The internals of the iPhone X are exactly the same as those in the iPhone 8 Plus, making this one of the fastest phones I’ve reviewed this year. It’s powered by theA11 Bionic chip, which is ridiculously fast, plus 3GB of RAM. Aside from a few software bugs in iOS 11, navigating the iPhone X is a universally smooth experience.
The A11 Bionic is a six-core processor with two high-power and four low-power cores that churn through all tasks with ease. In benchmarks, it scored 10,000 in the multi-core Geekbench 4 test, which isn’t far off double the scores achieved by flagship Android phones; it achieved 4121 in the single-core tests.
As is the case with the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, however, much of this power feels redundant. Even with the addition of augmented reality experiences, there doesn’t appear to be anything in the App Store that can really push this phone to its limits. All apps and games I’ve tried run without lag – but it’s a similar story with the iPhone 7 and even the 6S; AR apps run fine even on older hardware.
Even though the screen stretches nearly edge-to-edge, there’s still room for the dual-speaker setup of the past few iPhones. This sees one forward-facing speaker on the front and a downward firing unit on the bottom working together. Sound will no longer be blocked by your hand when you’re watching video in landscape orientation, and it gets very loud.
It isn’t only the volume that impresses; audio quality is decent too. Bass is nicely tuned and there’s plenty of detail. I’d probably still stick with Bluetooth headphones for proper music listening, but for watching YouTube this setup is great.
There have been some reports of a strange hissing that comes from the earpiece, but I haven’t encountered any such issues. In my opinion, call quality is excellent, with the noise-cancelling mics doing an excellent job of blocking out noise.
Three’s Wi-Fi call features works excellently – this is still one of the few phones to support it – and the device offers strong reception for both data and Wi-Fi.
iPhone X – Software
The lack of a Home button sees big changes to the way in which iOS 11 operates. No longer is this an operating system controlled pretty much via a single button; you’ll now need to learn a heap of new gestures.
You now swipe up from the bottom of the display to head to the Home screen, and swipe and hold to access the multitasking menu. In addition, no longer can you simply swipe apps away anymore; you have to press and then tap the little ‘X’ icon. My favourite gesture is a quick swipe along the lower part of the display to quickly switch apps.
These new gestures take a bit of getting used to, but after a few days’ use, most of them feel natural. The swipe up to go Home feels like it should have always been on option, but the little movement to multitask could be improved.
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Other functions that previously required the Home button have been remapped to the elongated lock button on the side of the device. A double-tap of this brings up Apple Pay, while rapidly hitting it five times dials the emergency services. To capture a screenshot you press the lock switch and volume down; a longer-press of this combo will turn off the phone completely. Your notifications will also only show when you’re looking at the phone, and timers will dim when it knows you’re looking at the phone.
My biggest annoyance so far is with apps. Those that haven’t been updated to take advantage of that extra display space display ugly black bars and act basically as iPhone 8 apps. Not only do they look terrible, they just don’t work very well.
Apps that aren’t updated have black bars either end
Users switching from the iPhone 4S to 5 encountered a similar experience, with developers taking an age to catch up. There are a fair few apps that have already been updated, but at the time of review, big ones such as Spotify and Sonos hadn’t seen in the changes.
There are also some bugs and oddities in the software, most of which aren’t present on the iPhone 8. You can now access the torch and camera on the lockscreen, but these don’t disappear when numerous notifications come in – it all becomes rather messy. Hopefully, these issues will be addressed in a software update.
One of the few iPhone X-exclusive features is Animoji. These are, as the name suggests, emoji that you can animate through the tech that features inside the Face ID camera. It’s ridiculously addictive to turn yourself into a poo or unicorn with your facial expressions, and you’re not restricted to just sending them to other iPhone X owners since they’re saved as .MOV files. I’m not going to tell you to run out and buy a £1000 phone so you can turn your face into a singing unicorn, but it’s bloody fun.
The rest of iOS 11 is very much the same as the software you’ll experience on any other iPhone. I think there’s far more that can be done to really make use of the extra space afforded by the taller screen – there’s still no split-screen multitasking here, for example – but hopefully iOS 12 will address this.