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My initial impressions after briefly using the iPhone X

No, I didn’t buy one. (Though I could have; the nearby Apple store has had them in stock each day.) But I did spend about 20 minutes playing with one, just to compare it to my 8 Plus. Here then are my thoughts after that extensive hands-on period…

The Good Stuff
  • The screen is lovely (most of the time; see below). Very high pixel density makes for incredibly crisp text, and the OLED tech means blacks are black, and colors in images look stunning.

  • The 120Hz sample rate on the touchscreen makes for very snappy interactions.

  • Compared to my 8 Plus, the narrower iPhone X feels nicely sized in my hand.

  • I don’t think it would take too long to get used to the gesture-based interface; I already find myself wishing that the “short drag up” to activate the app switcher worked on my iPhone 8 Plus.

  • Face ID is very easy to set up, much more so than Touch ID. (The store phones have a demo setup so you can see how it works and test it, but not really apply it as you would on your own iPhone.)

There’s more, of course, but they’re things that apply to the iPhone 8/8 Plus, too: The glass design feels good in the hand, much improved cameras, speedy CPU, etc. The X has all of that, though with an even better camera, thanks to stabilization on the zoom lens, too.

So much for the good…

The Not So Good Stuff
  • Why did Apple put the Control Center way up at the top of the screen? For something I use a lot, every day, this would quickly get annoying.

  • The Notch. If the app background is black or even dark, the notch didn’t bother me much. But in apps that use a light background, The Notch grabbed my eye. Every time. Perhaps this would fade with usage, but I found it as jarring as I’d expected it to be.

  • I was surprised how much I disliked the “swipe bar” or whatever Apple calls this UI element at the bottom of the screen:

    This bar is where you begin your swipe up to go back to the home screen (long swipe), or to open the app switcher (short swipe). But it’s almost as visually distracting as the notch, especially when it’s shown against a light background. In theory, much like the auto-hiding Dock on macOS, developers can hide this visual annoyance…but Apple discourages the practice:

    Allow auto-hiding of the indicator for accessing the Home screen sparingly. When auto-hiding is enabled, the indicator fades out if the user hasn’t touched the screen for a few seconds. It reappears when the user touches the screen again. This behavior should be enabled only for passive viewing experiences like playing videos or photo slideshows.

    That’s too bad, as I find the indicator annloying, and after about 30 seconds on the iPhone X, you know where you need to swipe up from.

  • The off-angle blue shift is visually distracting, and it doesn’t take much of an off angle for it to reveal itself. I made a brief animated GIF demonstrating the shift—as you can see, it appears rapidly as soon as the phone moves away from the ideal viewing angle. (You’ll also see the blue shift on left/right tilts, not just forward/back.)

    You can also watch a larger-size 10MB version of the above GIF. Or even better, view the 1080×1920 much-longer video (watch | download 37MB)—the color shifts are more noticeable in the video, as it’s not reduced to 256 colors.

  • Watching zoomed video, where The Notch is then “cut out” of the full screen video, is simply ridiculous. Sure, it looks fine if the scene is dark or black…but if it’s anything but dark/black? It’s hilariously ugly, and difficult to watch. As a result, you watch video unzoomed, with bars at both ends of the display, thereby giving up much of the benefit of the edge-to-edge screen.

  • While it does have more pixels than my iPhone 8 Plus, there’s no getting over the fact that those pixels are in a smaller display. So yes, this makes everything crisp and clear, but those pixels are taking less physical space than on my 8 Plus, so they’re smaller. To compare, I loaded the same location in Maps on both phones, and compared the maps.

    And there was no comparison: My aging eyes much preferred the size of the text on streets and points of interest in Maps on the 8 Plus, just because they were physically larger. (I would’ve grabbed a photo, but I didn’t have a third camera available!)

Wrap Up

Overall, I was impressed with the iPhone X’s strengths…and somewhat surprised by what I found disappointing. I was expecting to hate The Notch, and I do, but only on white or very light backgrounds. I didn’t think the swipe indicator would bother me, but it does. And finally, that blue shift…hopefully OLED tech will improve in the future, because as of now, that’s the thing that I would find most annoying: Your device’s apparent color output shouldn’t shift just because you move it around a little bit in your hand.

I would love the smaller form factor, but I’m now very happy to wait a year for the iPhone…umm, X+1?…to see where this bleeding edge stuff goes. In the interim, my iPhone 8 Plus is working just fine…even if it is clown shoe sized.

3 Comments

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  1. That notch offers only some kind of Zune-esque appeal. It’s definitely something Microsoft would do. Maybe they’ll provide an option for camouflage for a strip containing the notch, but that will put the screen off center. Might as well make it oval, AFAIC.

  2. Rob, your impressions were very much like mine! I went to check out the 8,8+, and X this weekend. I couldn’t get over the blue shift. It bothered me even more than the notch!

    My final assessment was:

    8:
    ++ I liked the size
    — Offered nothing persuasive over my 7
    — no portrait mode

    8+:
    ++ Portrait Mode
    — BIG!
    — OIS on wide angle only

    X:
    ++ Portrait Mode
    ++ Size
    ++ OIS on both
    — cost
    — wait time
    — blue shift
    — notch
    — FaceID (ok, I am not opposed to FaceID, but there are rules in my workplace about pictures and it isn’t clear if this is allowed..yet)

    I ended up with an 8+. I don’t love the larger size (at least not yet) but I really wanted portrait mode. That was the sole selling point for me!

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