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Apple iPhone X first impressions: Top-notch design, futuristic Face ID, and more

The iPhone X goes on sale in India on November 3. But, how good is it? Is this handset worth the hype and price tag? Read our detailed first impressions.

tech Updated: Nov 02, 2017 11:41 IST
Kul Bhushan
Is the Apple iPhone X  best iPhone ever?
Is the Apple iPhone X best iPhone ever?(HT Photo/Harsh Rathore)

Almost a decade ago, Apple’s late founder Steve Jobs unveiled the very first iPhone – a device that went on to revolutionise the way we interact with our mobile phones. Since then, Apple has come up with a new iPhone each year, and all of them have been touted as the best from the company. It would be an understatement to say that the Cupertino-based company has seen a big success in the iPhone, which – by the way – still accounts for a major part of its revenue.

On September 12, Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage at the Steve Jobs Theater to unveil an anniversary special iPhone – dubbed as the iPhone X (pronounced 10). Cook described the iPhone X as the “future of smartphones”. How true is that, really?

On several fronts, the iPhone X does signify a radical change from various versions we have seen over the last decade. From edge-to-edge screen and dual-camera to futuristic Face ID biometric authentication, the iPhone X is supposed to bring about another shakeup in the mobile phone industry.

But let’s be honest. It’s 2017. The iPhone X may have a lot of features that are new to Apple, but for smartphones in general? Probably not. Though I will not go so far as to say that the Mi MIX 2 or Galaxy Note 8 are better smartphones, it should be noted that we have already come across many features of the iPhone X on rival handsets. Then again, the iPhone X may be the phone that perfects the futuristic features made sporadically available to Android users.

But how good is the iPhone X? Is it worth the hype and that hefty price tag? Well, we received an iPhone X unit less than 24 hours ago, and we aim to share our detailed review by the end of next week. Now, however, would be good time to give detailed initial impressions of the most expensive handset to emerge from the Apple stable.

Design, Edge-to-Edge OLED display

As you may have already seen in the press images and videos, the iPhone X is one of the most beautiful smartphones out there. Sporting a glass back, shiny metal edges and an OLED panel on the front, the iPhone X raises the bar for premium design. Featuring a 5.8-inch edge-to-edge display, it is slightly bigger than the iPhone 8 Plus (which has a 5.5-inch screen). The edge-to-edge display makes it look taller too.

Apple iPhone X: Key Specs
  • 5.8-inch OLED display
  • A11 Bionic chip
  • 12-megapixel wide-angle and telephoto cameras
  • 7-megapixel front camera
  • Face ID
  • iOS 11

The iPhone X also marks the redundancy of the home button, which doubles as the fingerprint scanner on other versions. While the removal of the TouchID makes way for an edge-to-edge screen, Siri can now be fired by pressing a button on the right edge. The button, which also serves to power the phone on and off, is a big longer than what we have seen on other iPhones. The left edge has the routine volume buttons and the dedicated silent mode switch.

When talking about the display, it is difficult to overlook the much-talked-about notch on top. Let me put it this way: The notch is almost omnipresent whenever you switch on the screen. It’s distracting and weird-looking, but maybe it will grow on me someday. The notch may not win everyone over from the aesthetic point of view, but there’s a reason why it exists. The notch is supposed to house an array of sensors, including ambient light, infrared camera, microphone, front camera and proximity sensor. If you squint a bit, you will catch a glimpse of the camera lens and speaker housed within.

That being said, the notch seems like an odd choice for design, and feels like a big trade-off for the overall phone. Apple understands this very well and is already working with developers to get the apps optimised for the notch.

But this is not all that’s jarring: The sides of the phone have bezels that are relatively thicker in comparison to the Xiaomi Mi MIX and Note 8. The Samsung Galaxy S8 series phones have an almost equivalent number of sensors and still deliver an Infinity Display. It’ll be interesting to see how consumers and developers respond to the notch.

The iPhone X has a notch on the top of the screen. (HT Photo/Harsh Rathore)

The OLED panel is another big addition to the iPhone design. Clubbed with HDR 10 and Dolby Vision support, the display has so far been very impressive. Colours are accurate, crisper and richer – something you should expect from an ultra-premium smartphone. We love the idea of a True Tone that keeps adjusting the white balance on the screen, based on the colour temperature of the ambient light. It’s like an advanced version of Night Shift, a mode that changes screen white balance to ensure less strain on the eyes. This works, and is quite fast when you’re moving from outdoors to indoors and vice-versa.

Software, UI, Animoji and Face ID

The iPhone X runs iOS 11, which in our opinion, hasn’t been the smoothest of the operating system so far. Just yesterday, the company rolled out a major iOS 11.1 update to bring a slew of new features and performance improvements. During our brief usage, the iOS 11 worked smoothly and ensured the sense of familiarity while using the smartphone. We hope the iOS 11.1 brings the much needed improvements to the performance and fixes issues relating to reported battery drain and Wi-Fi.

With TouchID gone and an edge-to-edge screen, Apple had to bring some exclusive UI changes to the iPhone X. For example, you need to swipe up (dragging a grey bar at the bottom of the screen) to go back to the home screen. To access the Control Center, you need to swipe down from the right top corner. For multi-tasking, swipe up the grey bar gently halfway.

A new UI exclusive for the iPhone X. (HT Photo)

I had anticipated considerable difficulty in getting accustomed to the UI changes, but much to my surprise, I figured out all the new gestures within 20 minutes. Muscle reflexes will understandably take a bit longer, but I feel like I am already getting closer. And I haven’t even spent 24 hours with the phone yet.

Animojis are a fun feature in the iMessage feature. It essentially lets you choose from a number of characters (3D emojis) and record a video while the character mimics your expressions. It’s funny enough, and I have already recorded a bunch of animojis to spam my friends with. But then, I don’t how big it will get in India – where most users are either on WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. The good thing is you can save these emojis as short videos and then share them on other platforms. I love the animojis, but I am not sure how long I will use them. I was equally excited when iMessage got handwriting and live doodle support, but I don’t see a lot of people using those features either.

Animojis are fun. (HT Photo)

Apple has been big on users’ privacy and security. While it pioneered the fingerprint sensor on mobile phones, it now looks to replicate the same with the Face ID. The new biometric system works pretty fast, and can capture your face from any angle (if you glance upon it). The process of adding your face to the system is a bit awkward, considering that it requires you to move your face in a circular motion like a yogi. At the end of the day, it works and is quite fast, although I missed the fingerprint sensor for sheer convenience value.

But that’s the thing with all these futuristic technologies. They seem awkward initially, but soon become an integral part of our lives. Remember the stares people used to give to those having telephonic conversations on headphones, wondering if they were talking to themselves?

Summing up,

There’s a lot left to talk about the iPhone X, such as the protruding vertical camera setup on the back, camera performance, battery life and overall performance. But as far as our initial impressions go, the iPhone X actually feels premium and brings a lot of new and high-end features to the table. It’s perhaps the best that an iPhone can offer at the moment. It is expensive, sure, we are sure that will not discourage Apple loyalists from buying this baby.

The iPhone X goes on sale across the globe (including India) on November 3, at a starting price of Rs 89,000. Until then, stay tuned for our detailed review.