Why I got rid of my iPhone X
For those of you panicking and thinking, "Jeff is the one who talked me into my first iPod/Macbook/iPhone etc, don't worry. I'm still an Apple fanboy. I've been a rabid avid cheerleader/spokesperson for Apple since 1988. It's going to be ok. But strap in, because all is not right with the Apple universe these days.
I am not some snarky Microsoft user who doesn't know the difference and is lobbing thought bombs over the digital fence. I've owned more Apple products than Cher has had facelifts. So this critique comes from someone "in the family." (It's ok to talk bad about your own family; you just don't want anyone else doing so.)
I have skipped very few iPhone versions. I still remember the heady/surreal days of owning the first iPhone. I would have people stop me and ask to see it, marveling at the touchscreen. Since then, I've owned all of the iterations of iPhone (except the Pluses).
I recently used an upgrade and got the iPhone X. It looked and felt.. special. It was very 2007ish. When it arrived, I indeed thought, "Now this is different." It wasn't just the iPhone 6 repackaged with faster innards. It was an entirely new phone, with new gestures, interactions and features - but still running the familiar iOS. It felt Apple.
I even had college students wanting to see it, to play with it, and to just... feel it in their hands. It felt like those original days of the iPhone. People were curious.
I now think that the underlying curiosity for people is not "Wow! This is an incredible phone!" but it's more like "Wow! I wonder what kind of device idiots will pay $999 for.."
So here's my assessment:
I hated the iPhone X.
Yep. And I'm sad about it. I hate to hate the iPhone X. So let me share what is good and right about the phone before dogging it.
The screen. It's amazing. Edge to edge. Beautiful. Even the tone of the screen is attractive and strangely... soothing? I'm embarrassed to say that, but it was just a pleasure to look at.
Animojis. The incorporation of facial recognition into the phone's tech allows you to turn yourself into an emoji. Yep. It's really cool. I don't think I would have used it long-term, because it's... well, juvenile. On the other hand, I am juvenile, so I really enjoyed sending people memos as the poopmoji.
The size. It was just about right. It was only a few centimeters larger than the iPhone 6/7/8. But with the new edge-to-edge screen, it felt much larger. I do NOT like the larger phone sizes of the iPhone pluses, and I wouldn't have even considered the X if it was a plus size.
Portrait camera. And other camera features. These have been kept from us iPhone minus users and only available to the plus counterparts, so having a camera that is amazing was nice for a bit.
That's it. Yep.
Many of my dislikes of the iPhone are echoed by Dennis' assessment. He said:
I've never had an Apple product that refused to bend to my will with such stubbornness. I realised I didn't need to be on the cutting edge of technology with a phone with a gorgeous screen and facial recognition — I just need a phone that works for me.
A phone shouldn't be this difficult to use.
Therein lies my complaints..
The new gestures. I found myself after a week absolutely HATING how you actually get into the phone. It felt like a Herculean digital effort to just unlock it. Granted, this is all #firstworldproblems, but I genuinely felt like Apple had made it harder to simply make a phone call. To unlock the phone..
You must first wake it with a tap on the screen.
Immediately followed by swiping up from the bottom of the screen.
(Both of these can be accomplished with one thumb, but.. the way you have to hold the phone to do this always felt like I didn't have a firm grip on the phone. As opposed to having your thumb on the home button to wake it, and the resulting pressure of that gives you security in not dropping a $1000 computer on the pavement.)
Then you must look at the phone. It's amazing to see less than a second of response - when it works. It worked for me 95% of the time. The vast majority. BUT...
It didn't work for me enough that it was irritating. Which meant that my thumb unlock on my iPhone 7 was more consistent.
Also, it didn't work if I had on sunglasses.
Rant: I couldn't stand it. I just couldn't stand it. I began to think... why are we allowing the technology of facial recognition to drive up the costs and reduce the phone's usefulness? Who needs that much security on their phone? I don't work for the NSA. I just want to be able to get into my phone quickly - without interrupting life patterns.
The glass back. It might be beautiful, but really... what is Apple thinking???! I read review after review about the iPhone X being the most "breakable" iPhone ever. Let's make an expensive technological marvel, that people will be using a LOT and encase it in glass. Greeaaaaat idea.
Accessing apps and closing them. Another example of new gestures that actually make the phone harder to use. Because there's no home button, you can no longer double click the home button to bring up open apps. On the X, you must swipe up (the apps will show up) and then HOLD your finger there or drag slightly to the left or right to keep the apps open. At this point, you can scroll through them to click on another app, but you cannot swipe up to close/quit an app. There's ONE MORE STEP. You have to tap and HOLD again to get a little red "x" to appear above each app. Then you can either tap the red x to close the app or swipe up to close the app. This was a definite pain, and I found it inconsistent and difficult to manage after a week of constant use.
Accessibility. On the iPhone 6/7/8, you can tap the Home Button once lightly and the screen will drop down to give you access to buttons near the top of the screen. This is handy for one-handed use - especially with larger phones. It prevents awkward hand stretch moments. On the X, you swipe DOWN from the bottom edge of the screen. Many users say that they get used to it and it's not an issue. I couldn't. My phone case (which I bought to protect the $1000 investment) always seemed to prevent me from utilizing this swipe down gesture consistently, and I found myself repeating it -- which, again, makes you feel like the phone is preventing ease of use and was instead "an Apple product that refused to bend to my will."
Overall, why is Apple missing the boat?
I wrote a while back "7 things Apple doesn't do well," and here I add an eighth:
Apple is embracing "tweaking" rather than being innovative.
Just look at the form factors of iPhones since the 6. The iPhone 6 is the iPhone 7 is the iPhone 8. One reason the iPhone X captured our imagination is that it felt like a new phone.
However, the facial recognition is a tweak of the thumb print security. I imagine the Apple un-innovators saying, "How can we wow people with security?" Someone says, "How about making every Apple customer have a mark on their skin - like a barcode - that their phone could scan, and they could buy and sell with that mark too?" Someone else says, "That sounds way too much like the mark of the beast in the book of Revelation. First guy responds, "Your FACE is the mark of the beast." Intern says, "Ooooo. How about we use people's faces as the key to unlocking their devices?!" Everyone in room: "Oooooo. Yeah!" Then intern says, "And to make it fun, we could use the technology so someone can be a talking pile of crap!!!" Response: "Oooooo. Yeesssss." And they all kiss the poster of Steve Jobs on the way out of the room on their way to implementing this idea.
The new gestures.. blah. They are just a tweak since, in order to impress, they took away our home button and wanted the entire screen to be interactive. The absence of a home button requires something, however. I would prefer the option of a home button. It's easier. I promise. Keep it simple. The new gesturesjust don't float my boat.
I think the bigger problem is that iPhone versions are just.. faster, better camera, bigger. While the iPhone X offered some innovations, we now see that the innovations are just tweaks of previously existing processes. The iPhone X is not a step forward. It's a step to the side. It's more of a technological option in the Apple-verse rather than a marvel.
Maybe Apple has hit a wall with iPhone innovation? What else could be done? I'm merely the consumer. I just get the feeling that Apple isn't listening to users. That was OK when Steve Jobs was alive. He had this intuitive, scary sense about what we would enjoy and use. The Apple Elite today don't seem to have the same sense. I think it's important for them to learn (maybe for the first time) to listen to users.
Until then.. I returned my X to the AT&T store and walked out with an upgrade/downgrade. I had the 7. Now I have the 8. Because it's the same form factor, it doesn't feel like I have a new phone. It IS faster. I can tell. But... it just doesn't feel like I have a new phone. And no one is asking to see it either.