Hardware

We here at Tips & Tricks have had our hands on the new iPhone X for a day or so now, and although our feelings are bound to adjust over time here are our initial thoughts after the first 24 hours. There’s plenty more to say, of course, but these are the nine things that have really stood out to us so far. Four good, four bad, and one ugly.

The good

1. The screen is gorgeous. The OLED display, plus features like HDR and a million-to-one contrast ratio sound like meaningless buzzwords, but in practice they make for a stunningly crisp and colorful screen that looks good even from oblique angles. We’re also impressed by TrueTone, which automatically adjusts the color balance to suit the ambient lighting of the environment you’re in. It’s one of those features that we didn’t think we needed until we saw it in action.

2. Face ID is impressive. Setup is quicker, easier and more fun than it was with Touch ID, and at times the process is so seamless we forgot that any authentication was taking place at all. It’s not flawless, though – there are some circumstances where it’s less than ideal to position yourself facing the TrueDepth camera, and we had to fall back to typing a passcode. But in most cases, we’ve found it an improvement to Touch ID.

3. Attention detection is amazing. This is one of the least hyped features of iPhone X but definitely one of our favorites so far. “Attention detection” uses the TrueDepth camera to judge when you’re looking at the screen. By default, all lock screen notifications are devoid of detail to stop anyone reading your latest messages. But as soon as you – and only you – glance at the screen, those notifications automatically show their full content. It’s an amazing privacy feature made possible by Face ID and feels a bit like magic.

4. We don’t miss the Home button. This is one of those things that you can’t be sure about until you try it, and though we were skeptical about having to learn some new gestures it’s not taken long at all to get used to them. Swiping up for the Home screen seems natural and intuitive, and swiping across the bottom of the screen to quickly switch apps is super smooth. Using the side button for Siri and Apple Pay will take some getting used to, but overall the new gestures are surprisingly fluid.

The bad

1. It’s not edge-to-edge. Despite Apple’s marketing team telling us “it’s all screen,” the display doesn’t actually cover the whole front of the device. Though the bezels at the top and bottom have shrunk considerably, there’s still a reasonably thick black border all the way around the edge of the iPhone X. It’s not a huge deal – in fact, we prefer it to Samsung’s designs that wrap completely around the sides – but those borders are definitely more significant than you might expect.

2. Portrait Lighting is sketchy. When it works, it’s great, and in all fairness the studio and contour lighting work well almost every time. Stage lighting, on the other hand, in which the camera drops the background to black, is extremely hit or miss. It’s not uncommon for the subject to be poorly cut out with bits of their head missing and a fuzzy glow around the hair. This is to be expected for a new feature, and we’re sure it will improve in the coming months, but Portrait Lighting still feels a bit unpolished at present.

3. Lots of apps aren’t optimized. This is something that will surely improve in time, but for the moment the change of display ratio combined with the addition of “the notch” is causing interface headaches in a number of apps. Surpringly, we even noticed a few quirks in first-party Apple apps. Apps that haven’t yet optimized for iPhone X will generally display with black borders at the top and bottom, which doesn’t look too bad but is a bit of a waste of screen space.

4. It smudges easily. We picked up the white-and-silver version of the iPhone X and within a matter of minutes, the glass back was covered in fingerprints. The metal sides also show up smudges pretty easily, especially when the device gets cold. If you’re going to throw it in a case this isn’t much of a problem, and luckily the screen itself seems pretty impervious to prints. Just be aware that it’s hard to keep this shiny new device looking shiny and new for all that long.

The ugly

1. That notch. We’ve already gotten used to the cut-out at the top of the display in portrait mode, but for full-screen landscape viewing we’re just not convinced. Luckily most of the media you’re likely to consume here (including photos taken with the iPhone camera) won’t reach the edges of the device and so there’s no problem – you’ll just see black bars on either side. For full-screen games and ultra-wide videos, though, it looks really bad.