iPhone X hands-on: High price, no home button

The brand new iPhone X that’s pronounced “ten,” by the way, not “ex” — is Apple’s iPhone zenith, the priciest, boldest iPhone the company has ever made. It already tops the iPhone 8 ($699.00 at Apple) and iPhone 8 Plus in some pretty specific ways. So far, we like the design and specs, but it also leaves us with questions.

For Apple, the iPhone X is a phone of firsts. The first to have a 5.8-inch screen with ultraslim bezels. The first to use an OLED screen, a different technology than the typical LCD panels, which Apple says will make colors absolutely pop. The iPhone X is also the first iPhone to completely do away with the iconic home button — you know, the one Apple popularized on its very first iPhone. It’s the first to offer Face ID as a new way to securely unlock the phone and pay in the check-out line (Apple has no more use for your fingerprints).

Finally, the iPhone X is Apple’s only new device to nab a portrait mode on the front-facing camera (despite having just one lens and not two), optical image stabilization for both rear 12-megapixel camera lenses, and — more breezily — a new feature to animate poop.

These are the distinguishing features we looked at when going hands-on with Apple’s newest, largest-screen iPhone at Apple’s equally new Apple Park headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. — see for yourself in the videos above and below.
iPhone X in photos

You won’t get the iPhone X’s large, OLED screen or face unlocking on the more traditional iPhone 8 ($699.00 at Apple) and iPhone 8 Plus, which were also announced Tuesday. And that’s by design. The iPhone X’s boldness is exactly what makes it Apple’s extra-special cherry on top to mark the 10th anniversary of the very first iPhone in 2007, which revolutionized at that time everything a smartphone could be, and hurled us on the path that led to what smartphones are today.

Apple in no way abandons the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. All three new handsets for 2017 get a major feature that Apple’s been lagging on for years: Qi wireless charging (pronounced “chee”). Wireless charging is now a Samsung staple that already works with both Qi and PMA standards. While Apple only mentioned Qi support and not PMA, it’s nevertheless a key addition that could kick up demand for wireless charging in a way that Samsung, LG, Nokia and Microsoft hadn’t been able to accomplish before.

The iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are also the first phones to launch Apple’s iOS 11 software, which comes with improvements for Siri, the lock screen and notifications, and all these smaller surprises, too.
More from Apple’s event

iPhone X: No home button, OLED screen, wireless charging
Apple unveils iPhone 8, 8 Plus
Apple TV 4K: New $179 Apple streamer adds HDR, better gaming
Apple Watch Series 3 cuts the cord from your iPhone
Full coverage of Apple’s event

The two biggest questions focus on the iPhone X’s most daring design change, ditching the home button. Will that actually make the phone more convenient to use? And will using your face to unlock the phone benefit you, or is it just a workaround?

It’s clear that Apple is prepping iPhone users to wave goodbye to the home button, by framing its dismissal as a feature. But until we can thoroughly test it to see how well it actually works, we’re dubious if this is an empty upsell. If it does work well, you can bet Samsung will step up its game to make its own facial recognition software secure enough for mobile payments (right now, that’s just iris scanning and the fingerprint reader). It’s likely other phonemakers would ditch a current trend to put the fingerprint reader on the back and adopt — or at least experiment — with face unlocking, too.

Apple die-hards will certainly pick up one of the three new phones. Now it’s time for on-the-fencers to make their decision. As we head into a crazy-competitive holiday season, the iPhone X, 8 and 8 Plus will together lock arms against Samsung’s best-selling Galaxy Note 8, LG’s video-focused V30 and Google’s upcoming Pixel 2 for smartphone supremacy.

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