‘The One Thing Nobody Has Told You…’ is my occasional column touching on a tangential, but interesting, detail that has been lost or under-reported in the news. Sometimes it’s a ground-breaker, sometimes it’s a piece of trivia that will enliven a dinner party conversation… This time around, there was so much good stuff about the new iPhone X, I upped the nugget count!
I’ve been using the new iPhone X for longer than anyone (apart from people who actually work at Apple) and you can read my in-depth review here. I’ve found out a bunch of things along the way. are 10, (or should that be X?), of the choicest insider-information items and usage tips.
1 You thought that new design was late? Actually, it’s early
This phone was in the Apple road map to arrive next September but instead the company decided to bring it forward, which explains why there are not two but three new designs for 2017. As Dan Riccio, Apple’s SVP of Hardware Engineering told me, ‘We had line of sight to go off and deliver these technologies for next year but with a lot of hard work and talent and grit we were able to actually deliver them this year.’ He said that the plan for this kind of design had been around rather longer, too.
‘When we did the first iPhone, we went from a paradigm that was out there that you had a small screen and a physical keyboard, and we dreamed of being able to provide something that was primarily display. We had a dream from day one that it would be all display, edge to edge. And we worked really hard on what we call the forehead and chin, the top and bottom of the product. These served the product very well for many years and we’ve been working really hard to come to a point where we had the confluence of technologies that would enable the design that we wanted for over 10 years now.’
2 And, no, Apple didn’t spend time on trying to put the home button under the display.
Dan Riccio again: ‘I heard some rumour that we couldn’t get Touch ID to work through the glass so we had to remove that. When we had line of sight on getting Face ID to be as good as it was, we knew that we if we could be successful we could make the product we all wanted to do. We wanted to be all in with this, that it could be a better solution. So, we spent no time looking at fingerprints on the back or through the glass or on the side because if we did those things they would be a distraction from enabling the thing we were trying to achieve, that is Face ID in a high-quality way.’
3 Why the rear cameras are positioned like that
It’s not because it’s better for Augmented Reality – it’s neither better nor worse for that. It’s because the TrueDepth camera system and other sensors in what’s known as the notch at the top of the display meant that positioning the rear cameras horizontally just wouldn’t work, they’d have overlapped with the tech on the front of the phone.
4 Face ID affects the ringer volume, notifications
This is pretty cool. As the iPhone rings when a call comes in, Face ID starts looking for you. When it sees your face looking at it, and remember, only your face will do this, it lowers the volume of the ringtone. After all, you’re clearly aware and up close, so why shouldn’t it turn the volume down?
Similarly, notifications give nothing away when they appear on the lock screen, just saying, er, Notification. But when the phone sees it’s you looking at it, the message or new item or whatever slides open to reveal its contents. Notifications are for your eyes only.
One more thing about Face ID: it works through some sunglasses but not all. The ones it can’t penetrate are ones which block infra-red rays at the 940nm wavelength. Now, this isn’t information easily gleaned from sunglass manufacturers but at least, now you know!
6 This version of iOS 11 is different from other iPhones
This is the first iPhone to have Tap to Wake. Something some Android phones have had for a while, of course. Here, it’s included so that if the iPhone X is on the table and you don’t want to pick it up to see the time, say, you can tap to see it. Want to see more? After you’ve tapped, lean forward until Face ID sees you and it’ll unlock the handset for you (hint: in my experience, lean in too close and it won’t do it, lean back a little and it will).
You can now also access both the camera and the torch right from the lock screen. You can still swipe right-to-left to launch the camera from here, but additionally there are buttons with a useful haptic response that take you to their respective features.
And even apps like Messages use the extra screen real estate differently.
7 Switching between apps is now super-simple
That’s because when you’re in an app, you no longer have to go back to the home screen to swipe between them. Look down at the very bottom of the display and there’s a bar – white on a black background or black if the app colour is lighter. Swipe left or right and the adjacent app will appear. This is superbly handy if you’re, say, copying text from an email to a text message.
The bar stays there all the time, whether you want it to or not, though it’s surprising how quickly it fades from your notice. If you’re watching video, though, it actually vanishes after a second or two. This new gesture, by the way, is part of the ‘no-home-button’ dividend!
8 Touch ID apps now work with Face ID – automatically!
So, previously, you might launch a banking app, using Touch ID to log in. Or the password saver app 1 Password, which has already optimized the screen layout so it fills every pixel of the iPhone X display, by the way. So what do you do now there’s no fingerprint sensor? Nothing – the iPhone X knows to automatically use Face ID to identify you instead. It works seamlessly.
9 There’s a cute new ringtone just for iPhone X
It’s called Reflection and it sounds great. Because it’s new, I missed two or three calls before I realized I’d been listening to my own phone ring. I mention this because it’s the default ringtone and so you might miss it, too.
10 Although the buttons work differently, you can still force-restart
Because Siri is now invoked by a long-press on the side button, powering down is done by pressing the side button and either volume button until the switch-off screen appears. But what if you need to force-restart to clear open apps and so on? No problem. Press and release Volume Up. Press and release Volume down. Now press and hold the side button. Mission accomplished.
More on Forbes
Ten Things Nobody Has Told You About The Apple iPhone X – Forbes