Back in June of this year, ill-advised as it is, I was walking out of my apartment complex while typing a text message at the same time. Into and over a large flower pot I went, picking up a few cuts and bruises to my shins, but much worse than that, to my horror, realizing my iPhone X had gone flying through the air, lending heavily on the concrete ground. For a few moments, as the phone lay on the ground, I owned what a friend later dubbed “Schrödinger's iPhone”, it's fate as yet unknown. With some trepidation I picked up the phone, and was horrified to find the screen badly scratched and cracked in several places.
Of course the repair cane at some considerable cost, the risk you take if you choose not to purchase AppleCare or insurance, though in nine years of owning an iPhone, this was my first such incident, so I'm probably still ahead of the game on that front.
The phone had to be sent off to Apple for that repair, meaning I was back using an iPhone 7 for about a week. This turned out to be an interesting opportunity to compare and contrast the two devices, the edge to edge display, new gestures and Face ID versus the bezels around the edge and the home button with Touch ID.
The iPhone7 has a 4.7 inch display, with the iPhone X coming in at 5.8 inches. However the size differential between the two devices is much less than it sounds, because on the iPhone X, the screen takes up the whole front of the device, no home button and no bezels. This means that the physical device is only marginally larger than the iPhone 7. That said though, the iPhone X does still feel noticeably heavier and chunkier then the iPhone 7. While I appreciate the larger screen, going back to the iPhone 7 made me realise that it really was that bit nicer to hold and more comfortable to use. One - Nil to the iPhone 7.
Screen & Gestures
While the size and weight of the iPhone 7 is just about perfect for me, the edge to edge screen and new gestures of the iPhone X definitely counter balance this. It's nice having the slightly larger screen for sure, but I also really like the edge to edge nature of it. It's so easy as a VoiceOver user to find the status bar or the bottom row of icons for example, when these are right at the top and bottom of the physical device. Aesthetically I prefer it too. While there was nothing particularly wrong with the home button, it served me well for many years, I do love the new gestures for Home and the App Switcher. To me they feel extremely natural, and have done since day one of owning the device. Similarly, I find the new one finger gestures for Notification Centre and Control Centre much easier than the old method of putting VoiceOver focus on the status bar and swiping up or down with three fingers, an awkward and cumbersome manoeuvre in my opinion. The score is One-One then.
Face ID and Touch ID
In 2013 Apple introduced Touch ID on the iPhone 5S and many people including myself were blown away. The first version wasn't perfect, but it was pretty great and certainly got better and better as the years went on. Using the iPhone 7 for that week, I was reminded just how amazing, fast and reliable Touch ID really is. It virtually never lets me down, only doing so on the odd occasion when my hands are wet or something. It's fantastic. The iPhone X of course brought with it the new Face ID system, relying on facial recognition rather than fingerprints. Face ID can feel magical at times, and has the advantage that it doesn't matter if your hands are wet or otherwise compromised, but in my own experience, the reliability is night and day. Face ID lets me down more times in half a day than Touch ID did in a week. It can be immensely frustrating when for no apparent reason, it refuses to recognise me. I realise that many other people out there report much greater satisfaction with Face ID than I do, but for me, the reliability just isn't there at this point in time, and is without a doubt my biggest bugbear with the iPhone X. So I guess that makes the score Two-One to the iPhone 7.
Even I am surprised to see the above scoreline, because the fact is that I am now back on the iPhone X and more than happy to stay there. Despite the victories in some areas for the iPhone 7, the fact is that on the whole I still love the iPhone X. It's a closer call than perhaps it should be, but I would still stick with the iPhone X if I had to make a choice.
I would love an updated version that's a little slimmer and lighter, and I hope against hope that there is substance to rumours of a Touch ID sensor embedded in the screen, but even leaving those things aside, Face ID will surely improve over time, and I do believe that Apple is on the right track with this new design for the decade ahead.
I'd be very keen to hear what others think of the new direction Apple took with the iPhone X, now that we are several months down the road from its initial introduction.