The iPhone X is Great, But it Has Its Quirks

BY Evan Selleck

Published 13 Nov 2017

Apple iPhone X

The iPhone X is Apple’s vision for the future. The next 10 years of development. It’s the device that shoulders a lot of weight, and one that, in most cases, can handle it. But that doesn’t mean everything is rainbows and unicorns with Apple’s first go at this major redesign.

We’re going to aim for a compliment sandwich here, because despite the fact that I’m left with a less-than-happy feeling with the iPhone X after several days with the device, it’s still an impressive piece of hardware that deserves credit where it’s due. And it’s due quite a bit. And let’s go ahead and get this out of the way: Yes, Apple’s (finally) catching up with other manufacturers in terms of features, like an OLED display and wireless charging. This can’t be disputed. As is always the case with this sort of thing, better late than never.

So, moving on.

The iPhone X is an impressive piece of kit. The hardware is very, very nice. It feels great in the hand (especially if you prefer the size footprint of the iPhone 6/7/8 and not the Plus variants of those handsets). The chrome sides harken back to the OG iPhone and that’s awesome. The iPhone X is eye-catching in the way the iPhone 6 and 7 never really were in my opinion, even if it is a design evolution from those handsets.

Face ID works so well that it’s almost frustrating we haven’t had this feature up until now. It’s very quick, and will only get faster. It makes signing into things super simple — just look at your phone. There haven’t been a lot of instances where Face ID hasn’t worked, to be honest. Even in pitch darkness it lets me into my phone every time.

The shining beacon on the iPhone hill is that OLED display, though. Manufactured by Samsung with tweaks put in place by Apple itself, it’s ridiculous to look at. The iPhone’s LCD panels have been top-of-the-line for years, and that’s what this feels like. An even better iPhone (LCD) display. And the support for High Dynamic Range from both the HDR10 and Dolby Vision standards is a nice addition.

Unfortunately, the iPhone X’s display design leads to some issues.

That notch is there. I’ve seen plenty of people say they completely forget about the design after hours of usage, and to a point I agree with them. In portrait mode and just using the phone in general, like with Safari, Tweetbot, and even Facebook, the notch isn’t an issue. Turn it into landscape mode, though, and things start taking a noticeable turn.

I don’t mind the notch in most cases. Looking at photos, yes, I can see it, but it really doesn’t bother me that much. But that takes a 180-degree turn in the opposite direction for movies. I’m a cinephile and I watch a lot of movies, especially on my phone, and I was definitely excited with the iPhone X’s display to watch more. But that’s just not going to happen.

And not just because the notch gets in the way. Which it does. (I don’t know why anyone would say to cover it with your finger, because then you’re blocking the speaker.) It’s because Apple’s design boasts a display with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. Which means video from sources like Netflix, YouTube, and even iTunes has to be stretched –or zoomed in– to get that “immersive experience.”

I honestly don’t think this is something that’s going to bother a lot of people, but it drives me crazy. With apps like Netflix and YouTube, the video is chopping off content from the top and bottom of the image. And for iTunes content, you’re missing content at the sides. In both cases it’s admittedly not a lot. You aren’t missing much — but that’s because most films try to get you to watch the center of the screen. And that’s a good thing! Like I said, this won’t be something most people even pay any attention to. But I can’t unsee it.

That notch makes it worse in the cases where content from the sides is cut off. Because it zooms in and then the notch is blocking it altogether. For me, personally, this is a dealbreaker alone. I watch a lot of movies and reducing that experience in any way isn’t what I’m paying $1,000+ for.

(Also, this isn’t just an Apple issue. The majority of content we watch on a regular basis is displayed at the 16:9 aspect ratio. Our TV shows and movies. In an effort to make bigger phones with smaller bezels easier to handle, manufacturers are adopting an 18:9 aspect ratio — think Samsung’s Galaxy S8 or LG’s V30, and others. So even YouTube content and other sources get a bit cut off, too, on those devices.)

And then there are the software glitches. At the time of this writing, I haven’t had a working lock screen in 13 hours. As you can see from the image just below, there’s just nothing there. Yes, it looks nice, but there’s a lot of missing information, which is not so nice. I know that I’ve received at least six notifications, but there’s nothing there. No clock. And, worse, I had music playing when I took the screenshot, but there are no music controls.

It gets worse, too. Sliding down from the home screen, to see the notification panel, just gives me the same blank screen. No notifications. No clock. Nothing. And when I scroll up, because there are even older notifications waiting, I can see the UI change in the top-left corner, indicating that I am indeed scrolling, but there’s nothing being displayed to me in the notification department.

I’ve had Face ID try to recognize me, and, in the rare chance that it doesn’t and I don’t have a lock screen, the number pad that pops up to let me insert my PIN isn’t displayed. It’s still there, though! I could enter the numbers and access my phone. They just weren’t on the screen, because the lock screen was apparently hiding it. And the same goes for the alarm, too. Mine went off this morning and I had to literally guess where the stop option was, because my display wouldn’t show it to me.

Apple’s first-generation products are no stranger to quirks. I know that. I’m used to it, to a point. But these issues I’ve detailed here are breaking the experience for me. I have honestly had no lock screen at all more than I’ve had one at this point over the course of several days. I hate restarting my phone this much.

iPhone X camera

However, aside from the notch, and maybe even the device’s aspect ratio and what it means for full screen video experiences, I like the iPhone X. It’s great hardware. The screen itself is ridiculous in a good way. The cameras are awesome. And Face ID works almost too well to be a first-gen Apple creation. But there are issues, many of which I haven’t put in here.

I’m okay with the iPhone X being the next big thing for Apple, and the company building off from here in the years to come. But I’m also willing to wait a year before I adopt it. More than that, I’m willing to wait for the “iPhone X Plus” or whatever Apple is inevitably going to call their bigger variant. The iPhone X is a great piece of technology, but the issues I’ve run into have convinced me that waiting is the best option this year.

If you’ve received your iPhone X, or have used one for a little while, what are your thoughts on the device? Are you happy that you picked one up now, or are you going to wait until next year to adopt Apple’s major design change?