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First Impressions: Apple iPhone X

The iPhone X (right) during setup from an iPad Pro.
(The iPhone X (right) during setup from an iPad Pro.)

A little over ten years ago on June 29, 2007, I spent the day sitting in front of the Aspen Grove Apple store in Littleton, Colorado to pick up my first iPhone. At the time, nobody really knew if the device was going to be a success or not. Ten year later, the iPhone accounts for 55 percent of Apple’s soaring revenues, and it’s expected that the success of the iPhone X will make Apple the first company with a trillion-dollar market capitalization. Today, I spent about 15 minutes picking up an iPhone X from the same Apple retail store, and here are my first impressions of the new iPhone during setup.

Having been a “plus-size” iPhone owner since the larger devices have been available, the smaller form factor of the iPhone X is a surprise. With that smaller size comes a display about as large as that on the iPhone 8 Plus. I chose the Space Gray model, and with the display turned off the iPhone X looks like a featureless black slab. Turn it on, and you see just how impressive the OLED display is.

OLED Display
After checking in at the Apple store, I was given a chance to play with an iPhone X…outside in the bright mid-morning sunlight. The readability of the display is incredibly good, even in bright direct sunlight. Holding my former iPhone (iPhone 7 Plus) next to the iPhone X, the screen on the former looked dim and washed out. Colors are stunningly bright and saturated, contrast is impressively high, and the side-to-side display — with the exception of the TrueDepth camera “notch” at the top of the screen — is the best I’ve seen on any mobile device.

Face ID
Apple has created a special app that can be used in Apple stores to let people see how well Face ID works. The app allows any number of customers to try out the process without storing the biometric info, and during my short wait outside the store I was able to try this out. The Face ID setup process is fast and easy — you center your face in a small circle on the screen, then move your head around in a circular fashion as an indicator ring “fills up”. Do this twice, and then Face ID is set up.

The app had a way to test Face ID, and I was instructed by the Apple store employee to look away from the screen, then suddenly turn towards it. In a heartbeat, the iPhone X showed me that it had recognized me and “unlocked” the app. Face ID is a winner; I can’t wait to see it on all iPhones, iPads, and (hopefully) Macs soon.

New Gestures
The gestures used on the iPhone X are definitely different thanks to the lack of a Home button. A swipe down from the upper left corner when the screen is unlocked (by Face ID, of course) brings up notifications, while a swipe down from the upper right corner reveals Control Center. Swiping up while in any app brings you back to the Home screen, while a swipe on the “line” at the bottom of app windows right or left flips between active apps.

I think until Face ID is common on all iOS devices, it could be difficult to keep gestures straight between iPhone and iPad! The new iPhone X gestures seem very intuitive, and I can see my brain deciding to make those same gestures on an iPad Pro without Face ID.

Setup Process
The setup process for the iPhone X is quite different as well. You power on the device using a long press on the power button on the right side of the iPhone X, at which point you’re asked to enter your region. The device asks if you wish to set it up manually or using another iOS device. I chose the latter, and the process is similar to what’s used to set up an Apple Watch.

I brought the iPhone X near my 10.5-inch iPad Pro, and immediately both devices recognized each other. A swirling pattern of dots appeared on the iPhone X screen, and I was asked to point the iPad Pro camera at that pattern. Immediately the message on the iPad Pro changed to “Finish on New iPhone — Keep this iPad near your new iPhone while your information is transferred”.

This still took a while; an activation screen remained on the iPhone X while data was moved to the iPhone and I began to wonder if the process had failed. Of course, I did have several hundred apps on my old iPhone so that could have been why it took so long (I’ll update this post later with information on how the process completed).

Fit and Finish
Typical of Apple products, the iPhone X is beautiful and looks extremely well-built. There are no extra frills; it’s simply a gorgeous design. I think the glass back on the X will have a tendency to pick up fingerprints, so a case like the NewerTech NuGuard KX Case for iPhone X is going to be a necessity. You’ll also want a case just to keep your new, expensive phone safe from drops.

As soon as the activation and information transfer for the iPhone X is complete, I’ll update this post with further details on items like the camera, the new portrait modes, and so on.

Update: It appears that Apple has sold a lot of the new iPhones. Activation has been a problem for a number of purchasers, including myself and Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. I called AT&T after about an hour of non-activation and it appeared that Apple’s system had not populated the AT&T system with IMEI and SIM information, so I had to give that info to the AT&T rep. After it was in the system, she had me shut down the iPhone X, wait, and then power it up again. It still didn’t complete the activation process, after which she connected me to an Apple rep who told me the only thing I could do is wait…

Steve Sande
the authorSteve Sande
Contributing Author
Steve has been writing about Apple products since 1986, starting on a bulletin board system, creating the first of his many Apple-related websites in 1994, joining the staff of The Unofficial Apple Weblog in 2008, and founding Apple World Today in 2015. He’s semi-retired, loves to camp and take photos, and is an FAA-licensed drone pilot.
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  • I think apple losing it. I’ve been with apple for last 8 years and have a iPhone 6 but last month, I switched to Samsung and I don’t think I go back to iPhone again because I’m fed up with it

  • Just want to leave one positive post among the negative ones here.

    I received my iPhone X this afternoon from FedEx, a week before the date Apple had promised when I bought it at 3:30 AM EDT on the preorder date. Setup was a breeze; I had no problem transferring all the data from my iPhone 7S and activating it on Verizon. It asked me to update to iOS 11.1.1, which also went smoothly. I don’t know why some people have had problems; I certainly have not had any.

    • Which product are you referring to? I think my iPhone X is pretty great. I also think that about my 2011 MacBook Pro, my iPad Air 2, my Apple Watch, and even my 2009 Mac mini still. Thought that about every previous Mac, iPhone, and iPad I’ve owned. What’s your problem?

  • I had a similar (actually worse) problem with my new AppleWatch 3 not getting activated for LTE service for the first 3-5 days of ownership.

    Nobody at Apple or ATT really knew what they were doing and I lost 3+ hours of my life on 2 different days trying to sort it out with the best techs that Apple and ATT could throw at me.

    Finally, the issue was resolved with an iOS update on the iPhone that quietly dropped while I was in the midst of this drama. I had updated everything BEFORE I began the process of trying to activate LTE service on the watch, but after giving up over a weekend, and because I had no more time to spare, Apple quietly repaired the bug.

    I really wish they would be more transparent about stuff like this. It’s sort of like the thief who puts something back that he’s stolen when no one is looking and then turns and say, “Hey, is this what you were looking for? It’s right here.”


    Steve, looking forward to your thoughts and any other experiences you have with the new iPhone X. Always appreciate your bloggings. :-)

  • I was under the impression that the iPhone accounted for closer to 70% of Apple’s revenue. Where is the 55% figure coming from? Or perhaps my figure was for profits? Just curious.

  • This is not an unusual experience for early adopters. The most common cause is over-saturation of Apple’s servers. In which case you can, and probably should, complain that they don’t have enough bandwidth dedicated to the automated setup process. You’d think they’d learn from past experience, but Apple is particularly reluctant to learn from their experiences, especially the bad ones. It’s axiomatic that those who refuse to learn from the past are bound to repeat it—an axiom Apple choses to ignore. So enjoy the wait. It’s the cost of during business with Apple.

    • B, I totally agree. Apple is probably the most opaque company on the planet and almost never admits fault or error while it quietly fixes things in the background, issues an update, and then announces, “Problem? What problem? Have you updated the device?”

      Annoying and still a carryover from the wounding of Steve Jobs and his obsessive need for secrecy.

      Some of it, I get. Hey, corporate and design secrets are secrets, right? But when it comes to problems in the real world that people who have paid a premium to join the Apple church of very, very high quality, I think they need to reach out a LOT more and embrace some transparency and responsibility.

    • Sheesh … no one can practically sustain the quantity of servers and data processing infrastructure required to handle the peak load of something like the 10th anniversary iPhone launch … and if they did, those self-same servers would be idling at 1% utilization for the rest of the time (making their data center very non-green).

      Nobody has peaks the way Apple has peaks.

      Of course, they *could* cure the problem through policy. Timeslots for customers in alphabetical order by the first letter of the last name would probably be a good idea :-).