iPhone X test drive: FaceID works flawlessly, photos look better than ever

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      My family was lucky to be able to vacation in Hawaii during the winter break, and I was doubly lucky to get a chance to test drive an Apple iPhone X while we were there.


      Much of the functionality of the iPhone X is shared with the iPhone 8 Plus, which I've been using—and loving—since it was released last fall.


      But there are a few things that are unique to the iPhone X and they are why Apple has been calling it the "future of iPhone".


      Flawless FaceID and fun animojis


      The big difference is the facial-recognition functionality, and on the iPhone X it features most prominently with FaceID, which is how you unlock the handset. All I had to do was raise the phone in front of me and it would activate. For me, it was foolproof. It worked in the bright sun on the beach and in the darkened cabin of an airplane. It even worked when I was hands-free in the car driving down the Kona coast, when I was sitting back a few feet from the screen.


      I tried sending a few animoji messages, which are animated emojis in fun cartoon characters you can send through Apple Messenger. You can use your facial features to make the emoji character more animated, and it records your voice to send an audio message. The effect for the recipient is of a cartoon character delivering them a message.


      It's cute and somewhat kitschy, but it's easy. And fun.


      The other thing that the existence of facial recognition supports is the removal of the Home button that has been ubiquitous on the bottom of the iPhones before now. I adjusted quickly to its absence; swiping up on the screen takes you back to the home screen now. I have not yet adjusted, however, to being able to call up the quick menu by double-clicking on the Home button. With the iPhone X, I had to swipe up from the bottom of the screen and pause, which brought up the app switcher. 


      Improved photos, better screen 


      The other iPhone X feature that I was able to use while in Hawaii was the new portrait lighting. I took some amazing photos of family with the iPhone X against the backdrops of dramatic lava flows, ocean surf, and palm trees. From my experience, the iPhone X took better photos and video than any iPhone I've used before.


      iphone X photo taken in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
      Blaine Kyllo


      The other thing with the iPhone X that I liked was the size of the device. I've become accustomed to the larger screen on the "plus" versions of the iPhone since the iPhone 6 Plus. I'm less happy with the size of those devices, which require me to use two hands.


      The bezel-free design of the iPhone X, though, means that I get almost as much screen real estate as the iPhone 8 Plus but in a device that is closer to the size of the iPhone 8. The X fits in my hand—and feels like it belongs there—the same way that earlier iPhone models did.


      The new screen for the new iPhone is OLED, which provides clarity of resolution as well as rich colour. 


      The thing you'll have to get used to is the "notch", which is a small area at the top of the handset where the camera and facial recognition sensors are placed. The existence of the notch is a tradeoff for not having a bezel. It will annoy some and be irrelevant to others. I found that it was helpful for me to orient the handset, something that the Home button has always done for me in the past.


      I think it's fair for Apple to call the iPhone X the future of the device. I expect there are some tweaks and iterations that will be made to make future iPhones even better. I can't imagine Apple is happy with the notch, for example, and are trying to figure out how they can get rid of it.


      I'll say this: I was asked to return the iPhone X after using it for two weeks. My experience using it was pleasing enough that I did so reluctantly. And I've had to relearn a couple of things since going back to the iPhone 8 Plus; I didn't even realize how quickly I'd adapted to the iPhone X. 


      More future, please. I like it.