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iPhone X one month later: The best phone of the year?

by Brandon Russell | December 13, 2017December 13, 2017 12:00 pm PST

Apple’s iPhone X has been this year’s most talked about smartphone, full stop. It was a major topic of discussion as far back as January and it continues to dominate headlines, for reasons both good and bad. After using the device for a solid month, does it deserve the praise (and scorn) that’s been heaped upon it since launch?

Notch to meet you

When we talk about the iPhone X, we talk about the all-glass design, edge-to-edge display and, of course, the controversial notch. It’s been called an “odd design choice,” made fun of in a national ad campaign, and ignored by users through clever workarounds. Whatever your feelings about the notch, Apple has fully embraced the design quirk by making it one of its defining features.

In truth, the notch just kind of disappears the longer you use the iPhone X—something a growing number of people agree with. It’s alarmingly noticeable at first; it cuts into video and photos, like a part of the display has been scooped out.

But as you get comfortable with the device, you won’t even notice it’s there. At least, I haven’t run into a single instance where the notch has severely detracted from the experience, especially now that apps have been updated. Would I prefer it wasn’t there? Sure. But I rarely stop to even acknowledge it’s there, as if it doesn’t even exist.

Taking an informal poll among iPhone X owners in our office (there are several), the sentiment is shared. There’s no arguing it’s initially distracting, but once you stop actively looking for it, it’s business as usual.

I see you

The notch’s whole purpose for existing is to house Apple’s TrueDepth camera system, which enables Face ID. I had my doubts, but the new biometric option works fantastically well, even at odd angles. Since I began using it, I haven’t found myself missing Touch ID. For that matter, I don’t mind there being no home button either.

No doubt, the lack of a home button took a while to get used to; it’s been a staple of Apple’s mobile lineup since the original iPhone launched in 2007. Like I said in our iPhone X review, using an iPhone with a home button has become second nature.

After a month of acclimatizing to the iPhone X’s expansive display, and then going back to a physical home button, the older experience seemed archaic. The arrival of gestures surfaces so many more opportunities of navigation. I especially enjoy quickly swiping between apps. It’s a surprisingly natural, immersive experience.

But by no means is it perfect. Swiping down from the top right corner to access Control Center is absurd, and there’s a lot of wasted space in iOS 11. Accessing multi-tasking is also a bit tricky. If I had to choose between gestures and a mechanical button, though, I’d choose gestures every time.

Apple’s year of bugs

Speaking of, the software has been the iPhone X’s biggest disappointment thus far. And I don’t mean because it’s still as inflexible as it was in 2007; iOS 11 has been sluggish and full of bugs, which you don’t typically associate with Apple software. One bug even forced Apple to introduce a major software release early.

It has also taken Apple months to implement Apple Pay Cash, and Messages in iCloud is still nowhere to be found. It also took a software update in order for the device to support faster wireless charging. Seemingly simple things—at least by Apple standards—have felt unpolished and prone to hiccups.

While my next point isn’t exclusive to the iPhone X, it’s something Apple needs to change: the app grid layout is so boring and stale it makes waiting at the DMV feel exciting. Android’s flexibility is far superior—oh how I’d love for Apple to let me put app icons wherever I want.

Something must also be done to the way iOS handles notifications. Once again, Android’s implementation is far superior, making Apple’s ideas feel laughably outdated. I’m not expecting Apple to make wholesale changes to iOS, but it’s becoming clearer and clearer that Android offers a richer mobile experience.

The current build of iOS ultimately holds the iPhone X experience back.

The best, most complete iPhone

Having upgraded from an iPhone 7, I don’t regret my decision. There are inherent risks with the iPhone X that simply didn’t exist with my previous device, like the iPhone X’s more delicate design and the higher cost to fix it. Colleagues in my office have also noticed the iPhone X’s glass is easy to scratch (something I have yet to encounter).

Overall, however, I’m still happy with Apple’s new flagship. I’ve used over a dozen smartphones this year, from the Galaxy S8 to the Pixel 2, and no other device has been this fun to use—and that excitement has yet to wear off. Which is saying a lot considering how excellent smartphones have been this year.

I still haven’t decided if the iPhone X is the best smartphone of the year. We’ll make a decision before the year is up. For now, I can confidently say the iPhone X feels like the future and more than lives up to the hype—even a month after release.


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...

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