Front view of Apple's iPhone X

First Look: iPhone X

The iPhone X feels like Apple showing a clear vision for change.

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The first thing I noticed about the iPhone X (pronounced “ten”) was its screen: it’s big, vibrant, and a weird shape. The OLED screen goes almost from edge to edge (with a tiny bezel). This achieves 2 things: it removes the home button and it means there’s a cut-out section at the top for the camera and infrared (IR) sensors. This cut-out means apps need to be adapted for the X’s screen. Those apps that aren’t yet updated (such as Google Maps) have black bars at the top and bottom, which ruins the screen’s aesthetic.

The removal of the home button means changes in how you use this iPhone. These tricks aren’t spelled out by Apple, so here’s a quick rundown.

  • To get home from any screen, you swipe up from the bottom of the screen (there’s a thin white line showing you where to swipe).
  • To see all your open apps, swipe up from the bottom but keep your finger on the screen (to close an app, press and hold it).
  • Screenshots are taken using a combo of the side and up volume buttons.
  • Powering off can be done by holding the side button plus down volume.
  • Siri is activated by holding the side button.
  • Apple Pay activates with a double press of the side button.

It surprised me how quickly I got used to the new system, though I found the side button sometimes registered 2 presses instead of one.

No home button also means no fingerprint sensor. Instead, the iPhone X uses your face. Initially, I was cynical as I’ve tried a few face-recognition systems and none has worked well. So far, Apple’s Face ID has been flawless. Its IR sensors project a grid of dots, which measure the shape of your face, most notably around the eyes. According to Apple, this is more secure than a fingerprint and is stored encrypted on the phone.

Because the IR dots don’t need to “see” into your eyes, you can use Face ID in low-light or bright sunlight. It even works when you’re wearing spectacles or polarising sunglasses. Apple claims it’ll even work if you get a dramatic haircut or shave off your beard (I wasn’t convinced enough to shave my beard to try it).

Every app that uses fingerprint ID is now done with Face ID. This includes logging into banking apps and making purchases through the app store, iTunes or using Apple Pay.

Face ID allows for another feature, depth perception on the front-facing camera. Depth-sensing usually requires 2 cameras, but the Face ID system can determine depth so well that you can reliably get a bokeh effect in your selfies.

The cameras on the back were also impressive. They’re equipped with a larger sensor, so the photos I took looked amazing on both the iPhone X and other devices.

While the iPhone X isn’t perfect, it’s the most impressed I’ve been with an Apple phone in a long time. However, the problem for most will be its price: $1800 for the 64GB model and $2100 for the 256GB version.

With other phone makers releasing high-end phones – as well as Apple’s own iPhone 8 – which have similar features and specs, you need to decide if Face ID and having the best Apple phone on the market is worth that hefty price.

iPhone X (256GB)

Price: $2100
Display: 5.8-inch (diagonal) OLED HDR display. 2436-by-1125-pixel resolution at 458ppi
HxWxD: 143.6x70.9 x7.7mm
Weight: 174g
Water resistance: IP67
Rear cameras: 12-megapixel wide-angle (ƒ/1.8 aperture) and telephoto (ƒ/2.4 aperture), 4K video recording at 24 fps, 30 fps or 60 fps
Front camera: 7-megapixel camera (ƒ/2.2 aperture)
Battery: Wireless charging (Qi chargers). Fast charging up to 50% charge in 30 minutes

First Looks are trials of new and interesting products from the perspective of our product experts. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons.

This phone was loaned to the writer by Apple.