Why I spent £999 on an iPhone X
Simply put I went for it because I was in the market for a new phone. I was going to get the 8plus, then thought, fuck it. I wanted a dual lens camera but honestly felt the plus was too big (I had a standard iPhone 6 before) so opted to just drop the extra and get a phone that still fits in my hand, has a bigger screen than the plus anyway and has all the snazzy camera stuff.
This review is not going to be a tech savvy review, instead it’s going to be my experiences of using the device over the first 7 days, as a standard iPhone user who just wants to get through the day on a full battery charge, use the standard apps, send a few messages, take a few photos and maybe even record a few videos. I don’t play games, so I won’t be able to offer an opinion on those.
This is also not going to be an Android Vs iOS post, you can find those arguments elsewhere. I’ve been an Android user. Most people seem to switch from iOS to Android, they have their reasons. I went the other way, and I have my reasons, but I’m not going to go into them here.
Yes, it’s gorgeous. It’s the most beautiful looking phone I have seen, the outside casing on both the front and back is glass! This makes the most expensive iPhone to date, also the most vulnerable (apparently). After a week, mine has not a single mark, scratch or scuff on it and yes, I have dropped it!! I’ve purchased a case but for the sake of this review I wanted to spend the first 7 days without one. I got as far as 5 days, which is when I dropped it. That’s not to say I haven’t been extra careful, because I have, always making sure for example that it doesn’t go in a pocket with keys in, and generally always ensuring I’ve got a strong grip on it, especially when taking photos. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t absolutely petrified of dropping it.
The only real design flaw is the camera notch, which protrudes the back-glass panel at least a little too much, the phone will not lie down flat on its back on a desk, and if you drag the phone across a desk, it makes a horrible sound.
It’s also heavier than I expected it to be. It’s the heaviest iPhone Apple have made to date, it’s not exactly uncomfortably heavy, it’s just heavier than it looks.
I’ve purchased a case and it’s the first time I’ve purchased a full wrap around case, so it’s going to certainly take the design appeal of the phone away. The case is £40 too. Which is almost 25% of the AppleCare fee. AppleCare seems expensive but when you weigh up how much the solid cases are, some over £50 and Apple leather ones close to £100 I can understand the appeal to get AppleCare and let it shine in all its glory. Touch wood, since my first smartphone back in in 2010, which is the only one I’ve dropped which resulted in disaster, and that was into the toilet!! but it survived. Everything has stayed smash free. This is bound to be where it goes wrong.
The glass back is a fingerprint magnet, but this isn’t exactly an issue, just thought it was worth mentioning.
I was really impressed that my iPhone 6 detected I was setting up a new iPhone, which I guess is down to NFC stuff. Apparently, this is a new feature in iOS 11 so will only work if you have another iPhone or iPad nearby that’s also on the iOS 11 system. I just had to scan an image on the X with my 6 and it set my AppleID up for me after confirming the unlock code and transferred everything that I wanted it too. I opted to set up as a new iPhone rather than let it bring down an iCloud backup from my iPhone 6. It still transferred some of my iOS settings like my keyboard shortcuts, such as a@ which puts in my full email address, Safari history and passwords, notes etc, so this was a really quick way to set the phone up.
It didn’t turn things off like keyboard sounds and unlock sounds. I mean seriously, why are they even on by default, so annoying.
Also, iCloud photo and video content didn’t become available until I plugged it into a power source later that evening.
It’s worth noting that the phone gets really hot during the first few hours of use, which worried me, as I know long term, that a hot phone is not a healthy phone, however after several hours it cooled down and has only really warmed up since when watching video on YouTube, but this has since been revealed to be a problem with the app.
During setup you’ll also go through the Face ID process, which you can skip if you want. Which brings me onto…
Face ID was perhaps the most controversial thing about the iPhone X. The decision to not include a home button (we’ll get to that next) meant Apple needed to find another way to unlock the phone. It seems fitting a fingerprint sensor under the screen or on the back was something that couldn’t be done, or was simply decided it would make the phone either bulkier or uglier. So, the decision was made to get rid.
Its replacement is Face ID, and to be fair to Apple they managed to keep this under wraps until the last couple of months before the phone’s release. Perhaps because it was a really last-minute decision on the design front before production needed to start, but that seems unrealistic. So how well does it work? I’m not going to go into how you set it up or how it works, there’s plenty of other reviews and videos of this if that’s what interests you.
It actually works really well. To say I haven’t come across a couple of issues would be a lie however, and we’ll talk about those first.
Apple said Face ID would still identify you with things like sunglasses, hats and scarfs. This is true, but what they don’t tell you is that it actually won’t work straight away. It has to learn.
What I found when I set the phone up originally when I was wearing glasses was that it was really bad at unlocking my phone in the dark when I was in bed and not wearing my glasses. Perhaps I should have given it a couple more days, but instead I decided the following morning to reset Face ID and this time to do it without my glasses on. The phone unlocked straight away with my glasses on, so this way around was more successful. The following night I also had much more success with using Face ID in the dark without my glasses on. So, my top tip with Face ID is to set it up with your face being as blank a canvas as possible. I can’t offer opinions on different types of hair styles, because I’m bald! 😀
The second issue I had was several days later. As mentioned above I’m bald, so when we reach mid-November, if I’m going to be outside for a decent length of time I will always put a beanie hat on because my head and ears get cold. Suddenly with the beanie on. Face ID was letting me down, and I was constantly having to unlock with the passcode. This was not a good show off for the X who for a couple of my friends was the first time they had seen it, so they immediately thought it was crap! However, as I discovered when I got home, unlocking the phone with the passcode means Face ID continues to learn, and indeed by late afternoon I was finding Face ID was now letting me in with my beanie on. So, tip number two is don’t get too impatient with it, let it learn.
One more slight annoyance, if you enjoyed unlocking your phone on your desk with your finger with it to the side of your keyboard for example, well that’s not going to work anymore, Face ID won’t work from on the desk unless you move it in front of your face, you can keep it on the desk and look down and it will be fine. Or of course you can just unlock with the passcode without moving it. This obviously takes longer, and is a slight annoyance, especially for me as I set my passcode up with 8 numbers. I am seriously considering taking it back down to 4 just to speed the process up of unlocking on the desk, and for when Face ID does have a moment. Although generally if it doesn’t work, it’s quicker to just press the side button to turn off the screen and then wake it again, it generally nearly always works the second time.
Despite the negatives I’ve posted above, for the most part 90% of the time it works, and it’s really quick, it’s almost as if you don’t have an unlock code on it at all.
Apple Pay for me is actually easier as well, pressing the side button twice is a much better way to start the Apple Pay process instead of double tapping the home button, which for me, didn’t always work and I ended up unlocking the phone instead of starting the Apple Pay process. So far, every Apple Pay transaction has been successful, including the very brightly lit Spar near my work place. If Face ID does let you down in a store however, you can still pay with your passcode. So, don’t get too caught up about it possibly not working. Especially if you’ve just put a new hat on that day!
Although this does pose a security risk. If you get mugged and get forced to give up your iPhone with the passcode, someone could go and spend a lot of money, for example I noticed on the contactless card machine in my local supermarket the other day it said “£30 limit for card payments. NO LIMIT by Apple Pay”
Apparently this was introduced in May, it must have passed me by: Tipping point for Apple Pay as majority of UK tills accept limitless payments
If this worries you, it maybe you choose not to have Apple Pay setup at all. I couldn’t find an option to turn off using the passcode as a backup for Apple Pay from a quick google, but it’s certainly something I’ll be looking into in more detail, as this is a concern for me.
No Home Button
Seriously, I don’t know what the issue is. I found I had retrained myself within several hours, in fact the new way of unlocking, switching apps, accessing the control centre is far more intuitive. For me going back to my iPhone 6 and iPad after a couple of days of using the X felt really cumbersome and weird to have to use the home button. Something I’d been used to for 5 or so years was now really clunky.
To force turn off, you simply hold the side button and one of the volume buttons at the same time and to take a screenshot, tap in the side button and the volume up button at the same time, again this feels far more natural when you’re holding the phone than having to move a finger or use another hand to press the home button at the bottom of the phone.
Siri, again the side button replaces the home button, hold the button down on its own to access Siri. However, at least for me, I’m not sure when the feature was introduced but to access Siri hands free on my iPhone 6 it had to be connected to power. This is not the case with the iPhone X, however this probably got introduced after the 6 and before the X, but it’s new to me, and it’s extremely useful, however there is a quirk to that, which I’ll get to in another section.
The Screen & ‘The Notch’
The next big design change to talk about is the screen. Again, I’m not going to go into technical specs of the screen, but what I will say is that it is stunning. So so stunning. Just comparing it next to my iPhone 6 the difference is substantial. I haven’t seen another phone screen by anyone that looks this good. Seriously. The True Tone setting that adjusts the displays brightness to your surroundings is also spot on, I’ve hardly ever had to adjust the brightness of the screen for the situation I was in, unlike the auto brightness on the iPhone 6 which was hit and miss.
What about the notch, honestly, people that are getting their knickers in a twist about it are just people looking to find faults. You don’t notice it, you really don’t.
The only annoyance from me is that when you’re browsing photos in the photos app they don’t go full screen, whether this is because of the notch, maybe, obviously you can zoom in, but it seems daft to make users have to do this, because the photos you just took don’t look as impressive as they actually are without zooming them in, and when you do, wow! We’ll talk more about the camera shortly.
Videos also won’t automatically fill the screen, again I guess this is a design decision based on the notch, but as with pictures, you know what. I think that’s dumb, I’ve included some pics below from the YouTube app, which is the only video app at time of writing that I use that supports full size screen for video on the X, again, once you stop looking at it and watch what you’re watching, you forget it’s there. I can understand how some will find it annoying, but to say you can’t get over it, is a lie, and anyone that point-blank refuses to watch a video on that screen because of a notch has to be some kind of full on AV nerd. Not everything maintains its aspect ratio thou, and that is annoying. Hopefully it will get sorted.
One slight annoyance from the notch however is that there’s now no longer any room to tell me the % of my battery. I hate the bar indicator, it doesn’t tell me anything, give me hard figures, so I know what I’m working with. Thankfully there is a workaround, just drop down the control centre and you can see the battery % from there, slightly annoying as you can’t just take a glance, but at least it’s still there in some form.
To go with this new gorgeous screen, we’ve got improved dual lens camera’s also. It’s worth noting the cameras on the iPhone 8 plus are similar and as far as I can tell, do all the same snazzy features such as portrait mode. Also new to me was LIVE photos which was introduced with the 6s so isn’t new, but is new to me. This basically also records 1.5 seconds before and after when you pressed the take photo button, this obviously takes up more space on your device so you may want to turn it off, but it’s quite useful in the fact that if someone blinks, you’ve got 3 seconds worth of footage to choose from and can make a non-blink moment the key photo. Gone are the days of me now rapidly pressing the photo button multiple times to ensure no one is caught blinking!
The portrait mode photos are quite cool, again I won’t go into the in’s and out’s, there’s better reviews already out there so it would be a waste of my time, but it does bring out some really good results, however you may find you need more than one attempt with it to get that perfect shot. Also, like with Face ID, if you’ve got accessories around your face, such as glasses in my case, it can be very difficult to get them included inside the key ‘unblurred’ section, more often than not a small part of my glasses ends up in the blurred section, which can be a little frustrating.
However, the camera is fantastic. There’s some pics below that I’ve took, and all of these pictures have been took with normal settings, me just standing there, whipping out the phone and quickly capturing a moment. Pretty much everything comes out gorgeous, and once you zoom in on the photo and see it in full scale beauty the level of detail in the pictures is stunning. On the trip to the Severn Valley Railway I also took my compact with me, as when I wanted to take photos zoomed in, the iPhone 6 was pretty poor at this, but I found I didn’t need to use the compact at all, and that the zoomed photos on the iPhone X were actually pretty good. However, at least for the moment, this isn’t going to stop me from taking a compact with me to places where I’m pretty certain I’m going to end up taking some photos.
The camera is bloggers, vloggers Instagram king/queen’s dream.
One thing I did notice, is that despite the default video recording setting being set to 1080p, as seen here:
When I downloaded the video, it was in 720p 30fps format. For the upload below I ended up, up scaling the video to 1080p manually! For smoother video’s I’d probably recommend you change the settings to 1080p 60fps. I haven’t tried doing 4K video as I have nothing bigger than the iPhone X screen itself to play 4K content on.
It is worth touching on again that the file size of the photos the iPhone X takes can range between 1.5Mb an 4Mb that I’ve found so far. If you already had a lot of photos in your iCloud, then you’re going to quickly find that free 5GB is going to fill. Within my first 7 days of having the X I was alerted that I only had 25% of my iCloud storage left, and this was after deleting phone backups.
If you don’t want to get caught into the Apple ecosystem or pay for additional iCloud storage (It is only 80p a month to go up to 50GB by the way) then you will probably need to find a better way of storing your photos. Whether this is backing them up to another cloud provider and then removing them from your phone or transferring them to your computer via the iCloud site and then removing them.
One thing I will always say for important photos is make sure you have them backed up in more than one place! Far too many times do I hear of people in tears because they have lost some key memories from not understanding a phone’s storage is not infinite or understanding how cloud storage sync works.
So, all this new screen, great camera, face recognition, something’s got to give right. Surely, it’s going to be the battery. Always a common complaint from iPhone users.
Well, sorry Apple haters. The battery is also great. If you use this phone lightly, you’ll get through 2 days on one charge without an issue. If you use it a fair bit, you could probably get through a day and several additional hours. The most damage I got through was a day on the train network, I was browsing heavily, using apps, listening to music, taking photos and recording video. By the end of the day the battery was at 32%. I was impressed. If you’re a heavy user I would still recommend you take a power bank out with you.
Obviously, the battery will degrade over time, that’s just how these batteries work, but you can do things to look after the battery and I intend to do a lot more of that this time round after killing a 4S battery within 2 years and a 6 battery within 3. As I’ve learnt from my mistakes and usage I fully expect (for the price I paid) the battery to be in a good state in hopefully 4 years’ time. If I still have the handset then is another matter, as it will no doubt have slowed down to snail pace thanks to iOS 15 or before!
Before I hand my iPhone 6 down to my dear Mother, I’m going to have to get the battery replaced.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t really put these through a massive test yet. I’ve played an album out while I worked on my laptop with the phone on the table next to me, and it sounded pretty good. Certainly not tinny at all.
I flicked through Alien: Covenant motion picture also purely for this review, and it sounded pretty good, especially turned up loud.
It’s probably worth mentioning I have tinnitus from years of abuse of live music venues so my hearing is not the greatest anyway, so I’m not the best person to review anything sound quality wise, but for me they do the job. Are they better than the iPhone 6. For sure. Are they better than a home cinema setup, not even close. Are they the best phone speakers I’ve heard? Probably.
No Headphone Jack
Ah, the no headphone jack dilemma. The first phone I’ve owned without a headphone jack. So far, it’s not bothering me.
The phone comes with lightning port wired headphones. These work perfectly fine. Also with the phone comes a lightning to 3.5mm converter, so if you’ve got a really good pair of wired headphones, you’re covered. So, what’s the problem? There isn’t one unless you get low on juice and need to charge the phone. Or you’re a fall asleep to music/podcasts type person and have to make a choice between listening and charging!
For that, there’s splitters, or wireless headphones. Which obviously need charging themselves too.
If the battery remains as good as it has done for me, then the odds of me running low on juice while watching a film or listening to music on the iPhone X are probably going to be slim, if it happens I’ll probably have a power bank on me to get juice back to the phone at least at the cost of no longer being able to enjoy my entertainment. If it becomes a common problem for me later down the line, then I will probably consider a splitter, it’s not actually huge, it’s not really going to get in the way that much, or because as mentioned above my hearing isn’t Stella anyway I would probably more likely look into Bluetooth headphones. As long as I can remember to keep them charged!
I know the headphone jack missing from modern phones is a big deal to some, but it had to go for phone designs to progress. There’s options out there for you. Just accept it’s going and find a workaround that works for you. Apple provide one in the box! So, it’s most likely others will to. Yes, it’s something else to lose, but what would you rather lose a £9 adapter or expensive wireless headphones? Getting juice to the phone at the same time is obviously an issue, and that at approx. £25 for the approved Belkin Apple adapter is a cable where you would kick yourself if you lost. If the fall asleep to music/podcasts is a big deal then the cost of the adapter is probably worthwhile. In the grand scheme of things, it’s something you’ll use potentially every night and will pay for itself in no time, and should last you many years and hopefully future phone iterations too unless they change the lightning port at some point in the future.
For what it’s worth I used the supplied lightning headphones on my outward journey on the train network, and used the 3.5mm to lightning adapter for the journey back with a good pair of overhead Sony wired headphones. Both sounded great.
Annoying iPhone X iOS 11 quirks
Now for some annoying quirks.
Do not disturb/hey Siri while driving: iOS 11 introduced detection for when you are driving, when its enabled all notifications on your phone are turned off. This is great because you don’t get distracted by your phone while driving. Anything that makes it more difficult to use a phone while driving gets a thumb up in my book. However, the iPhone X is practically impossible to use while driving if you have this enabled. To unlock it you need to look at it, obviously something you don’t want to be doing while driving. Touch ID was obviously ideal for drivers, just touch the home button whilst still having your eyes on the road, and if the phone was plugged in, use Hey Siri to send a message, call someone or get directions.
With Hey Siri now also working without the phone having to be connected to power this seemed ideal. I could keep the phone in a mount on the dash just ask Siri to send a message, phone someone, get directions etc. Brilliant!! Except it doesn’t work if you’ve got do not disturb while driving on. You remain locked out the phone. Need to unlock it, yeah plonk it in front of your face while driving or attempt to type in your unlock code, which in my case is 8 numbers long. Fuck that. I’ve no choice but to pull over, or wait for a set of lights and prey they stay on red for a bit.
This seems a really stupid decision. I like do not disturb while driving, but I also want to use Siri hands free. Hopefully this gets resolved in a software update, or at least allow Hey Siri to read/send messages, make calls and access Maps.
Raise to wake, I turned it off, every time I picked the phone up the screen would come on.
Tap to wake. Again, just touching the screen and it comes on, potentially constantly waking the screen up in my pocket and killing the battery. With both tap to wake and raise to wake off. I have to press the side button to activate the screen. This is fine by me.
(From day 5 I put the case on and re-enabled these features, they become a lot less annoying and now find tap to wake easier than using the side button once I flip the front cover open.)
Reachability. No home button means to activate this you have to swipe down from the bottom, it’s not difficult but it doesn’t always work.
Touch 3D. Again, something I just missed out on as was introduced with the 6S range, it’s really cumbersome to use and takes some getting used to. Also, I’ll probably never use it.
Force closing apps. This one is just weird. Getting to the switch app screen is easy enough. Previously once here you just swiped up on the app to kill it. Now you have to hold down the screen for several seconds and wait for a stop sign to appear above the apps, and then you can swipe up to close them. This seems like a backwards step.
Drop Test/Waterproof test
There was no way I was going to do either of these. This wasn’t a review unit given to me, I’d paid for it with my hard-earned cash, so there was no way I was going to deliberately drop it or submerge it in water. However, on day 5. I dropped it. Purely by accident.
I had my hands full and even said in my mind, put the phone in your pocket. I didn’t. In my mind I obviously thought I did. I need two hands to open my front door, and upon doing so the phone dropped out of my grip and onto the hard-wooden surface. This thing bounces!! I dropped it from about hip height. Thankfully there is not a ding, scratch or mark on it. Phew. I intended to go seven days without a case, but after this. No way, it went into its case. Some advice. Do not leave on an uneven surface, do not leave on top of anything at all that’s not level, IT WILL SLIDE OFF. It’s made of glass, it has nothing on it to help it grip to anything. It will slide and it will fall. It’s fell off my bedside cabinet, twice, because it was half lying on something else. Luckily that’s nice soft carpet and also not too much of a fall, again it came away fine, but you really do have heart in your mouth when you pick it up off the floor and check it’s ok!
For further drop tests you can watch other videos on YouTube for this, people are taking great pleasure in saying this is the most easily breakable iPhone, these videos are all going to vary their mileage. Of course, a phone made of glass is going to shatter most likely if it’s dropped from head height. Get a good quality case or stump up for AppleCare if you really must use your iPhone X naked so the world knows you’ve got at least £999 worth of phone in your hand.
When I first decided to do this review. I said I wasn’t going to touch on these. But I changed my mind. They are fun, and really show off what the facial recognition tech in the front facing camera can do. Hopefully down the line we’ll see developers of 3rd party apps really take advantage of this. Secondly it occurred to me that something like this could be really beneficial to people feeling a little down in the dumps. They are a great way of sending voice messages and silly messages in general, and it’s almost impossible to not have a smile on your face when you receive one.
Oh, and there’s animojikaroke, which is the main reason I’ve mentioned it, because I did one!!
Oh yeah, this think makes and receives phone calls. Call quality has been fine, I can hear them, they can hear me. You don’t really need that to do anything more.
Signal strength seems to be as good as my iPhone 6 in the most regular places I am in around the City of Birmingham at least. So, no improvements or steps down there.
Is it worth £999
At the moment, probably not. It’s a question that’s probably going to be best answered in 12 months’ time. Of course, the problem is then that another better iPhone will be on the market with all this and more and there will be a lot more apps and content taking advantage of the hardware and technology that’s in this thing. If you’re not in the market for a new high-end smartphone then I would most certainly say to wait it out, and maybe even wait it out another year after that if the handset you’ve got now does what you need it to.
If, however you are in the market for a high-end smartphone, have money to burn and can justify the cost to yourself, go for it. If you’re a blogger, vlogger or someone that loves to take photos and videos, this phone is immense and personally these are people I think this phone is targeting, also the fact it fits in one hand, and has a great screen makes it a great choice phone for anyone that wants to take high quality photos and videos. At the moment it flies, but then, so did my iPhone 6 at launch, and now it’s a little sluggish on iOS 11. Hopefully the X won’t fall victim to slowing down too much over time, but of course the tech is improving all the time and developers want to take advantage of that, usually at the cost of the older hardware.
People who enjoy gaming on handsets will also probably want to hold off for at least the next model. As I said I’m not a massive gamer anyway but there doesn’t seem to be much taking advantage of the technology in the phone, especially the augmented reality stuff that the handset is capable of. If there’s no content, there’s no point. Apparently, Apple are working on a VR headset as well, but rumour mill suggests that might not be seen until 2019.
The rumour mill is already in motion for next year’s phones too and sources are already hinting at a new iPhone X sized device, an even bigger X type device with a bigger screen, and an X sized device that will have a more plastic back. So, it looks like a potential £800 device will be available next year, while the next device based on the current size of the X will probably remain at £999 and the who knows where the even bigger device will be priced.
Then of course, will we see the SE range continue? I think we probably will because to have the cheapest iPhone at an £800 price point would be scandalous. Hopefully that will also become bigger, perhaps standard iPhone 8 sized.
Obviously, it’s the best iPhone ever. If Apple released kit year on year that wasn’t better than the previous, what would be the point in releasing it. Ask the team that released the iPhone 8/8 plus I guess, as it seems a completely pointless release, well the 8 plus at least certainly seems pointless now.
The X is a great phone, it’s not perfect, it’s also very expensive, and unfortunately the cost does take a factor in my final score, if the phone was £800 then it would be 4/5, but I’m going to give it 3.5/5 at £999
As mentioned above, you might be better holding out another year and saving up so the hit on your pocket at the announcement of a new device doesn’t hit you hard. Now we’ve hit these price points, it’s unlikely we’ll see them ever go down in price when launched!
*I Purchased this device with my hard-earned cash. This review is not sponsored in anyway.