iPhone X Review: There are Some Adjustments and Compromises, but I Can’t Imagine Going Back

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

This time last year, those potentially in the market for a new iPhone were probably caught up in the hand-wringing that followed Apple's decision to drop the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

12 months on, and most of us would probably look back and wonder what all of the fuss was about.

Of course, this should come as no surprise, as Apple has a track record in successfully asking us to accept and adapt to the loss of technologies that we may have considered essential. The floppy drive, optical drive and now arguably the smartphone's 3.5mm headphone jack are just some examples of where Apple has been a driving force in moving technologies to legacy status.

With the launch of the iPhone X, Apple is again telling us that technology has moved on.

With its near-bezel-less design, the iPhone X marks the end of what has probably been “the iconic face of the iPhone” since its launch in 2007, and that's the Home button.

The retirement of the Home button brings with it another significant change (either by design or necessity), and that's the replacement of fingerprint recognition (Touch ID) with facial recognition (Face ID).

Compared to last year's reaction to the loss of the headphone jack, the response to the dropping of Touch ID in favor of Face ID has been far more muted. However, there have still been widespread concerns over the potential security and user experience of Face ID.

With iPhone X pre-orders set to begin arriving today, we should soon learn if these concerns were justified, or if we will be back here in another 12 months again wondering what all of the fuss was about.

I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to live with an iPhone X for the past few days, and now want to share some of my experiences and early thoughts.

Although there is much more to the iPhone X than no Home button and the introduction of Face ID, these were the changes which I was most keen to experience and explore. The reason was a simple one - I expected these to be the changes which could potentially most affect my use and user experience of the iPhone X compared to previous iPhone models.

It already appears that adapting to these changes will not present any significant problems in practical terms.

However, I was slower in accepting what for me, as a blind user, is an increased risk to my security and privacy from the dropping of Touch ID in favor of Face ID. My personal situation and typical use case have allowed me to now mostly accept this, but this may not be the case for all blind iPhone users.

If, like me, you do decide to adapt and accept, then the iPhone X is likely to make you a very happy iPhone user.

No More Home Button

Over the past 10 years, the iPhone's Home button has evolved to become something of a Swiss army knife, serving a number of uses; such as waking and unlocking the phone if you didn't have any security enabled, bringing you back to the Home screen, triggering the App Switcher, housing the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, making Apple Pay payments, and summoning Siri.

Since Apple brought its VoiceOver screen reader to the iPhone on the 3GS in 2009, the Home button has also been the means by which the iPhone (along with the iPad and iPod Touch) can be instantly transformed from what otherwise might for the blind be little more than expensive paper weights.

However, once Apple had made the decision that the iPhone X would have ultra slim bezels, the fate of the Home button as we knew it was sealed. Although nobody seriously suggested that this would make the iPhone X less accessible to the blind than previous iPhone models, there has naturally been speculation on how Apple would accommodate the lack of that “Swiss army knife”.

Most of the functions of the Home button (including the triple click / Accessibility Shortcut) have simply been relocated on the iPhone X to its Side button (which is what Apple is calling on the iPhone X what many people will still think of as the ‘Power’ button). So, other than needing some memory retraining, should be easy adjustments to make (see the notes at the end of this review for a list of the relocated functions).

The exceptions are the single click to go to the Home screen and the 2 clicks in rapid succession to trigger the App Switcher; both of which have been replaced on the iPhone X with gestures.

I was keen to learn what this would mean for me as a VoiceOver user, as the Home button clicks were so much part of my routine use of the iPhone.

What I had read about the new gesture for accessing the Home screen when using an app, said that:

You can access the Home screen by swiping up from anywhere along the bottom edge of the display. An indicator is displayed at the bottom of the screen over the app’s interface to offer a hint about this interaction.

As for triggering and using the App Switcher, this was reportedly the process for sighted users:

Step #1. Simply press the screen at the bottom and then swipe up. Then, you need to pause in the middle of the screen (while still touching the screen)

Step #2. Next, a card will come up from the left side of the screen. That's app switcher mode.

Step #3. Now, just swipe left or right to scroll between the opened apps (just the way you used to switch between apps on your old iPhone.)

In regard to how this would work for VoiceOver users, all that I knew was from Alex Hall's summary of the 12 September Apple event, which indicated that some form of haptic feedback would be involved.

All of this was good to know in advance of going hands-on with the iPhone X for the first time, but raised several questions and an expectation that I would need to go exploring the Home screen to find the answers.

However, this proved to be a disservice to Apple, who were already on top of this by answering some of my questions during the initial setup of the iPhone X. Specifically, they provided the following information for VoiceOver users:

  • Slide one finger up from the bottom edge until you feel the first vibration to go Home
  • Slide one finger up from the bottom edge further until you feel the second vibration to bring up the App Switcher

Armed with this knowledge, I headed off to the iPhone X Home screen for the first time.

Gestures Replace Clicks

For what may prove to be the only time in this review, I want to cut straight to the chase.

The new VoiceOver gesture to go to the Home screen or open the App Switcher on the iPhone X is simple but extremely elegant.

If I ever had any concerns regarding what Apple would do to replace those Home button clicks, they have been completely blown away.

I have just one suggestion for those of you who will be finding this out for yourselves in the coming hours, days, weeks and months.

Do not approach your first use of this gesture thinking that it will be anything other than simple. If you do over-think what might be involved, there's a possibility that this will negatively affect your initial experience and results. Just place the tip of a finger on the bottom edge of the iPhone X, slide it up the screen, receive the haptic feedback, and enjoy.

It's probably also worth mentioning at this point, that I have found that having a case on the iPhone X does not interfere with performing the new “slide” gestures. This is a great relief, as the cost to replace a front display or glass back of the iPhone X makes the thought of using it without a case very scary and potentially an expensive decision.

Another New VoiceOver Gesture

On the iPhone X there is a new VoiceOver gesture for accessing the Control Center and Cover Sheet.

The process is similar to that used on the iPhone X to go to the Home screen or App Switcher. But, instead of sliding from the bottom edge of the iPhone, you slide your finger down from the top edge.

In this case, lifting at the first instance of haptic feedback will open the Control Center. Continue sliding to the second instance of haptic feedback, and then lifting your finger will take you to the Cover Sheet.

Much like the other new gesture, it's a breeze once you have figured it out.

However, if you prefer to go ‘old school’, you can currently still use a 3 finger swipe down on the Status Bar to open the Cover Sheet; or up for the Control Center.

I say “currently”, not because I know that it's going away, but because it does seem reasonable to expect that at some point Apple engineers may question the value and efficiency in having multiple gestures doing the same thing.

During the launch event, Apple demonstrated a way of switching between apps on the iPhone X, and that's to simply swipe left or right on the display.

VoiceOver users have been able to do this for some time by using a 4 finger swipe, so I was hoping (and quietly confident) that it would still be the case.

And, indeed it is.

And here's a reminder for anybody who has forgotten about this gesture.

When you have an app open, simply perform a 4-finger swipe to the right, and you will be taken to the previous app that you used. In fact, you can swipe right or left with 4 fingers to move between all open apps. You can even use this gesture as another method of going to the Home screen, as this is exactly what will happen if you swipe left with 4 fingers on the currently open app.

Closing Thoughts on that Missing Home Button

Living without a Home button hasn't been as painful as I had anticipated. Yes, my thumb still feels a little lost at times, and I find myself having to stop muscle memory taking my thumb to where it still expects there to be a Home button. However, the relocated actions and new gestures are already starting to come more naturally and without thought. Give it a few more weeks, and I suspect that picking up an older iPhone will feel strange, awkward, and have my thumb lost knowing where to go and what to do.

What this doesn't mean, however, is that I find the iPhone X experience to be an unqualified improvement on life with a Home button.

This isn't a criticism of the new VoiceOver gestures, as it's very clear that a lot of time and thought has been devoted to them by Apple. In most uses I already prefer them to Home button clicks. There are even some times when I find myself performing those gestures for no other reason than being entertained by the audible and haptic feedback. However, there are still occasions when I find myself missing the speed, simplicity and intuitiveness of a button click.

Will my opinion change over the coming weeks and months as these new gestures become more natural and muscle memory fades? My head is already saying “yes”, but my heart keeps replying “oh, but that Home button”. I think I know which one will win, and that's the one which has me enjoying playing with the new gestures just for the kick of it.

Of course, the removal of the Home button doesn't only mean that there are some relocated actions and new gestures to learn; it means that there is a whole new method of biometric authentication to experience.

Goodbye Finger, Hello Face

The removal of the Home button and the Touch ID sensor that it housed must presumably have presented Apple with technical challenges and some tough decisions to make. Some seemingly unlikely rumors went as far as suggesting that this might result in the iPhone X shipping with no biometric authentication. Far more credible rumors and alleged part leaks suggest that Apple considered and tested several possible methods of retaining Touch ID on the iPhone X; including having a Touch ID sensor embedded in its screen, on its back panel or even incorporated into the Side button.

We may never know how close any of these actually came to being a reality. But, either by design or for technical reasons, Apple decided that the iPhone X would drop Touch ID in favor of Face ID.

What is Face ID?

As its name suggests, Face ID is a form of biometric authentication using facial recognition.

The TrueDepth camera system in the iPhone X uses advanced technologies to accurately map the geometry of your face. According to Apple, this technology is:

some of the most advanced hardware and software that we’ve ever created. The TrueDepth camera captures accurate face data by projecting and analyzing over 30,000 invisible dots to create a depth map of your face and also captures an infrared image of your face. A portion of the A11 Bionic chip's neural engine — protected within the Secure Enclave — transforms the depth map and infrared image into a mathematical representation and compares that representation to the enrolled facial data.

Face ID automatically adapts to changes in your appearance, such as wearing cosmetic makeup or growing facial hair. If there is a more significant change in your appearance, like shaving a full beard, Face ID confirms your identity by using your passcode before it updates your face data. Face ID is designed to work with hats, scarves, glasses, contact lenses, and many sunglasses. Furthermore, it's designed to work indoors, outdoors, and even in total darkness.

The result is the ability to securely unlock your iPhone X by allowing it a “glance” of your face. You can use it to authorize purchases from the iTunes Store, App Store, iBooks Store, and payments with Apple Pay. Developers can also allow you to use Face ID to sign into their apps. Essentially, it does everything which Touch ID does on other Apple products.

How Secure is Face ID?

Until security experts have the opportunity to thoroughly examine and test facial recognition on the iPhone X, much of the current opinion on the accuracy, robustness and security of Face ID is based upon speculation, the somewhat checkered track record of facial recognition on some Android phones, and what Apple has told us.

When launching the iPhone X, Apple stated that Face ID is incredibly accurate and secure, and that there’s a 1 in 1,000,000 chance of a passer-by on the street gaining access to your iPhone, compared to 1 in 50,000 with Touch ID. They went on to say that the Face ID system can’t be fooled by photos, videos or any other kind of 2D medium thanks to the way faces are measured in 3D.

Writing for Forbes, JV Chamary claims that there is currently no evidence to prove that Face ID is more secure than Touch ID, regardless of what Apple says:

Understanding why Face ID isn't more secure involves being able to distinguish between absolute and relative security. Although face recognition is absolutely better than no protection at all, it's not relatively more secure than Touch ID.

The stats are mathematical misdirection to hide a leap in logic, as comparing those numbers isn't relevant to security. Unless the figure is really low (say, 1 in 100) then it doesn't matter how many random people it takes to accidentally unlock your phone. The issue is whether a particular person -- a thief -- could deliberately access your device.

And this is where we come to a very specific and real concern for blind iPhone users - Face ID may make it easier for criminals or wannabe pranksters to unlock your iPhone X without your knowledge than would be the case with Touch ID.

Why Face ID May Compromise the Security and Privacy of Blind iPhone Users

Let's start with what Apple tells us about Face ID usage:

To start using Face ID, you need to first enroll your face. You may do this during the initial set up process, or at a later time by going to Settings > Face ID & Passcode. To unlock your iPhone X using Face ID, simply glance at it. Face ID requires that the TrueDepth camera sees your face, whether your iPhone X is lying on a surface or you're holding it in a natural position. The TrueDepth camera has a similar range of view as when you take a photo or make a FaceTime call with the front camera. Face ID works best when the device is arm’s length or less from your face (25-50 cm away from your face).

The TrueDepth camera is intelligently activated; for example, by raising to wake your iPhone X, tapping to wake your screen, or from an incoming notification that wakes the screen. Each time you unlock your iPhone X, the TrueDepth camera recognizes you by capturing accurate depth data and an infrared image. This information is matched against the stored mathematical representation to authenticate.

For some blind people, the nature of their vision impairment means that they are physically unable to satisfy the above mentioned requirement to “glance” at the iPhone when using Face ID.

It comes as no surprise that Apple has considered and allowed for this with its implementation of Facial recognition, by providing the following option within the iOS accessibility settings:

If you don't want Face ID to require that you look with your eyes open at iPhone X, you can open Settings > General > Accessibility, and disable Require Attention for Face ID. This is automatically disabled if you enable VoiceOver during initial set up.

For those who do choose or need to disable the Face ID requirement to be looking at the iPhone, Face ID offers to be as convenient as Touch ID, but in my opinion is unlikely to be as secure.

Okay, that's technically not accurate. As stated earlier, in regard to the underlying biometric authentication method, Apple claims that it's 20x less likely that somebody will be able to accidentally unlock your iPhone with Face ID than it would be with Touch ID.

What will make your iPhone X less secure, is that disabling the requirement to be looking at it could make it much easier for somebody to unlock it without you being aware. Whether it's in a busy coffee shop, when sitting at your work desk or whilst asleep at home, there will be times and circumstances when somebody may be able to pick up your iPhone and hold it close to your face without you knowing.

I will go further, and say that there is a strong argument that Face ID is a retrograde step in terms of security and privacy for all blind iPhone users, regardless of whether you have the requirement to be looking at the iPhone enabled or disabled.

Depending upon personal circumstances, it's possible to imagine scenarios in which Face ID makes it easier for somebody to trick a blind person in to unlocking their iPhone without them being aware, than would be the case with Touch ID. Put simply, it's more likely that you can make me look at my iPhone without me realising, than to have me touch it without knowing.

Realistically, though, it's difficult to know what Apple could do to mitigate this increased risk once the decision had been made to drop Touch ID in favor of Face ID. The options which immediately come to mind for me, would all involve an extra authentication step that would negate the benefit of biometric authentication and leave me thinking that I might as well just be using a passcode.

One thing that Apple has done, is to add an unlock sound effect and vibration for VoiceOver users. It's something, and something which may be enough to alert you to that criminal or wannabe prankster in some situations.

In my opinion, Face ID is a greater security and privacy risk for blind iPhone users than Touch ID. However, because each person's situation and use case will be unique, I am certainly not going to make the blanket statement that this should be a reason not to purchase an iPhone X. It's simply something that people need to consider; and determine whether their own circumstances and thoughts on the potential risks make it relevant or important to them.

If you do get an iPhone X, one obvious way of not exposing yourself to any increased security and privacy risks, is to simply not enable Face ID. You will lose its convenience and will have to rely on passcodes and passwords. You will also not be able to use Apple Pay. Depending upon circumstances, personal use case and priorities, this may be the desired solution for some.

If you do decide to use Face ID, there are some precautions that you can take to protect against others unlocking your iPhone without your knowledge.

One of these was shared by Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, who responded to a concerned user's email about the Face ID system:

If you grip the buttons on both sides of the phone ... it will temporarily disable Face ID.

Apple documents a number of additional circumstances which will require you to enter a passcode to unlock your iPhone X, so these may be worth remembering for times when you find yourself concerned about others unlocking it:

  • The device has just been turned on or restarted.
  • The device hasn’t been unlocked for more than 48 hours.
  • The passcode hasn’t been used to unlock the device in the last six and a half days and Face ID hasn't unlocked the device in the last 4 hours.
  • The device has received a remote lock command.
  • After five unsuccessful attempts to match a face.
  • After initiating power off/Emergency SOS by pressing and holding either volume button and the side button simultaneously for 2 seconds.

Additionally, if your iPhone X is lost or stolen, you can prevent Face ID from being used to unlock it with Find My iPhone Lost Mode.

Perhaps a good footnote to this section, is a reminder that a strong passcode known only by you and not written down anywhere, will always be more secure than both fingerprint and facial recognition. So, if security is more important to you than convenience, this should probably be your method of authentication. Depending upon where you live, a passcode might also provide you greater legal protection than biometric authentication.

Setting Up Face ID for the First Time

Whether during the initial setup of your iPhone X or later via the iOS Settings, setting up Face ID is incredibly fast and easy. In my opinion, faster and easier than Touch ID, and with better feedback and guidance for blind users.

You start by centering your face in a highlighted area on the phone's screen. For VoiceOver users, there is spoken feedback to guide you in the right direction (left, right, up, down, and so on). I find that good results come when holding the phone approximately 30cm from my face, and haven't yet needed to make more than some minor adjustments to positioning.

Once the iPhone's TrueDepth camera is happy that it can see your face, you will be prompted to perform what can best be equated to a slow roll of your neck, so that its sensors can perform their magic.

What reliably works for me, is to first raise my head so that I am looking up to a 1 o'clock direction. I then slowly turn my head through all of the clock positions. During this process, VoiceOver users are provided with spoken feedback on the percentage completed.

I haven't found it necessary to perform this process particularly slowly, and typically it's completed in under 10 seconds.

You are then asked to repeat the same process one more time.

Face ID should then be setup and ready to go.

What more can I say, other than that the setup of Face ID is truly a breeze.

What I will say, is that in my opinion, Apple's decision to not inform VoiceOver users during the setup of Face ID that the need to be looking at the iPhone has automatically been disabled is ill-judged.

The reason that by default you are required to be looking at your iPhone X for Face ID to work, is that this makes it harder for people to unlock it without your knowledge. So, by disabling this feature, you are essentially opting in to a compromised and less secure implementation of Face ID.

I appreciate that many people will need or want to have this requirement disabled. I also appreciate that Apple's decision is based upon the desire to provide the best user experience, which means that it's preferable to have this as the default status for VoiceOver users.

However, I believe that Apple is wrong to not tell me during the setup of Face ID that this requirement will be disabled; not alerting me to the potential security implications of this; and not giving me the opportunity to choose for myself whether this requirement should be disabled.

Yes, you can manually enable this requirement at a later time. However, the reality is that not everybody will know or learn about this setting, so will be unaware that Face ID is not as secure for them as it could be.

Quite simply, when it comes to security and privacy, Apple needs to ensure that people are in a position to make informed decisions for themselves on anything which may negatively affect this.

I would strongly encourage Apple, therefore, to reconsider the setup of Face ID for VoiceOver users. The setup process should make people aware of the option to disable the Face ID requirement to be looking at the iPhone; explain the potential risks of using this option; and allow people to decide for themselves at this point whether to use it or not.

Face ID in Use

I approached my first use of Face ID with a sense of trepidation, as Touch ID in my experience has always been fast, reliable and easy to use. In practical terms, I didn't know what more I would want from biometric authentication. However, what I did know, was that I didn't want something which would be slower, less reliable and harder to use. Face ID had the potential in my mind to be one, two or all three of these.

I was also aware that the combination of Touch ID and VoiceOver has given me some convenience that is not shared by non-VoiceOver users, and that's been the ability to unlock and use my iPhone whilst it's in a pocket or tucked away elsewhere out of sight. With Touch ID gone, I would have to resort to unlocking with a passcode on the occasions when I wanted to use the phone in this way. Hardly time or effort intensive, I know, but it still felt like something that would be a small hit on my user experience.

But, despite already having accepted some small loss in convenience and knowing that the performance of Face ID was an unknown quantity, I still approached my first experience of it with a growing sense of excitement. Yes, all because it was something new and gimmicky to play with.

I woke the iPhone with a press of its Side button. In advance of this, I had already thought about how I might need to move the phone so that it could have a clearer sight of my face. However, this turned out to be wasted time and thought, as the iPhone unlocked instantly.

And this has typically been my experience whenever needing to use Face ID. Whether it's been to unlock the phone, authorise a payment, or login to an app, the process has nearly always been instant and needed little thought.

I pick up the phone to look at an incoming message; and by the time that I touch the screen to locate the notification, I have already heard the audible alert that the iPhone X gives to VoiceOver users to confirm that it has successfully been unlocked.

When I pick up the iPhone X to use it, I have now fallen into the habit of performing the slide up from the bottom as I bring the phone towards me. In most cases, it is unlocked and ready to go before I am. On the few occasions when this hasn't been the case, the passcode form has briefly been displayed, but has disappeared again almost instantly as the facial recognition completed.

Not only has Face ID proved so far to be fast, accurate and reliable; but it has made authentication something that I don't need to think about. It just happens in the background, leaving me to get on with whatever I want to do.

This experience has enticed me back to “Raise to Wake”, a feature that I have previously kept disabled in the hope that it might save on battery use, but am now enjoying and benefiting from.

If I wanted more, gone are the times when I would need to dry a wet finger before Touch ID would recognize it. I am also looking forward to being able to keep my gloves on when using the iPhone X outside on cold winter days.

And there's still more.

Because Face ID is aware of when you are looking at your iPhone X, it can also keep the screen lit when you’re reading, reveal notifications and messages, or lower the volume of an alarm or ringer. The first of these offered no value because of my situation, but I was curious to explore the other two.

What happens with the first of these two features, is that when your iPhone X is woken by a notification, all that is displayed on the screen is a message that there is a notification from the named app. However, when the iPhone detects that you are looking at it, the notification will automatically expand to show the preview (assuming that you have Lock Screen notification previews set to show when unlocked in the iOS settings).

This is a really neat and effective way of having these previews quickly and easily available to you, but not visible to anybody who simply happens to be close to your iPhone X when the Lock Screen is woken by a notification.

As for lowering the volume level of ringers and alarms, this isn't something that I have had the opportunity to test and explore thoroughly yet. However, in one test, it was somewhat entertaining to lower the volume of an alarm by simply “glaring” at the iPhone X.

To try and prevent this from sounding like a love-fest for Face ID on my part, I have strived to find some weaknesses.

I have thrown different lighting conditions at it, ranging from full sun to near complete darkness. I have tested it with sunglasses, a cap, and with part of my face obscured. So far, nothing has resulted in a hit on its speed or reliability. Face ID just works as advertised.

There is an argument that in terms of raw speed, it can be faster to unlock an iPhone using Touch ID than with Face ID. Having your iPhone unlocked before it is even completely out of a pocket or bag immediately come to mind as examples. However, I can also already think of examples of where Face ID is quicker. For instance, when the iPhone X has been sitting on a dock on my desk and a notification has woken it, it's typically been unlocked by Face ID whilst my hand is still reaching for it.

But, in daily use, none of these speed tests really matter. What matters is whether your iPhone is unlocked and ready to use by the time that it's in a position where you would actually use it. And this has typically been my experience with Face ID on the iPhone X. I anticipate that this will get even better over the coming weeks and months as I learn and adapt to what gets the best performance from Face ID. It's also very likely that Apple will be able to further improve its performance as it begins collecting usage data from users.

As you will have gathered from the above comments, I enjoy using Face ID. Some of this is probably due to its current novelty value. However, much more is a result of just how well it works. And, that's it in a nutshell really - Face ID just works.

Despite this, there does remain a nagging concern that security or usability problems will be identified with Face ID once the iPhone X is released and it is truly stress tested. I hope that this does not occur. And, based upon having similar concerns when Touch ID was first released, and knowing how well that went, I am quietly confident that I will be back here in 12 months wondering what all of the fuss was about.

Using Apple Pay with Face ID

I love Apple Pay.

I have loved Apple Pay since the first time that I used it, which was within hours of it becoming available here in the UK.

I love the convenience, speed and reliability of Apple Pay. I love that it is so widely supported in the UK.

But, what I love most about Apple Pay, is the fact that it has almost completely eliminated the times when I am stood in a store, checking and double checking the money that I am handing over and receiving back.

So, there was going to be a lot at stake when I used Face ID for the first time with Apple Pay.

There was no reason to think that there would be any technical or security issues; and my experience with Face ID in general use suggested that it should work as well as Touch ID.

The big question mark surrounded how I would feel about the experience of using Face ID in front of store staff and with a queue of other shoppers behind me.

Touch ID had always made the process quite discrete, leaving me with no reason to feel self-conscious and wondering what kind of looks I was getting from those around me. Of course, with Apple Pay, and contactless payments in general, widely used in the UK, the likelihood is that nobody was even batting an eyelid.

However, would this be the same when the process threatened to be far less discrete? Apple's statement that the phone needs to be held “25-50 cm” from your face kept running through my mind. Suddenly, this seemed very close, and something which was clearly going to draw the attention of those around me.

Before heading off to use Apple Pay for the first time, I had carried out some testing. From this, I had found that 2 clicks of the Side button always triggered Apple Pay. It didn't appear to make it difference whether the iPhone X was asleep, awake but locked, awake and unlocked, on the Home screen, or in an app. So, already it had a potential edge for me over Touch ID.

In this testing, after triggering Apple Pay, VoiceOver would typically announce “Alert. Home indicator, dimmed. Face ID.”

Shortly after this, VoiceOver would typically announce “Hold near reader”, which I took as an indicator that the facial recognition had been performed and that the iPhone should now be in a state to confirm the Apple Pay transaction.

This testing made me quietly confident as I walked towards a local grocery store that all was going to be just fine with Apple Pay.

And, indeed it was.

The experience was identical to that of my testing at home, apart from it costing me some money in exchange for a jug of milk.

There was no need for any attention-drawing waving of the iPhone in front of my face. The whole process just worked as it should and as I had hoped.

So positive was this first experience, that I went straight to another store to do it all again.

However, on this occasion there was a very minor hiccup which had VoiceOver announce “face not recognized”, but, a slight movement of the iPhone quickly corrected this, and the payment was made.

Reflecting on this second experience, I think that the difference was that the payment terminal was positioned at head height, and bringing the iPhone close to the terminal before activating Apple Pay probably resulted in it being too close to my face.

Some subsequent testing would seem to confirm this, as I found that Face ID doesn't perform so consistently in general use if the iPhone is close to your face.

On both of the other occasions that I have now used Apple Pay on the iPhone X, the experience has been almost identical to the first one.

when my current heightened awareness of using something new and different fades, it will be interesting to find out if the result is more “hiccups” with using Apple Pay or if the process will have become natural and without need of much thought by that point.

In the meantime, there is already one benefit which I am enjoying - there should no longer be those occasions when double clicking the Home button lands you on the Home screen rather than activating Apple Pay. Yes, Touch ID could actually be too fast and responsive at times!

One More Thing ... or two, or maybe even three

The iPhone X brings far more to the table than no Home button and Face ID. However, much of this falls outside of my use case, areas of interest and expertise, and what I had in mind to cover here. However, to follow the tradition of Apple keynote presentations, I do want to mention “one more thing”.

iOS 11 came with enhanced and more natural sounding Siri voices. Disappointingly, when used as the VoiceOver TTS voice on my iPhone 6s, the performance left a lot to be desired. Specifically, the voices were sluggish when compared to Alex, which has been my TTS voice of choice since it became available with iOS 8.

My understanding was that these new Siri voices performed better on newer iPhone models, so I was keen to see if this would be my experience using them on the iPhone X.

And, indeed, the performance is improved. To my ears, there is still some lag, but it's possibly now at a level where I will probably find myself using a Siri voice when I feel like a break from Alex. In the past, these breaks would rarely last more than a few hours before the lag would drive me back to Alex. My expectation is that this lag is at the point where my tolerance of it may now extend to a few days.

Okay, make that “more than one more thing”.

For many, the iPhone X will be all about the new 5.8 inch OLED display. I have been told by others that it looks stunning. In my case, where how a display looks has only curiosity value, what mattered was how its size and filling of the front face of the iPhone would affect my use and user experience.

I came to the iPhone X as somebody who still holds warm feelings towards the form factor of the 4 inch iPhones. In fact, if pressed on this ahead of my time with the iPhone X, I would probably have stated that this size remains my personal “sweet spot”.

This made me curious to learn how I would react to a phone with a screen larger than that sported by Plus models of the iPhone, but physically only a little larger in size than my 6s. In particular, would all of that extra screen real estate make some VoiceOver gestures easier to perform, or would it seem like too much wasted space and bulk.

Although it's only been a few days, I think that I now ‘get’ why some people like larger smartphone screens, and that you can enjoy that extra screen real estate without being able to see it.

Not only have some VoiceOver gestures been easier to perform, but the extra spacing that the larger screen allows between page elements often improves the efficiency and experience when exploring the screen by touch.

This experience made me recognize and accept that I may feel nostalgic towards those 4 inch iPhones, but that I wouldn't want to switch back to using one on a daily basis.

For those who are already well ahead of me in appreciating the benefits of larger screens, the option of a 5.8 inch display on an iPhone which is smaller than the 8 Plus and only slightly larger than the 8, might be very compelling.

The iPhone X might bring even more to the table for low vision users than just more screen real estate. I can't comment from personal experience on whether any of this will actually help, but OLED and True Tone are claimed to make colors more natural and text easier and more comfortable to read. Do note, though, that True Tone is disabled if you use the Inverted Colors feature.

The final feature of the iPhone X (and also the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus) that I wanted to at least mention in passing, is its wireless charging capabilities.

Rather surprisingly for Apple, it has opted for the Qi wireless charging standard that's already used by more than 90 smartphones, and not gone with a proprietary technology. For Wired, this decision might make wireless charging the “Most Impactful New iPhone Feature”:

“Where wireless charging really becomes a benefit for consumers is when it becomes ubiquitous, when everywhere I go I don’t worry about chargers coming with me or running out of power,” says Paul Golden, a marketing executive with WPC, the consortium behind the Qi standard. “Every place I’m going I can just put my phone down and easily charge it. I don’t have to plug it in or anything.”

Efforts to make charging pads as commonplace as outlets exist, but not at scale. Aircharge, which makes wireless charging stations designed for public spaces, will upgrade more than 1,000 McDonald’s locations in the UK through 2018. You can sometimes find wireless charging stations in assorted hotels, bars, and other public spaces where people scramble for a little extra juice.

But without an entire industry coalescing around one standard, these installations have misfired in the past or not materialized at all. Starbucks backed the wrong horse in 2014, trialling Powermat chargers, an earlier form of what would eventually become AirFuel tech in several of its stores, only to find that most customers couldn't charge their phones without an adapter. And public wireless charging pads in the wild remain an oddity for most—assuming you’ve even seen one.

Apple picking a side instantly changes that calculus. “I’ve had conversations with people in the hospitality industry, people in the automotive industry, and other manufacturers of smartphones, who were all waiting to see what Apple was going to do,” Golden says.

The prospect of being able to charge my iPhone by just placing it on the table as I drink a coffee or eat my lunch, is certainly an appealing one.

However, for now, my only experience of wireless charging has been at home using a mophie wireless charging base.

That experience has been kind of fun, and if I had several charging pads around the house, I would probably routinely use and enjoy them. However, would I spend money on buying one? Probably not, as wireless charging in its current form simply offers me no added utility or convenience over the charging docks and cables that I already have scattered around my home. This is exacerbated by there being other devices in the house which use the existing docks and cables; and knowing that there are times when I have previously wanted or needed to use my iPhone whilst it charges. The latter can be done with cables, but not so easily or naturally when the phone is sitting on a charging pad.

If you currently use fast charging adapters and cables with your iPhone, you also need to be prepared for slower charging if you do decide to go wireless. Apple will make faster wireless charging possible later this year via an iOS update, but this will only be a relatively minor bump in charging speed.

However, as Wired suggest, for now the real utility and convenience of wireless charging will most likely not come at home or work, but with the increased availability of charging pads in public spaces that will follow Apple's adoption of the Qi standard.

For those wondering, you ‘should’ be able to wirelessly charge your iPhone X even if it's in a case, as this has been my experience with both Apple's silicon case and an OtterBox Signature case.

A Few Stray Tidbits

  • Many apps have not yet been updated to support the larger screen of the iPhone X. As a result, they typically do not fill the screen to the top and bottom. So, if you encounter some vagaries between apps when locating page elements by touch, this is most likely to be the reason. Essentially, you will find empty borders at the top and bottom of the screen in these instances.
  • On other iPhone models, the bottom row of the onscreen keyboard sits nearly flush with the bottom edge of the display. In the case of the iPhone X, this would have it near to the bottom edge of the phone itself. So, for usability reasons and to leave space for the “Home Indicator”, the onscreen keyboard sits further away from the bottom of the screen. Additionally, the keys for the next keyboard and dictation have been relocated to sit in the bottom left and right of the screen respectively (placing them either side of the Home Indicator). Again, something to note when trying to locate these keys by touch, and not finding them where they used to be. To confuse matters somewhat here, this change only appears to affect apps which have been updated to support the iPhone X.
  • Apple says that the iPhone X battery lasts 2 hours longer than the iPhone 7. From my very unscientific testing against an iPhone 6s with a 2 year old battery, Apple's claim does seem realistic; and for me the iPhone X looks like it should comfortably survive a normal day's use with no top-up needed.
  • When opening for the first time an app that supports Touch ID, an alert is displayed asking if you now want to use Face ID with the app.
  • When opening an app that is locked with Face ID, there will be haptic feedback and an audible alert to tell you that it has been successfully unlocked.
  • The Status Bar is now split in to two areas, separated by the “notch” that's home to the front camera and Face ID sensors. So, don't be surprised if your finger goes looking to find out the time, and VoiceOver remains silent. Just explore to the left and right of the notch for all of the expected Status Bar elements.
  • The TrueDepth camera used for Face ID also enables a new way to make Messages even more fun. It captures and analyzes over 50 different facial muscle movements, then animates those expressions in a dozen different Animoji, including a panda, unicorn, and robot. I haven't explored this yet for accessibility, but Animoji is available as an iMessage app preinstalled on the iPhone X.
  • To my ears, the speakers on the iPhone X appear to be much improved on those in my iPhone 6s (in audio reproduction, clarity and how loud they will go). I don't know how they compare with the iPhone 7 and 8, but comments on the latest episode of The Talk Show podcast suggest that it is also an improvement.

Closing Thoughts

If you are thinking about buying a new iPhone, deciding upon the right model for you is likely to be more difficult now than it ever has been in the iPhone's 10 year history. There are 4 screen sizes, different features sets and performance levels, and a price range from US$349 all the way up to US$1149.

If you want the newest design, cutting edge features, the best performance, and cost is not a factor, then the iPhone X would seem the obvious choice.

However, if you are blind, then the decision may not be so clearcut, as you will need to consider whether Face ID will make you more vulnerable to criminals and wannabe pranksters than Touch ID.

That decision will depend upon personal circumstances, use cases, and the individual's own thoughts on whether the potential risks are relevant or important to them.

It's worth noting that if the early rumors prove to be correct, this time next year Apple will have removed the need for you to make this decision, as the 2018 iPhones will drop Touch ID in favor of Face ID.

This may change if security or usability issues with Face ID arise over the coming weeks and months. If they do, and it's at a level where it is harmful to Apple's reputation and bottom line, it's possible that Touch ID may not head towards legacy status quite so soon.

My own circumstances allow me to use Face ID with the requirement to be looking at the phone enabled, and with enough residual vision to hopefully be aware if somebody was attempting to trick me in to looking at my own iPhone. Although this still means that there is an increased risk of falling prey to criminals or pranksters compared to when using Touch ID, the increased risk is at a level where it would probably be outweighed by my desire to want the latest and greatest iPhone.

The iPhone X is the “latest”, so that just leaves me having to decide if it is also the “greatest”.

One factor at play here, is that I approached the iPhone X as somebody who skipped last year's iPhone 7 because I didn't want essentially the same design for 3 consecutive models. On that basis, the iPhone 8 was always going to be a hard sell to me. However, the removal of the Home button and the dropping of Touch ID in favor of Face ID, meant that it would take more than a new design to convince me that the iPhone X is the right phone for me.

But, boy is it a really great design. It's one of those iPhone models which only comes along every 3 or 4 years in the design cycle, one that truly looks and feels like a completely new iPhone (similar to how the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus did when first launched, and before that the iPhone 4).

Any concerns that I had about how the removal of the Home button might negatively affect my use and user experience of the iPhone X have proved to be unwarranted. The relocated actions and new gestures are well considered and very well implemented. There's a small learning curve and a period of adjustment, but no issues in regard to use or accessibility in my opinion.

In regard to Face ID, this has proved to be as fast, reliable and convenient as Apple claimed that it would be. Its setup is quick and easy, with a good level of information and guidance provided for VoiceOver users. In use, Face ID is already providing me with added convenience and utility compared to Touch ID. I particularly enjoy and welcome how it has made authentication become almost a background process that it's easy to forget is happening.

I am, however, disappointed by Apple's decision not to tell VoiceOver users that the security of Face ID is automatically set for them to what I believe to be a compromised level. Hopefully this is something that they will address in a future iOS update.

Looking beyond the missing Home button and Face ID, I enjoy what is for me the best experience I have had to date as a blind iPhone user - the iPhone X screen is responsive to input; I am feeling the benefit of that extra screen real estate; and VoiceOver is fast and responsive.

There's still a lot more for me to explore and experience with the iPhone X, but based upon everything so far, it's extremely hard to imagine that I will find anything which will have me wanting to go back to my iPhone 6s.


Functions Which Have Moved From the Home Button to the Side Button

Accessibility Shortcut
Was a triple click of the Home Button. Now a triple click of the Side button.

Activate Siri
Was a press and hold of the Home Button. Now a press and hold of the Side button.

Activate Apple Pay
Was a double click of the Home Button from the Lock screen. Now a double click of the Side button.

Turn off the iPhone: Was pressing and holding the Power button until the “Slide to Power Off” button is displayed, and then double-tapping that button. Now press and hold the side button and either volume button, then double-tap the “Slide to Power Off” button.

Force restart: Was pressing and holding the Home and Power buttons for approximately 10 seconds. Now press and quickly release the Volume Up button. Then press and quickly release the Volume Down button. Then press and hold the Side button (at which point the Apple logo is visually shown on the screen).

Take a screen shot
Was pressing and holding the Home and Power buttons until you hear the shutter sound effect. Now simultaneously press and quickly release the Side button and Volume Up button.

How to Put iPhone X into DFU Mode

Functions of the Home Button Which Have Been Replaced with Gestures

Return to the Home screen
Slide one finger up from the bottom edge of the iPhone X until you feel the first vibration, then lift finger from the screen.

Activate the App Switcher
Slide one finger up from the bottom edge of the iPhone X until you feel the second vibration, then lift finger from the screen.

Activating Reachability mode (if enabled under the iOS settings):
Was 2 taps on the Home button. Now slide one finger up from the bottom edge of the iPhone X until you feel the first vibration, then quickly flick your finger down.

New VoiceOver Gestures for the iPhone X

To Access the Control Center
Slide one finger down from the top edge of the iPhone X until you feel the first vibration, then lift finger from the screen.

To Access the Cover Sheet
Slide one finger down from the top edge of the iPhone X until you feel the second vibration, then lift finger from the screen.

Useful Resources

Apple support page on Face ID
Apple white paper on the overall security of Face ID



Submitted by kevinchao89 on Sunday, November 5, 2017

1. Hard-reset is performed by quickly pressing and releasing volume-up then volume-down, and then hold side-button for 10 seconds.
2. Podcast where Face ID enrollment is demoed 3X: http://theblindsidepodcast.podbean.com/e/the-blind-side-podcast-61-a-th…
3. AirPods lowest latency, almost equal to old school wired earphones--best to use with modern iPhones (VoiceOver user best friend).

Submitted by charles on Sunday, November 5, 2017

In reply to by Holger Fiallo

I really wish that you would stop sending insulting messages ablut those who aren't totally willing to stay up with the times and modern technology. I find your comments very offensive. Some people have legitimate and justified concerns with technology such as face ID and the removal of what we have been using all the time such as the home button. Not everyone wants to always get the latest and greatest as soon as it comes out because of concerns such as these, and you should stop belittling them for their concerns.

Submitted by Rocker on Monday, November 6, 2017

If you aren’t comfortable adopting new technology Apple offers a wide variety of iPhones that embrace existing technology! Whilst I agree with holder, Those who do not can grab the iPhone 8, seven, 6S, six and SE for example and enjoy a great experience . When it comes to the iPhone, there is no one-size-fits-all and that’s what I love about the Iphone and Apple! Honest Lee speaking, as a totally blind person, the iPhone X is extreme overkill! I don’t need that camera! I don’t need that beautiful OLED display! You pay for that, and for thousand dollars USD and for a sighted person I’d say there is great value here! So why did I buy a 10? Because I love new technology and I love the fact that Apple hits it out of the park regarding accessibility of said technology! I for one want to be a part of this movement! If Apple dropped the ball regarding accessibility on the 10, I would happily stay with my seven or look at the eight! It’s not for everybody and it’s bloody expensive! But for once in my long life using technology, I’m on par with the cited world with the iPhone and you can’t say that about 99% of the technology that the world uses today! Windows, macOS, android reasonably accessible but not like iOS and the iPhone! I’ll end this rent by stating my favourite iPhone to date is the iPhone SE! Charles, try not to be offended man we early adopters are just super stoked that’s all! Good luck man cheers!

Submitted by Special K on Monday, November 6, 2017

After using the iPhone X for a few days, I find I hate Face ID. It works for me about 60 percent of the time, where Touch ID worked about 98 percent of the time. To be fair, it could be the position of my phone as well, but I like things to happen thoughtlessly. I've already thought 100 times of returning this, and going back to an 8 Plus, or just not turning in my 7, and living with it another year. In the end, I know I'll just keep laboring through this, and figure out a more failsafe way of making this thing see my face, but right now, my learning curve is frustrating. As for the Home gestures, and a;l the rest, I'm good! It's about time they did that, and the haptic feedback really is kinda fun. I love this phone, except for Face ID! I have no complaints with the accessibility prompts or anything like that. They did al; of that very well...I just wish it worked better for me, that's all.

Submitted by Asemah on Monday, November 6, 2017

Hello there

Why don’t you try re-setting up your Face ID you might not have calibrated it right.
It’s meant to be faster than Touch ID.

Submitted by Eileen😷 on Monday, November 6, 2017

Hey Special K,

Don't give up too soon, as the machine learning used by Face ID should mean that it gets better over time.

In the meantime, make sure not to be holding the iPhone too close to your face, and also make sure to hold it so that it's looking straight back at you.

Hopefully this should bump you well above 60%.

Good luck!

Submitted by Elena Brescacin on Monday, November 6, 2017

I have pre-ordered my iPhone X and am waiting for it; my boyfriend wanted it too, but he has some doubts.
He has a movement impairment, so his left hand is permanently compromised, with no sensitivity, he can only use his right hand.
Currently he has an iPhone 7 plus and uses it with no trouble, but we were wondering if he can use estures, especially the ones dedicated to home button, control center, notification center, and app switcher.
If you place the phone on a flat surface you may be able to do it, but his doubt is related to mobility, when you have no flat surface to deal with; maybe he's standing and cannot place his phone anywhere, he's afraid not to be able to swipe upwards or downwards with fingers
let me know

Submitted by Special K on Monday, November 6, 2017

In reply to by Eileen😷

I've reenrolled my face several times, all with the same end result. Maybe I'm just a moron with a camera, but I can tell you I'm holding the thing right. Giving up is not an option though! I shall overcome!

Submitted by Tree on Monday, November 6, 2017

Hi David. Thanks for the great review. I have the same question as Elena Brescacin, although my question does not come from an essential need, just a need for efficiency. Would you say that the new sliding gestures that are used for going home etc. result in the iPhone 10 no longer being a one handed device? I use my phone one handed most of the time, even as I'm walking around. I would think this is the case for most blind people, at least while on the go, since most of us use canes or guide dogs, both of which leave us with only one hand to use the phone. With iPhones that have home buttons there are not really any essential gestures that require me to use two hands. From how I understand the new go home gesture, it seems like it would be very hard to do with one hand. Do you find it easy to slide up with the thumb of the hand that is holding the phone? If you can't even efficiently go home with one hand, I would think using the phone one handed is over.

It sounds like face ID works better then I thought it would. If only Apple kept the head phone jack I would not have to strongly consider getting an Android device whenever my 6 s dies.

Submitted by David Goodwin👨‍🦯 on Monday, November 6, 2017

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

In reply to by Tree

Hi Tree,

I typically use the iPhone one-handed.

There is zero problem using the Home and App Switcher gestures. Arguably, they are actually easier than with the Home button, as they don't require the same force as clicking, so you can hold the phone more loosely.

As for the new gesture that has you sliding down from the top edge of the phone to trigger the Control Center and Cover Sheet, that can be a bit of a stretch and may beed a slight adjustment in your grip.

However, this is still an improvement, as there is no way that you are performing a 3-finger swipe up or down on the Status Bar one-handed :)

So, I would say that the iPhone X is probably easier to use one-handed than other models.

I would be interested in hearing if others agree. Anybody?

Submitted by Tree on Monday, November 6, 2017

In reply to by David Goodwin👨‍🦯

Thank you for the reply David. It sounds like Apple has been able to remove the home button without serious drawbacks. Yes I agree that three and four finger gestures are not really for one hand use, even two finger gestures such as the magic tap, are hard one handed; I find most of these gestures to not be essential, so one handed use can normally be used for most tasks.

Well if Apple ever puts a headphone jack in a new phone I will stick with the iPhone for sure; iOS is a really good platform overall.

Submitted by Dave Nason on Monday, November 6, 2017

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Yes I agree with David. The Home and app switcher gestures are at least as easy to perform. If anything I prefer them. I do struggle a bit to do the Control centre and particularly the notification centre ones with my thumb, but still better than the three finger method.
On Tree’s other point, I’m afraid I think ur chances of ever getting a new iPhone with a 3.5mm headphone jack is somewhere between slim and none.

Submitted by Dave Nason on Monday, November 6, 2017

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

@SpecialK you are not alone. I too am not as yet fully convinced by FaceID. My podcast was fairly positive though was recorded on the first day so was too soon to say. my success rate is not as low as 60%, but nor is it as high as with TouchID, which almost never failed me. When it works it’s great, but it seems I too have work to do. On the whole I love the phone though.

Submitted by Special K on Monday, November 6, 2017

Thank you! I'm so glad I'm not alone. I'm up to about 75 percent today, and I do love the phone!

Submitted by charles on Tuesday, November 7, 2017

I'm all for technology. What offends me about Holger's messages is that he always says that people who do not immediately embrace newer technology have a problem and are behind the times, and he states it in a very offensive way. Also, I find it kind of strange that, although you don't get any benefit from the better screen and other enhancements that are great for sighted people, that you will get the more expensive phone just to be using the most up to date device. It sounds like the reason is to, so to speak, "keep up with the Jones's". Wouldn't an 8 plus be a better option for a blind person? In fact, mine arrives tomorrow. I got it because of the wireless charging, faster processor, and more RAM, but for less money.

Submitted by Elena Brescacin on Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Hello, my boyfriend tried the iPhone X this morning, in a shop; he had just some minutes to try, and he did not manage to use it with one hand, he said it is not so simple to use it while walking around, he doesn't feel ready to take this step. I was making fun telling him that, if I said I was not ready for this step 8 years ago, we both were still single today; and he accepted me to allow him to play around with my phone when I have it in my hands in about 2 weeks.
I have some doubts about hard reset gesture, but anyway, experience and tries, make people ready! :)

Submitted by Brian Giles on Tuesday, November 7, 2017

I don't like it. Granted, I only played with it for about 10 minutes in the Apple store, but my initial thought is that I'm not quite ready to give up my home button yet. I just don't like how small the home indicator is. When they say to swipe up from the bottom edge you're not kidding. It's like right above the lightning port. I just couldn't get it. As a totally blind person, I can't understand why people want a bezzelless screen, but they do. I guess it's like how some of us are picky about our speech synth of choice. The sighted person I was with said she didn't like the 10 either and was glad she got an 8 plus. I'll keep my SE thank you, and that's ok.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Wednesday, November 8, 2017

In reply to by charles

Charles Well Charles, I do not control what you think and if you think that way, is your own thought. It is what it is. Change is part of life and I stick to this. Those who do not care for it, do not grow. Can not change your thougts and would not like to do so. If you mind my comment is on you. Take care.

Submitted by David Lai on Wednesday, November 8, 2017

I'm sorry to cause arguments in here, but it's my belief that Charles' words sounds a little on the offensive side. I mean, it's more than just stating ones own opinion or something. With that said, I'm also totally blind, and I use an SE as well. And part of the reason why I still hold on to it is the 3.5mm headphone jack and the home button. But I don't mind reading about the X. I enjoy hearing about how fast the phone is.
It's just my hope that if Apple could still keep the SE product line, so that at least we have another choice. I think Apple will do it.
Take care and have a great day, guys! Once again, a great review!

Submitted by Elena Brescacin on Wednesday, November 8, 2017

I was talking to my boyfriend yesterday and I was wondering if a solution can be found by talking to Apple accessibility or, as a tester, I may suggest an improvement to software:
if you want, or can, you use the swipe gesture from bottom edge; otherwise, you flick around.
I have an example in my hands, it's called Amazon Kindle fire tablet.
This has no home button, and uses the VoiceView screen reader, which is a customized talkback.
Well, this machine is usable by its L-shaped gestures, but also flicking around; if you have only one hand because the other is injured, you can flick and, after the last icons, you find a sort of "dock": Back, Home, and Apps manager - it's a kind of switcher.
The back, is a standard back button which allows you to access previous screen; then Home, takes you to main screen, and Apps manager opens the multitasking.
iOS may do the same, and, as I am a beta-tester with developer program, I will make this proposal as a suggestion, and this option may be toggled by accessibility settings.
I am also planning to verify what happens if Assistive touch is enabled, when I have my iPhone X in hands, I have still to wait some more days.
My boyfriend has purchased an 8 plus at the moment, and I think he's right, for his needs a further step is too much a hazard I do not want him to jump in.
For David Goodwin: maybe we can discuss it together when my phone comes.
Unfortunately my boyfriend does not know English, so I must have some tests performed and then translate feedbacks

Submitted by OldBear on Wednesday, November 8, 2017

That assistive touch feature is pretty cool. It more or less does the gesture for you and you lable what it's called on the menu.
I was thinking also an Odderbox with the belt clip might help if you turned the clip to hold the phone upside down and stuck it on the top of your front pocket or something to hold it. I've done that when I've only had one free hand because I'm carrying something. It might be too much trouble though.

Submitted by Elena Brescacin on Wednesday, November 8, 2017

hello, I know you can save some gestures but this cannot be done with VoiceOver; I am referring to a thing called touch menu, or similar - it is a menu where you can access siri, home, and other funny things

Submitted by Morgan Watkins on Thursday, November 9, 2017

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team


This was a truly excellent review, answering all of my questions regarding how well an iPhone X might work for a VoiceOver user. I learned quite a bit, both times I read it. Thank you very much for all your hard work. Your efforts are much appreciated.

Best wishes,


Submitted by Portia Scott on Thursday, November 9, 2017


I have Hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy, so thanks for answering the questions about using it one handed. I can't wait to go to my nearest T-Mobile store to see if I am able to use it easier than previous iPhone models.

Are the vibrations very strong when using Voiceover? For example, during those times when you are in a very noisy area?

Thank you.

for Portia Scott - you've the same problem of my boyfriend. He is not satisfied by iPhoneX after seeing it in a store, but I am still expecting he would change his mind after trying mine, with all time and situations available; he says vibrations are not so loud, they cannot be properly distinguished in noisy places, such as a bus or so, but I repeat, I have never had one in hand yet, and he saw it in a store.
It would really be very sad if people who could use iphone with home button, now can't use new gestures, as the future is to eliminate that button.

Submitted by charles on Thursday, November 9, 2017

In reply to by Elena Brescacin

Vibrations are to be felt, not heard. Why would he have to hear a vibration?

Submitted by Elena Brescacin on Thursday, November 9, 2017

I think he meant sound feedback associated to vibrations.
When haptics occur on the phone, you also hear an audio feedback, to help you feel comfortable with both sensory and auditory feedback

Submitted by That Blind Canuck on Thursday, November 9, 2017

Most likely like when you purchase something in the iTunes/App Stores or use Apple Pay, you not only feel a vibration, but you also hear a ding sound, and even more, VoiceOver will say "Done", so at least you know in multiple ways that the purchase was successful, which I have to admit is pretty cool and find it much better.

Submitted by Pangeran Satrya Indra Tjahyadi on Friday, November 10, 2017

On my iPhone X I think the BSE is not a function correctly For example, the dots 1, 2, and 3 can not type correctly using 3 fingers. Do you have the same problem?

Submitted by Asemah on Friday, November 10, 2017

Hi guy it’s I just got my iPhone X today. I noticed that my battery indicator is at the top right. Then if you go to the control centre the percentage is displayed.

Why were people saying it’s missing ?

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Friday, November 10, 2017

Hi, was playing with my iPhone 7 the other day and wondering how easy it is to actually interact with items on the very edge of the screen, I mean, it seems to go pretty close anyway. Also, right at the bottom, where the home button is, the way I hold my phone, I think it is a little awkward reaching the bottom corner with my thumb of the hand I'm holding the phone with.

I guess I'm asking, is there much benefit in the greater real-estate on the screen for someone who can't see it at all? I understand for someone with low vision it could be marvellous, but I'm blind, I think the whole thing is fascinating, it's a meeting of technology and the people who use it, both evolving into the new Paradyne.

Submitted by Peter Holdstock on Saturday, November 11, 2017

Hi. I received my iPhone X on Thursday and thought it might be useful to those still considering the hefty purchase to hear what my thoughts are so far. I am completely blind with no light perception and have previously had an iPhone 6s. Firstly regarding face ID. I will start by saying that as of now, I love it! But, it hasn’t been plain sailing from the start. My biggest piece of advice is when setting up face ID, don’t just hold your phone directly in front of you as that is likely not the position in which you use the phone. When I’m using my phone I tend to be looking slightly down to try and look as normal as possible. I’ve now reset my face ID and completed the face scanning in the most natural position I could and I’m finding the accuracy so far seems to be as good as touch ID. But I only made the change an hour ago so will have to see how it goes. The new gestures for accessing the home button at seeming very natural and already I prefer them to the home button although I do occasionally try to press the home button again. I’m certainly not having any problems reaching the top of the screen to activate the Control Panel but I think that will depend on how someone holds their phone naturally as reaching up to the top of the phone is a stretch. The best tip I can give for learning the gestures is to enable the voice-over sound effects. Ive always previously turned these off but after the set up had finished, I seem to struggle with completing the home button gestures on my new phone. but Once the voice-over sound effects are turned on, it becomes very much more obvious as to where you need to start and end the swipe. I can now do it very naturally and I find that face ID is on locked the phone in the time that I have done the gesture. I do you like the size of the iPhone X. I was a little worried it might be too big but I’m finding it’s it’s more comfortable in my hand than the iPhone 6s did. I think this is partly due to the extra weight of the phone and because the phone is longer, it sits in my hand in such a way that it doesn’t feel like it wants to slide off as easily. The screen is very responsive and sighted people tell me that it looks as though the screen content is painted on rather than under the glass itself. I feel the extra screen size makes it much easier to do voice-over gestures and I put my hand on the screen much more confident way to do the multiple finger gestures. I won’t comment on battery life as I feel it would be on fair as the phone was still being set up and updated since I’ve had it and I’ve probably not used it in iOS natural way while I get used to the new features. I don’t feel that typing using the on-screen keyboard is much different to my iPhone 6s and I find it quite comfortable although the keyboard is in quite at the bottom of the screen so sometimes feeling for the can involve a slight repositioning of my finger “. I’m definitely pleased I purchased this firm and wouldn’t want to change it.

Submitted by Elena Brescacin on Monday, November 20, 2017

Hi, finally it has come at my house.
And it's 3 days I'm playing around, I already restored iCloud backup, I reinstalled developer profile and testing versions as I am a tester, and it works perfect.
I have figured out with swipe gestures, for myself, also with one hand I can use it while moving, and walking around. But my boyfriend has lots of difficulties, so he is not going to buy one; I'll make him try it again and again, also with swipe gestures and practice mode, as they work as such, without moving anything; it's the mode activated by double-tap with 4 fingers.
But I discovered that with O6 wheel, you can emulate Home and app switcher buttons, like you have a real physical home button together and it can be very useful for vsually + motor impairments (partial motor impairment, because for important injuries there are hardware switches).

And what about FaceID?
I had to deactivate every function related to eyes, because my eyes are still my own, but they are dead - i am blind by birth.
I also tried a crazy scenario and discovered my phone is still safe.
The scenario is:
- phone standing on lightning dock
- person coming next to me and taking the phone away from my desk
- person pointing phone towards my face. It unlocks.
When person has got the phone in his hands, and turned around to walk away from me ... phone locked.
Of course it was a pretended situation, but I really noticed it's sufficient to tilt phone some degrees from completely flat, and it locks.
I must check every setting and create scenarios, in order to have of course not 100% security, but a safer platform

Submitted by DrummerGuy on Monday, November 20, 2017

I am also using my iPhone 10 and I must say that I love it. After having played with it for a little more than a week, I can say that I would never go back to a previous model because this iPhone works wonderfully. Face ID works excellent. I am blind from birth and have no control over the movement of my eyes. I was not concerned about Face ID not working and I was very happy to see that I was not wrong. It just works fantastically. I really love my iPhone X.

Submitted by Nicholas on Thursday, November 30, 2017

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Hi David,
What a great review! And a nice catch on the 'glance at' feature. I won't be upgrading any time soon, but I learned a lot from your post.
One thing I wonder about, though I am sure Apple probably did some research on this. I have a progressive eye disease "RP" and was recently re-diagnosed with LCA. I am extremely light sensitive as well, to the point of retinal damage and migraines. Not to belabor the point, but I have always been told by retinal specialists to guard my eyes from adverse lighting and infrared, ultra-violet and blue spectrum lighting because it is the worst on the retina. I am sure Apple had some consulting on this, but it makes me wonder. I have been using specially filtered glasses that only allow one percent of visible light through, and the same for ultra-violet, infrared and block all blue spectrum. Got them from the NoIR-medical website. The glasses work great, but I can't help wonder how the facial stuff would respond to these glasses. Taking them off may not be a wise choice for me.
Anyway, this is a great blog post! I learned about the tech that is coming in any future phone I may get. Really nice! Thanks for the thorough review.

Submitted by OldBear on Thursday, November 30, 2017

Elena Brescacin, I now have a device like the one you brought up in reference to the on-screen Back, Home and App switcher buttons. That would definitely be useful for people who only have the use of one hand. I don't know that Apple would make that option available in the accessibility settings though.
I came really close to losing my fingers in a saw accident a while back. I'm OK, but it makes you think a lot about managing devices with one hand...

Submitted by Asemah on Thursday, November 30, 2017

Hello Nicholas
I have a rare condition with poorly eyes which one of them is basically sealed with growths.

Face ID works just fine with me though. I think it picks up other facial features. So it should still work for you.

Also it’s meant to work if you wear sun glasses , change your hair style etc so I don’t see why it shouldn’t work.

Submitted by Bridgette1977 on Thursday, December 7, 2017

In reply to by David Goodwin👨‍🦯

In regards to the awareness feature, I disabled the accessibility setting myself, and have awareness turned on, and am having no issues getting it to recognize my face, and I have prosthetics in both of my eyes. I would recommend anyone giving it a go. I just wanted to let everyone know that from a total blindness prospective, it isn't bad at all. Plus having awareness turned on, gives you better security. Personally, I love this phone. I don't miss my old one, one, single, bit!

Submitted by Justin on Sunday, January 28, 2018

So, I'll be getting the iPhone X tomorrow hopefully.
One thing nobody talked about yet is the accidental emergency SOS activation. Be aware, that if you don't go into settings>emergency SOS and turn off the automatically call emergency services on your iPhone 8 or newer, the siren sound will go off, and you'll only have 3 seconds or so to turn it off before it calls emergency services. Deactivate it in settings before even thinking of trying to turn off your iPhone by holding side and either volume buttons. Once deactivated in settings, you can still envoke emergency calling, but it's done manually and there's a slide to power off button in that menu.
Just lettin y'all know, it's on the 9 to 5 mac site, just type into your fav search engine how to disable emergency SOS calling on iPhone X and you'll be good to go!
Cheers and happy sunday!

Submitted by Craig D on Monday, August 13, 2018

Thanks for all the effort you put in to this review!
I am new to the iPhone 10 and loving it!
One question I have is how to refresh the ram.
On my iPhone seven from the home screen I would press and hold the power button until the shutdown screen came up and then press and hold the home button and it would go back to the home screen when the reset was complete. I can’t figure out how to do this on the 10. Any words of wisdom?

Submitted by kool_turk on Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Someone told me that isn't possible on the x.

Apparently he called apple and asked, yet I've read somewhere that if you use the assistive touch features you can do it that way.

I shouldn't have to use assistive touch just to clear the cache.

There's got to be a way.

Submitted by kool_turk on Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A bit of googling tells me you can clear the memory on an iPhone X by using assistive touch.

Apparently there's suppose to be a virtual home button on the screen, now the question is, how would a voiceover user do this.

I've been trying to do this on my 6S, but haven't had any luck.

Turning on assistive touch is easy enough, just ask Siri, it's finding the home button on the screen that's the problem.

Submitted by Kerby on Wednesday, August 15, 2018

You hold the side button for Siri.

Submitted by JC on Saturday, December 21, 2019

after reading the review, it has come to my conclusion that I will be switching to the iphone 8. it still includes the home button, touch ID, and I much rather prefer to use VoiceOver with the home button rather than relying on gestures all the time.

Submitted by Ahmed on Sunday, December 22, 2019

In reply to by Dave Nason

I completely agree

Submitted by Ahmed on Sunday, December 22, 2019

In reply to by Nicholas

FaceID requires the user to be paying attention which means your glasses must be off because the phone has to detect your face

Submitted by Jeff on Sunday, December 22, 2019

Face ID definitely does not require one to remove glasses. My wife, who wears glasses, set up Face ID without her glasses, but unlocks both her iPhone 11 Pro Max and her iPad Pro without removing her glasses. Face ID is specifically designed for this.

Submitted by Ahmed on Saturday, February 15, 2020

In reply to by Tree

Tree The IphoneX series and 11 series are two handed devices do to their sizes meaning their physically larger.