED display unlike any other before it, and made to their detailed specifications.  With OLED displays there’s no need for a separate backlight like those found on the LCD displays of iPhones past. As a result, the blacks are deeper and blacker because they don’t need to be lit up as with an LCD display.  This creates a more visually appealing experience all around for the user.  In addition, they are applying their own subpixel anti-aliasing, and individually calibrating every iPhone X before it leaves the factory, unlike their competitors who simply batch calibrate off the assembly line.  That’s a lot of extra work.  However, it enables Apple to create a product that is much more consistent.

The Notch

While we’re discussing the display–what about that notch you ask?  Of all the initial discussions and rumors that came out ahead of the iPhone X launch, nothing was more polarizing than the notch at the top of the screen.  This notch is very important to the DNA of the phone. It is here where Apple houses an array of sensors that include an infrared camera, flood illuminator, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, speaker, microphone, camera and dot projector.  To be honest, that’s a ton of tech crammed into a tiny area of the phone.  Then Apple did something a little ambitious, perhaps even risky with the notch–they embraced it.  They didn’t try to blacken out the sides to have a clean line across the top of the screen like many suggested or wished they would have done. They added functionality to the notch and made it an extension of the screen.  This is where it gets a little weird for me, and it might be hard to understand until you actually use the phone for a few days.  This was the one aspect of the iPhone X that gave me a little pause, possibly even a little stress.  I wasn’t sold on the notch.  It looked awkward, perhaps even unsightly.  I didn’t place judgement on it right away, and now I sure am glad I gave it a chance.  It works, and you forget it’s even there after a while.  More importantly, app developers have been quick to update their apps to the iPhone X form factor and utilize the space as well.  After 5 days I actually like the notch, even if it has a few drawbacks.  It’s iconic.  It’s immediately obvious when this screen is on that you are holding an iPhone X.  #embracethenotch

No more Home Button

The Home Button–probably one of the most interactive features of smart phones for the last 10+ years has been removed, and replaced with gestures. This is a big one for many.  Luckily, If you feel you “need” a home button to interact with your iPhone, you still have plenty of options–the iPhone SE, 6s, 6s Plus, 7, 7 Plus, 8 & 8 Plus.  However, after just a few days with the iPhone X, it became glaringly obvious to me that that this is the direction Apple is going in the future.  They have been prepping us for years, we just didn’t realize it because it was a progressive change over time.  Surprisingly, this took me even less time to embrace than I had predicted.  I’ve never been a big fan of the home button as a physical button.  I was pleased when Apple replaced it with Taptic feedback surrounded by the Touch ID ring with the iPhone 7 in 2016.  In addition to priming us for eventually doing away with a physical button altogether, the solid state “home button” also didn’t wear out and break like its predecessor.  Gestures on the iPhone X feel so very natural and fluid.  I will go over the gestures in a follow up post coming soon.  For the sake of first impressions, I am impressed after just a short time how easy it was to assimilate this new user interface.  It feels like I have been interacting this way for weeks, not days.  Learning curves may vary as with anything else new, but I am confident most will appreciate the extra screen real estate over a button.

Face ID

Extremely easy to set-up.  You will have Face ID up and running in about 10-15 seconds.  You simply rotate your head as though you are drawing a circle with your nose two times in a row and you’re done.  This is a major feature of the iPhone X that I had a slight bit of anxiety about.  However, every time I unlocked my iPhone using Face ID any apprehensive feelings simply melted away.  It’s that good.  It’s easy to learn, but took a the better part of a day of use to get it down to a smooth interaction that became a natural part of my routine.  Already Touch ID feels/seems like old, outdated tech.  Weird how easily we adapt.  Face ID will take the place of Touch ID all over your phone.  Purchases, password authentication, Apple Pay are all made easier with Face ID.  I was astounded how many times Face ID was moving me through steps without even having to think about it actively initiating authentication with my finger.  Unfortunately, for those of you who like to add your fingers to Touch ID on devices owned by your family members or significant others, Face ID can only store one face on the phone.

Camera

Surprisingly I haven’t taken a lot of pictures yet–which is weird for me because I take a lot of pictures when I’m in the field at work. The iPhone X camera has the same awesome camera found in the iPhone 8 Plus with a smaller ƒ/2.4 aperture to allow for better low light photography.  I am definitely going to put the iPhone X through an extensive camera preview and delve into all the options with the new Portrait mode (now in beta) as well as put the new ƒ/2.4 telephoto aperture and the addition of OIS (optical image stabilization) on the telephoto lens.

Closing thoughts…

Animoji’s are a ton of fun, and will probably be the only thing you do with your iPhone X for the first 4-5 hours.  It’s been amazing to see what people have come up with already in such a short time.  From Star Wars memes to Bohemian Rhapsody sing alongs, it’s easy to see why Apple promoted Animoji’s as much as they did.  Apple Pay with Face ID worked great for me at Subway–didn’t slow the process down at all.  Apple Pay Cash over Messages is a quick and easy way to send money to someone (although this feature is still only available in iOS 11.2 beta).  Everything I have shared thus far is after only 5 days of use with the phone.  I definitely haven’t used it long enough to write a review just yet or even remember everything I have tried!  However, I will be adding articles aimed at how to interact with the iPhone X and other useful tips & tricks in the very near future so stay tuned and check back often!

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