A Look at the Tenth Anniversary iPhone X

While the recent Apple unveiling event was full of new products and buzz worthy announcements, they were all overshadowed by the announcement of the Tenth Anniversary iPhone X. Not only did the X catch everyone by surprise, it presented an iPhone that is the most dramatic departure from what consumers expect out of an iPhone since the iPhone 4 was unveiled back in 2010. Sure we’ve had larger screens, rounded bezels, and Siri that have come along since then, but since the iPhone 4, no single iPhone has presented such a stark contrast when compared to the previous model, or in this case, the model that was announced just moments before, the iPhone 8 Plus.

So what is all the fuss about? Can the iPhone X be that much better than the iPhone 8 Plus and is it worth the extra cost? We're here with a look at the newest iPhone flagship smartphone to help you decide just that. Please note, since the iPhone 8 is clearly outclassed in features and screen-real estate, we will only be comparing the iPhone 8 Plus to the iPhone X since they are closest in both price and feature set. If the iPhone X does not interest you and you’d like to learn more about the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus and how they compare the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, head over to our guide A Look at the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus where we break down the new features and upgrades the 8-series iPhones bring over the 7-series.

The iPhone X Design

The iPhone X Design

We might as well get right to it, arguably the biggest change in the iPhone X is the removal of the home button, which has been the hallmark of iPhones since the very first iPhone was unveiled a decade ago. Yet, according to Apple, they always intended the face of the iPhone to be entirely screen with no buttons, and the iPhone X is the first iPhone that sees Apple’s vision fully realized. Whether or not that is a retcon to iPhone’s origin story, the striking appearance of the iPhone X is undeniable.

The iPhone X houses the largest Retina HD screen ever on an iPhone (more on that later) but impossibly manages to be significantly smaller and lighter than the iPhone 8 Plus, measuring 5.65” x 2.79” x 0.30” and weighing only 6.14 ounces. What is particularly dramatic about the display on the iPhone X is the way the screen fills every last bit of the elegantly rounded edges thanks to a technology Apple calls circuit stacking. Sure there have been faux rounded edges on screens before, but that is normally a parlor trick accomplished by overlaying a rounded bezel on top of a rectangular screen. No smoke and mirrors here, Apple uses circuit stacking and subpixel anti-aliasing to have a true rounded edge display without distortion around the edges.

The strongest glass ever on a smart phone is found on both the iPhone X and the 8 Plus, back and front, but the 8 Plus’ aerospace-grade aluminum band has been replaced by a surgical-grade steel band. If you’re not sure if the band that can leave the Earth’s atmosphere or the band that could be inserted into the human body without fear of corrosion is better, according to Apple, the steel band found in the iPhone X is a special Apple designed alloy that reinforces the body of the iPhone X and is more durable, more pure, and polishes better than the aluminum band.

Around that band you’ll find the volume, mute, and power buttons in their familiar locations, but the headphone jack did not resurface as it did on the smart phones of other manufacturers, and as with the iPhone 8 Plus, the iPhone X features stereo speakers and Qi compatible wireless charging.

It also should be noted that those that enjoyed the variety of available colors introduced in the 7-series of iPhones will have their options limited to only two colors with the iPhone X, silver and space grey.

The Super Retina HD Display

The Super Retina HD Display

We normally cover screen details in the design area of the phone, but there are so many interesting upgrades and firsts happening with the iPhone X’s display that it deserves special attention. Firstly being the “Super” designation on the Retina HD display.

It’s a moniker that is well earned, as the iPhone X’s 5.8” 2436 x 1125 458ppi Super Retina HD screen is not only larger, higher resolution and more pixel dense than the iPhone 8 Plus, it’s the first OLED retina screen, delivering a massive upgrade in contrast over the 8 Plus and is listed with a contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1.

The Super Retina HD features the same new True Tone auto white balancing feature found in the iPhone 8 Plus, which uses an ambient light sensor to automatically adjust the white balance of the screen to give you the best viewing experience based on your surroundings. But that isn’t the only color upgrade found on the iPhone X, as the Super Retina HD screen is also the first iPhone screen to feature HDR color, offering a substantial increase in color range and allowing iPhone X owners to enjoy movies and TV shows available in Dolby Vision and HDR10.

Dual Rear Cameras

Dual Rear Cameras

The dual camera features first introduced in the 7 Plus have found their way to both the iPhone X and the 8 Plus, but bring along with them some nice upgrades over the 7 Plus. It should be noted that as far as the rear wide-angle and telephoto cameras go, the iPhone X and 8 Plus feature the exact same specifications and shooting options.

The rear of the iPhone X houses two individual 12MP cameras that work in tandem to deliver some of the best photos possible on a smart phone. The wide-angle camera features a f/1.8 aperture while the telephoto camera delivers an aperture of f/2.4, each with optical image stabilization and optical zoom. What does two cameras working in tandem mean? Better focus on your subject with clear separation between subject and background for better, more professional looking photos from even novice photographers.

Portrait mode has interesting upgrades thanks to the dual rear cameras and enhancements made possible by the new A11 processor. Real-time photo effects include dramatic lighting effects to enhance or add shadows or give your subject a stage-like spotlight effect.

Video recording matches the groundbreaking strides seen in the 8-series, namely making the 8-series and iPhone X the first smartphones ever capable of recording in 4k at 60fps. The X also receives the same 1080p recording boosts as the 8s, including support 30fps, 60ps, and 240fps slow-motion shooting as well as time-lapse video recording.

Front Facing Facetime HD Camera and FaceID

Front Facing Facetime HD Camera and FaceID

More than just an increase in frame rate, the front facing camera of the iPhone X has received the most substantial upgrades of any of the new iPhone models. Yes, the camera itself is identical to the 7MP f/2.2 1080p HD video capable camera found on the iPhone 8 Plus, but it’s the other hardware that surrounds the Facetime HD camera on the iPhone X that makes it truly special.

If you thought two cameras working in tandem on the rear of the phone was unique, around the front of the iPhone X you’ll find the Facetime HD camera, an infrared camera, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, and a dot projector. That is a mouthful, but what it really means is that when using the front facing camera, the infrared and dot projector work to actually create a 3D map of your face, truly allowing the camera to distinguish between subject and background for selfies that are on an entirely new level compared to other phones.

Of course, this would all seem a bit like overkill if all that hardware was only used to give you a better Instagram feed, instead Apple has introduced FaceID, a feature that uses the iPhone X’s unique front facing hardware feature set to deliver the ultimate in device security. Using the mapping features, the iPhone X recognizes you when you look at the phone and uses your face as a replacement for your fingerprint to unlock the device. Yes, a similar feature has been available on Android phones, but the laughably weak implementation means that anyone with a photograph of you could easily access your phone. This is not the case with iPhone X, since the dot projector is used to verify that the phone is looked at by an actual person and not a flat image. FaceID also evolves as you do, the more you use it, learns to recognize you better even if you’re wearing a hat, glasses, or change your facial hair.

Final Thoughts

With the removal of the home button from the face of the iPhone X, shoppers should note that there will be a slight learning curve to utilizing the iPhone X since the operating system has moved to an entirely gesture based interface. After all, there is no button to press to exit apps and return to the home screen and no more double tapping the home key to swap apps or see what apps are running in the background.

That brings us to perhaps what has grabbed the second-most number of headlines after removal of the home button: the price. The iPhone X is available in either a 64GB or 256GB variety with a retail price of $999.99 and $1,149.99, respectively, and yes, the first ever comma in the price of an iPhone!

Available for all major US carriers and direct from Apple, to help subsidize the price, smart shoppers should check with their favorite carrier or retailer to see if there any available upgrade options, bonuses, freebies or financing options that can make the high price tag a bit easier to swallow.

September 30, 2017
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