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Apple iPhone X: Hands on with the ‘future of smartphones’

The iPhone X represents the culmination of Apple’s technology boffins sitting down and brainstorming about what the “future of smartphones” really is. After months of internet speculation and countless information leaks, Apple unveiled its take on the next-generation smartphone at the Steve Jobs Theatre in Cupertino and, as it turns out, the future is startlingly similar to the Samsung Galaxy S8.

The iPhone X – pronounced iPhone 10 – is the eye-watering expensive flagship handset Apple has developed to mark the tenth anniversary of the original iPhone.

Labeling the iPhone X as little more than a look at what Samsung is doing in the smartphone space is a little unfair on Apple – even if Samsung is the only one capable of making the iPhone X screen. Apple may not have invented the technologies it claims to have done, but it has been instrumental in bringing them to the mainstream.

Of course, Apple may not always have been at the forefront of tech – it added NFC long after Android phones and is jumping on the AR bandwagon more than a year since Pokémon GO’s peak – but it has the uncanny knack of waiting until consumers are ready to embrace these changes, rather than getting ahead of them. And this is exactly what it’s done with the iPhone X.

iPhone X review: Key specifications and release date

Screen 5.8in Super Retina (2,436 x 1,125 @ 458ppi) AMOLED display with True Tone
CPU 64-bit hexa-core A11 Bionic processor with M11 motion coprocessor and “Neural engine”
Storage 64GB and 256GB
Camera Dual 12MP rear-facing cameras, f/1.8 and f/2.4 with OIS and sapphire crystal lens cover, 7MP front-facing camera
Software iOS 11
Price £999 (64GB) – from £48/mth on 2yr finance; £1,149 (256GB) – from £55/mth on 2yr finance
Other Wireless charging, dust and waterproof (IP67 rating), no 3.5mm headphone jack
Pre-orders 27 October 2017
Release date 3 November 2017

iPhone X review: Design, key features, and first impressions

Apple has deliberately saved its high-end features for the iPhone X and it’s unlike anything it’s released before. It has the largest screen of any iPhone, at 5.8in, stretching from edge to edge, similar to the display on the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus.

The iPhone X has ditched the home button, adding Siri functionalities to a button on the side; has brought the iPhone 7 Plus’ Portrait Mode to the improved 7-megapixel, front-facing camera; and added Face ID, Apple’s latest biometric authentication system, replacing the fingerprint reader. All impressive specs that help the phone stand out from its predecessors, as well as many of its rivals.

Design-wise, the iPhone X is made predominantly from glass reinforced with steel and has a Qi wireless charging panel built into the back – a much-needed addition. Despite the fact it picks up fingerprints ridiculously easily, this glass panelling makes a vast difference to how expensive the phone feels. It doesn’t feel as cold as the metal handsets of yore and there’s something reassuring about how its warmth adds to how attached you feel to it, even after a couple of minutes of use.

The iPhone X is lighter (174g) than the iPhone 7 Plus (188g) and surprisingly portly iPhone 8 Plus (202g), yet feels more solid – in a good way – giving weight, excuse the pun, to its impression of luxury. I was also surprised that, despite the fact it’s made from glass, the iPhone X feels more sturdy and less likely to slip from our hands than the iPhone 7 range does.

To support the Face ID software, a so-called TrueDepth camera system has been added to the top of the display and the dual-camera setup on the rear of the device now sits vertically rather than horizontally.

Given how sophisticated this TrueDepth system seems, it’s small enough to blend in and doesn’t distract from the edge-to-edge display. The rear camera setup is noticeable but makes little difference to the look, and even the lack of the home button isn’t as jarring as you might think.

It took no time at all to get used to opening apps and returning to the home screen by swiping up, and a small white bar at the bottom of the display is a nice visual touch to remind you to swipe. This also helps locate where you need to swipe. That said, it didn’t work as well as pressing a physical home button does and I often ended up simply scrolling whatever was on the page rather than clearing it.

There are obvious similarities between Apple’s iPhone X display and the screen on Samsung’s Galaxy devices, but Samsung’s showcases videos, for example, much better because of the way it sweeps over the edge rather than running up to it. It’s a minor point, and while I prefer Apple’s bezel-less screen compared to its previous models, it isn’t quite as impressive as its rivals.

iPhone X review: Early verdict

At first glance, and feel, the iPhone X doesn’t feel like an iPhone at all, and that’s not a criticism. It feels luxurious, sturdy and expensive – which, at £999, it is.

There are enough innovations and differences in the iPhone X to make a buyer seriously consider upgrading from the iPhone 7, and forsaking the iPhone 8 range, but its price is a major sticking point.

The 256GB model is almost as expensive than an Apple MacBook with far fewer capabilities and potential – and no amount of high-quality photos and facial recognition can get around this.

Samsung’s Galaxy S8, by comparison, is half the price, while the slightly larger Galaxy Note 8 (which was criticised for its high price) costs around £870. The iPhone X is for the rich or only the very serious Apple fans.

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