What the hell happened to Apple with the iPhone X?

It was barely yesterday when Apple took to stage at their new Steve Jobs Theatre at Apple Park, to announce, amongst others, the iPhone X. The iPhone X, and that’s TEN, NOT ex, brings with it the first true design change made to Apple’s iPhone models, honestly since their very first one, but with it comes more than a number of caveats, and that’s being very kind.

The very first iPhone, which kicked things off in 2007

When Apple announced, to the world, the iPhone back in January 2007, over ten years ago, it was incredible. Existing technology available in all Smartphones at the time, whether that be from RIM (now Blackberry), Palm, Nokia etc, just looked pitiful in comparison, this was the future of the Smartphone, and it has been very successfully!

With the advent of the App Store in 2008, the iPhone propelled in popularity, and deservedly too, their literally was nothing that even came remotely close to what Apple had to offer in the Smartphone game, it wasn’t the gold standard, it was the only standard worth paying attention to. Naturally competition responded, or attempted to, but faulted every time.

Of course, 2008 also saw with it the debut of Google’s first ever Smartphone operating system, Android. But even Android took a mere 4 to 5 years to be considered remotely as even catching up to the ease of use of the iPhone, both functionally and usably. We could go on again and again about how the iPhone basically shaped what Android became and is today, but we’ve done that already, what we want to talk about it how the bar which was set is gone, and we honestly don’t know where it’s gone, but we darn wish someone at Apple could find it again.

It began with software

iOS 7 promotion picture from WWDC. Pictured: iPhone 5 running iOS 7 beta.

As you’d expect, the problems start minor, then grow and grow. This was iOS 7, the first, and so far, only, software “re-design” the mobile operating system has received, and with it came a change in how the iOS operating systems looks and changed bits of how it ran. But the problem with iOS 7 wasn’t the features, as it added very useful features which we’re very happy are there, including headline features such as Control Centre, much more usable Multitasking and so much more, we’re not wanting to go back here, the problem is within the execution.

Ever since iOS 7, the iOS operating system is now completely clunky and features a user experience which can only be described as disastrous. Everyday, we guarantee you, you will either face a crash, okay fair enough, but most definitely face graphical glitches, software inconsistency and performance stutters on hardware powerful enough to comfortably run a desktop operating system! It’s inexcusable, and unfortunately with iOS 10 today it’s never been sorted, and with iOS 11 it’s getting worse and worse!

Has it got better since? Well, define better. If better is defined by rubbing yourself in less sharp sandpaper, then sure it has seen its improvements and you can get things done very well, but from where Apple were before, it’s still a distant memory to remember a company who’s attention to detail was throughout the entire experience. This unfortunately has also trickled down to the Mac since Yosemite, the Apple Watch, well anything that’s ran software since the team was transferred from Scott Forstall to Craig Federighi. It’s not even down to how it looks, though just look at the new App Store icon in iOS 11 and it darn might as well be, but it’s mostly performance and execution which have just gone out the window.

Well… switch to Android then right?

Wrong. The problem is, as we mentioned at the start, Android is no where near perfect either, but we’ll at least give you this, it’s suddenly the closest you’re going to get to not only ease of use, which is a surprise, but better execution. BUT it’s not the solution! The real reason Android is better in these scenarios isn’t because it itself has improved them and mastered them, it’s because Apple has slumped to such a low. The problems have been on Android since it’s origin and still remain in clusters, in fact on Android you’re constantly faced with UI changes left, right and centre thanks to OEM skins which only amplify the problem!

The fact of the matter is, it’s not about “well if that’s bad, why don’t you just use this”, that’s not the point, and can never be the point. This isn’t about a company climbing but stopping before they’ve reached where they should be, this is about Apple, a company who had the winning formula and have just completely forgotten who they are, a fact which with the software changes supporting the new iPhone X design, are just laughable and pitifully bad … we’re talking truly and utterly laughable, but we’ll get to that.

Oh…no. Now it’s affected hardware design

iPhone X

This is where things get deadly serious. Gone is the awkward software which gets incredibly irritating, questionable design choices across the board in software, now it’s been turned up to an unrecognised number with the iPhone X.

Naturally, with the iPhone X, the iOS software now has to be made to fit and conform itself to the new design of the hardware. The near 18:9 aspect ratio poses an obvious challenge when it comes to software running correctly, however we’ve seen companies such as Samsung, LG and even smaller companies like Chinese brand Xiaomi, figure out very workable and very decent ways to work with the changes in form factor, but has Apple, oh no.

Now, we aren’t talking about the home screen as, well, nothing really has changed, it just expands upwards a bit, however now you’re faced with a garish notch at the top, which is definitely more than distracting. Don’t get us wrong, just like the Essential Phone after a few days of use, you forget all about it, however, with the iPhone X theres a big massive difference! Whilst the Essential Phone uses software to scale and not obtrude the experience, Apple haven’t.

We’re talking basics here, any App in landscape includes the notch, this includes Safari where your Web content can actually be blocked off. BUT wait, there’s more, even basics such as the Scroll bar in Safari, Apple forgot to update the software for the iPhone X display, which leads to you actually not being able to see the Scroll bar on the middle portion, just look at that, it’s truly pitiful, this is pure amateur hour right here! Sure, this could get fixed over time, but how did this pass R&D, are you kidding me right now!

Chris Pirillo on Twitter shared a pretty interesting screen grab of really how Apple pretty much should have incorporated the iPhone X, not just in terms of Safari like this example, but any App running at any given time! The iPhone X has a fantastic OLED panel, this means black is truly black, which means you can continue to show the status bar in a place never possible on a bezelled Smartphone, but then have a useable visual experience!

Literally everyone we’ve shown the iPhone X to, have complained instantly about the notch. I mean just look at it. Sure don’t get us wrong, its required to be there, if you don’t want an Iris Scanner like the highly flawed Galaxy ones, a powerful front Camera, front Speakers etc, it’s gonna obviously have to be visible, but the trick is you’ve an OLED panel which with software can actually hide the obstruction! And it’s not like purchasing a White version would prevent this, regardless of whether you go Space Grey or Silver, all iPhone X models are black at the front, which means absolutely NO excuse.

The worst thing is, we could actually go on, and on, and on, with every App experience. All we’re going to say is this right now, when the iPhone X arrives in November, just try it out in an Apple Store, launch any App and rotate it landscape. If you don’t cringe, one, you clearly aren’t too fussed about software design but mainly two, you’ll be a rare specimen who’ll be fine or a blind fanboy! This isn’t a debate here, this is pure poor execution at it’s best.

Fast Charging … at a premium!

The iPhone X, and iPhone 8 for that matter, now finally support two charging standards natively, Qi Wireless Charging, which is great, but also the Fast Charging standard. With Fast Charging, you can charge your iPhone to 50% in less than 30 minutes from 0%. However, there’s a slight catch, it’ll cost ya … and quite a lot!

Yes, even if you spend £999+ for your iPhone X, you actually don’t get an included Fast Charging capable charger in the box. The crazy thing about this is, aside from a few, practically ALL flagships released this year, which costed a lot less mind you, came with a Fast Charger in the box, this includes the barely £400 OnePlus devices! So the fact that Apple don’t bother to include it in the box, especially for the price, is quite frankly inexcusable!

Before any of you come back at us and claim, well look at the size of that Charger, that would never fit in to Apple’s packaging, right? Well, for starters, the only Power adapter Apple sell for this job, is easily the largest USB-C charger we’ve actually seen, even if it does support the 29W, 61W and even 87W required to Fast Charge Apple’s latest devices, last for the iPad Pro 10.5.

So, just to overview, to get any kind of Fast Charging on your new iPhone 8, or the 4 figure iPhone X, you will need to pay an additional £74 for a Fast Charger with just a measly 1 metre cable, or an extra £10 for a 2 metre option! That’s pathetic! Don’t get us wrong, we expect third parties to release cheaper options, but the fact is, this capability should be in the box at this price!

Excusable navigation

The iPhone X naturally doesn’t have a Home button, I mean who’d want another notch at the bottom for that! This has naturally led to the abandoning of Touch ID, mainly, because Apple failed to add it in time, but are too proud to put it elsewhere. But, what it has also led to, is a full-on shake up to the navigation of the iOS operating system.

Here’s how you now accomplish navigation on the iPhone X, or at least try to, in the case of a lot of them;

Wake up iPhone X

Typically to wake up an iPhone, you can either Tap the Lock button, which you can still do on iPhone X, but naturally tapping and holding the Home button doesn’t work. Instead tapping the screen, or using Raise to Wake will wake your iPhone, then you swipe up from the bottom. Presuming Face ID has detected you, the iPhone X will unlock.

Go / Return to Home screen

It doesn’t matter where you are, or orientation, the iPhone X has no home button, so to go Home, you now must swipe up from the bottom where the visible black line is at the bottom of the screen. This black line will rotate with you should you enter Landscape, though will hide during video playback.

Enter Multitasking

To enter Multitasking on the iPhone X, gone are the days where you’d double tap the Home button, now you swipe up then to the right, pretty much draw the letter “r” from the bottom to the middle up.

Take a screenshot

Whereas previously taking a screenshot required the Home button and Lock button together, now, according to an asked Apple representative, Lock plus Volume Up will allow a screenshot from being taken.

Manually use Siri

Should you not have “Hey Siri” turned on, or honestly just don’t wish to degrade yourself in public and want to use Siri.

Control Center

Now this is when Navigation gets a bit silly. To access the Control Center, you must swipe down, not up as now as that now will take you Home. However, only swipe down from the top right of the Phone which shows Battery, Wi-Fi and Carrier.

Notification Center

For the most part, Notification Center remains unchanged in terms of accessibility. To access the Notification Center on regular iPhone models, ever since its introduction, you swipe down from the top, and that’s the same on the iPhone X, as long as you swipe down from either the top middle or top left.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay has become a little less seamless. Currently, you simply hold your iPhone to an NFC Contactless Payment device, even if locked, and place your finger on Touch ID and you’re done. Now, you must double tap the Lock button to initiate Apple Pay, before it was automatic, then authenticate with Face ID by looking, and only then can you place your device to the reader to pay.

Fast-switch Apps

This one’s actually a pretty decent bonus which comes with the iPhone X. You may remember the iPad gestures you can use, 4 finger pinch in to close apps and upwards for Multitasking, as well as 4 finger hold left or right to switch Apps seamlessly. Well, on the iPhone X, if you swipe left or right on the line at the bottom, it will switch instantly between Apps.

Turn Off or Restart iPhone

You can’t. We’re not even joking. You can still perform a Forced Restart in the same way as on iPhone 7 with Lock and Volume down held for a number of seconds, but to Turn Off or Restart your iPhone X, you will need to go to Settings, then all the way at the bottom in iOS 11, is a new option for Shut Down and another for Restart.

So, as you can see, even basic Navigation on the iPhone X is, for the most part, going to be more awkward to actually do! Whilst I do think going Home, and Multitasking is a very fair and logical decision how to do, everything else, specifically those requiring Face ID, are more cumbersome than we think they can afford to ever be, before they can straight up replace Touch ID. Because let’s remember, Face ID isn’t an option like Iris Scanning is on Samsung’s last few flagships, it’s mandatory and replaces Fingerprint scanning, so it better be perfect, so let’s get more to that.

Attempting Face ID Demo = “Ho-o-ooh”

iPhone X Face ID FAIL…

PERFECT & JOE

Video provided by Perfect & Joe on YouTube.

Probably the perfect symbol of Apple’s incredible reliance with hardware and software recently, came from the Face ID demo at the very announcement keynote. There’s actually two things that worry us about this, one is obviously that it doesn’t work, but the second is how nervous Craig looks even before trying it, is that a sign of things to come for us all … yikes.

As we briefly mentioned, but it really has to be re-iterated, this is actually replacing both the Home button and Touch ID for many common tasks you do on a daily basis, this thing better actually work. Now, don’t get us wrong, yes this won’t be the same software that comes with the phone you probably get in the post or at the shop, but this late and it doesn’t work at all worries us a lot.

Who knows, maybe we’re completely worrying about nothing and that demo fail is the only one we’ll see, trust me though I doubt it. Also, it’s a lot more annoying when facial recognition fails, than when a Fingerprint scanner fails. You’re in for the fun times with this one.

UPDATE: Apple “claim” the reason for the demo fail was actually not due to the Face ID not working, and that it was a design feature of the iPhone X to require a Passcode after certain set time intervals, in the same way as Touch ID. Instances include more than 4 failed Face ID attempts, or should the device have been restarted.

As much as I’d like to believe that’s the case, it does seem even by Apple’s standards, a tad sloppy to have not checked devices pre-keynote briefing! We’ve never had such issues since the iPhone 5S was announced with Touch ID, so afraid we find it hard to buy that.

Many have suggested that perhaps the iPhone X scans for faces every time it’s awakened, which considering, by default, Raise to Wake, and that, a single tap on the screen, can wake up the iPhone X, by that rate you’ll be continually getting this problem. Of course we don’t know this just yet, but that’s what Apple’s “excuse” tells us.

But, this is the future!!!

If this is the future, then wow do we suddenly want to move back to the past, but remember this, the iPhone X isn’t the future of the Smartphone, more an early beta. But even if we were to read in to everything Apple claims about the iPhone X being the future, this future Smartphone seems to contain quite a lot of things from the past, or at least things that ain’t exactly new;

  • OLED display
  • Bezel-less for the most part design
  • Wireless Charging
  • Fast Charging
  • “Faster” processor, “Better camera”, spec increases basically which are on the 8 too.

Probably the only feature of the iPhone X we’ll grant you for the future technology section is Face ID, and even then it’s only the way it’s allegedly going to work versus what we’ve had before, over the many years of facial recognition. But time will tell whether that’s true to form.

The fact is though, the iPhone X isn’t the future, for one because it’s here in the present, but it also doesn’t feature anything new. Now, we know what you’re thinking, isn’t this just what everyone said 10 years ago about the original iPhone … and yes people did dismiss the original iPhone at first, but that was a time when it literally had no equal, the iPhone X, and the iPhone in general, just isn’t in that kind of market anymore.

Want a Smartphone that has a bezel-less display and implements it better, Galaxy S8 / Note 8 or maybe the new LG V30 are just some of the far better implemented ways of doing that design. Want a Smartphone with Wireless Charging, geez we reviewed a Nokia back in 2012 that had that using the same Qi standard, and that was far from the first too.

You getting where we’re getting at? The fact of the matter is, the iPhone X is mirage marketing.  Now this certainly is nothing new for Apple, that’s their thing, that’s the whole “reality distortion field” everyone goes on about, but this time around is especially true! However, typically despite this, the product alone can go past that, in quality and implementation, but that’s no longer the case.

The increased price of the iPhone X to £999+ is another big area where Apple have used mirage marketing at its best. Most regular consumers will look at Apple’s lineup and automatically think the iPhone X is better than the iPhone 8, based on branding and name alone, despite the fact that they share equals, and in case of the iPhone 8, yes the same old design but, better implementation of software with hardware (at least compared with the X). Even though the iPhone 8 is just as “new” as the iPhone X, Apple have made every iPhone owner upgrading believe that the iPhone X is the “only choice” to get, you’re being tricked deliberately out of money, and for a product which actually has some of the worst software management we’ve seen in a Smartphone in years!

To Summarise

Look, we’re not going to shout at you and go “NO” if you’re actually *still* thinking of getting the iPhone X, and trust us, you will get the fastest benchmarked Smartphone guaranteed for the next 12+ months, with some great Cameras and a likely awesome OLED panel on the display! But what we are getting at here, though, is that you’re a rarity if you can overlook the massive level of failures and oversights Apple have made to get to this point. The fact that this past R&D to shipping, amazes us.

If you are looking to get a new iPhone this year, don’t let any of those Tech sites fool you, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are still awesome Smartphones that were also announced, with the same performance and (for the most part) rear design Yeah they come with the same more familiar front design, but one that still features a Home button with a Fingerprint scanner and works the same way you know and now are used to with iPhones! Why are we suggesting this to you, well it’s pretty easy to see, and we definitely don’t think either, the iPhone X is ready for prime-time, at all, at the moment.

That’s really the note we’re going to leave it on with the iPhone X, it ain’t ready. Never has an iPhone looked and felt more rushed. Sure, the competition is heating up and Apple honestly had to release an iPhone with at least less bezels than before, but in trying to one-up every one else, they’ve gone way down in terms of quality and for the first time in iPhone hardware, fit and finish, led mostly by unoptimised software! Yep, unoptimised software, on an iPhone. Feels like the older days of Android here.

Let us know what you think of the iPhone X.


 

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