iPhone X review: the best iPhone ever, but not good enough

Apple's revolutionary iPhone has already been left behind

Price
£833
  • Gorgeous display; Stylish design; Great camera; One of the fastest phones around
  • Astonishingly expensive; Notch isn't particularly attractive; UI changes are a little off-putting;

Ten years ago, Apple irreversibly changed the tech industry (and, let's be honest, the world) with the iPhone. Fast forward a decade, and its lasting impact is obvious to this day.

However, Apple isn't the powerhouse of smartphone innovation it once was. Recent generations of iPhone have been facing stiff competition from high-end devices like the Samsung Galaxy S8, which has been impressing consumers with its excellent camera, attractive design and powerful features.

Enter the iPhone X.

Released to commemorate the iPhone's tenth anniversary, the iPhone X (as in ten') is Apple's shot at reinventing the smartphone all over again. It's banking on a couple of stand-out new features to accomplish this goal, including the Face ID' facial recognition system and an edge-to-edge OLED display.

The downside of this is that it's the most expensive iPhone ever, with a truly staggering starting price of 999. With the price of the latest iPhone starting to creep ever closer to the price of a MacBook, can Apple's iPhone reinvention justify its ultra-premium price?

Design

In many ways, the iPhone X is a radical departure from Apple's recent style, but it also harkens back to the glory days of the iPhone's first few generations. Glass-backed with a metal band around the edges, it looks like a hybrid between the iPhone 3 and iPhone 4 - particularly in the white colour option, which features a shinier chrome trim compared to the darker-edged black variant.

While we really like the white version's chrome-finished edges, the actual backing isn't nearly as appealing. We'd much prefer an option combining the more attractive black backing with the lighter trim. The iPhone X also suffers from the same drawbacks that all glass-backed phones have in common: the glass is vulnerable to shattering, and it picks up fingerprints like nobody's business.

Aside from these issues, however, the design and build quality are as impeccable as you'd expect from Apple. The iPhone X feels reassuringly weighty and solid in the hand, and is markedly less slippery than previous iPhones. At 174g, it sits neatly between the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus in terms of weight, although it's the thickest of the three devices by a fraction of a millimetre. As with the iPhone 8, it's also got IP67 waterproofing.

The real star here is the iPhone X's edge-to-edge screen. We'll talk in more detail about the screen's quality later, but from an aesthetic standpoint it's an undeniable improvement. It looks absolutely gorgeous, and is easily as eye-catching as rival devices like the Galaxy S8. Despite the fact that the 5.8in screen is the largest iPhone display ever, the bezel-minimising design also means that the iPhone X actually has a smaller footprint than the iPhone 8 Plus.

There is, however, one very large and very obvious fly in the ointment, in the form of what Apple has dubbed 'The Notch'. This cutout section at the top of the iPhone X's display houses the Face ID camera, speaker grille and other assorted sensors, and it looks ugly as sin.

The normal icons and status indicators you'd expect to find on a phone, such as the clock, Wi-Fi icon and battery level, are crammed in awkwardly on either side of The Notch, which is a distracting and ugly blight on an otherwise gorgeous phone. Frankly, we think Apple would have been better off following Samsung's lead and writing off the top few millimetres of the device's body in order to have an uninterrupted display.

Display

If you can get past how unsightly The Notch is, the iPhone X's display is a showstopper in just about every other way. Apple's first device to use AMOLED screen technology, it's got a 2436 x 1125 'Super Retina' resolution with a pixel density of 458 ppi.

The company's devices have a well-earned reputation for creating flawless displays, and the iPhone X shows why. It proved to be almost perfect in our tests, with 98.8% coverage of the sRGB colour gamut, spot-on contrast and a maximum brightness in excess of 500cd/m2.

However, the edge-to-edge design causes problems here, too. The home button has been ditched entirely, which means that Apple has had to completely change how iOS's navigation works for this device.

Instead of pressing the home button to get back to your apps list, you now have to swipe up from the bottom of the screen. This just doesn't work as well as having a button - far too often we found ourselves accidentally scrolling up a page rather than going back to the home screen, and it doesn't feel anything like as convenient as a button.

Similarly, the notification drawer is now opened by swiping down from the top, Android-style, while the control centre is accessed by swiping down from the top right-hand corner specifically. Siri and Apple Pay interaction has also been moved to the side button. None of it feels as smooth or intuitive as it used to, which is a shame given how attractive the rest of it is.

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