Apple’s finest smartphone yet, the iPhone X, goes for sale in Malaysia in less than 24 hours. It is also the most expensive iPhone ever, with a starting price that breaches the RM5,000 mark. Based on a brief moment with the iPhone X, it is clear Apple spent a lot of time working on this iPhone.
There are a couple of things that springs to mind when picking up the iPhone X for the first time. The first is the fact that this is a considerably small phone – especially for those who have grown used to the Plus models. It feels compact but has a nice heft – it may be lighter than the iPhone 8 Plus, but the smaller footprint makes it feel very solid.
The second thing that catches the attention is the screen. Christened the Super Retina Display, this is the first iPhone with an OLED display – and it’s a beauty. Icons seem to float on the screen, colours are vibrant, and viewing angles are consistently good. The panel is manufactured by Samsung, but the colour calibrations are made by Apple itself, and the company claims that this HDR display is the most colour-accurate it’s made.
Bezel-free displays are quite common on Android smartphones these days, but again this is the first time it’s been done on an iPhone. I’ve been using the iPhone 8 Plus in day-to-day use over the last few weeks, and moving to the iPhone X for the first time left a huge impression – Apple is finally catching up with bezel-free displays and the leaner aspect ratios of 2017 Android phones. The iPhone 8 Plus feels archaic by comparison; the huge bezels suddenly feel excessive, almost unacceptable.
On the other hand, there’s that notch. In some apps it’s barely noticeable, but on apps with white backgrounds, it certainly looks very odd, like the animations did not render properly. I’m not sure if I can look past it, but I’ll give a better verdict once I’ve used this over the next week or two.
One main reason why the iPhone X is so small is because it does away with a physical home button. In fact, the iPhone X doesn’t have a dedicated home button – Apple is relying on a set of gestures as part of the UI exclusively for this phone.
Since iOS 7, Apple has slowly been adding some gestures into its UI. The iPhone X takes this on another level – current iPhone users will need to adjust to this new form of interaction. The good news is, it’s not too difficult – gesture controls have been around for years, and some will argue that it is more intuitive than relying on physical buttons.
To go to the home screen, users will need to swipe up from the bottom of the phone. Accessing the app switcher requires a similar swipe up gesture, but holding that swipe for just a bit. Using 3D Touch in this menu lets you swipe up on open apps to close them.
You can also swipe left or right at the bottom of the screen to quickly move between apps. It’s a much faster way of moving between apps, but this gesture also has a habit of being invoked by accident. It’s probably because I’m still not used to it, and will report again in our full review.
In terms of performance, the iPhone X is powered by the same A11 Bionic chip that’s on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. It has the same 3GB of RAM as the iPhone 8 Plus, and a 2,716mAh battery (only slightly smaller than the 2,900 mAh iPhone 8 Plus battery). Given that this is a fresh unit (and the fact it’s an iPhone), everything is buttery smooth and lag-free. The various gesture animations glide effortlessly, and moving between apps barely breaks a sweat on this phone.
With the removal of Touch ID, comes Face ID. This new feature, unique only to the iPhone X thanks to a special set of hardware called TrueDepth Camera, comprises of an IR camera, flood illuminator, and dot projector. The TrueDepth Camera scans your face and creates a 3D map that’s unique only to your face, allowing this information to be used to unlock your phone and authenticate Apple Pay or iTunes. Apple says Face ID is more secure than Touch ID, and from our brief testing under indoor lighting, it works as promised. Apple claims that because the technology relies on IR lasers, Face ID will work even in the dark- we’ll put it to the test in our full review.
That said, the TrueDepth Camera has more use than just for unlocking your phone and authorising iTunes downloads. Developers can take advantage of the sensors to create better AR or selfie apps. Currently there are a handful of apps that make use of the sensors, but there will definitely be more on that list.
Animoji is certainly a prime example of what accurate face mapping can do in apps. As its name implies, Animoji animates popular emojis with facial movement captured by the TrueDepth Camera sensors, and records a voice clip that goes along with it. The result is a great party trick and conversation starter – the dot projector and IR camera captures every exaggerated movement, before software magic converts them into animated emoji in real time.
The cameras are also largely unchanged between the iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus. The front camera has the same 7MP shooter – but a selfie Portrait mode is also here, taking advantage of the facial mapping sensors. The rear camera comprises of two 12MP sensors, one with a wide angle lens and the other with a telephoto lens for 2x optical zoom. The telephoto sensor has been enhanced over the iPhone 8 Plus with the introduction of OIS and a brighter f/2.4 lens. We’ll be testing the new cameras extensively for the full review.
I only managed to spend a very brief time with the iPhone X before we passed it to the video team for an unboxing, but from our first impressions, it is clear this is an iPhone dedicated for Apple fans. Android users may not be as impressed given that a few headline features on the X has appeared on Android flagships already.
But, considering the scale and popularity of the brand, whatever Apple does will carry some weight. The company’s huge push into AR – to the point where a notch is carved out of an otherwise flawless display – is worth exploring. Stay tuned for our full review of the iPhone X.