In 2018, OLED phones without physical buttons are not a rare commodity. In fact, they’re very common and have been for years. One place they have not existed is one iOS. Well, they do now thanks to Apple’s newest flagship the iPhone X. So, what does this phone bring to the table and is it worth it? To be succinct, the answer is unquestionably yes, and it brings a lot to the table.
Interface Done Right
When the first buttonless phones came out, Google made a very safe and sensible choice in its interface for them, they simple replaced the physical front buttons with virtual ones. It made for a consistent experience between Android phones. It works ok, most of the time. At other times, those virtual buttons can be hard to bring up.
Instead of trying to mimic the the tired and true home button, Apple went a completely different direction, they overhauled how the operating system works. In fact, in many ways, the iPhone X is the first true multi-touch phone on the market and after getting use to the differences, it works far better than the tried and true home button interface.
The home button was replaced by swiping up from the bottom, control center ha been moved from the bottom to the upper right, and the notification center to the upper left. The double tap on the home button has been moved to the side button ala the Apple Watch. The app switcher is now a swipe up from the bottom and hold halfway. I found this new version of the interface to be very intuitive and faster than either legacy iOS devices or Android devices.
In typical Apple fashion, iPhone X interface equally takes from Apple’s other platforms, steals from Android, and invents better ways to do things in a mix that’s just right. In fact, I’m actually wondering why Apple didn’t just make this the standard iOS 11 interface. Other iPhones, iPads, and iPods could benefit from it as well.
Old School Meets New School
In many ways, the iPhone X is reminiscent of the original 2G iPhone. The design is similar, the colors are essentially the same, and it comes with only a black front bezel. Its a rounded design with stainless steel sides. Whether space gray or silver, the back is highly reflective.
The iPhone X is deceptively heavy for its size. It feels thicker than the iPhone 5, 6, 7, or 8 series phones. That’s a good thing since the thinner metal back phones can be almost too thin to the point where they become difficult to grip. Its just the right size and shape to make it easy to hold. Its far smaller than the iPhone 6/6S/7/8 Plus despite having a larger screen.
Face ID, Biometrics Become Invisible
I had three phone with Touch ID, the iPhone 5s, the iPhone 6 Plus, and the iPhone 7 Plus. It went from working pretty well with its debut on the 5S to working wonderfully on the 7 Plus. If it works, then why get rid of it? Flat out, Apple legitimately found a better way in FaceID
Apple’s TrueDepth camera is a technical marvel. Not only did they shrink the PrimeSense technology that powered the Kinect on the Xbox 360, they made it better in the process. Its extremely reliable as well. Because of this reliability, it allowed Apple to replace the TouchID sensor and use facial mapping for biometric identification instead.
Is it completely perfect, the answer is no. You are dealing with a camera, so it deals with line of sight issues. If you’re too close, it can’t map your face and ditto if it can’t see you. It, like TouchID before it, can also almost be too fast where you’re unlocked before your ready to be if you just want to see your notifications.
Overall, though FaceID and other facial mapping biometrics are are far better security option for the end user. I do expect it to be expended and improved in all platforms and all devices. It would also shock me if it did not show up in every iPhone, iPad, and Mac released in 2018.
How Did They Fit This Much Power in a Phone?
Part of what makes the interface work is pure speed. Every generation of Phone these days claims a desktop caliber CPU. The iPhone X isn’t lying about it with its A11 Bionic. Its almost absurdly quick. There is no waiting, actions and opening apps is almost instant.
Let’s put this into perspective with some relatively objective evidence. Yes, I know, Geek Bench and real world performance aren’t exactly on the same page. However, it does give you a ballpark estimate of how much raw power a CPU has. The A11 is an absolute Beast. Compared to the first generation of Apple’s 64-bit ARMv8 compatibles CPUs, the A7 Cyclone the results are jaw dropping. The A7 scored a 1368 in SingleCore Benchmarks and 2500 in Multi-Core. The A11 benchmarked a score of 4242 for single Core and 10241 for Multi-core. That is triple the Single Core and Quadruple the multi-core performance compared to a CPU that was considered a huge step forward not that long ago.
Just for fun, I also benchmarked my 2012 MacBook Pro with an Intel Core i7-3615QM. The MacBook Score 3141 in Single Core and 10645 in multi-core. Yes, this is an older machine. However, running neck and neck with any generation of Quad Core i7 is a seriously impressive feat for a mobile processor.
On the graphics end is a new 3-core Apple designed GPU. It takes the place of the PowerVR graphics on every previous Generation of A-Series CPU. It promises 30% higher framerates than the already impressive PowerVR Rogue-architecture GT7600 graphics found in the A10 Fusion.
The most interesting part of the A11 is the Neural engine. Essentially its a AI dedicated ship to take the load for any machine learning tests off the the main CPU and graphics hardware. This makes for an even faster experience. It also allows the iPhone X to perform the impressive, but selectively targeted, feats of Animoji. Seeing that CoreML has been baked into the very core of iOS and macOS going into the future, this Neural engine is just going to be the start.
Next Generation OLED
In theory OLED should be a better technology. You don’t need a backlight so it should use less power and it should be more vibrant because black is off. In reality, its not that simple. The use of the traditional RGB pixel arrangement has proven itself to not work as well with OLED. This caused Samsung to invent the diamond pentile arrangement that used full size red and blue pixels and two smaller green ones in a diamond arrangement instead of having all three pixels the same size and in a straight line. Its arranged like this since the green pixels are more efficient and can be smaller than the blue or red.
While this pentile arrangement has solved a lot issues with OLED, the color accuracy and viewing angles tend to be not anywhere as good as an IPS LCD screen with a LED backlight to make up with the overall brightness issue that has been common in OLED screens.
The next generation Samsung OLED screen in the iPhone X is the best I have ever seen and bridges of the gap considerably between having the best elements of LCD and OLED displays. The 1 million to 1 contrast ratio is impressive and its bright. I would say even brighter than the LCD screen on my previous iPhone 7 Plus. The True Tone technology and Dolby Digital HDR capable screen make this screen just gorgeous to look at. While there is a bit of color shift off excess, the performance isn’t really much worse than the previous LCDs
Hands down the 5.8” Super Retina OLED screen is the best on the market. If they can get the technology down in price, this is the beginning of the end for LCD screens and where OLED finally reaches its tremendous promise.
Even Better Camera
The iPhone X carries over the tandem wide-angle and telephoto rear camera arrangement with 12mp sensors over from the iPhone 7 Plus. There’s been a couple changes though. First, while the f/1.8 wide-angle has the same specs as the model on the iPhone 7 Plus, it has a bigger sensor. That makes it a bit better in low light.
The real improvement is the telephoto, The aperture has been enhanced from f/2.8 to f/2.4. The lens and sensor are now both larger, equal in size to the wide-angle. Lastly, it gains optical image stabilization. In essence, both the 1x and 2x cameras become equal. It shows in picture quality. The 7mp front camera from the True Depth array is not much different than what you found in the 7 Plus. All these cameras can save your pictures in JPEG, Apple’s HEIF, or RAW. That said, while raw is available to third party camera apps, Apple’s own default application does not give you that option.
These cameras all benefit from an Apple-designed Image Signal Processor. Essentially, Apple’s ISP is a mini version of what you’d find a DSLR. If you needed any additional proof that the point and shoot market is toast, this is it. The iPhone X isn’t just your personal camera, its a really good one.
Video performance gets a modest but important upgrade featuring Ultra High Definition (aka 4K) Video at 24/30/60 FPS and High speed Video, which gives you the slow motion effect, at 1080 Full HD at 120/ 240FPS. Video can be saved in either H.264 or H.265 which Apple calls HEVC.
Wireless Charging and I/O
If there is one aspect that has bugged me about previous iPhones is the lack of Qi compatibility. Its not something you absolutely need, but it sure does come in handy. The iPhone X can charge quickly wirelessly as well with 7.5w fast charging. That’s not as fast as the 10w allowed by newer Samsungs, but its no slouch either.
Qi isn’t going to replace the Lightning or USB-C port in the near future since it cannot do data, but putting you phone down on a pad and having it charge while you sit down on your couch or sleep for the night is very handing and very appreciated.
Speaking of the Lightning Port, I do question why its there. Not because its unneeded, but because its been superseded. Lightning was a great forerunner to USB-C. But, USB-C is here and its now Apple’s standard port on its Computers. It would make a lot of sense for USB-C to replace not only USB-A and Thunderbolt 1/2, but Lightning as well. However, it did not happen in 2016 with the 7 Plus not in 2017 with the iPhone 8 and X.
The iPhone X has a two cell L-shaped battery. What does this mean in the real world? It means that I try to run it out of juice on a regular basis and fail the vast majority of the time. In fact, 1-1/2 to 2 days may be even possible if I tried. The battery life is just plain excellent.
The iPhone X sound is ok. Is better than some previous iPhones, but there are Android phones that are far better. Then again, you’re probably better off with a really good bluetooth or Wi-Fi speaker.
Drop Test? Not Here
I’m going to be on the level. I did not do a drop test. Why? That’s clear and simple. I paid for this out my pocket, Its my personal device and I cannot afford to replace it so I treat it right and, yes, I bought AppleCare+ with it.
That said, like the iPhone 4/4S so many years ago, both sides are glass. The glass is necessary since the wireless power signal will not go through metal. At the same time, it might be super duper gorilla tiger dragon glass, but its still glass and there’s no such thing as shatterproof glass. It will not be as durable as the metal back iPhones. Its incredibly foolish to spend this much on a device and not put a few more dollars into a case.
Tomorrow’s iPhone at a Premium Price
The iPhone X is out a year before Apple originally planned and you’re paying for that with your wallet. At $999 for 64GB and $1149 for 256GB, this is one of the best expensive mobile devices on the market. You get what you pay for, but its also very much an upper flagship device.
Pros and Cons
- True desktop caliber CPU makes for a wickedly fast experience
- Best Screen I have ever seen in a mobile device
- True Depth Camera and FaceID are the future of biometrics
- Finally Brings Wireless Charging
- OIS in both lenses and image signal processing
- All day battery life and then some.
- $999 64GB starting price with $1149 for 256GB makes it one of it not the most expensive phone on the market.
- Glass makes it less durable than previous iPhones
- Far less variety in color options. Only Black… I mean space grey, and silver.
- Mediocre speakers
The iPhone X is hands down the finest product Apple has ever made and possibly the best phone on the market. Its also the most expensive. This is the future of iOS and the iPhone and it looks incredibly bright.