November 13th 2017
By Mike Flaminio
Technically this is my 11th iPhone, although I didn't get each device. I skipped the iPhone 3G (no 3G service at the time) and bought both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Ten years after the original, it stands to reason the iPhone X is a big deal, and it is even just for the fact it's the first major revision since the iPhone 5s. Here from me are some highlights.
I'm not sure if the home button removal or Face ID is the biggest change yet, so I'll just start with the home button. I had over ten years of muscle memory with the home button, but it took less than a week to move on. The new home gesture has become mostly natural, although I still sometimes hesitate when jumping back to the home screen.
Related to the home button, I'm still not used to switching apps. I could quickly jump between apps with the double-click of the home button, but I'm struggling with the new gesture. There seem to be a couple of subtly different ways of doing this, and swiping from the bottom up to the right as sort of upside down L seems to work best for me. Still, I sometimes misfire and head back to the home screen, sometimes I overdo it, and it just hangs there waiting for me.
Much of the home button functionality has been relocated to the power button. Double click now prompts Apple Pay. I use triple click for the magnifier thingy in Accessibility. Hold it down bring up Siri. Power + volume down is shut-down and emergency. Lastly, power button and upper volume is the new screenshot. I could be missing something, but that's a bunch of new stuff to learn and new things to do accidentally. My camera roll seems to be well stocked with inadvertent screenshots.
Back to Face ID, this is pretty slick. It's nearly transparent authentication. The second generation Touch ID was very quick but still required me to do something. Face ID just needs me to look at the screen. It seems to work well in the dark, whether I'm wearing glasses or not, sunglasses or not, hat or not. It certainly works best when looking straight on to the screen. It doesn't work so well when the device is laying flat on a table and trying to peek at something. Similarly, it can be hit and miss when laying down in bed. One big advantage over Touch ID is I can still quickly unlock even though my fingers might be wet or dirty from cooking or projects. Also, no more problems with wet or dirty Touch ID sensors. On the flip side, Face ID a no-go when wearing a dust mask.
The rear camera is usually my big draw for iPhone upgrades. My Photos app show hundreds of photos with each iPhone over the years and it's remarkable how quality has improved. When capturing memories, I always want to get the best quality that can fit in my pocket. I like the new 4K video at 60 fps. Everything seems to respond quickly, which is great since kids tend not to hold still. Everything is fulltime auto HDR and I've jumped on the Live Photos bandwagon now that iOS 11 lets me edit key photos. I don't care for the new portrait modes. Maybe they will get better.
The new OLED edge display is nice. Screen to the edges doesn't change my life, but it is a nice display, and everything looks great. I didn't have any complaints with the iPhone 7 Plus, so this isn't solving a problem or changing much for me. I'm not noticing much with higher resolution, but image quality seems a little better with dark colors in particular.
However... the screen design decisions have made some changes.
The notch at the top. I don't care. On the plus side, the mobile carrier is gone. Minus, apparently so is battery percentage. I'm kind of bummed about that one, but otherwise, it doesn't bother me or negatively affect me.
I don't like how Control Center now works. Upper right corner is inconvenient. I don't have a suggestion, but I don't like the change. I'll likely use it much less. Thankfully, flashlight and camera are my two biggest functions and they're right on the lock screen. If Apple put the calculator there, I could probably be good.
Animojies are fun. My kids love them, although apparently, you can't stick out your tongue. Maybe the next iPhone... The most popular at home are the chicken followed by poo, of course.
The keyboard is a little different. In portrait view, Apple moved the keyboards and Siri buttons to a new bottom row. I think this works well for thumb typing since there's no bottom dead space anymore. Landscape mode though can be a mess. It seems like the keyboard takes up 2/3 of the screen and some websites force a banner in the upper 1/3. If I'm lucky, I might see what I'm typing. I'm not sure if this is specific to iPhone X since I remember limited text input before, but I've noticed it this past week.
About the size... the iPhone X has a larger screen but is smaller and lighter than the iPhone Plus models. It's noticeably smaller and lighter in the pocket. I was a slow adopter of the Plus models, which is why I bought the iPhone 6 and later that year got the iPhone 6 Plus. I'm on board with the larger screen and have adapted or tolerated the tradeoffs. The iPhone X minimized those tradeoffs while still adding some more screen. With that said, I feel weird thinking I'd like to see an even bigger edge display on the same footprint as the iPhone 8.
I considered not getting a case, but I need something to grip. Glass gets slick and, as reported, this is an expensive device to repair. I got the standard leather brown case. I had the same case with the iPhone 7 Plus, and I like it. It's still slim, sort of classy, and I like how that particular leather color ages with use.
Also, a quick note about security. Apple has heavily promoted Face ID, which means people will be poking holes and making fun of it. We saw this with Touch ID. If you're concerned about people spoofing Face ID (or Touch ID), don't use it. It's a convenience feature, but you'll be hard-pressed to beat a good password that only you know. Lastly, all this is relative because if someone really wants to get into your device, they'll probably figure out a way.