iPhone X – we put Apple’s latest arrival to the test

Dominik Bärlocher
Zurich, on 03.11.2017
Responsible for translation: Eva Francis
The iPhone X is full of changes. One of the most notable is the omission of the home button and Touch ID. The device only arrived today, but since then I’ve been busy checking out all the features and functions for you.

The first thing to mention is that the iPhone X feels a bit strange. Weighing in at 174 grams, it’s lighter than many competitor phones of the same size, and yet it still manages to sit heavily in your palm. Not overly so. Maybe noticeably is a more apt word. You just always know it’s there. While I was unpacking and examining the phone, I soon recognised just what a good job Apple’s engineers had done. They have made sure every single cubic millimetre of space is used optimally.

Once it came to switching on the phone, my uneasiness about how it felt evaporated and was replaced with a huge grin. This change of mood can be summed up in two words: the screen. I know what AMOLED screens look like. In fact, I’ve already experienced test phones with these kinds of displays. But Apple seems to take it to a different level. Think Apple iOS in rich colours with amazing intensity. It looks very impressive. I’d even venture so far as to say this development warranted the release of the new iPhone alone.

iPhone X (64GB, Space Gray, 5.80", Single SIM, 12Mpx)
Apple iPhone X (64GB, Space Gray, 5.80", Single SIM, 12Mpx)
iPhone X (64GB, Silver, 5.80", Single SIM, 12Mpx)
Apple iPhone X (64GB, Silver, 5.80", Single SIM, 12Mpx)
iPhone X (256GB, Space Gray, 5.80", Single SIM, 12Mpx)
Apple iPhone X (256GB, Space Gray, 5.80", Single SIM, 12Mpx)
iPhone X (256GB, Silver, 5.80", Single SIM, 12Mpx)
Apple iPhone X (256GB, Silver, 5.80", Single SIM, 12Mpx)

As for the X in the title, Apple seems to have strayed from its naming convention of using numbers in phone names. Before OSX confused everyone by becoming macOS, the X referred to the number ten rather than the letter X. That’s why the iPhone X is actually pronounced iPhone ten. This probably won’t bother most people, and having a letter in the name will just sound cool.

Hallelujah, the home button is a thing of the past

From the very start of the iPhone era, Apple always placed great emphasis on the home button. That little button at the bottom of the device was a feature on all the devices in the manufacturer’s range. From iPods to iPads and iPhones, all of them boast the memorable home button. Simply pressing it was enough for the home screen to appear. It was easy and it worked. Basically, it was everything Apple stood for.

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The home button is no more

iPhone X has done away with the home button.

That was one of the updates I was most worried about when the product was unveiled. While mean comments spread around the Internet – usually from unqualified sources – warning that the display would split into a thousand tiny pieces if you happened to look at it the wrong way, I wasn’t actually concerned about the display. I was fixated on what the loss of the button would do to the device. After all, this element was central to managing iOS, Apple’s software for mobile. If you needed to come out of an app, you’d hit the home button. Wanted to lock your phone? You guessed it. You’d need to use the home button.

As it happens, Apple could easily have bid farewell to the button sooner. The latest iPhone is testament to how much more flexible the iOS system is than previously thought. With the iPhone X, FaceID takes over the role of the fingerprint sensor on the front. So while you used to have to press the home button to come out of an app, you now just need to give the screen a quick upwards swipe. All of this is only made possible because of rigid instructions given to developers. If an app for the iTunes Store doesn’t follow the guidelines to a T then it won’t be published. Rules like that wouldn’t be conceivable with Android. Even if they were, apps wouldn’t open with the same effortless ease as on Apple systems. Only time will tell if that proves to be the case with this device. But going on first impressions alone, the phone gets the thumbs up from me.

The future is AMOLED

While AMOLED screens used to be more of a rare sighting because they were expensive, the iPhone X has finally made this technology more mainstream. Samsung may have been one step ahead, as the Samsung 8 also featured amazing-looking AMOLED technology, but the iPhone X wasn’t far behind. I’m sure all of the Apple fans will fall in love with the screen. Don’t you think it looks so much better?

Black is blacker, red is redder and white is even more intense. It’s like chalk and cheese compared to the old iPhone displays.

However, not all of the apps seem to have understood that the screen ratio has changed. The good news is there is a trick you can use to maximise screen space. It works on other phones that don’t follow the traditional 16:9 or 4:3 format. Just pinch and zoom on your YouTube video to get it fit the screen.

The display is obviously the focus of the device. The rest just looks like it always has: a rectangle with rounded corners, Apple design and the buttons where you expect them to be. Only the camera bump where it protrudes at the back is eye-catchingly different. The designers haven’t made any attempt to hide it. In fact, it is something of a statement feature. Sticking angularly and sharply out of the back of the phone, the camera bump is almost asking for your attention.

In terms of the camera itself, watch this space. I think it deserves more in-depth testing before I deliver a full report. However, judging by the first snapshots, it lives up to its accolade of «best ever camera» as given by Apple CEO, Tim Cook when he unveiled the device.

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Video producer Stephanie Tresch got to work filming the unboxing

The only slight weakness the iPhone X shows is in its camera effects, specifically Stage Light. Stephanie’s hair kept being deleted from the photo, giving her an unnatural hairline.

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Photo of Stephanie Tresch using Stage Light. Her hair was artificially cropped slightly, but the background is the same as in the shot before.

We thought the camera effect might work better on photos of men, as they usually have shorter hair. Product manager Ludo Penning de Vries stepped up and agreed to pose for a photo with the selfie cam and office background.

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In the photo, Ludo Penning de Vries doesn’t have such defined cheeks

Other effects like this shot with cold lighting are definitely spot on.

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Stephanie Tresch and the video mascot

The only issue is the price

Apple has never really produced cheaper versions of its products. The iPhone X follows in this vein and sits snugly in the higher price category, with few smartphones selling for more. The only phone that comes to mind is the Red Hydrogen One, which is set to launch next spring. There’s also the Huawei Mate Porsche design series, where the design itself costs a few hundred Swiss francs.

We’ve already established that Apple is expensive. But if you’ve got the cash and are weighing up buying the iPhone X, my advice is to get it. Obviously, you’re paying for the design and the name as well as that happy feeling of being part of the Apple family – or something along those lines. Tech-wise, I couldn’t find any fault with the device on a quick inspection. It does what it’s supposed to very well and all while looking great.

Is this starting to sound like gushing praise? I put my hands up and admit it. Why? Because Apple has finally done something that warrants a generous dollop of praise. The iPhone X is impressive, so praise where praise is due and all of that. In short: good job, Apple.

However, this article does come with a caveat. My opinion here is based on a first impression after having had just a few hours to fiddle around with the phone. I can only give you a comprehensive review with my final verdict once the initial child-on-Christmas-morning excitement has worn off. I hope you can bear with me for a few weeks while I calm down.

How we got our hands on an iPhone made of real gold

We were interested in finding out who wanted to buy the new iPhone and most importantly why they were so keen on snatching up this latest version. Without further ado, Stephanie Tresch and I took to the streets in search of answers. While we were out and about, we came across a rather rare opportunity. Let me tell you, when you have the chance to see, film and hold an iPhone made of real gold, you don’t say no. In case you were wondering, it was really quite heavy.

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Dominik Bärlocher
Dominik Bärlocher
Senior Editor, Zurich
Journalist. Author. Hacker. A storyteller searching for boundaries, secrets and taboos – putting the world to paper. Not because I can but because I can’t not.

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