Well, the dust has settled on yet another iPhone launch, and the lack of excitement in the Stuff office is palpable.
Granted, some of that is the numbing effect of yet another two-hour Apple press conference, where the only real entertainment comes from poking fun at Apple cliches like Jonny Ive’s inimitable voice or Craig Federighi’s inimitable eyebrows.
But, other than myself and our new Hot Stuff editor Matt Tate, my colleagues aren’t exactly falling over each other to pre-order the new iPhone X.
X marks the spot
First off, full disclosure: when it comes to mobile phones, I’m a total Apple fanboy. I’ve owned every one of the Cupertino company’s flagship phones since the iPhone 4, and while I drooled over the recent Samsung Galaxy Note 8, I’ve never actually thought about moving over to Android.
Before my conversion to Apple, I did have the Nokia N95, which amazingly allowed me to watch TV on my phone, and the HTC Hero, which was the first truly decent Android phone. However, as much as I loved both those devices, the iPhone 4 made both of them look like garbage.
Sure, the Nokia and the HTC did a lot of things first, sure, but they also did a lot of things badly. The N95 was an internet pioneer, but its user interface was clunky as hell. The HTC Hero showed how good Google’s O/S could be, but it was slow and clunky to use.
The iPhone 4, meanwhile, felt like an actual finished product: it did everything well, it was quick and easy to use, and it was beautifully designed in terms of both hardware and software. It was instantly the best phone I’d ever used, and Apple only improved with each iteration. Sure, some years were better than others when it came to innovation, but in my eyes, Apple always earned the money I paid to upgrade.
One Grand Phone
So why do I think the iPhone X is set to continue the trend? Well, first of all, I think the premium quality of the phone is likely to justify a lot of that £1000 price tag. The OLED display, with its True Tone colours and ridiculous 1,000,000 to 1 contrast ratio, promises to be the best screen on any phone ever. Sure, I’ll have to wait until I’ve seen one in the flesh to judge it fully, but given Apple’s track record in this area, and the truly remarkable iPad Pro display tech that this phone inherits, I’d be amazed if Apple didn’t deliver. Similarly, it’ll be a major upset if Apple’s new dual 12MP cameras don’t become the lenses to beat once again this year.
The iPhone X also has a significantly larger screen than my current iPhone 7 Plus, while somehow being much smaller and lighter than its predecessor. OK, so the LG G6 and the Samsung Galaxy S8 got there first with the whole 18:9 display thing, but optimised apps such as the games shown during the press conference seem to be using the whole screen, rather than appearing with the large black borders that blighted many apps on LG’s phone. Apple’s gestures also appear to be genuinely intuitive, save for a small stumble by Federighi during his live demo.
Facing the truth
The iPhone X is also the first Apple handset since the iPhone 6 Plus where the design of the device has changed so significantly that using it day-to-day will feel radically different. Steve Jobs was famously reticent to make a phone any bigger than the iPhone 5, because it meant you couldn’t operate it with one hand. The iPhone 7 Plus was impossible to operate with one hand, so I’m excited about the iPhone X’s new slimmer form factor, which should make it much more comfortable to use.
Then there’s the facial recognition, or Face ID as Apple has coined it. It’s difficult to judge just how effective it’ll be without using the finished hardware, but given how brilliant Touch ID is, Face ID must be pretty impressive for Apple to drop it completely. Yes, Animojis – the animated emojis which are made possible by the iPhone X’s face-scanning tech – are easy for tech journalists to sneer at, but given the popularity of Snapchat filters, you can bet they’ll be a major selling point for many. I’ll definitely be using it to amuse my family, all of whom are also iPhone devotees.
However, I’m more enticed by the more serious benefits of Face ID, such as the increased security Apple says it offers over Touch ID. As I grow to depend more on more on my phone for accessing sensitive data like banking, smart home and passwords, the more important security becomes.
There’s no denying, though, that iPhone X’s price is truly eye-watering, especially given the model I really want is the £1149 256GB version. I paid £919 for the iPhone 7 Plus 256GB at launch, but I don’t regret it at all. Like most people, I use my phone all day every day, and while I can be a traditionally frugal Yorkshireman in many ways, I ultimately don’t mind spending money on something I get a lot of use out of.
There’s another element that gets a bit lost in the race to compare specs and prices, and that’s the desirability factor. It’s vain, I know, but in the same way that some people think your choice of car or watch says a lot about you, your choice of gadgetry can be a personal expression as well. As much as I love the OnePlus 5, and as much as the rational part of my brain understands that it does 75% of what the iPhone X does for half the price, that’s kind of missing the point. Just as a BMW is a lot more deirable than a Skoda, the iPhone X is a lot more desirable than a OnePlus 5. (Come at me, OnePlus fans.)
There’s also the Apple Watch element. I rolled my eyes as much as everyone else when Apple showed a video of people who’d supposedly written to Tim Cook to extol the virtues of the Watch and how much it changed their lives. But I admit, I’m also one of those people who obsessively tries to close their Activity rings every day, and in its small way, it really has made me healthier over the last couple of years.
I use my Apple Watch Series 2 every day to track my runs, discreetly check notifications during meetings and skip music tracks instead of getting my phone out and risking getting mugged in London. I like it so much that I don’t just think Apple Watch is the best wearable on the market, I think for most people, it’s the only wearable worth buying. (That said, I do think the new 3G-enabled model is pointless, especially as EE will charge you for two contracts here in the UK.)
Shut up and take my money
Many of the standout features on the iPhone X are LONG overdue. Edge-to-edge displays, facial recognition, wireless charging – these are things that Apple’s competitors did years ago. But people forget Apple’s true skill is in refinement, not innovation, and those expecting Apple to reinvent the wheel like it did with the original iPhone are always going to be disappointed.
I still have high expectations of Apple: I expect them to make the best mobile phones in the world. And given they’ve done that so consistently over the last ten years, I’m more than happy to hand over my hard-earned cash once again for the latest iPhone.