iPhone X Hands-On Review and First Impressions


It’s hands down the best iPhone ever, but is it the smartphone of the future? That’s the million dollar question – or, considering the $1,000 starting price and the number of phones Apple is likely to sell, let’s call it the trillion dollar question.

The iPhone X (pronounced “ten,” not “ex”) was announced Monday in Apple’s new Steve Jobs Theater at the company’s revamped, $2.5 billion Apple Park campus, and it’s the premium flagship in Apple’s lineup. With a bold new design and a myriad of new features sure to impress everyone from casual owners to tech enthusiasts, it’s bound for success. So let’s get the big question right out of the way: Yes, lots of people are going to buy this, and yes, they’re going to be very happy with this phone.

Beautiful all-glass design

In my brief hands-on time with the phone, I was struck first by how substantial it is. The iPhone X is not heavy, but it’s definitely more phone than the Galaxy S8 and iPhone 7 I brought for comparison. It feels great in the hand, too; it’s slim, efficiently designed, beautiful to look at and hold. Gone is the slippery aluminum back that many have complained about. In its place is an all-glass back. Now you can drop your phone and shatter it on both sides. Complainers gotta have something to whine about, right?

But forget the build, think about the display: A 5.8-inch OLED screen with deep, inky blacks and colors so vibrant it looks like someone spilled paint all over the phone. I don’t usually gush about icons, but I could stare at these for hours. The absence of the home button is something long-time iPhone owners may complain about, but it allows for a clean slate interface. Swipe up to access the home screen, and pull down from the top to get to the Control Center, which used to be accessible from the bottoms up swipe. Swiping left gets to the notification center, or maybe it was pulling down one of the “ears” around the cut out at the top of the phone. Pulling in from the right gets to the camera – or did I just click the camera icon by accident?

Sure, these gestures are easy to learn, but they aren’t super intuitive. The absence of a grounding feature like the home button may confuse people who like the iPhone because it’s easy to use. Does the iPhone X just work? I’ll reserve my judgment on that one for the full review.

Second to market, but more refined

But what about the hardware and new features? Permit me a digression first: I bumped into Steve Wozniak prior to the event, who noted that today’s flagship smartphones have become little miracles: they’re powerful, beautiful, and it’s hard to go wrong. The iPhone X is no exception in the looks department, but it’s a bunch of new features that will really impress consumers – and that’s where Apple aims to set itself apart from the competition. Remember that “smartphone of the future” thing? It’s all about the software.

Here’s the thing: Many of the features Apple is bringing to this new phone are familiar ones other technology companies brought to market earlier. But … does it matter? Ford didn’t invent the car, Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb, and Apple didn’t invent the smartphone. It’s the people who did it right that history remembers. So does Apple do it right?

Microsoft Windows Hello brought us face recognition in Windows 10-based computers, and in my experience, it’s been lightning quick. I didn’t get to enroll my face with the iPhone X – we’re looking forward to putting the phone through its paces – but I saw Face ID in action, and Apple has brought a similar speedy experience to the phone. The Galaxy S8 can unlock through iris and facial recognition, which is similarly quick, but infrared cameras and software that map the contours of your face in real time make Apple’s implementation much more secure (as well as more complex and harder to do). Heck, it even works in the dark.

That said, Windows Hello performance deteriorates over time, in my experience. How will Apple’s fare over time?

It’s the people who did it right that history remembers. So does Apple do it right?

Wireless charging is another feature users will welcome, and it’s long overdue. Android phones have had this feature for years, and seen it improve steadily. That said, can Apple do it better? A new wireless charging pad introduces what looks like a proprietary feature to the Qi standard, allowing a user to monitor multiple devices charging at multiple speeds simultaneously. Is Apple doing it better or just doing it differently?

Apple clearly has a hit on its hands. The OLED screen is gorgeous, the phone feels great in the hand, and the added power — thanks to the A11 Bionic processor — means it’s responsive and powerful as heck. So will consumers spend $1,000 on a phone like this? Absolutely – Apple’s smartphone of the future may be your future smartphone, and if so, your future looks pretty bright.

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