I’ll start with the story of how I came to be upgrading, and how the upgrade, through EE’s annual upgrade program, happened, so skip forward a bit if you just want to know my first impressions of the iPhone X.
If you’re in the UK, phones are still commonly supplied by the mobile service provider, in my case, EE. You take out a contract, which sounds really expensive for what you’re getting, but it’s really paying for the price of your handset over the course of a year or two. A one-year contract used to be standard, now two years is normal, at least with EE. We’ve been monthly contract customers with EE for over 20 years now.
If you don’t care too much about the device, it wouldn’t suit you very well as a system, but I do, and being able to upgrade to an expensive new phone ‘free’ every couple of years is nice.
Last year, EE had the option of annual upgrades on some of their contracts, and I took it. The contract doesn’t cost much more – the difference is that you hand back the old handset after a year, and the second-hand value of your old phone pays for the extra cost of upgrading early.
The time had come to upgrade, and the iPhone X was waiting for me.
Trying to Upgrade
I checked EE’s web site, which is usually the simplest way to upgrade, even though it’s a frustrating mess of a site. All it would tell me was that I could upgrade, and I should go to an EE shop to do so, ready to hand over my old phone.
With regular iCloud backups, that’s not too much trouble, though I would then be out and about with a fresh phone, a wiped watch (Apple Watch needs to be disconnected from the phone before you wipe the phone), and having to either try to restore the backup while in Exeter, or coming home to do it. Popping into the Apple Store to use their WiFi to restore seemed quite appealing.
It didn’t go quite as anticipated. The store were quite willing to help, though they didn’t exactly seem keen. They said I could do the upgrade over the phone, and didn’t actually say I’d get a better deal if I did, but I got the impression they were trying to suggest it
The problem turned out to be with my plan for the following year. Using the annual upgrade means signing a new 24-month plan, of at least the same cost as the one you’re on. So, practically, you’re almost certainly going to be paying more each year. I was happy enough to pay more this time, to get the iPhone X, but I said my intention was to keep that phone for two years, and not take the annual upgrade next time, so I could then move to a lower priced contract.
They said that wasn’t possible. If I signed a new plan with annual upgrade, I must upgrade again in a year. To a higher-priced plan. Which would be a 24-month contract, with annual renewal. Effectively, it was a never-ending plan, paying more every year. That didn’t sound possible, and if it was possible, certainly wasn’t something I wanted. They assured me it was the case, so I left.
A week later, I phoned EE’s customer service.
I put off calling for a while because I was fairly sure I knew what the answers would be. I was pretty sure they couldn’t do the upgrade by phone, and I was quite convinced the annual upgrade didn’t work as they said in-store.
The result was a bit different. They confirmed that the store was wrong about being able to upgrade over the phone at that time, but they were just starting to do it, so now they could. They’d send the new device, and a return bag to send the previous one back.
They also confirmed that the annual upgrade worked as I thought, and wasn’t required. They gave me a cheaper deal than I’d been planning, saving more by removing the annual upgrade, so I’m committed to keeping this one for two years.
I’d called on a Saturday, and they could even deliver my iPhone X on the coming Monday.
First Impressions of the iPhone X
It doesn’t feel much bigger than the iPhone 7. It does feel a little heavier, but not much. The screen looks quite a bit bigger.
I’ve put this one in a case – the Apple Silicone case in Olive, which seems good. It’s an expensive device, almost entirely glass on the outside, and I’ve seen reports of them breaking from relatively small drops, so I decided not to risk it without the case. Wrapped in the case, it feels more noticeably bigger and heavier than the 7, but it’s still quite comfortable to hold, and for the most part, reasonable to use with one hand.
Speaking of which, that’s perhaps the one area where the X falls behind a bit. I have reasonably large hands, and at times, it’s harder to operate single-handed. The screen is very tall, and it can be hard to reach things near the top. I don’t find it too much of a problem, especially after I discovered the newly-hidden ‘reachability’ feature. Tick a box in the Accessibility settings, and a quick downward touch on the bottom of the screen pulls the screen down to reach the top, the same way the previous model did with a double-touch on the home button.
I expected to have trouble getting used to the new gestures for navigating, instead of using the home button, but it turned out to be very easy for me. The swipe-up gesture to go home or switch tasks very quickly felt more natural than the home button. The swipe down from the top-right corner for the control centre does feel a bit like they ran out of ideas, though. That used to be the quickest and easiest thing to access, and now it’s a bit awkward. It’s also a little slower to kill off a running app, but that’s not something you need to do often – the main time I need to is the odd occasion when Pokémon GO gets itself stuck in a loop failing to log in.
Face ID isn’t much of an issue, for me. It works. It’s quick and reliable. The only way it’s worse for me is that I have to be in front of the phone and looking at it to unlock. There are times I want to unlock my phone while it’s lying on my desk or on a table, and now I have to lift it up so it can see me. The extra screen space is worth the trade-off, though.
The notch? I doubt anyone who has actually used the X really cares about the notch. It isn’t really noticeable in use. It’s just there, and it’s part of the device. In use, it feels less like a notch cut out of the screen, and more like there are two little ‘lugs’ of extra screen to contain the status bits.
Battery life was still good on my iPhone 7, but the iPhone X seems much better. An hour and a half of walking around continuously playing Pokémon GO only knocked the battery life down to around 80%. I suspect this is less due to the battery being better, and more that the A11 CPU isn’t taxed by Pokémon GO where the A10 was. Most days of normal use so far, I’ve had well over 50% remaining at the end of a day. I haven’t used wireless charging yet, and it would have to get pretty cheap before I’d want to spend money to avoid those three seconds to plug in a cable. I can see the use case more in cafes and other public places, where standard charging bases could be built into tables and counters.
Overall, I’m really happy with it. It’s impressively fast, and feels good. There’s quite a bit more screen, without making the device significantly bigger.