After a flashy reveal in September, Apple earlier this month finally released its most forward-looking iPhone in years.
To Apple, the iPhone X is a harbinger of what’s to come. “Our teams have been hard at work for years on something that is important to all of us,” CEO Tim Cook said on stage at the Steve Jobs Theater shortly before unveiling the device. “The future of the smartphone.”
But for the millions of Apple loyalists around the world, the iPhone X isn’t just a cutting-edge new piece of technology — it’s an upgrade that will likely cost them more than any smartphone has before. The entry level iPhone X with 64GB of storage costs $999. For comparison’s sake, the base model iPhone 8 costs $699, while last year’s iPhone 7 was $649 when it launched.
I’ve been using the iPhone X for two weeks. Even after all that time, it’s still difficult to offer a straight answer as to whether or not it lives up to its hefty price tag. That’s because it’s not a simple one-size-fits-all answer. There’s a very good chance the way you use your phone differs from the way I use mine, therefore our priorities and the budget we’re willing to spend on a phone may be different.
That said, if you’re trying to decide whether the iPhone X is right for you, here are my five biggest takeaways after using it for a couple weeks.
The iPhone X’s Best Feature Is its Size
Since Apple launched its first Plus-sized iPhone in 2014, I’ve always preferred it over the smaller option. For me, the longer battery life, improved camera, and extra screen space were always well worth the bulkier size — even if I sometimes found myself struggling to use the larger iPhones with one hand. But for many people, the increase in size was more of a burden than a benefit.
The iPhone X changes all that. Because the iPhone X has a much slimmer border around its display, Apple didn’t have to make the entire device larger to offer a bigger screen. Despite the fact that it has a 5.8-inch display, the iPhone X is actually significantly smaller than the 5.5-inch iPhone 8 Plus. In fact, the iPhone 8 Plus, which is the roughly the same size as the iPhones I’ve been using over the past three years, feels gargantuan in comparison. I suspect that for many people, the iPhone X will be the first smartphone they own that’s larger than five inches.
It’s also the first phone Apple has released that includes an OLED screen instead of an LCD display, which means it offers richer colors and better contrast. The iPhone X has a 2,436 x 1,125 resolution OLED screen with 458 pixels per inch, while the iPhone 8 Plus has a 5.5-inch 1,920 x 1,080 resolution LCD screen. The iPhone 8, meanwhile, includes a 4.7-inch LCD screen with a 1,334 x 750 resolution. The iPhone 8 Plus’s screen packs 401 pixels per inch while the iPhone 8’s squeezes 326 pixels per inch.
But exactly how much better is the iPhone X’s screen than the iPhone 8’s in practice? The difference is most evident when looking at contrasting colors, like while viewing black and white photos or reading black text against a white background. In these instances, the iPhone X’s screen looks much crisper and more vibrant than the iPhone 8’s. App icons on the home screen also look sharper and bolder on the iPhone X than the iPhone 8. But otherwise, the changes aren’t immediately noticeable. As I described in my initial hands on, I generally found that the iPhone X’s screen was on par with that of the Samsung Galaxy S8+.
The iPhone X Has a Learning Curve
After axing the headphone jack last year, Apple has removed yet another staple that’s played a huge role in how we interact with our smartphones: the home button. The lack of a physical home button is becoming more common on smartphones, but most Android phone makers have replaced them with on-screen keys that require a quick tap to return to the main screen. This preserves the familiarity of using a home button without actually building one into the phone. But this isn’t so on the iPhone X: to get back to the home screen, you must swipe up from the bottom of the display. Apple has placed a helpful digital bar across the bottom of the display that beckons to be pulled up like a window shade.
But it still takes time to shake the habit of tapping the bottom of the phone. It took about two days for all of the iPhone X’s new gestures to feel natural to me, especially one that involves swiping in from the top of the screen instead of up from the bottom to access the Control Center.
A more difficult adjustment, however, was figuring out how to perform tasks like capturing screenshots and force restarting the phone without a home button. To take a screenshot on the iPhone X, you must press and release the side button and volume up key at the same time, whereas previously iPhone owners would press the home button and side button. A force restart requires you to press volume up, then volume down, and then press and hold the side button until the Apple logo appears.
None of these changes are necessarily a dealbreaker when it comes to deciding whether or not to purchase the iPhone X. But they’re adjustments nonetheless, and they’re worth considering.
The iPhone X’s Battery Life Is Excellent
Regardless of its smaller size, the iPhone X still packs a higher capacity battery than the iPhone 8 Plus, and it shows in daily usage. During a recent vacation, I started my day at 4 a.m. to travel and still had about 30% of my battery left in the evening.
While traveling, I used my phone mostly for looking up directions, taking photos, and occasionally checking social media and email. On a typical weekday, which involves checking email more frequently, streaming music, and watching video, the iPhone X lasted from roughly 8 a.m. all the way through to about 11 p.m. at night and still had some juice left.