A cell phone that costs as much as a computer? Really? We love our gadgets, but even a couple of gadget spendthrifts like us found the price for the new iPhone X shocking. But we bought one anyway. (It actually cost us $1,149.)

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Test Drive

A $1,000 iPhone? X (Pronounced “10”) Marks the Spot

A cell phone that costs as much as a computer? Really? We love our gadgets, but even a couple of gadget spendthrifts like us found the price for the new iPhone X shocking. But we bought one anyway. (It actually cost us $1,149.)

We have to say that the iPhone X setup was elegant. iOS 11’s new Automatic Setup feature lets you hold your old device near your new one to transfer essential info. You must first, of course, back up your old machine to the cloud. Then, start up your new iPhone X. It will tell you to “Bring your old iOS device close” to your new one. When you do so, a little panel pops up on the old device, giving you some instructions to follow to “pair” the devices. To complete the pairing, you must aim the camera of your old device at the whirling cloud patterns on the screen of the iPhone X. And that’s it. The Wi-Fi and Apple ID settings are beamed from one device to the other. Your phone number and all your data are automatically transferred.

Many of the features of the X are brand new. First, there are the visuals. There is no “home” button — it has been replaced by the soon-to-be infamous “notch.” There is no bezel — the 5.8-inch display covers the entire front; it just has a very thin frame around the screen. It looks a lot like a Samsung Galaxy 8 (which we bought earlier this year), except its frame is stainless steel rather than aluminum. The X has an OLED screen that has superior contrast and brightness and is easier to view at an angle. The screen is big, but because it has no bezel, the phone itself is not big.

ON TO USE AND PERFORMANCE

You unlock the phone not with your fingerprint but with Face ID. Yes, it is true that Samsung has “been there, done that,” but Apple’s Face ID works better than Samsung’s. Face ID is easy to set up and easy to use. (It makes a 3D scan of your face, so it even works at an angle.) It is not perfect, but it works very, very well. Still, it is a habit you will have to develop if you are accustomed to the fingerprint scan. The real problem is that Face ID uses a camera placed in the “notch” at the top of the phone. When you view items in full screen, the notch gets in the way.

We love our gadgets, but even a couple of gadget spendthrifts like us found the price for the new iPhone X shocking.

The X is clearly designed with the new iOS 11 in mind. Instead of pressing the home button, you swipe up from the bottom of the screen. To get the Control Center, you swipe from the upper right of the screen. Swiping left still takes you to the camera. There are several other gesture and control changes that you have to learn, which take some getting used to.

The phone is very, very fast, probably the fastest mobile phone you can buy. It uses a new chipset, the A11 Bionic — phone gamers will be in heaven. However, the speed and the larger display do not sacrifice battery life. In this area, the X is a vast improvement over the iPhone 7, which pooped out battery-wise too quickly in our experience. Also, like the new Samsung Galaxy phones, the X charges wirelessly; unlike those phones, it does not support fast wireless charging speeds. Apple says it will support that feature very soon.

IS IT WORTH THAT PRICETAG?

So it’s time for the $1,000 question — is the X worth the price? Let’s put it this way: If you do not like abrupt changes or a somewhat steep learning curve, save your money and get the iPhone 8. In fact, one could argue that the 8 is a better phone for most people’s purposes. The notch is annoying, and the X really can’t do anything that other smartphones can’t do.

As gadget nerds, we spend money to play with new stuff and experiment. Sometimes it seems we enjoy being annoyed with quirky toys. Bill believes the X is the future of the iPhone, and he has enjoyed the expensive taste of his new toy. Phil says he will stick with his dependable and technically advanced Samsung Galaxy S8.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

William Ramsey, Partner at Neal & Harwell, and LogicForce Consulting President Phil Hampton are best known for The Bill and Phil Show.

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