surprised

Upgrading My iPhone Part Two: The Unexpected

FaceID on the X

I actually thought I would hate FaceID. I read the terms of service carefully. Apple claims the FaceID data never leaves the phone and is not shared with any apps that use FaceID for authentication. Apps merely get a passed/failed authentication response from the hardware.

Apple did not explicitly say that 3rd party apps would be denied access to the FaceID hardware on the phone to collect their own FaceID data. This concerns me. If, like location services, I can allow or deny any attempts by apps to use the FaceID hardware, I’d be comfortable with that.

FaceID Bottom Line

I love it. It’s actually far more convenient than I ever thought it would be. I especially like how my passwords integrate with it seamlessly. That integration seems vastly superior to the fingerprint.

After using the iPhone X for a couple of days, when I went back to my old phone and to the iPhone 8 Plus, the fingerprint seemed bothersome, an unwanted inconvenience. I’m telling you, I really, really like the FaceID solution.

The Missing Home Button

shoe homeI don’t miss it. The new gestures became very familiar very quickly. In fact, I find myself trying to use them on the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone 6s Plus. They are so natural, going back to the older fingerprint hardware configuration and its associated gestures felt clunky to me. I didn’t expect this.

I only have had problems with the new gestures once, when using the DJI Go 4 app, swiping down from the top right to bring down the control panel to adjust screen brightness is damned near impossible! But there’s a simpler and better solution: access screen brightness from within the DJI Go 4 app itself. (I just learned this is possible!)

Form Factor

I fully expected that I would like the form factor of the iPhone X–its size in the hand. And I do. It’s easier on the shirt and pants pockets. I don’t have to always feel that if I lean over too far the phone might fall out of my shirt.

Screen Size

While the form factor is smaller than the iPhone Plus sizes, the screen size itself is taller (in portrait orientation) but narrower in width. This didn’t bug me until I turned the phone to landscape orientation. Apps that use landscape orientation generally were not problematic except for one: the DJI Go 4 app I use to fly my Mavic Pro. I’ll discuss this issue in a separate post dedicated to using the iPhone X on the Mavic Pro.

In landscape orientation, not only is the screen less tall because the physical dimension of the screen is smaller along that Y axis, but the operating system reduces that already reduced height even more. The iOS places a thin bar across the bottom of the screen to remind you to swipe up from down there to close the app. The bar therefore even further reduces screen size. I show this in detail in a screenshot in this post.

This loss of screen size in landscape orientation is actually a pretty big deal to me. I was surprised by the fact that it bugged me. Maybe I’ll eventually get accustomed to it. Right now, it annoys me.

Brightness

I want to draw direct attention to screen brightness. I made certain all 3 devices had the same screen and brightness settings. The iPhone 8 Plus (625 nits) and the iPhone X (also 625 nits) are supposed to be 125 NITS brighter than the iPhone 6s Plus (500 nits). The LG V30 (1,000 nits) and the Gallaxy Note 8 (1,000 nits) screens are 375 nits brighter than the brightest iPhone technology! Really, Apple?!

In practical application (outside in the direct sunlight) I simply don’t see that the screen is brighter on the iPhone 8 Plus or the iPhone X. In fact, to me, my iPhone 6s Plus, seems to be slightly brighter. I’m at a loss about this, and I have checked several times in different places outside, all in bright sunlight.

Camera Performance (Video)

I use FiLMiC Pro a lot. Love that app. It performs exceptionally well on the A11 processor which lives in both the 8 and the X models of phones. My iPhone 6s Plus only has the A9 chip. The A11 chip opens up a new world for camera possibilities.

I put together a rig to shoot simultaneous video from all 3 cameras for image comparison purposes. In bright outdoor lighting, the image quality is very similar, though I would suggest the 6s Plus is a bit less defined.

But in lower light conditions, the X works wonders. Its faster lens makes a difference in image clarity, definition, and color accuracy. The color was spot on. The image has very little noise. The 8 Plus had slightly more noise and a bit of a color cast but was also superb. The 6s Plus was noisy and soft by comparison. (Keep in mind I had never even noticed that before the side-by-side image comparisons.)

For all kinds of reasons1, I don’t think side-by-side, re-compressed, and size-reduced video screen grabs are of much use, honestly, but here are are three screen grabs from video shot in a rather dark room in the early morning. (By the way, the magenta light from the lamps is indeed an LED Hue light set to a magenta-tint.) The cameras are not at all perfectly aligned. But this gives you a vague notion of how the 3 cameras reproduced what they saw. The 6s Plus video appears darker than what my eyes saw in the room. The 8 Plus video was closest in this scene to what my eyes saw in the room. The X video opened up the brightness of the scene.

iPhone 6s Plus Video Screen Grab
iPhone 6s Plus Video Screen Grab
iPhone 8 Plus Video Screen Grab
iPhone 8 Plus Video Screen Grab
iPhone X Video Screen Grab
iPhone X Video Screen Grab

The A11 bionic processor (oh, for god’s sake!) in both new models works its magic with gorgeous 2k footage shot at 240 fps. This footage looks stunning in slow motion! A phone can shoot like that?! My iPhone 6s Plus can only shoot higher frame rates at 720; so, I never shot high frame rates with it. Of course, I’m insatiable. I want 4k at 240 fps!

A11 Bionic iPhone ChipThe A11 can shoot in h.265 compression; the A8 chip can not. This is significant. h.265 creates much smaller files that look great. Shooting 2k at 240 fps or 4k at 60 fps naturally creates huge file sizes. The new compression algorithm is welcomed (if not essential) along with the increased device storage: 256GB.

An aside here: I originally thought that the extra storage space (256GB) was going to be overkill. But, I can’t stop shooting at higher frame rates than I’ve ever shot at before. For those that will shoot at high frame rates, even with the better compression of h.265, the extra storage space is needed.

Frankly, I could care less about the new camera modes. Maybe they will grown on me in time? Whatever…

Summary

Now, I’m no technical wizard. And I’m confident Apple’s spin machine will point out that numerous factors affect screen visibility and general readability. But my iPhone 6s Plus seems brighter and easier to read than either the 8 Plus or the X. Now granted, competing with the brightness of the sun is a no-win situation for any device. But I was hoping the increased brightness would be noticeably helpful. It wasn’t.

General visibility on the iPhone X was a bit problematic for my old eyes. And, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is more of an issue with my personal eye sight, even though, with my bifocals, I have 20/20 vision. I’ve been playing with letter size and turning bold on and off to try to find a sweet spot between usability and conserving screen real estate.

The size of the screen on the iPhone X is just untenable for the unoptimized DJI Go 4 app. I would much prefer the iPhone 8 Plus or even my old iPhone 6s Plus which seems brighter to me anyway. If and how DJI optimizes their app for the iPhone X remains speculation.

I really fell in love with the iPhone X’s camera performance. I like the faster lens, and I love the 240 fps at 2k frame sizes (on both the 8 and the X), a feature I’ve waited on for years. The h.265 file compression is awesome even though FCPX 10.4 (which will reportedly work with that compression type) has not yet been released. Currently, if you want to use your video in FCPX, you have to shoot in h.264 on the devices or use an app to recompress the HEVC files to h.264.

None of the other new features really stood out to me.


Check out the posts in this series:

  1. Upgrading My iPhone Part One: Setup
  2. Upgrading My iPhone Part Two: The Unexpected [This post]
  3. Upgrading My iPhone Part Three: Flying the Mavic Pro
  4. Upgrading My iPhone Part Four: Using My Osmo Mobile
  5. Upgrading My iPhone Part Five: Which Phone Am I Keeping?

  1. The cameras were allowed to auto-adjust everything but white balance, which was set manually