The Breakthrough Internet Communications Device Turns X
X years ago in 2007, Steve Jobs stood on stage at Macworld and introduced a new product that he described as being three products in one.
- A wide-screen iPod with touch controls
- A revolutionary mobile phone
- A breakthrough internet-communication device.
Of course, I knew what the first two were, who hadn’t heard of an iPod or a mobile phone? But at the time, I didn’t understand what the third one meant. Today, the first two product descriptions only have minor significance. These days, the iPod (now simply Music) and the Phone are just apps. Being even more honest, referring to the most recent iteration of this technology as a phone is rooted more in nostalgia than logic. Calling the iPhone X a phone makes almost as much sense as calling it a calculator. Phone stuff and calculator stuff are things it can do, but I’d bet that the Phone app wouldn’t even come in third among the most used apps on your device. It certainly wouldn’t on mine.
Ten years ago, when I got my first iPhone, I would show it off to non-geeky friends and family. They would often be timid at first and I would encourage them to tap around and explore. I would say “If you get stuck, just tap The Button.” The Home button was such a prominent part of the hardware UX-wise, that although the original iPhone contained 4 buttons and a switch, every single person knew which button I meant without me having to gesture towards it or point it out in any way. The one looking right at you. The one that transported you back to where you started. I watched children figure it out without instructions, as well as retired grandparents who lived most of their lives without technology. It was intuitive. Last year’s flagship iPhone marked the beginning of the end of The Button. Technically it was gone, but we got a placebo. It looked like a button and it felt like a button and through the magic of haptics, our brains told us we were touching a button — but it was gone. This year, the band-aid has been ripped off. The Button is gone gone and there is no placebo. There is just screen.
Oh yeah, now what?
The first time I was in an app on the iPhone X and wanted to return home, I tapped the Home button. Or rather, where the Home button has been for the last decade. My brain was instantly alerted that this subconscious process had failed and responded with “oh, yeah”. And then immediately after “now what?” I’ve been following the iPhone X since it was just a rumor and seen every review video I could find. I knew the button wasn’t there. I knew about the gestures that replaced it, but still, in that moment for a fraction of a second, I didn’t know what to do. Removing the button is good. It’s an overall win, and I would never suggest going back to a button. But after two days, I still miss it. Sometimes I’ll reach for it in the dark only to met with smooth glass, and think the phone is upside down. Turn it around. Be met with smooth glass yet again, and only then remember “oh, yeah.” I have no doubts the missing will fade, but as of this moment I still miss it.
It Knows Me
The iPhone X knows my voice and it knows my face. I’m not saying it knows what I look like (although I think many of us have become too jaded to acknowledge that even it were to simply recognize me in a photo, that it would be borderline magic). It knows my face. That is really cool and brings back the ability to slide to unlock (albeit a swipe up instead of a slide right), but with authentication. Face ID and Touch ID have slightly different flows though, which I adjusted to quickly. For example, when using Apple Pay I used to authenticate while touching my phone to the reader. With Face ID it’s a smoother experience if you authenticate with your face first, then place the phone near the reader. I also noticed that Face ID can be toggled on or off per app in Settings. I don’t recall this being an option for Touch ID.
Slower than Touch ID?
I’m not sure. Sometimes it seems faster, sometimes it feels a bit slower. In the slow times it rewards me with this sweet animation that reminds me of Lynda Carter turning into Wonder Woman. Even when it’s slow it’s pretty fast.
What About the Notch?
What notch? This surprises me because I still think the notch looks out of place in screenshots and promo materials, but when using the phone it’s really not noticeable. I never think about it until I see promo shots. I do tap the notch to scroll to the top of pages, but mostly out of habit. Tapping on either side of notch also does this. Oh, almost forgot. Because of the notch, there’s no room to show battery percentage now. To see the battery percentage you have to swipe down on the right side of the notch and bring up Control Center. I do not like this, but I get it.
Animoji are a gimmick… and fun as hell. Last week, I was thinking of making some karaoke Animoji videos when I got my phone. Clearly this was not a unique idea because by the time my phone arrived on launch day, Animoji Karaoke was already a thing and growing fast. There were so many videos that I didn’t realize making the karaoke ones isn’t exactly straight forward. If you’re playing music on your phone, launching the Animoji iMessage app stops the music. I also didn’t realize that there is a recording time limit of about 10 seconds. I definitely think there is some room here for third-party developers to improve the experience and make it dedicated to recording karaoke vids. Even without karaoke though, these are super fun and one of the best parts of the iPhone X.
Much of the Home button functionality has been replaced with gestures and often you can use more than one gesture to get the desired result. There is so much to using the new gestures that I could write a blog post just on that.
Is it Worth it?
There is so much more that I could talk about with the iPhone X, but I’m going to keep playing with it and maybe write more later. Feel free to hit me up with questions on Twitter. I didn’t even get to the camera, which is stunning. Also, a question I get asked a lot is, “is it worth $1,000?” This is the best iPhone Apple has ever made by far. The fastest. The best looking. The most fun. Everything is polished and smooth and is a fantastic blend of art and technology. But no one can really answer if it’s worth $1,000 to you. It’s like asking if you should have dessert. If you’re trying to talk yourself out of it, there are plenty of reasons not to buy it. However, I like dessert. I’m having mine, and I have no regrets.