Original iPhone reviewer Steven Levy just shared his thoughts on the iPhone X

Ten years ago, Steven Levy was a part of the original pre-release review group for the first ever iPhone. Now, Apple has given him a review unit of its new flagship device — the iPhone X — to see how it stacks up against its ancestor with respect to revolutionizing the smartphone game. He's had the phone since last Tuesday, and he shared his first impressions of the company's latest milestone in a field report for Wired.

According to Levy, the biggest change as compared to other iPhone models was its already-infamous screen:

The iPhone X is a big screen in a compact form factor — Cinerama in a phone booth. Though the device itself is only slightly bigger than the standard iPhone 8, its screen is roughly the same size as that of the iPhone 8 Plus. When you take into account its "Super Retina" capabilities (another Barnum-esque name concocted by Apple's marketers), that screen will persistently reassure buyers that emptying their wallets for an iPhone X wasn't folly.

He goes on to say that due to the screen, he finds everything from watching films to streaming football games to scrolling through his Instagram feed to be "greatly pleasurable."

Levy also discussed the extremely polarizing notch at the top of the phone. Though he does note that it's a bit of a visual interruption and refers to it as Area 51, he says it's something that you eventually acclimate to through continued use of the device:

It's an aesthetic setback (what would Steve Jobs have said?), but you get used to it, like watching a play when someone with big hair is off-center in the row ahead of you—a tiny distraction in your peripheral vision that you eventually get past.

In addition to the notch, many consumers have expressed their discomfort with no longer having a home button to press in order to wake the phone as well as needing to use Face ID to unlock it. However, Levy states that after retraining your brain a bit, this definitely becomes a non-issue as well — in fact, the gestures became so second-nature to him that he attempted to use them on his iPad without thinking:

[The home button's] sudden removal is one of those jarring deletions that Apple is famous for, and it requires some relearning … I knew I'd mastered the gestures when I found myself trying to use them on my iPad. Oops. My finger no longer drifts to the home button, but pathetically swipes upwards, to no avail. And now there's that awkward moment when I expect the iPad to unlock itself when the camera looks at my face.

He also discussed the security of Face ID, saying that — just like Apple said — he couldn't fool it into unlocking, even with a photograph of himself:

I have thrust my phone into several people's faces — though considerably fewer than the million punims that Apple says I'd have to try before a false positive — and it has not fallen for any of them. I even offered up my own head shot to the camera: no go.

However, he does say that there were times with Face ID just didn't unlock his phone when he looked at it with his actual face, which Apple says could be due to the fact that he wasn't making what the iPhone X considers to be adequate eye contact. Though a bit annoying, this could actually be a good thing if you're worried about your phone unlocking every time you make a cursory glance in its direction.

Overall, though Levy says that at the moment the iPhone X is really just a great upgrade to iPhone's family of smartphones, he does believe that it is a step toward making technology "truly invisible" — that is, making devices less physical and more ingrained into the fabric of our everyday life. To be honest, that sort of speculation terrifies me a bit, though I know there are many who find the prospect of barely-there tech both more accessible and more freeing. Just as Levy says in the closing of his review, we'll just have to wait and see what iPhone X is capable of in the future.

To read more about what Levy thought of the iPhone X, head over to Wired's article.

Tory Foulk

Tory Foulk is a writer at Mobile Nations. She lives at the intersection of technology and sorcery and enjoys radio, bees, and houses in small towns. When she isn't working on articles, you'll likely find her listening to her favorite podcasts in a carefully curated blanket nest. You can follow her on Twitter at @tsfoulk.

  • I'll wait until Friday to truly decide, but based on his article, I'm not looking forward to the implementation of FaceID. The "you need to look directly at your phone" may get annoying depending on the accuracy. Sometimes I don't hold my phone directly to my phones. My eyes may move towards my phone while it's on my desk though my whole head doesn't move towards it. I'm hoping Apple solved a problem here rather than created a new issue where no issue previously existed. I'll know for sure in a few days.
  • You can set a default where you don’t have to look into it.
  • "However, he does say that there were times with Face ID just didn't unlock his phone when he looked at it with his actual face, which Apple says could be due to the fact that he wasn't making what the iPhone X considers to be adequate eye contact. Though a bit annoying, this could actually be a good thing if you're worried about your phone unlocking every time you make a cursory glance in its direction." I'm curious if this is one of the small yet critical ways the "neural engine" of the A11 Bionic chip as necessary: determining user intention for FaceID. With TouchID, intention is relatively easy to determine since the action is virtually unambiguous. Whereas with FaceID, the user's intention is going to be ambiguous more often than not. Anyhow, it's certainly not the explicit gesture/interaction that TouchID operates on. Of course, that's giving Apple benefit of the doubt since I've not used it (and have no immediate plans to.) Maybe FaceID will demand a very distinct interaction to work reliably, which would be unfortunate.
  • there's an accessibility option to turn off the "attention" requirement (useful for the blind, for example). i'm hoping it works well, but it's not like touch ID is perfect either :)
  • Touch ID is far from perfect. It alienates a lot of users who perspire more than other people. Touch ID is intermittent for me due to that reason. Not to mention users have reported Touch ID not working in certain temperature conditions. I think Face ID will be a large improvement over Touch ID
  • It works as accurate as finger print according to Most. The finger print fails too
  • What is a "print sensor"? Why is it a step backward? Face ID as a whole, seems a major step forward in unlocking your phone
  • I think you know what he meant.
  • I actually didn't, but I Googled it and realised he meant it short for "fingerprint". Print sensor sounds like something to do with printing or printers. But anyway, they didn't need to keep a fingerprint sensor. Face ID supersedes Touch ID, and from Apple's point of view it makes more sense to remove Touch ID, so as not to confuse people when presented with two different authentication methods (in addition to passcode). Face ID will work better for most people as compared to Touch ID
  • definitely interesting for the Face - id, if someone are twins, then what?
  • Apple says identical twins or multiples may be able to unlock your device and if you are concerned, use a passcode.
  • Yeah this was talked about at the announcement. No technology is perfect, but this is one of the very small and few cases where Face ID isn't perfect
  • Phones are not religions.
  • Heretic.
  • I want to see how apps work with the notch and more hands on in general.
  • The notch is a non factor. You'll forget about it in a few days and I've already started (as much as I can) not using the home button on my iPad. Reminds me of how the my Surface Pro 4 is completely gesture based. Gestures rule!
  • How do you get used to something covering your media if you want full screen view and don't want larger virtual bezels on a mid-bezel device?
  • I watched the movie being displayed on the iPhone X at the Apple announcement, where they had it in fullscreen view (being partially covered by the notch), and after a few seconds I forgot the notch was there. It doesn't bother everyone, if not most people. Of course, you have the option for the "virtual bezels" if need be.
  • I mean normal people. Not an apple apologist who follows the flute tones to slaughter.
  • Did I try to say the notch was great and fantastic? No. I don't think the notch is good or bad, it's just "there". I honestly forgot about it shortly after the announcement, the screen looks great so I didn't really focus on the notch. Obviously for some people it's a big issue, but for most people, I honestly don't think they're really going to be that concerned. If they are, they will end up buying the phone anyway, and then realize it's not an issue.
  • I saw this guy with the iPhone X on CNBC. He seems pretty clueless to me. Not surprised it took him a while to get Face ID to work. I immediately thought user error when I heard him talking about it.
  • PEBCAK strikes again, although this time in terms of a phone, rather than a computer and keyboard. User error accounts for the majority of people's issues