It’s been a little over a month since the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus were made available in several countries. Each year, Apple’s handsets usually draw out huge crowds that stand in line for hours, if not days, to get their hands on the latest iPhone.
On iPhone 8 sale day, the excitement was noticeably lesser.
That’s because this year the limelight is being shared by the iPhone X, a $999 smartphone that’s going up for pre-order on the 27th October, and hitting the shelves on 3rd November 2017.
You may be aware of the broad differences between it and the iPhone 8 models — things like the edge-to-edge OLED display, Face ID biometric authentication, and Animojis (those damn Animojis).
There are some other hardware differences Apple talked about, like Optical Image Stabilization on both the rear cameras of the iPhone X. The telephoto lens also a has wider aperture when compared to the iPhone 8 Plus’ secondary lens. This should theoretically translate to comparatively better low-light and zoomed pictures. The front camera of the iPhone X also supports Portrait Mode, thanks to Face ID’s sensor array.
But there are a few more subtle differences between the two that could justify spending those extra hundreds of dollars on an iPhone X. We list the top five reasons why you should buy an iPhone X over an iPhone 8.
You’re probably thinking — why highlight a feature that’s been available on countless Android phones for ages now? Well, Tap to Wake becomes critically important to the iPhone X because of the missing home button. There are times when we have our phones lying on a table next to us, and we just want to check the lockscreen for notifications. On iPhones before the X, a simple press of the home button, which is a lot easier than pressing the power button to the side, would light the screen up. Now, all you have to do is tap once anywhere on the iPhone X screen to wake it up.
There’s another reason Tap to Wake might prove useful. With the iPhone 6s, Apple introduced Raise to Wake — a feature that would light up the screen the moment you pick it up. Although many people seem to be using it, it does have a tendency to illuminate the entire screen even when you don’t want it to. I’ve faced occasions where I’m just holding the iPhone in my hand, and it’s woken up unintentionally, consuming battery each time. And then there are times when you raise, but the screen doesn’t awaken. I would rather prefer a manual tap on the screen to wake it up. Bonus — there’s a flashlight shortcut is placed at the bottom of the lockscreen of the iPhone X, so you don’t have to reach for the Control Center to quickly toggle it on.
Authentication on the iPhone X works a bit differently from previous iPhones. With Touch ID, the phone unlocks only after the user puts the thumb on the home button. With Face ID on the iPhone X, your phone is unlocked in the background as you look at it (the padlock symbol on top of the lockscreen denotes the lock state).
Because of this proactive authentication mechanism, there’s an interesting feature that’s currently exclusive to the flagship iPhone. On iPhone X, the lockscreen can reveal contents of notifications after it authenticates your face. So, say someone else picks up your phone, they won’t be able to read your notifications, but the contents will magically appear just for you.
This works on existing iPhones too — go to Settings > Notifications > Show Previews > Choose “When Unlocked”. Do note that this will work only when you don’t have the “Rest finger to open” enabled in General > Accessibility > Home Button. On phones like the iPhone 8, you have to rest your finger on the Touch ID scanner to reveal the notifications, whereas on the iPhone X it will work more seamlessly (only when the right person looking at it). The only question that remains is how good the iPhone X is at recognizing faces when the phone is kept on a flat surface & you’re looking at it at an angle.
This is another feature implemented long ago on Android phones like the Galaxy S3 from 2012, though hopefully it should work more accurately on the iPhone X. Samsung phones have relied on the front-facing camera to detect a face in order to keep the screen awake when you’re looking at it. This is super useful when you’re looking at the screen, and not necessarily interacting with it, and don’t want it to switch off after the screen timeout period elapses (case in point, when booking an Uber or waiting for a progress bar to reach 100 percent).
The problem with Samsung’s implementation was that it doesn’t work as reliably in low-light conditions and even under direct sunlight by Samsung’s own admission (personally, the feature doesn’t work on my Galaxy S6 at all). In comparison, Face ID is expected to work even in the absence of light because of the flood illuminator — as it enables the infrared camera to read the 30,000 dot projections on your face even in darkness.
This will be one of those subtle, delightful improvements felt when using an iPhone X over an iPhone 8. Oh and speaking of subtle, the iPhone X can also lower the volume of an alarm or ringer the moment it has your attention. Nice.
Android 7.0 Nougat brought a wonderful little change to the way multitasking works — double-tapping the multitasking key alternates between the last two opened apps. This has been a delight to use when you need to juggle between two apps, allowing you to “alt-tab” between apps swiftly.
On iPhones other than the X, you’re required to double-tap the home button and then manually choose the app from the multitasking view to get into it. There’s no quick way to juggle between two apps.
But on the iPhone X, there’s a fantastic gesture shown off by Apple SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi on launch day. By simply swiping the gesture indicator at the bottom, you can toggle between apps effortlessly, like you’re flipping through pages of a magazine.
A recently-leaked video of the iPhone X also shows a different gesture to perform the same action, not requiring a swipe on the gesture indicator altogether. All in all, if you’re big on switching between apps, you’re going to love using the iPhone X over other iPhones.
This might be an underrated iPhone X improvement which we’ll know for sure once the long-term reviews are out. But allow me to make an educated guess — the iPhone X should deliver close to a Plus-sized iPhone battery life, despite dimensions that match the typical 4.7-inch screened iPhone.
For one, Chinese regulatory filings suggest the iPhone X will sport a 2,716mAh battery. That’s actually more capacious than the 2,675mAh battery powering the iPhone 8 Plus. To cite the differences between the two — the iPhone X has an OLED display with a 458 PPI pixel density (the iPhone 8 Plus has an LCD display with a lower 401 PPI pixel density). Now, we’ve traditionally known that OLED displays are more power-efficient, except when they’re displaying an all white color.
Next is Face ID — the biggest variable that will determine how good the iPhone X battery will be. An array of sensors activated tens of times in a single day (hundreds of times for many of us) to authenticate our face in all likeliness will have a higher impact on the battery than the Touch ID mechanism of previous iPhones.
Other components that can eat up more battery are the dual OIS cameras at the back and even the TrueDepth front camera system used to click selfies in Portrait Mode.
But all said and done, that 2,716mAh unit on the iPhone X is roughly 50 percent larger than the iPhone 8. Historically, Apple has shown improvements in battery life by upping the battery capacity by a lot less. For example, the iPhone 7 with its 1,960mAh unit, which was only about 14 percent larger than the 1,715mAh unit on the iPhone 6s, increased typical usage by a good two hours.
Going by Apple’s estimates, the iPhone X has two hours of more usage than the iPhone 8. That’s great news for a phone that’s only a tad bigger and heavier than it.
I strongly believe accessing the Control Center by swiping from the top-right ear of the iPhone X is going to be better than swiping from the bottom. On current iPhones, if you have the keyboard open and need to swipe up Control Center, there’s a good chance Control Center won’t open in the first go. You may even accidentally hit a few keys on the QWERTY instead. Invoking Control Center with the keyboard open today requires precise gesturing, and I for one am really glad the gesture is moved all the way to the top.
So, do you think all these niceties are worth spending a couple of hundred dollars on? Our take is — if you’re already convinced to spend $799 on an iPhone 8 Plus, then it totally makes sense to go the extra mile and get the iPhone X (provided you’re able to find one, that is).