386 hours with the iPhone X

After 2 weeks the iPhone X it has reached that point where I wonder why the £1,150?

It is actually a good place for it to be because the novelty wears off and work, my kids, my wife, my dreams, writing and the rest of my life continues as before, but with a new phone.

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A phone is of course not important in any way in comparison to the real world, but it is also very important because it has integrated itself into so much of what I do.

The iPhone X feels like the iPhone 7, only better. The screen is just so useable for me and the addition of True Tone is a game changer- I will never turn that feature off.

Battery life is, to me, the same as the past few iPhones in that it needs a charge during the day and again overnight. No great shakes, but not groundbreaking either.

The camera is superb, quite superb. I haven’t managed to get the new portrait still feature working properly in any shot yet, but maybe that will have to wait for the Summer.

Overall, however, I am pleased with my purchase and see no reason to change. The novelty may be gone, but the iPhone X remains the best phone I have used to date.


Apologies for the lack of updates recently. This is not likely to change much as I have a few things to deal with which take priority.

How Do You Measure Delight?

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However, it’s not just a phone. It’s your de facto microcomputer/assistant. It is with you throughout your waking hours-more than your co-workers, more than your wife, more than your friends, more than your kids-you get the drift. To be able to send e-mails, video chat, text, Google the shit out of everything, get directions, set reminders, stream music, podcasts, and video — and to do all this from a small rectangular device… More at Medium.

A decent angle to view the new iPhone from.

Control Center is in the Wrong Place on the iPhone X

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The problem is that Control Center is too far away. I use my iPhone in my right hand, and even as someone who carried a Plus-sized phone for three years, I struggle to activate Control Center. Because Spotlight can be triggered with the same gesture — a downward swipe — from about anywhere on the screen, I often am greeted with a search field when all I wanted was to turn down my screen brightness or enter Airplane mode… More at 512 Pixels.

It is the one thing that annoys me in what is close to a flawless phone.

72 hours with the iPhone X

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Well it has been quite a ride so far and I find myself internally echoing a lot of what I have read online about the iPhone X so far.

The screen, speed and form are unquestionably great so there is not much point writing about them again. The notch, however, seems to have disappeared in my consciousness and is only noticeable when using an app that does not support it properly. Kindle and Instapaper, at this time, are culprits, but for everything else I do it seems to have drifted away into ‘too familiar to notice’ territory.

The home button is a memory that feels way longer than 3 days ago because swiping from the bottom is done without even thinking about it, already. Face ID still hasn’t failed me once and is perhaps the most impressive of all implementations in the iPhone X.

To sum up the positives, the iPhone X feels incredibly familiar already. It feels as if it has been with me for months and there are 2 reasons for this-

1/ iOS is so embedded in my daily usage that it is easy to carry on using it as I always have.

2/ This is the most impressive part. The removal of the home button, Face ID and the other changes have been implemented so wonderfully that they are familiar in a relative instant. I hear people moan about the fact that some Android phones already have face recognition and a lack of bezels, but it’s not what. It is how.

The implementation is brilliant, it really is, and Apple should be applauded for the way the new features work. They are above and beyond anything I could have expected.

The iPhone X is a BRILLIANT smartphone, the best I have used by far. There are, however, a few minor quibbles that would be nice to see resolved-

Let us use the Control Centre from the bottom of the screen.

Let us see the battery percentage all of the time.

Use the wasted space below the keyboard for commonly used emojis etc.

Allow third party developers to change the colour of the virtual home button bar at the bottom. It can be jarring in book-style apps and at times stands out like a sore thumb.

I think that’s about it. Seriously impressive positives vs mildly irritating negatives still makes for a stunning phone, albeit an expensive one.

24 hours with the iPhone X

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Apple doesn’t get enough credit for the way it has taken commodities and turned them into products that people actually want to own. Think back to the beige boxed PCs of 2 decades ago and the attempts at tablets and music players from others and you get a sense that Apple always saw these objects as being more then mere bundles of technology designed to do things.

Mobile phones have always been different in that regard. They have been fashionable, fascinating to millions and in some cases lusted after. The iPhone, however, has taken that to a whole new level which some are entirely consumed by and which others sneer at. Apple’s pricing does not help when it comes to the negative view of the product from many and this has been magnified by the iPhone X. At a minimum price of £999 there is a sweeping sense that a threshold has been breached and that no phone could possibly be worth that much money.

Well, there are many counter-arguments to negative thoughts such as the price of the Galaxy S8 (£779) and Galaxy Note8 (£869) which… actually, as I quickly looked up the prices of the Samsung offerings I realised that they were cheaper than I had expected. My iPhone X cost £1,149 which is 1.5 times the price of the S8 and 1.3 times the price of the Note8 which is quite a leap. 3 Galaxy S8s for the price of 2 iPhone Xs puts it into perspective and reinforces my thoughts about the iPhone X pricing. Were it not for my freelance writing I would never in a million years pay this much money for a phone. I just could not justify such a cost because the ‘number’ sticks out to me as extreme even though there are easy ways to justify the price.

It is my sat nav, music player, portable games console, web browser, emailer, social networker and even a phone sometimes. My iPhone does so much that it is easy to justify in my head why I should have the best, and I could take that even further- it’s my alarm clock, torch, calculator blah blah.

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Then again, an iPhone 6s can be all of those things and cost a third of the price so I go back to feeling that the price is not justifiable on any practical level. An expensive Mac can be justified because it can offer benefits for close to a decade, but not a phone. Never a phone.

For all of the innovative development, design care and use of high-end materials the fact remains that the iPhone, any iPhone, is a tool to use and is not a piece of jewellery to display to others. My watch may cost more than the iPhone X, but that could be on my wrist in 20 year’s time and still serve a purpose which makes the price reasonable in the long run. There is no long run with phones apart from the fact that iPhones hold their value much better than other phones. In theory you could buy an S8 and an iPhone X today and then sell them both in a year. What’s the betting that you would end up with at least the same financial loss on each and more likely lose more money on the S8?

People, however, do not think like that when they buy a phone. They buy what they want and for many that means the iPhone regardless of cost because they have used one for many years now and see no reason to change. When you use a product for multiple hours a day you are much more likely to spend more than you need to on the best version of that product, and it’s likely that you use your phone for more hours than any other product you own.

I shall stop rambling now and offer some first impressions.

The notch

It is noticeable, of that there is no doubt. It does depend on the app, but at this time there are differences in how the notch has been approached by third party developers. For example, Instapaper chooses to show text right to the top which is disconcerting if you have a habit of not using pagination and read near the top of the screen. Medium, however, adds a small bar which does not get in the way, but it does make the reading experience far more natural.

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Screenshots don’t show the notch, but Instapaper gets the implementation wrong.
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Medium uses a minimalistic bar which works well.

You notice it in Photos and YouTube the most and some apps, Kindle for example, have not received the update as yet. It is jarring to see apps like this that have not been updated and they really do not look right, especially a book reader.

Overall, however, the notch is not the end of the world. It is odd, necessary and far from being a deal breaker.

Was there ever a home button?

It took 1 minute to get used to the lack of a home button. The gesture works perfectly and is so well executed that I actually prefer it to the button I have become accustomed to over the past decade.

The screen

Stunning. There is talk of burn in and problems from acute angles, but so far it is much better than the iPhone 7 screen I have been using and True Tone is a huge bonus.

Speed

So so quick. Nothing else to say.

Form

It is smaller than I expected and does not feel bigger than the iPhone 7 to me, but boy is the difference in screen size obvious. After 5 minutes I picked up the iPhone 7 and didn’t want to use it again, ever.

Face ID

Again, there have been reports of problems, but all I can say is that I have not had a moment yet where it does not recognise me. Even better, I don’t even notice that it is working each time I pick up the phone because by the time I swipe up it is already unlocked and ready to use. I really did not expect to say this, but it is better than Touch ID and Apple Pay is even easier than before.

Annoyances

Swiping from the top for the Control Centre feels unnecessary and is awkward. Not sure why we cannot swipe from the bottom left for it, but hope that this option appears in the future. You can no longer see the battery percentage in the status bar, but you can if you activate the Control Centre, awkwardly. It’s a tiny annoyance, but seems easy to fix which is why it is annoying.

Everything else

The camera and everything else will have to wait for the next article. The iPhone X feels familiar in the places that count, but new and exciting everywhere else. It is a leap forward and a seriously superb phone which makes the iPhone 8 and everything before it look like products from the past. I am not going over the top here, it really is superb, but the price remains the only real negative in a product that is genuinely special.

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It has only been 24 hours so there is always the danger of coming to long term conclusions based on short term novelty, but I have been trying and testing phones long enough to know that this is something new which is just the beginning of what is to come.

X Questions

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I will be picking up an iPhone X tomorrow so if there is any specific you want to know before making the purchase yourself just add a comment to this post.

I realise that many questions will have already been answered by the major tech sites (some biased and some not so), but I’m happy to check whatever you need.

The iPhone X Takes Hand Gestures Too Far

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Among its new gestures: You now need to swipe upward to get back to the home screen. You swipe downward from the upper-right corner to access Control Center. For Siri, you press and hold the phone’s side button. For the app switcher, you swipe up from the bottom and hold. And to turn off the iPhone X, you’ve got to press and hold the side button and the volume button simultaneously. (At least there’s still a volume button.) More at Slate.

I’ve never been a fan of gesture interfaces, and life with an iPhone X requires a whole new slew of them. (Conversely, I’ve always been a big fan of the home button; an easy to access “lets take it from the top” escape hatch can be enormously centering, like how when I click on a website’s name in their header on any page I go to the site homepage.)

That’s one of the problems with the designer’s dream of being such world-beater designers they they can stop having to actually, you know, design- having achieved the zen of “a piece of featureless glass”… the phone then just consists of an OS and apps – but having to designate certain finger moves as “ok, now you’re communicating with the OS” makes a less known reliable channel, and one prone to accidental invocations, and takes away from the language of gestures that apps are allowed to use.

Kirk