Sometimes a product comes along and changes everything.
A single product has the potential to change the world; not on its own, but through its influence. iPhone is that product for my generation. iPhone completely changed what a computer can be, what mobility can be, what communication can be. Of course, the 2007 product was slow, limited in capabilities, and didn’t even have a third party app store - yet it changed the world.
iPhone showed the world that a handheld device can have real communication to the internet, can have a large touch screen, can do all you dream it can do - as long as you make the software. Before iPhone, mobile handsets were profoundly advanced, but only through a myopic view of what mobile technology could be. They all had crummy little screens, physical keyboards, and a set of predefined features when they shipped. They could technically connect to the internet. They could technically send emails. They could technically send text messages, but couldn’t do much beyond that.
Today - all phones have touch screens. All phones have access to millions of applications. All phones have INCREDIBLE cameras, video, audio, unlimited communication potential. iPhone is directly responsible for Uber, Instagram, Square, SnapChat, Periscope, and many many others. Today we live in a world where everything is accessible to our fingertips wherever we are in the world. All because of iPhone.
iPhone was the beginning of a revolution. iPhone X is its realization.
Every iPhone Apple makes is always the best iPhone ever made. Every iPhone I buy (and I’ve owned quite a few) is always the best iPhone I’ve ever owned. iPhone X though, is something special. The experience of using iPhone X is fundamentally different than every one that preceded it; it breaks all the rules on how an iPhone should work, and is very much the better for it.
I typically buy the new flagship iPhone every year, like clockwork. The only series I didn’t have was the 6S. Every year I watch Apple’s keynote, get excited about the new changes coming to that year’s phone, then inevitably buy it. Through small methodical advancements Apple builds up the platform, always pushing things forward and building on their past achievements. Retina display, Siri, TouchID - each seemed like a small leap, but they all pushed iPhone forward, pushed the industry forward.
With so many phones over so many years, every new iPhone started to feel almost pedestrian to me. The new iPhone was always better, but deep down it was really the same as last year’s phone. New iPhones started to feel - boring. iPhone X is different. For the first time in years I was beyond excited. iPhone X is different, not for the sake of being different, but because major changes are needed to reinvent what iPhone can be.
For ten years the defining characteristics of an iPhone were its display, and home button. iPhone X completely eschews the home button - the primary physical interface of the device. With the display now the solitary input, Apple added intuitive gestures to control navigation. A swipe up from the bottom of the display goes home. A swipe up, followed by a pause gets multitasking. A swipe down from the top left gets Notification Center, top left gets Control Center.
These gestures make iPhone X feel alive, in motion, attentive to its user in a way iPhone hasn’t felt in years - not since the IDEA of a touch screen phone was still a novel concept. I won’t deny that I found the first day or two a bit difficult. I would reach down to find the home button that simply wasn’t there - but as I used iPhone X I quite simply forgot about the home button. The gesture system is so effortless, so easy, so responsive that it’s easy to adapt to it very quickly. The gesture system is absolutely and fundamentally BETTER than a home button. It feels as though X is what iPhone was designed to be all along - that the home button was a mere stopgap until the technology caught up with Apple’s vision.
With iPhone X Apple did away with another important feature: TouchID. Instead, iPhone X relies on FaceID for authentication. Just a few years ago most people didn’t even have a passcode, let alone biometrics. TouchID was the system that finally made security easy. It wasn’t necessary to type in a passcode anymore; simply lay your finger down, and you’re in your phone. FaceID makes security even easier, it achieves what TouchID never could: ambient authentication.
With ambient authentication, all biometrics are automatic. The device does all the work without you ever thinking about it. I never think about authenticating when I open iPhone X, I simply wake the screen (by tapping it), then swipe up - FaceID does the rest. As soon as the display is on FaceID begins is authentication process. The process is incredibly fast, by the time I’ve finished swiping up, FaceID has already authenticated me. It’s like having no passcode on my device at all. FaceID is effortless, by contrast TouchID felt like so much work.
TouchID ratcheted security forward across the entire phone, not just unlocking. TouchID is what enabled SO MANY apps to begin using biometrics too. On my phone I have many apps that need biometrics to open - Outlook, LastPass, Capital One, Wells Fargo, LastPass Authenticator, and more. While TouchID enabled these security advancements, it also created a a modal method to authentication. Any time I wanted to open one of these apps I needed to take my finger off the screen, put it on the TouchID sensor, then wait for authentication. With FaceID I simply open the app, and FaceID ambiently authenticates me. This doesn’t sound like a drastic change, but the experience is magical. It’s security that ‘just works’ in a way it never has before.
Ambient authentication allows security to be ratcheted for even small things, all without a user noticing. By default, when iPhone X’s display is turned on (by merely touching it), any notifications on the lock screen are generic, showing only what app the notification is from. Any passerby who grabs your iPhone X has no way of knowing what the notifications are. When you grab your phone, FaceID automatically sees you, authenticates you, then shows you the full notification. This sort of security was possible on older phones, wasn’t nearly as effortless to achieve.
FaceID has also proven to be more reliable, and less prone to false negatives than TouchID. Because of its neural framework, you can train FaceID to recognize you in almost all circumstances. It’s very rare that I get a false negative with FaceID - maybe once or twice a day. I used to get false negatives 10 or 15 times a day with TouchID - either due to mispositioning my finger, sweaty fingers, and the like.
In a word, iPhone X’s display is: stunning.
I remember taking it out of the box and remarking (while laughing) that “It’s just…it’s just all screen.” Apple’s chief designer Jony Ive has long said that one of Apple’s goals is to make the technology ‘disappear’. With its all-screen design, Apple has achieved this goal in a way no preceding Apple product has. There are no large bezels, no buttons to distract, there is just simply: the display. Everything else falls into the background. The content you want to see is right there, front and center.
It’s difficult to imagine what the experience is like when just looking at pictures of iPhone X; it’s as if I’m just holding a magical window. A portal to another world, a portal you can fall into and immerse yourself in. It’s huge, and beautiful, and blends into the design of the phone. The display’s rounded make it feel more organic, as if the display is bending the phone into it, as opposed to the phone allowing the display to rest on top of it. With iPhone X, the device really is just all screen. It’s just a rectangle with rounded corners in the best possible way.
I’ve had iPhone X for two months now. I can conclusively say that it’s the best iPhone Apple has ever made, and the best one I’ve ever owned. It’s fast, it’s fluid, it’s fun, it’s whimsical. The entire phone feels more responsive, easier to use. It feels - personal. It feels like magic.
iPhone X doesn’t feel like this year’s flagship phone, let alone next year’s. iPhone X is like something out of a time machine. Some representation of what a phone might be like in 5 years, yet it’s here today. It’s iPhone reimagined in the best way possible. I can’t fathom what Apple might do next.
Typed on RedScarf II+ Ver.D