iPhone X Review: Here’s What Apple Gets Right, And Wrong

iPhone X showing photos in portrait and landscape mode

Apple’s newest flagship smartphone, the iPhone X, is loaded with new features like an OLED screen, Face ID, and wireless charging. Is it worth the US$999 price tag? Read on to find out.

The iPhone X (pronounced “ten”) measures 5.65-inches tall by 2.79-inches across and 0.3-inches thick. That makes it slightly larger than the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8. The iPhone X weighs more than either at 6.14 ounces, but less than the iPhone 8 Plus.

iPhone X size comparison with iPhone 7
iPhone X (right) compared to iPhone 7 (left)

Apple packs its biggest iPhone screen so far into the X at 5.8-inches diagonally, compared to the iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 8 Plus at 5.5-inches. That’s possible because Apple removed the Home button and spread the screen out to the phone’s edges.

iPhone 7 and iPhone X back view
iPhone 7 (left) and iPhone X (right) rear-facing cameras

You don’t get as many choices with the iPhone X. Instead of several color options the iPhone X comes in Space Gray or Silver and both versions have a black front bezel. You also get to choose from two storage capacities: 64 GB for $999, or 256 GB for $1,149.

iPhone 7 and iPhone X edge comparison
iPhone 7 (left) and iPhone X (right) bottom edge

iPhone X OLED Screen

The iPhone X is Apple’s first iPhone model with an OLED screen instead of LCD. At 5.8-inches diagonally it’s bigger than the iPhone 8 Plus display, but Apple packed that into a body that’s only slightly larger than the iPhone 8. That’s because Apple did away with the Home button, and pushed the screen’s dimensions out to the edges of the phone’s body. The end result is a phone that’s almost all display.

Apple calls the iPhone X display “Super Retina” because it’s higher resolution than the Retina display in the iPhone 8 Plus. The iPhone X 5.8-inch display is 2436 x 1125 pixels at 458 ppi. The iPhone 8 Plus 5.5-inch screen is 1920 x 1080 at 401 ppi.

You can’t tell the difference between the displays simply by looking for jaggy edges on letters. Instead, it’s all about color and the overall impression the display makes. The colors are richer and deeper but don’t feel over saturated, and everything looks so sharp it almost feels like the display is simulated. In fact, the iPhone X display is so good it feels like someone printed out a high resolution graphic and pasted it on top of the glass.

I’m not into watching movies on my iPhone, but the tests I watched to better appreciate the OLED screen made me feel like my Sony Bravia LCD television is basically crap. That’s saying a lot because this is the best television I’ve ever owned and I really love its image. If you’re looking for the best possible display in an iPhone, just but the X and be done with it.

Screen brightness indoors and outdoors is excellent and held up well under Colorado’s bright sunny skies with Apple’s default settings. I didn’t feel like my eyes were burning out of my head when I was reading in the dark, either.

iPhone X Home screen notch
The iPhone X notch on the Home screen (left) and in an app (right)

The biggest concern I had with the display before getting the iPhone X in my hands—which is a big concern for a lot of other people, too—was the notch. That’s the black strip at the top of the display where the front facing cameras and sensors live. There’s a little screen nubbin on either side of the notch, lovingly called the horns, where you see things like cell signal strength, WiFi, battery remaining, and the time.

Here’s the deal: Notch complaints are much ado about nothing. You’re aware of the notch the first time you look at your iPhone X because everyone told us it’s supposed to be a problem. After a few minutes of using the phone the notch fades from your vision and that’s the end of worrying about it. That held true even for me and I spent days intentionally playing around with apps and wallpapers to see how the notch stands out. Turns out it doesn’t, even when you embrace it—which can be gloriously awesome.

Some people are experiencing a problem where the screen becomes unresponsive to touch when the temperature drops quickly. The problem, they say, happens when stepping outside into the cold from a warm room. A thread on Reddit has been following the issue with people saying they experience the issue when moving from indoors where it’s 70 F to 50 F weather outdoors.

I wasn’t able to replicate the problem going from 70 F indoors to 27 F and snow outdoors. That doesn’t mean this isn’t a real issue for those that experience it; just that it isn’t happening to everyone. Apple says they’re addressing the issue in a future software update.

Next Up: iPone X Cameras, Sound, and Gestures

9 thoughts on “iPhone X Review: Here’s What Apple Gets Right, And Wrong

  • Jeff:

    I agree with almost everything that you’ve said. Almost.

    I can’t say that I’ve had true Face ID failures. Thanks to the infrared sensors, it works just as well in the dark as in daylight.

    I haven’t experienced the snafu you report with Apple Pay, but tend to use my Watch when out and about, and otherwise my MBP or iPad for online purchases. I’ll make it a point to play with it the next time I need to make in an in-person purchase.

    We part company on your irrational fear of breaking your glass phone. This is the first time that, because of the physical beauty of the device, I’ve opted to not use a case, and yes, I’ve had a couple of drops onto hard surfaces. This thing is solid, made with state of the art Gorilla Glass that is designed to surpass the 1.6 metre drop test used in yesterday’s Gorilla Glass 5 in the iPhone 7. If anything, I pitied my kitchen tile floor.

    A case, on this jewel, would only mar the tactile component of the user experience, which is a thing of beauty unto itself. If you haven’t done so yet, you owe it to yourself to hold it. Go ahead. It’s not fragile.

    While I’m sure I’ll use a case when doing field work – I always do – I’m actually enjoying my phone the way it was meant to be held.

  • @Jeff, one other thing that I’m having trouble with is when I pick up my phone from my pocket to see why it buzzed, it unlocks and I have to press the lock button to put my phone back in my pocket. With Touch ID, the phone doesn’t unlock until I put my finger on the Touch ID. If I forget to press the lock button, I’m making pocket dials and all sorts of things.

    The reason I switched from iPhone 6 to 6S is for raise to wake function to filter out notification to see if I need to action or ignore. Now, ‘raise to wake’ requires another click to put away.

    I know I should be using my Apple Watch to get notifications, but you it doesn’t alway show all notifications due to Apple’s complicated logic.

    This is just a rant. Pressing the lock button before putting my phone back in my pocket is something I will need to get used to and I will.

    I do get Apple remote syndrome with no home button as well but I’m getting used to feeling the lock button instead now (just need to remember the buttons are on top half of the phone ;).

    I am loving the phone and the face id. This is so amazing.

    1. I don’t understand what you mean. The phone unlocks when you look at its screen, true, but it doesn’t take you away from the lock screen until you swipe up. If you’re only looking at the notifications, on the lock screen, you can put it back in your pocket just fine and it won’t “pocket dial and other sorts of things…” Did I misunderstand you?

      Raise to wake functions much like in my iPhone 7: the screen turns on when raised, and again if you don’t swipe, it stays on lock screen. The difference is that if you do look at the screen, the lock icon animates to the open lock. And if you’re distracted and don’t actually look at the screen, the phone may even be in front of your face, but it won’t unlock. Which is what I find pretty cool.

  • I have a friend, programmer, Linux fiend, that is really upset with Apple. He says how terrible it was that they “forked” iOS into Home Button/TouchID and Buttonless/FaceID models, each with their own gestures and habits. I keep trying to tell him that no they haven’t forked it. This is the way iOS is going. Within a couple of years ALL of their phones and tablets will not have a button, will use FaceID, and that will just be the way iOS is. Yes for a few years we’ll need to struggle with New Way and Old Way depending on the device. But this is one of those sea change moments. This too shall pass.

    1. Good point. Forking is nasty business. Apple’s QA staff already seem overwhelmed. This will not help. I’m sure they’re all waiting for the merge, just like contestants on TV’s “Survivor”.

  • Screenshot is the button combo I use most often and it’s fine. The rest of them I have only used once in two weeks of use. I don’t think they’re even worth complaining about because of the rarity of using them.

    Some of the gestures could be improved but I’m not sure how, (that’s up to Apple to figure out anyway).

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