The iPhone X – When Less is More

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iPhone X

There are a couple of ways of reading this. With Apple’s 10th anniversary iPhone X you’re getting more screen size in a smaller form factor making it less of a behemoth in your pocket. The other way of looking at it is that for smaller form factor you’re going to be paying a lot more money.

There was plenty of hype when Apple announced that it was going to make some major changes in its flagship phone. For starters, this was a big gamble. Would consumers balk at a phone without a “Home” button? Would they miss fingerprint recognition? Would they accept facial recognition? I was never really happy with fingerprint recognition and found it was more miss than hit. I’m finding the facial recognition function a pleasure to use. It is both fast and accurate, though I will not vouch for the security issues.

Swipe for Your Supper

If you’re a longtime iPhone user it takes a little while to get used to the fact that at minimum the home button is gone, and accessing apps and everything else on the phone takes a little bit of learning. I will confess that as an iPhone user of ten years, I was a bit nervous.  Frankly, I’m still learning my way around the swipes and so on. But overall this is a really good experience.

iPhone XIn this image, you can clearly see the difference between the size of the iPhone 7 Plus (on the right) and the size of the iPhone X. Here’s how the numbers play out. The screen size of the iPhone 7 Plus is 5.5 inches while the overall phone size is 6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches; it weighs in at 6 and 2/3 ounces. The iPhone X has a larger screen size – 5.8 inches – but is smaller overall at 5 2/3 inches, weighing in at 6.14 ounces.

iPhone XOne of the few drawbacks is that Apple added this black notch at the top of the screen that interferes with visual flow. In Apple’s defense, there are both aesthetic and functional reasons for the notch. On the functional side, the notch is where the camera that does facial recognition lives. Perhaps one day Apple will find another place to put it. But many viewers think the notch is a branding statement that helps Apple distinguish the iPhone X from the hundreds of Android phones that are on the market.

New functionality

Since the home button has gone away the iPhone X relies on swiping to get you from one place on the phone to another. That includes switching between apps, getting back to the home screen, and getting to the notification center. It took me a little getting used to and I confess I still haven’t totally nailed it down but I am enjoying it.

The OLED Sper Retina Display is stunning but frankly, for someone with my eyesight, it’s tough to tell the difference between this and some of the Super AMOLED screens on Android devices. Unfortunately sound is still not a primary feature. And some of us are still smarting over the loss of the 3.5mm audio output in favor of the single Lightning connector.

The iPhone X has just a slightly smaller battery (2716mAh) than the iPhone 7 Plus (2900mAh). One of the major differences in the power department, however, is that the iPhone X features wireless charging – something the iPhone 7 Plus does not have.

Apple’s Ecosystem

While most reviews of the Apple iPhone X focus on the hardware and the learning curve associated with new functionality, there’s another key reason to consider the iPhone and that’s the Apple ecosystem. There is still more support for the iOS ecosystem among developers then there is for Android. One small example: I use an electric wheelchair and the app is only available on iOS. It allows me to maneuver the chair remotely which is a huge benefit.

iPhone XOf greater interest to a broader audience is Apple’s overall emphasis on health. Its health apps integrate with the iPhone as well as with the Apple Watch, so you can collect lots of data and have it all displayed in a consolidated location, which you can then share with others including your health care providers. You don’t need a separate fitness device if you’ve got the Apple Watch 3. So-called siloed data has been a real issue with fitness trackers. It’s getting to be less of a concern but Apple still appears to be out in front in collecting this data. Some of that data can be shared with doctors and researchers as part of Apple’s Research Kit.

The iPhone X is not an inexpensive phone. Most carriers have a starting price for it of about $1000. There are only a couple of memory options either 64 gigabytes or 256 gigabytes. Since there’s no removable memory I tend to favor the larger capacity.

And finally, before we go, we strongly suggest protecting your $1000 investment with both a screen protector and a hard case. While you can find hundreds on the market there are a few that we like. This time around suggest the Invisible Shield Glass 360+ from Zagg for about $70. We’re also partial to the Quad Lock mounting system which provides a hard case and very secure means of mounting your phone in a car, a bike or your arm for running. Price varies by mounting components.

The bottom line is that this is one very expensive phone and yes it has some great functionality. But this isn’t the phone for someone who’s only going to use 10% of the features 90% of the time. It’s made for people who really want to use lots of apps, much of the day including the twin lens True Depth camera system.

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Gary is an award-winning journalist who has been covering technology since IBM introduced its first personal computer in 1981. Beginning at NBC News, then at ABC News, Ziff Davis, CNN, and Fox Business Network. Kaye has a history of “firsts”. He was the first to bring a network television crew to the Comdex Computer Show, the first technology producer on ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, the first to produce live coverage of the Solar Power International Conference, and the creator of the Fox Business Network signature series, “Three Days In The Valley”. Along the way he created the History Channel Multimedia Classroom. He has been a contributor to both AARP’s website and to AARP radio, as well as to a handful of other print and web-based publications where he specializes in issues involving boomers/seniors and technology. He has been a featured speaker and moderator at industry events such as the Silvers Summit and Lifelong Tech Conferences at CES, the M-Enabling Health Summit, and the What’s Next Baby Boomer Business Summit. His column, “Technology Through Our Eyes” appears in half a dozen newspapers and websites across the country.

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