On June 29, 2007 I spent the day in the hot sun in front of the Aspen Grove Apple store in Littleton, Colorado, waiting to pick up my first iPhone. At that point, nobody except Steve Jobs really thought that the phone was going to be a hit -- I mean, we all had Nokia and Palm phones, what did we need an Apple phone for? Fast-forward ten years and the iPhone is now responsible for 55 percent of Apple's revenues, and many believe the iPhone X will transform Apple into the first company with a $1 trillion or greater market cap. Today I picked up my iPhone X at the same store -- hours later, I'm still waiting to get it activated so it looks like the newest iPhone is a huge hit.
What's a new Apple device release without an unboxing video? Well, this is probably the shortest unboxing video you've ever seen, because I power it on, pass setup info over from an iPad Pro, and then promptly get an activation fail.
My first try with the activation was at about 11:05 AM MT; it's currently 2:36 PM MT and activation still hasn't happened. After about an hour of waiting I called AT&T and talked to a rep who noted that Apple had not populated their system with information about the new phone. I gave her the IMEI and SIM card information (on the back of the iPhone X box), which was entered into the system, then she had me power down the iPhone X to give activation another try.
Sadly, that didn't work...so she connected me with an Apple rep who said that many people were having the same issue as everyone was trying to activate new phones at once. "Please try again later". Well, the phone's not working yet, but I did get some hands-on time at the Apple Store so here are my first impressions.
This is the iPhone I've been waiting for; the screen quality is incredible, the screen size is almost identical to that on the iPhone 7 Plus I just replaced, but the phone size is noticeably smaller. I go the Space Gray model (256GB), and with the display shut off the iPhone X is a glossy black slab. Turn it on, and the OLED display is bright and clear.
While I was waiting to pick up my iPhone X, I got a chance to play with one with prompting by an Apple employee. I was outside the store in bright mid-morning sunlight, and the readability of the display was very good. By comparison, the iPhone 7 Plus screen looked dim and washed out in the sunlight. Colors are bright and saturated, there is excellent contrast, and the full screen display is honestly the best I've ever seen on a smartphone.
I even got the chance to try Face ID with the help of a special app installed on the device that allows any number of customers to try out the process without storing their biometric info on the phone. The Face ID setup is very fast and simple -- you center the image of your face in a small circle on the screen, then move your head around in a circular fashion as an indicator ring "fills up". Do this again and Face ID is set up; it's much faster than training a fingerprint in Touch ID.
The app also has a way to test Face ID. The store employee told me to look away from the screen, then glance towards it. In a heartbeat, the iPhone X had recognized me and "unlocked" the app. Face ID is really impressive, and I hope it is on all iPhones, iPads, and Macs soon.
The app had a way to test Face ID, and I was instructed by the Apple store employee to look away from the screen, then suddenly turn towards it. In a heartbeat, the iPhone X showed me that it had recognized me and "unlocked" the app. Face ID is a winner; I can't wait to see it on all iPhones, iPads, and (hopefully) Macs soon.
Since there's no Home button on the iPhone X, gestures are different. Swipe down from the upper left corner after the screen is unlocked by Face ID, and you see notifications. Swipe down from the upper right corner, and Control Center appears. Swiping up in any app brings you back to the Home screen, and swiping on the line at the bottom of app windows right or left flips between active apps.
Until Face ID is common on all iOS devices, it could be difficult for people to keep gestures straight between iPhone and iPad! The new iPhone X gestures seem very intuitive, and I can see my brain deciding to make those same gestures on an iPad Pro without Face ID. Whoops!
The setup process for iPhone X is different and very friendly to those who have other iOS devices. You power on the device with a long press on the power button located on the right side of the iPhone X. At that point, you're asked to enter your language and region. Next, the device asks if you wish to set it up manually or using another iOS device. When choosing the automatic method, it's similar to setting up an Apple Watch -- except much faster.
Bring the iPhone X near that other iPhone or iPad, and the devices sense each other. A swirling pattern of dots appears on the iPhone X screen, and a prompt on the other iOS device asks you to point the camera at that pattern. Once that's done, the message on the iOS device changes to "Finish on New iPhone -- Keep this iPad (or iPhone) near your new iPhone while your information is transferred."
This is where the activation process failure showed its ugly head. I kept waiting and waiting, and finally decided that something was amiss. It's apparent that Apple has a huge hit with the iPhone X, and that the rush of activations is overtaxing its servers. Sadly, this reminds me of the activation issues with the original iPhone, which actually continued for over 24 hours! I'm not the only person seeing the issue. I noticed a tweet from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman (formerly of 9to5Mac) and he's stuck as well.
Fit and Finish
Typical of Apple products, the iPhone X is beautiful and looks extremely well-built. There are no extra frills; it's simply a gorgeous design. I will be putting it into a case, however -- the glass back seems to pick up fingerprints easily, and I also don't want to scratch the device.
That's it for now -- as soon as I can get the iPhone X activated, I'll have a full report.