First impressions of Apple's iPhone X

Does the iPhone X warrant all the hype, long lines, and expensive price tag? It's too early to say, but it's off to a strong start.
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer on

Video: iPhone X review -- Face ID, the notch, and a new screen

It's here. The iPhone X has arrived and is a vast departure from what iPhone users are accustomed to -- as the home button is gone, and with it, the ability to unlock the phone with a fingerprint. Instead, your face is your password. And gestures replace double-clicks and long-presses.

Apple sent me a review device early Friday morning, but I've had it long enough to offer up some initial thoughts.

The perfect size


Left: iPhone X. Right: iPhone 8 Plus (Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

Last year, I upgraded from the iPhone 6 to the iPhone 7 Plus. Despite a lack enthusiasm for the overall size increase, I convinced myself it was worth it for the gain screen space. I still am not a big fan of the overall size. I've lived with it, but really only because of the camera enhancements the Plus model often has.

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With the iPhone X, the size is darn near perfect. It's in between the size of the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, yet it doesn't forfeit much in screen size. Because the screen is taller than it is wider, it doesn't necessarily translate to more viewable content on the 5.8-inch display of the iPhone X (compared to the 5.5-inch screen of the Plus version), but it feels a whole lot better when holding it.

The iPhone X is slightly thicker and wider than the Samsung Galaxy S8, but it's shorter. It doesn't feel tall enough that it's almost top-heavy -- something I'd consider the Galaxy S8 at times.

Face ID is impressive


The lock icon is unlocked after Face ID properly scanned my face. (Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

I've never been able to consistently use Samsung's Iris or face-scanning tech due to wearing glasses. During testing, I typically wear contacts to ensure everything works as it should. As soon as the review is over, I go back to wearing glasses because the experience is unreliable.

Despite Apple claiming how versatile Face ID is for users who have a beard, shave, wear glasses, or a hat, I was, well, skeptical. And I was, of course, wrong.

Set up of Face ID was a breeze and took under a minute. Since then, I've unlocked the phone a couple dozen times -- all without fail and with my glasses on.

Typically. by the time I pick up the phone and swipe up from the bottom of the screen to go to the home screen, Face ID has identified me and unlocked the phone.

Huge adjustments for the user

Without a home button, navigating the iPhone X relies solely on gestures. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to either go to the home screen or activate the multi-tasking view. A swipe across the bottom will quickly switch between apps (I already love this one).

To activate Siri, you press and hold the side button. Apple Pay is triggered with a double-press of the side button.

As intuitive and easy as the gestures are to use, it's going to take awhile for anyone whose primary phone has been an iPhone to relearn the experience.

I've already tried pressing the bottom of the screen, expecting the home button to take me back, several times without any luck.

Empty space


Below the keyboard on the iPhone X is a lot of wasted space. (Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

One thing that's apparent in screenshots and normal use is the sheer amount of empty space on the screen. For example, look at this area underneath the keyboard (see above image). It's always there, displaying an emoji key on one side, and the dictation key on the other. It's just so... empty.

The same goes for the space above the top of an app, where the notch separates information like signal indicator, batter, and time.

Apps that aren't yet optimized for the iPhone X display also have a fair share of emptiness to them. Take a look at the trio of apps below:

(Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

Not to name and shame any of these developers, but this just looks bad.

More to come

There is a lot more to the iPhone X than just its size, Face ID, and required new navigation. The True Depth camera adds Portrait Mode to the front-facing camera, for example. Then there are things like wireless charging and an OLED display.

We will have a full review soon enough.

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