Chunky screen bezels are so 2016. This year’s smartphone crop is all about the skinny sides: minimal monoliths that couldn’t squeeze in a bigger display if they tried. Anything less and you’re just not going to compete.
That’s what all the handsets in this group have in common, and we’re sure you’ll agree there are no ugly mutts in the bunch. It’ll take more than mere good looks to earn a place in our pockets, though: decent battery life, great screen quality and a fantastic camera are all must-haves now, with bonuses like waterproofing and wireless charging also creeping up the wish list.
And if the price is right as well, even better...
Apple iPhone X (from RM5149)
Twenty years ago, Apple’s slogan was ‘Think different’ – who knew it would be so appropriate two decades down the line? The new X is the biggest shake-up an iPhone’s ever seen. It ditches the home button, bins the bezels and uses a face-scan to unlock instead of your fingers.
These changes aren’t just for show, though. They completely transform the way the iPhone works, basically forcing you to forget a decade of muscle memory for swipes, taps and gestures. That might sound like a big ask, but it’s worth the effort: the X might not be without a few quirks, but it’s comfortably the best iPhone to date.
By letting go of long-standing features such as a physical home button, Apple has modernised the iPhone’s ageing design. The X has the best screen of any iPhone and it looks the part too – even with that notch. It takes superb photos (if not quite as natural or detailed as Google’s algorithm-assisted Pixel 2 XL) and FaceID actually works. Most of the time.
Tear yourself away from the Animoji talking poos and you’ll notice other subtle features such as wireless charging and a wickedly fast processor. The X is seriously expensive, but it’s not like that ever put anyone off buying an Apple device before.
If you want the best phone running iOS, you’re going to have to find the cash. For everyone not handcuffed to Apple, it’s just short of being an S8-beater.
DESIGN: Redesigned, redefined
Only slightly larger than the iPhone 8, the X is a fine halfway house between big-screen phablets and palm-friendly compact phones. Up front, the bezels aren’t quite edge to edge, and they don’t curve around the sides, but they’re practically non- existent compared to any previous iPhone.
Beyond the screen, the X doesn’t deviate too far from Apple’s traditional design – it mainly just ups the ante with more premium materials. That means a repeat of the glass- and-metal sandwich look.
SCREEN: OLED the way
Ignoring the Marmite notch’s intrusion, the X’s screen is phenomenal. The switch from LCD to OLED has given it impeccable contrast and deep, inky blacks, without looking ludicrously vibrant – even when playing HDR video.
CAMERA: Tele vision star
The twin-12MP setup uses one f/1.8 wide-angle snapper and an f/2.4 telephoto – both with optical image stabilisation. HDR mode is always on, and does a fantastic job exposing shadows without also blowing out highlights to compensate. It does err slightly towards over- saturation, though – the Pixel 2 XL has more natural hues. The X is a lot more versatile, though, thanks to the 2x telephoto that gets you closer to the action. The TrueDepth front camera adds bokeh blur to your selfies, which makes a surprising difference.
OS AND APPS: I’m gonna need some ID
The iPhone X uses FaceID and it works brilliantly. It also lets you play with Animoji: animated emoji characters that move with your face. They almost distract from the notch, until you open an app that hasn’t been updated yet.