The “one more thing” of any Apple event has to be something special, and that’s exactly what we got with the iPhone X.
Apple’s most dazzling handset offers so much more than the incremental updates we’ve been getting from our iPhones over the past few years, with a beautiful, crisp new screen that dominates the face of the phone, a glass build that opens the door to wireless charging, and some of the best face scanning and tracking seen in a phone to date.
After getting my hands on one at the reveal event, I’m not entirely sure. Here’s what I think.
With only Space Grey and Silver colours to choose from, it’s obvious Apple wants you to spend more time looking at the front of the iPhone X (say “10”) rather than the back - it’s where you’ll find that massive 5.8in OLED display, after all.
The fancily titled “Super Retina Display” is seriously pretty on the iOS 11 homescreen, with everything looking sharp and colourful, but you probably won’t appreciate how much difference the switch to OLED makes until you load up some high-res, HDR content.
HDR videos really do pop off the screen, with incredible contrast and bright, vibrant hues. True Tone technology helps keep everything looking accurate by adjusting to the ambient light around you, too.
The notch that cuts a chunk out of the top of the panel will take some getting used to, though. The TrueDepth camera system slightly spoils the effect of an edge-to-edge display, however clever it might be.
Flip it over and that all-glass back looks slick - even if it’s a massive smudge magnet. If you’re going to show your new phone off - and don’t pretend you won’t - you’re going to need to keep a cleaning cloth handy.
Of course, the danger is that by the time you actually get to hold one, it will just be anti-climactic. So much was leaked ahead of iPhone X's big reveal, and Samsung has already set the bar for bezel-free phones with the curved-screen Galaxy S8.
Still, despite the new design, the X stills feel like you’re holding an iPhone. It sits as comfortably as the iPhone 7 in the hand without the awkwardness of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8’s dimensions.
FACE THE CAMERA
Physical impressions aside, it’s the new camera tech that really makes an impact - and we’re not talking about those dual 12MP snappers on the back. The TrueDepth camera system up front lets you unlock the X using your face, or turn yourself into an animated emoji.
Can you guess which one we’re most excited about?
Facial unlocking using Face ID is supposed to be even more convenient than the old TouchID system, which has been ditched now that the screen has stolen the space usually reserved for a fingerprint-sensing home button.
IR sensors and dot projectors potentially make it a lot more reliable than the Galaxy S8’s failure-prone setup, and it helps with privacy too: notifications won’t show on the lockscreen unless you look directly at the phone. You could safely leave your phone on the table in front without people accidentally seeing your texts …unless they’re right next to you when you’re staring at your phone.
And of course, Face ID's accurate tracking opens the door for those all-important animojis. This Snapchat lover’s dream works seamlessly, and (from what I could see) entirely lag-free, while being almost irresistibly cute at the same time. Expect to see your WhatsApp messages filled with talking unicorns, foxes and (sigh) piles of poo very soon.
Realistically, Face ID is nice to have, but it’ll have to work correctly every single time you pick up the iPhone X, or it’ll just be annoying. Especially if you’re trying to use it with Apple Pay at an MRT ticket barrier, with a queue of tutting commuters waiting impatiently behind you.
Once you’ve got used to the new vertical layout, the dual snappers on the back almost certainly add up to become Apple’s best camera yet.
The sensors have been tweaked and improved, as they have on the 8 and 8 Plus, but on the X you now get one f/1.8 sensor and one f/2.4; on the 8 Plus, you only get f/1.8 and f/2.8. That means the X should gather slightly more light than the 8 Plus (and a lot more than the 8).
As with the 8 Plus, you also now get optical image stabilisation on both of those senors, which should make a further big difference when it comes to low-light shooting.
I didn't get the chance to take many photos with the X during my brief hands-on, so any judgment on image quality will have to wait until a full review, but with wide colour support and improved HDR shooting, your photos should look better than ever on the X's OLED screen.
The TrueDepth camera adds Apple's bokeh-blurring Portrait mode to your selfies for the first time, and portrait Lighting effects are a nice addition too, letting you tweak your Portrait shots for a more flattering final image. Who needs a fancy studio when you can simulate great lighting with both the front and back cameras?
POWER BY THE HOUR
iOS has always felt like more of a complete experience than Android, and that’s absolutely true of the iPhone X.
The new A11 Bionic CPU helps Apple’s mobile operating system absolutely fly, with seamless integration of hardware and software - even if iOS veterans will have to get used to a new way of doing things.
Instead of tapping a home button, you’ve got to swipe up from the bottom of the screen, and a half-swipe will bring up the multitasking view. There was zero lag when I tried it, though, so it’ll only ever be as slow as your brain and fingers.
Now that Apple is making its graphics chips in-house, developers should be able to do even more impressive things with ARKit - Apple's augmented reality system - because getting the software closer to the silicon means being able to use more power, with fewer lines of code to slow things down.
And speaking of power, having wireless charging is a great addition, even if Apple’s own AirPower wireless charging pad isn’t quite ready for prime time. It worked perfectly on a QI-certified charger, and should be a lot more convenient than fishing for a Lightning cable whenever you need more juice.
Battery life is still up for debate, though. Apple says the X should last two more hours than an iPhone 7, but we’ll wait until a full review to see how it fares in the real world.
Apple iPhone X initial verdict
The X is, without a doubt, the coolest iPhone Apple has ever made - but I’m not yet sure if it’s a phone you won’t be able to live without.
All the extra bells and whistles are great, but they are exactly that: extras. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus still get that fancy new processor and wireless charging, with the latter also getting a camera update.
At the moment, it feels like you’re paying a big premium for Face ID, perfect portrait selfies, animated emojis and a slightly better (in theory) rear camera. And that cool new look, of course.
If you want the best display ever seen on an iPhone, though? Then the X sets the bar nice and high - even if it comes with a price to match.