Is the iPhone X worth buying in 2021? Let’s investigate, shall we?
iPhone X Review – TL;DR
The iPhone X is now a good few years old (almost four). And in phone-years, several years is basically an eon. But like most things iPhone-related, the iPhone X has aged well. It looks more or less the same as the iPhone 11, it will get iOS updates until the late-2020s, and it still performs great.
If you’re after a bargain, the iPhone X is now very cheap to buy, then this could well be the phone you should buy. You’ll get all the latest/modern iPhone-styling like FACE ID and a still-very-potent CPU in the form of Apple’s A11 which, despite its years, will still be more than enough for most users (meaning 99.9% of people).
Add in the fact that the phone can now be picked up for around $300 refurbished and you’re looking at a great deal, if you’re in the market for a solid, reliable phone that’ll get years of software updates and support. It doesn’t have 5G and the A11 isn’t as fast as the A13 or the new A14, but it will be more than enough for the type of thing most people use their phones for.
In this respect, I would say, yes, the iPhone X is still well worth a look in 2021, providing you understand that it is four years old, and that its camera, while adequate, is no way near as good as what you get on the iPhone 11 or iPhone 12.
If you can live with this, the iPhone X — at less than $300 — is basically a steal.
Full iPhone X Review (Original Review From 2017)
The iPhone X was the iPhone that broke the mold. It was the first iPhone NOT to have a Home button, setting the trend for years to come. On top of this, it was the first iPhone to carry an OLED panel; in this case, a beautiful 5.8in 1125×2436 slab of awesomeness.
Physically, the iPhone X looks, unlike anything that came before it. The Home button is gone, so the entire frontage of the phone, save for the notch at the top, is all display. This means Apple can fit a larger display into a smaller space. And that makes the iPhone X great for users that don’t want a huge phone.
Physically, the iPhone X cuts a commanding presence with its bright, OLED panel and smooth lines. The size of the handset – 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7 mm – and its weight (174g) will take you by surprise; it is both smaller and lighter than the iPhone 8 Plus. Again, this is what you can do when you get rid of buttons.
Available in black or white, unlike the iPhone 8’s myriad color options, the iPhone X feels almost more akin to Apple’s first-ever iPhone. By limiting color options, Apple has kept things simple; it clearly had a vision for this handset’s aesthetics and it didn’t want anything messing with it. I respect that. And I love the way both color options look.
The bulk of the iPhone X’s chassis is made from glass in order to improve the efficiency of its built-in Qi wireless charging. On top of this, the glass finish gives the iPhone X a truly otherworldly look and feel when compared to older iPhone models, which used metals like aluminum for their construction.
Beyond this, you have full water and dust resistance which means the iPhone X can survive underwater. Having IP67 water and dust resistance is a big deal. How Apple did it with this design, however, I have no idea. I also love the fact that the power and volume rockers remain in the same place. Even Apple Pay and Siri are still accessible via a physical button on the iPhone X; there’s a dedicated button located on the side.
Many reviewers were critical of the iPhone X when it first came out, but I think they were too harsh. As a new design language for Apple, the iPhone X’s look and feel is near-perfect from a visual and ergonomic perspective. It’s ideally sized for hands of all sizes, there’s a ton of screen real estate to work with, and the fit and finish is akin to a Swiss watch.
Display & FACE ID
As noted earlier, the iPhone X was Apple’s first-ever OLED iPhone. It is also the first iPhone to not have a home button. Instead, you have FACE ID, which lives inside the notch located at the top of the display. Much was made of this notch when the iPhone X first landed, but its utility is brilliant in everyday use.
FACE ID is quicker as well. Apple’s technology is very, very impressive. Even more so when you consider that it is the first iteration of FACE ID. Once you get used it after a few tries, you’ll never understand how you lived without it. Even adding your face to FACE ID is simple; just a few seconds and it’s done. Compared to setting up TouchID, which could take up to three minutes, it is a breeze.
FACE ID isn’t perfect. Unlocking your phone when it is laying flat on a table is tricky, and it does, on occasion, not work in super-dark conditions. Other than that, I don’t have any real complaints about FACE ID or the fact that it has replaced TouchID. And as an added bonus, the tech that powers FACE ID can create animate emoji versions of your face too. Apple calls these Animojis.
As for how Apple’s OLED display performs? It’s fantastic. It makes the outgoing iPhone 8’s LCD display look utterly archaic. The brightness and detail is incredible. And the blacks? They’re void-like, which further improves the contrast of the display and you will notice this when watching movies and/or playing games.
DisplayMate, an independent phone display tester, said the iPhone X has the best display it has ever tested, surpassing even Samsung’s OLED panels. My own experiences with the phone match these claims; colors are utterly vivid and lifelike, viewing angles are brilliant, unlike on the Google Pixel 2 XL, and the colors are natural and engaging. Essentially, it’s the perfect display.
Specs & Features (Compared To iPhone XS)
|iPhone XS||iPhone X|
|Display: 5.8-inch OLED display with a 2436x1125-pixel resolution at 458ppi||Display: 5.8-inch display with a 2436x1125-pixel resolution at 458ppi|
|Dimensions: 143.6mm x 70.9mm x 7.7mm (177g)||Dimensions: 143.6mm x 70.9mm x 7.7mm (174g)|
|Storage Options: 64, 256, or 512GB||Storage Options: 64 or 256GB|
|RAM: 3GB||RAM: 4GB|
|Camera: Dual-lens 12MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras, Dual optical image stabilisation, Optical zoom, 4K video||Camera: Dual-lens 12MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras, Dual optical image stabilisation, Optical zoom|
|Battery Size: 2658mAh||Battery Size: 2716 mAh|
|CPU: A12 Bionic||CPU: A11 Bionic chip|
|Wireless Charging: Yes||Wireless Charging: Yes|
|Water Resistant: Yes – IP68||Water Resistant: Yes - IP68|
Apple’s A-Series SoCs have been dominating the mobile space for years now, and the A11 Bionic chip is no different. Paired with 3GB of RAM, Apple’s outstanding A11 chipset delivers blistering performance across the board. At the time of initially reviewing this phone, it was the fastest on the market – by quite a margin.
Nowadays, that title goes to the iPhone 11 range. But the iPhone X is still just as powerful as the latest and greatest Android phones. How so? Simple: Apple has its A11 chipset and iPhone perfectly optimized to work together. Nothing was left to chance. And the result? Seamless performance that not only kicks ass but is also extremely power efficient.
If you’re worried that the iPhone X is older than current-generation iPhones and that this will affect its performance, DO NOT worry – this phone will still deliver the goods with respect to power for years to come. That’s how Apple designs phones: they’re built to last and run for a long time. And the iPhone X will be good to go for years to come.
The iPhone X’s camera is a very capable beast. Apple has been making solid, reliable cameras for a good few years now. But with the iPhone X, it has come to market with something very impressive, indeed. And the shots you can capture with it have never looked better.
You have two 12MP rear cameras packing OIS (optical image stabilization) and phase-detect autofocus. One is a wide-angle f/1.8 camera and the other is a 2x telephoto camera. The big idea here is better depth perception, better low-light performance, and more detail inside your shots.
The iPhone X’s camera is not quite as good as Google’s Pixel 2 or Pixel 3, but it is damn close and is easily on a par with Samsung’s Galaxy S10 and Huawei’s Mate 10. For most users, the iPhone X camera will be more than enough to capture beautifully detailed images that look professional and polished.
You also have things like Portrait Mode for capturing framed shots of people and objects, whereby the background is blurred out. On the front, you have a 7MP camera that can be used for selfies and video-calling. Performance here is decent, though I’d prefer to have seen a higher resolution camera on the front given how much the iPhone X cost at launch.
Verdict – Should You Buy The iPhone X?
If you’re shopping around for a new iPhone in 2021 and beyond, and you want to save some money, I can wholeheartedly recommend the iPhone X. For me, the iPhone X is the best value iPhone you can currently buy – it’s now A LOT cheaper than it was when it first launched. And you’re still getting A LOT of phone.
I do really love the iPhone XR, but the iPhone X does have a better display and much the same overall performance. I think if you’re torn between the two, the iPhone X is the one to go for – it’s cheaper, has a better OLED display, and is just as powerful. Plus, Apple will be supporting the iPhone X for years to come, so you’re covered for updates until, well… probably the mid-2020s!
And then, of course, there is the iPhone XS, which came out alongside the iPhone XR. You can check out the full details of how the iPhone X compares to the iPhone XS here.
Apple expert and novelist, Michael Grothaus has been covering tech on KnowYourMobile for the best part of 10 years. Prior to this, he worked at Apple. And before that, he was a film journalist. Michael is a published author; his book Epiphany Jones was voted as one of the best novels about Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly. Michael is also a writer at other publications including VICE and Fast Company.