iPhone X: Is it worth €1,179? Dig into those deep pockets
Facial recognition, vivid screen and great camera make this the best iPhone so far
The iPhone X is the iPhone that should always have been. Photograph: Getty
Product name: iPhone X
Where to buy: Usual retailers
Has it really been 10 years since the original iPhone hit the market? It’s hard to imagine a time when we weren’t hooked into smartphone screens, debating furiously the benefits of iOS versus Android, and embarking on a quest for ever-expanding battery life.
But as the market developed, some people started to feel things got a little stale. If you have been longing for a shake-up of the iPhone’s design, the iPhone X (that’s iPhone 10) is just what you need. Apple hasn’t quite thrown the design of its predecessors out the window. The iPhone X looks familiar, but there’s enough change to justify the upgrade if you have deep enough pockets – this baby costs €1,179.
There’s a nod to the design of the original iPhone, which never officially launched in Ireland, with the stainless steel band around the edge. The aluminium back is gone, replaced by Gorilla Glass front and back. It picks up fingerprints, but the oleophobic coating means they’re easily wiped away. That glass back also makes it easier for wireless charging, which was introduced in the iPhone 8. Sadly, it also means you’ll probably never see too much of it because you’ll put it straight into a case to prevent a rather expensive drop test.
There’s no home button; Apple has ditched it in a well-telegraphed move that means you have tiny bezels and a massive OLED screen.
Without the home button, you no longer have Touch ID to open your phone or make payments with Apple Pay. Now, the extra layer of security is Face ID. Give Apple your biometric information, stored securely on the phone, and all you ever have to do to unlock your phone is look at it. It would be easy to dismiss Face ID as a gimmick, but it’s surprisingly useful. Facial recognition isn’t a new thing; other manufacturers have used it as a backup for unlocking phones, and Microsoft uses Windows Hello to unlock certain Windows 10 computers. But how well Face ID works is a surprise. It can’t be fooled by a photograph (I tried), and sunglasses will stump it, but there were very few situations in which Face ID failed to work correctly, including low light, which was a nice surprise.
And it works for third-party apps too. Any app that used – or still uses – Touch ID can be authenticated with Face ID. You lose nothing from your phone’s function, but if you aren’t keen on biometrics, the passcode option remains.
The screen is almost edge to edge, and that has two results. First, you get more screen in a smaller handset, similar to what Samsung has done with its S8 line. The iPhone X has a 5.8in display; the 8 Plus has a 5.5in screen. Both are True Tone, which means the white balance adjusts to the lighting conditions, but only the iPhone X is OLED. The result is a screen that looks so vivid and crisp, it seems printed on, and the iPhone X can be comfortably used one-handed. Much as I love the screen size of the Plus phones Apple has been making for the past few years, they can induce hand cramp at times.
The second effect of the edge-to-edge screen is the notch at the top that allows for the camera, earpiece speaker and sensors. While it has been criticised by some, the only time I noticed it in any meaningful way was when I was watching full-screen video, and the only other real impact of it is that I can’t view my battery percentage from the lock screen any more. It can be viewed in the pull-down control centre, though. It’s worth noting that not all apps use the full screen; some have black bars top and bottom rather than making the most of the X’s extra space.
Power-wise, the iPhone X has many of the same components as the 8 and 8 Plus: the A11 chip and M11 motion coprocessor. Everything runs smoothly, even the most demanding of apps.
There have been improvements in the cameras on the X. The telephoto camera now has optical image stabilisation, which makes a huge difference to the quality of your shots. It also has a wider aperture than the 8 Plus, which leads to better shots in low light. The video camera shoots in 4K too, at 24, 30 and 60 frames per second.
But it’s the front-facing camera that has seen real benefit from the step-up to the X. It turns out that all that technology Apple crammed in for Face ID also comes in handy for selfies. The portrait mode that the 7 Plus introduced can now be used with the front-facing camera, and the results are notable. Plus, there’s Apple’s animoji: you too can send your friends messages where you have the head of a chicken. Animoji karaoke may seem like a frivolous thing right now, but it signals the AR path Apple may take in the future.
Battery life, as always, is a key thing. At present, I get a day out of the iPhone 8 Plus with exceptionally heavy use; the iPhone X didn’t improve on this too much but neither was it noticeably shorter on power.
The display is sharp and colours are incredibly vivid. Having shrunk the bezels to almost nothing, the iPhone is all the better for it – no more awkward fumbles. And while Face ID may seem like a gimmick, it’s surprisingly accurate and useful, particularly coming into the winter. The camera improvements are also welcome, especially for the front-facing camera.
It’s a learning curve. All those gestures you knew from previous versions of the iPhone are virtually useless. The control centre is now a pull-down menu on the right, rather than a swipe up. You double click the power button to buy an App in the App Store, press and hold it for Siri and double press for Apple Pay. Screenshots are taken by holding volume up and power. The app switcher is accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the screen and holding somewhere around the middle. It’s a little on the pricier side too, if you’re buying sim-free.
The iPhone X starts at 64GB capacity, and comes in silver or space grey. Wireless charging is built in, as is fast charging – but you’ll need to pay extra for accessories to make it work. The wireless charging is only at 5W for now, which means slower to get to a full charge, but that should change in the future.
The iPhone X is the iPhone that should always have been. The question is: will you pay more than €1,100 for it?