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IF you’ve got over the shock of the price, even if it was a badly kept secret well before the phone was released, the iPhone X is still expensive by any stretch of the imagination. So what do you get for your £1000? Read our iPhone X review here…
The iPhone ten – yes, that’s how the “X” is intended to be pronounced – is Apples 10th Anniversary edition of the iPhone but more importantly, while the regular iPhones are still available in the form of the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, it marks a remarkable change in direction for Apple in a number of ways.
First to note is the wall to wall glass screen, with the dip at top front centre which has become known as “the notch”, and not too affectionately, by many. That full length and width glass screen is undoubtedly the main talking point but what can also be seen, can’t be seen.
Let me explain. What you don’t see is the home button. Yes, it’s gone. It’s not hidden beneath the screen, as original rumours hinted it would be, it’s gone completely. Replacing it on the iPhone X is Face ID, Apple’s new phone unlocking and security system which effectively uses face recognition technology to unlock the phone.
Apple will tell you it’s unique but like most “new” iPhone features it isn’t of course. Not only did a face unlocking feature appear earlier on the Samsung Galaxy S8 but Microsoft’s Windows Hello feature works in a similar way on Windows 10-loaded computers that have the relevant hardware built in, such as the superb Surface range of laptops and tablets. However it also appeared 2 full years ago on their Lumia 950 and 950XL Windows phones.
Apple will also tell you theirs is better and works on different technology, but a lab test recently managed to unlock an iPhone X using a 3D printed “face”, something that hasn’t been done with either Microsoft’s or Samsung’s version. Apple will also tell you that theirs works in the dark but some users have reported it not working under some types of light such as street lighting, or with sunglasses. I can personally testify that the Windows Phone version works well in both cases.
So our advice is “don’t believe the hype”. Face ID on the iPhone X does undoubtedly work, but we also think it solves a problem that didn’t exist. Of course the real problem for the iPhone X was that other phones are going bezel-free, the Samsung Galaxy S8 bring the obvious and best known one but a whole host of up and coming brands are following suit. In fact the trend was started by Xiaomi with their Mi Mix with it’s stunning edge to edge screen on three sides.
To do the same Apple had to get rid of the Home button, which contained the fingerprint sensor used to unlock previous iPhones. It has been retained on the latest iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. And yet Apple decided not to go “three sided” but have gone full screen instead, preferring to add that notch at the top to house the Face ID camera and sensors.
But did they have to get rid of it? Sony solved the problem some time ago by moving the fingerprint sensor onto the power button on the side of the phone – easily the most elegant solution we have seen, and oddly Apple have decided that it’s the ideal place to move Siri’s activation button to. But you can buy an android smartphone for under £100 which has the fingerprint sensor on the back panel. Meantime we have seen on-screen navigation buttons on Android phones for a long time now.
That’s the first major change, so what else do you get for your £1000? Well, in our opinion not an awful lot. Sure it’s “the best iPhone ever made” they’ll all tell you. Of course it is. You get the best of everything. Their best camera. Their best operating system version. Their best processor, the A11 Bionic. Their largest ever screen at 5.8 inches, conveniently disregarding the bit at the top taken out by that notch of course. And for the first time ever, a Super AMOLED screen with is their first departure from the usual IPS LCD screens seen on the regular iPhones.
Other differences from the iPhone 8 Plus in particular are hard to find beneath that 5.8″ screen, which incidentally also is the highest ever resolution on an iPhone at 458 pixels per inch. You get a stainless steel frame instead of aluminium, but all the current iPhones have the same processor and 3GB ram, all have the same storage, the same operating system, and fingerprint grabbing glass back panel, the latter being required to allow the inclusion of wireless charging.
We also dislike the raised housing surrounding the dual camera lens. Apart from not being able to lie it flat on it’s back on a table – and let’s be honest, you won’t want to lie it face down – it ruins the slick appearance that Apple are trying to put forward here almost as much as the notch on the front does. Yes, we know it’s probably necessary to house the dual lens and quad LED flash, but we would have preferred to see a slightly thicker case.
At 7.7mm it’s not going to spoil the party by adding an extra 1.5mm, but a far more elegant solution would be something like Motorola offered four years ago on the Moto X with it’s curved back, housing the flush fitting lens in the thicker middle. It looked just right and it was beautifully comfortable to hold and it’s no surprise that Motorola extended the look across the range. It’s the sort of innovation you should be expecting form Apple at these prices.
So are you simply paying the significant extra wedge of cash for that 5.8 inch full length screen? Well frankly, pretty much yes. The 12 megapixel dual camera has been improved a little and yes, it’s superb, but there is nothing else you can’t get on the iPhone 8 Plus or 8, or even the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus to some degree. Android have done it all before while even the much maligned Windows phones did their take on Face ID long before Apple.
This is an important phone for Apple because the iPhone the world has come to know and love (or hate, whichever you prefer) has now pretty much run it’s course. Apple have to abandon their “ideal” maximum screen sizes of 3.5 then 4 inches and give you more in the Plus version because it’s what people wanted. Their “perfect” Retina screen resolution was also left behind long ago, with several android phones sporting higher screen resolutions before it even existed, and everything else – wireless charging, bezel-less screens, fingerprint ID, dual cameras, has all been done and is now filtering down to smartphones costing a fraction of the price.
The problem is everything has reached it’s optimum. We have the highest screen resolutions we need, the largest screen sizes we need, the speed and power we need – well almost, 5G will see to that in the not too distant future. Glass and metal build, edge to edge screens, battery life, well you can always use more battery life of course, but we’re reaching a plateau where it’s going to be more and more difficult to innovate and with sales stagnating, people are showing signs of getting bored with the same old format.
So the iPhone X is Apple’s next step forward, but it is too expensive for the majority of the smartphone buying public and doesn’t really have anywhere else to go from there. For Apple this is all-new, but there’s nothing ground breaking or original here, and we think that has been Apple’s problem for some years now.
So should you want one? If you’re happy with being locked in to Apple’s ecosystem and you want the best and biggest iPhone yet, yes. Should you buy one? If you think that £999 is too much to spend on a smartphone – and that’s on the cheapest version with Apple asking an whopping extra £150 for the 128GB version – then we think you’re right and we’re with you all the way.
After all, it’s over £300 more than The Galaxy S8, Android’s favourite flagship at the moment and there are many more available for which you will need to part with considerably less of your salary, such as the stunning OnePlus 5T for half the price.
Is the iPhone X a fantastic phone? Yes it is. Is it Best in Class across the range of features? We think not. Is it worth a grand? Absolutely not, not when you consider that solid alternatives are available for far less. But of course “you pays your money and you makes your choice”, and we’ll never argue that freedom of choice is a bad thing.