The iPhone X is possibly the most anticipated iPhone since the original iPhone. It represents the most drastic change in the 10 year evolution of the smart phone that took over the world and is helping propel Apple into becoming a 1 trillion dollar company. I had been closely following rumors of this phone once my iPhone 6 had started showing its age last year. Once I knew about the edge to edge display and facial recognition capabilities I knew I had to jump on the hype train and buy it come release day. And here we are, 24 hours after the launch, and I am still damn impressed with the phone.
Apple simply knocked it out of the park as always. I thought my iPhone 4 and 6 were well built but the X is on another level. The finishing and attention to detail is impeccable. The glass back and stainless steel band in “Space Grey” look fantastic. Feels heavy and very high quality, but still relatively comfortable to hold. The way the screen just curves into the band and rest of the body is just perfect. I really can’t say enough about the way the phone looks and feels, you really need to see it for yourself.
The OLED screen on the iPhone X is something really special. It is arguably the best OLED screen you can find on a smartphone right now. According to Apple, although the display is manufactured by Samsung, it was custom designed for the X. It is PenTile, supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision, runs at 60hz but samples at 120hz, and goes from edge to edge of the phone (except for the notch). I can safely say this is the best screen ever put on an iPhone and the best screen I have ever seen on a mobile device. Colors are crisp and the blacks are very deep, with just the right amount of contrast without making it look like a over saturated Galaxy S8 or Note. It gets very bright when you need to use it outside and dims to about the same level as previous iPhone LCD displays when you need to use it in the dark. The only thing that I’d be worried about is burn-in over time which is common with all OLED displays. Apple has said they have used hardware and software to mitigate this but we won’t know for a while. As for now though it really is a great display.
Face ID and the TrueDepth camera system
This is probably my favorite part of the iPhone. Since working with the Kinect over summer I have been interested in depth sensing cameras and getting to see one in an iPhone is very exciting. Using technology pioneered from PrimeSense and perfected over time at Apple, the TrueDepth camera system is an engineering marvel. What used to be found in a device as large as the Kinect now occupies the small notch at the top of the smartphone. The main purpose of this setup is for Face ID, which in my testing has been working very well. I have tested it in darkness, daylight, and with sunglasses all of which work well. It does struggle with certain angles and works best in darkness as some lighting does not play so well. I also found out that it did not work when I had my glasses off, maybe because I trained it while wearing my glasses. It is not perfect but I would say that it is still faster than the Touch ID sensor found in my iPhone 6. Apps that already use Touch ID will work with Face ID, which is a plus. I did notice that apps that have not been updated to prompt for Face ID displayed a message that the app was designed for Touch ID and not Face ID along with the normal prompt asking whether or not you want to let the app use Face ID. Along with Face ID, the TrueDepth camera is also used to Animoji, a feature that I honestly am not that interested in. I tried it, seems cool, but that’s all. If you want to learn more about it, read up on The Verge’s review in which Nilay Patel claims that is the best selling point of the phone.
The A11 Bionic processor
I wasn’t all that amused during the keynote when the processor powering the iPhone was dubbed the A11 Bionic. What a silly name, I mean A10 Fusion sounded cool but Bionic just sounded silly to me. Anyways, the processor packs a serious punch, with synthetic benchmarks such as GeekBench showing Apple’s silicon engineering prowess destroying competing devices like the S8 and Galaxy, benching close to MacBook Pros. In day to day use it is snappy, pretty power efficient based on my usage so far, and a huge upgrade over the A8 found in the iPhone 6. The tear down by iFixit reveals the logic board in which the A11 sits and oh boy it is really something to look at. A true silicon masterpiece that makes you just step back and realize how far the iPhone has come. A 70% decrease in the footprint over the iPhone 7/8 is extremely impressive. From an engineering standpoint it represents a pinnacle in hardware design and packaging, leveraging creative thinking with the latest in fabrication techniques. But then again, this is Apple, so it is expected.
When Apple announced the iPhone X they billed it as the future of the smartphone. That really is a bold claim even coming from Apple but in a way, I think they might be right. Just looking at the density of the logic board and the TrueDepth camera, Apple is moving hardware in a new direction at a new pace. Albeit their innovation in the Mac space has greatly reduced as well as overall software quality, their new focus on iPhone hardware is refreshing since we had to deal with 3 years of the same iPhone 6 design. The original iPhone got a lot of things right, and many of those things are still present in the X. The interface and design may have changed but the fundamental usability is still there. Here is to another 10 years of iPhone. Thanks for reading.