MANILA - Apple offers its best camera, screen and software yet on the iPhone X, but in a very expensive shell that feels small and unfinished compared to the Android competition.
California-based Apple likes to market its products with consumer-accessible terms that hide the fact that the competition has been offering it for years, and the tenth anniversary iPhone is no different.
The "super retina" display is actually OLED, the same technology used in Samsung's Galaxy and Note lines. But this doesn't mean that the screen is no less vibrant.
The deeper reds and blacks are immediately noticeable on the X if you're coming from an older iPhone. Text is also sharper and the screen is brighter, even at under 50 percent brightness.
On paper, the near bezel-less 5.8-inch screen is larger than the 5.5-inch iPhone Plus line, but it seems smaller because most content shot on 16:9 get cropped on the X's slimmer and taller screen with a 18:9 aspect ratio.
It's a change that brings to mind the jump from the iPhone 4s to the taller 5, the first iPhone Apple released after the death of its visionary founder, Steve Jobs.
The X is bigger than the 8, but is dwarfed by the Galaxy S8 Plus, the Galaxy Note 8, even Google's Pixel 2 XL.
WHAT'S IT LIKE TO USE
The biggest change comes when you try to exit an app. Without the home button, a trademark feature since the first iPhone in 2007, users need to swipe up from the bottom of the screen to call up the home screen.
A swipe to the right on the bottom of the screen activates the app switcher. This used to require a quick double tap of the home button.
A swipe down from the top right summons the control center with WiFi, Bluetooth, mobile data and music controls while a swipe down from the left brings back the lock screen with notifications.
The purely swipe-based interface is jarring at first, but it's not that hard to get used to. It's actually similar to the ill-fated Blackberry 10 operating system.
The notch on the top of the screen, which houses the front facing camera and face-mapping sensors, is polarizing. You get used to it after a while but becomes a nuisance when watching videos on landscape, like the Avengers: Infinity War trailer.
Face ID was spotty in our tests. It worked in good lighting, even with eyeglasses on, but not in the dark, or when lying in bed.
The novelty of the animoji, where on-screen animations mimic the user's facial expressions, disappears quickly, much like the live messaging feature on the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.
The camera is the best yet on the iPhone producing images with vivid colors while sticking close to the subject, unlike Samsung cameras that tend to oversaturate colors.
The simulated lighting effects on portrait mode are clearly in beta and in our tests didn't work well when the lighting was either too bright or too dark. The feature is available on both the front and back cameras on the X.
Battery life is better that the non-plus iPhone, enough to last the entire the day with moderate to heavy usage, but definitely not at par with the Plus variant.
The iPhone X is a big leap in design and features compared to the & line.
It has a gorgeous screen, unlocks with a glance, charges wirelessly and takes professional-looking photos.
But these features have been available for years on Google-powered phones. And with Chinese manufacturers cramming the most features at the lowest possible price, the X's asking price of P64,490 seems outrageous.
The price, however, will not be much of a concern for Apple fans, as grey market units have sold for P90,000 ahead of the official Philippine release on Friday.
At P51,490 for the 64GB model, the iPhone 8 Plus packs the same technology and with the familiar home button and appears to be the smarter upgrade if you are deep in the iOS ecosystem.
The iPhone 7 Plus, which starts at P42,990 is an even better buy if you can live with last year's technology.
Apple is reportedly planning a bigger iPhone X successor in 2018, which will hopefully see a better placement of the front sensors and more intuitive swipe gestures.
In many ways, the iPhone X feels like a device to tide people over until Apple finds a way to cram all its a tech in a larger body. But that will also likely supersize the price.