Goondu review: Apple iPhone X is sleek with new gesture interface

December 16th, 2017 | by Grace Chng
Goondu review: Apple iPhone X is sleek with new gesture interface
Cellphones
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Apple iPhone X. PHOTO: Grace Chng

Despite fears of an iPhone X shortage prior to its launch on November 3, customers in Singapore have generally been able to get their devices almost immediately.

Apple Store Orchard Road is doing brisk business, judging from the steady streams of walk-in customers snapping up Apple’s top-end phone. However, the 64GB version is only available online with delivery of between one and three days.

I have been putting the iPhone X through its paces for the past six weeks. It is a slick phone with show-stopping design. It is delightful to use, matching reliable performance with knock-out features.

If you are thinking of buying Apple’s top-of-the-heap iPhone, my experience of using it could guide you towards making a buying decision.

Size, shape and design

The design is stunning. It’s a great-looking device with the glass back and the polished stainless steel antenna band. The edge-to-edge screen with its high resolution is gorgeous.

The bigger screens of the iPhone 7 Plus and 8 Plus were good for reading e-mails, messages and documents. So my initial concern with the X would be that text would be too small to easily read. Not true.

The iPhone X’s screen resolution is higher which makes the text sharper even when the words are smaller. Actually, the new phone has a bigger screen at 5.8 inches than the 5.5-inch iPhone 8 Plus, simply because the iPhone X is more compact with nearly no bezel and a home button.

The new phone fits nicely in my hand. It is lighter too at 6.14 ounces compared to the 8 Plus at 7.13 ounces. Finally, I’ve a large-screen iPhone that can fit into my jeans pocket. I like that the iPhone X is water-resistant as well.

The iPhone X at the top and the iPhone 8 Plus below. PHOTO: Grace Chng

If I’m holding the phone and caught in the rain in-between catching the trains and buses, the device will still work. Nonetheless, I won’t keep the phone in heavy tropical shower for more than 5 minutes.

Then there’s the infamous notch above the iPhone X’s display which cuts out a small chunk of the upper screen. This is where the front facing camera and the sensors for Face ID are located.  It doesn’t impact many apps or videos, since the image curves around it.

However, while the iPhone X is striking, the downside is that it’s too slippery. The glass back is also a magnet for fingerprints. During the first two days of using the phone, I held on to it so tightly, lest it slipped out of my hands or slid across the table to the floor – until I could get a case for it.

Admittedly, the notch at the top of the display is jarring when watching videos as it cuts into the images.

Gesture interface

Good news is, Apple has removed the home button. There’re a variety of gestures to navigate between the apps. To get to the home screen, swipe up from the bottom of the screen. Swipe down from the upper-portion to open the control centre.

To check if my friend had called or other notifications, I just swiped down from the top of the screen. Now I have so been conditioned to using these gestures that I’m automatically swiping my iPad too. I’m sure this gesture interface will soon find its way to future tablets and iPhones.

The downside is that I’ve to avoid the notch when swiping down from upper-right or upper-left corners. Also when swiping down from the upper-left corner, I must get the right angle – otherwise, I call up the search bar by mistake. I’m still making this mistake after six weeks of usage.

The new interface can mean major adjustments for some users. While it is easy for me, it may not be for others who are used to a home button. It will also be confusing for users who have another iPhone with a home button in addition to the iPhone X.

Face ID

This is the much-talked about 3D sensing feature of the iPhone X. It’s effective, reliable and speedy. It works at night in my car, in a dark karaoke room and even when I am wearing my wrap-around Oakley shades and a ball-cap.

It does need to see my eyes, nose and mouth to ascertain that it’s really me. So if you cover your mouth with a hygiene mask, the phone won’t probably unlock for you.

Setting up Face ID was over in about 10 seconds, much quicker than setting up Touch ID. Follow the prompts, turn the head left and right and it’s set up.

Over time, as you use the phone – and as you age – it learns more about your face in order to recognise you. If for some reason, Face ID doesn’t work – maybe because I had a patch over one eye because of surgery – I can still resort to the numeric password.

Unfortunately, Face ID doesn’t work if the phone is flat on the table. It needs to be at least resting at some angle. If the phone is on the table next to me during meal times when I’m reading, it won’t unlock at a glance at it. It’s a mite inconvenient to lift the phone to eye-level to unlock it.

The OLED screen

The OLED display, the first in an iPhone, gives a much higher contrast ratio and support for HDR (high dynamic range) video. It’s got a higher resolution – at 2,436 x 1,125 – and pixel density too.

Brightness and colours are astounding. Text looks clean and sharp. Blacks appear deep. On a trip to the Victoria Peak in Hong Kong, I took photos of butterflies that turned out  rich and radiant. That’s no doubt helped by the Apple’s True Tone and other technologies like Night Shift.

The camera

The iPhone X has a dual-lens setup, one wide-angle and the other telephoto, which does an excellent job of capturing landscapes and portraits. Photos also appear warmer.

Image of a butterfly taken in Hong Kong. PHOTO: Grace Chng

Another iPhone X-only feature is the Portrait Mode selfie. The phone focuses the foreground subject while blurring the background. Portrait Mode also adds Portrait Lighting to the front camera, letting me try different lighting effects after the fact.

In low-light, the iPhone X takes a time to get a fix on the subject. I’ve to adjust by position to allow more ambient light in before getting the iPhone to get a focus.

The Animoji

I had lots of fun playing with the animojis whose characters include an alien, robot and a pile of turd! It’s fun way of sending messages.

The animojis are fun. SCREENSHOT: Grace Chng

You choose a character which mimics your facial gestures – the way you turn your head, screw up your face or raise your eyebrows – and captures your voice message. It’s a fun way of communicating with friends. Can Apple provide more characters to play with?

Wireless charging

This is an alternative but really convenient way to charge the phone. Untethered, I can move around the room, listening to podcasts or music.

Wireless charging is handy. PHOTO: Grace Chng

You’ve to really make sure the phone is charging. Look out for a light appears to signal the phone is charging. A couple of times, I misplaced the phone and found the next morning that it was not charged at all.

Battery life

The iPhone X gets me through everyday use. However, I don’t play a lot of videos so it could be one reason why the the new Apple phone lasts and lasts.  On those days when I’m done with work at 10pm, there’s still 20 per cent of juice left.

Conclusion

The iPhone X is Apple’s most expensive phone. The design has moved forward with many new features, all of which I enjoy using.

Most significantly, it requires users to leave behind 10 years of “muscle memory”, being conditioned to use the home button to navigate between apps. For some users, leaving this comfort zone can be distressing.

For users who are used to the home button, the cheaper iPhone 8 and 8 Plus remain good buys.

PHOTO
GALLERY

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