My boyfriend recently traded his iPhone 7 in for an iPhone X, having been enticed by a deal from Verizon, and it went exactly as I predicted: He became utterly frustrated with Face ID, and yet inexplicably unwilling to switch back.
I had already written off getting one for myself, having seen a similar thing happen with friends and family. Initial excitement inevitably turned into irritation – because of Face ID or another ‘update’ that seemed like a step in the wrong direction – and that irritation turned into resentment that they now had to pay off an exorbitant bill. Then came acceptance … or submission, perhaps.
So, I decided to use an iPhone for a few weeks, and then switch back to my iPhone 7, just to see what it was about the iPhone X that reels people in so much that, even if their experience turns sour, they have trouble going back to their old iPhone.
Here are my retrospective thoughts on the iPhone X, the smartphone people have trouble giving up on, despite its more frustrating features:
Let’s start with the obvious: The camera could sway me. I knew what the specs were going into it, but it took a weekend with beautiful weather to convince me how much better (and more fun) the iPhone X’s camera is than the iPhone 7’s.
At first I attributed the entire iPhone X loyalty anomaly to the camera alone, but my boyfriend – whose photo roll has more work receipts than landscapes – got me thinking that there’s probably more to it than the portrait-mode capability and a dual-lens camera.
The screen size and the slim bezels make the display really beautiful. Going back to my iPhone 7, I found myself holding the phone just a little closer to my face when I was emailing or reading, and the colours were less brilliant.
My eyes were able to adjust to this after a day or two, but right off the bat it was a noticeable difference – enough to deter someone trying their old iPhone after using the iPhone X for some time.
My favourite feature, which actually involves Face ID, was its ability to reveal notifications for my eyes only. On the iPhone X, “Show Previews When Unlocked” means the notification appears sans preview, and then reveals it when you unlock the screen with your face — no hands necessary.
This meant my messages were safe from wandering eyes, but I didn’t have to use my hands if I got a notification while my hands were busy – this was especially helpful while I was cooking.
A smaller, but still significant, draw is that you can tap the screen to turn it on, AKA Tap to Wake. It’s another incredibly helpful feature for when you’re real-life multitasking.
When I was sitting at my desk, at the gym, or in the kitchen, tapping to turn on the phone was perfect. It got mildly annoying when I wasn’t trying to turn it on though, like when I went to the movies and the screen accidentally lit up because I moved the phone with my fingertips. I shut my phone off after that, having been caught red-handed.
While I had it — and for a few days after — I found I was willing to deal with the iPhone X’s utility flaws, for the can-live-without features I really liked. For me, those features were the camera, the display, and the fact that I didn’t have to hold my phone to ‘use’ it.
For my boyfriend, the reasons were similar. As expected, the camera didn’t come up once, but he did unintentionally bring up another good point.
Apple says the battery on the iPhone X lasts two hours more than the iPhone 7, but its talk time is the same as the iPhone 7 Plus, and the internet use, video playback, and audio playback hours are all comparable.
It isn’t even the best battery on Apple’s lineup, and iOS 12’s performance boosting feature is going to make the already small difference between the battery on my iPhone 7 and the iPhone X even more marginal.
A drastically better battery just seems like a more necessary feature than, say, Face ID, and probably one I would upgrade for without looking back.
So Apple wooed me with the iPhone X’s shiny bells and whistles, sure, but after a few days’ adjustment, I was able to go back to my iPhone 7 just fine.
Some of the features I didn’t like were the ‘updated’ multitasking gestures that felt less intuitive than the ones on my iPhone 7 (e.g. 3D Touch to exit an app instead of swiping up to exit), and Face ID, which is great in theory but failed me often. The features I did like freed my hands to do more real-life multitasking, and they were tough to live without for a few days after.