Face Id: better than you expect worse than you want

Six months of using Face ID and not a day goes by that I don’t miss Touch ID. 

I was skeptical before iPhone X came out and I was pleasantly surprised how well it worked in recognising my face. However, turns put I was worried about the wrong thing. I was worried about the technology whereas the problems that have surfaced are almost all about usability. 

Here are some of the things that make Face ID a suboptimal solution to Touch ID...

  • It is just slow enough to be annoying - this won't be a big deal if I didn't have to encounter it every single time I try to use the phone. 
  • Doesn’t work when not straight in front of the face - this doesn't happen enough but every time it does - it sucks a little bit
  • Much slower authenticating other apps from banks and such
  • Failure mode is way slower - since it is slow and since my finger isn't on the phone - when Face ID fails - it takes much longer to get to entering the code
  • Doesn’t work while skiing or wearing heavy face gear - this not too different from Touch ID - but it was much easier to get your glove off and get Touch ID working than to take your glove off - wait for Face ID to fail - and then enter your code. 
  • Apple pay is way worse. Awkward, slow and in your face - me looking at the phone - the cashier looking at me. 

Since Face ID is here to stay, I saw wish Apple would also add Touch ID somewhere on the phones - maybe at the back? Oh well, we can dream.

iPhone X - first impressions

I’ve had the iPhone X for about 4 days now. Here are some early initial observations. Overall more positive than I was fearing but I am afraid unlike the rest of the internet, I don't really see "the future" staring at me in this phone yet. I would say it largely feels the same as previous phones - which though is a massive credit to Apple because this phone is, in its own small ways, is the most different from previous iPhones.

The portrait mode on the iPhone X offers some passable bokeh options

The portrait mode on the iPhone X offers some passable bokeh options

Handling

  • The phone feels huge and heavy in the hand - much much bigger than the 7 even though it is only marginally bigger
  • Handling is awkward - my hand barely reaches anything at - the bottom or the top making one-handed use quite difficult. It is decidedly an odd-shaped thing.
  • The notch is stupid but you don’t seem to notice it as much as I thought I would

Screen

  • It looks good and probably a bit better than the 7 but my tired old eyes really don’t notice much improvement. 

Face ID

  • Happy to report that it has worked as expected so far. I don’t really miss the Touch ID
  • It feels just slightly slower inside apps but feels just the same and even better when used to unlock the phone

Battery Life

  • So far so good - too early to tell - all new phones perform well. The real test is after 6-8 months of heavy usage
  • Wireless charging is useful though quite slow to be the only way to charge so not getting rid of the umpteen lightening charging cables I have

Camera

  • The 56mm lens (‘portrait’) is useful and the software blurring is a good option and works quite well even though it is nowhere near as natural as a regular lens. 
  • Some of the studio lighting options (Stage light for example) are downright dirty, rushed hacks that should never be used. 

Worth $1,400?

  • With taxes and AppleCare you end up paying about $1,400 for this phone - which is about $2 a day. While $1,400 sounds a lot - the phone is  definitely worth 2 dollars a day. 

iPhone won't latch on to LTE

Everyday as I get out of the subway it takes anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes for the iPhone to latch on to LTE. It remains until then in a state of disconnected limbo searching for connection - roaming in the cellular signal purgatory of  between 1x, Edge and 3G.

The only way to make it latch on to LTE reliably is either wait impatiently or to turn on and off Airport mode. Airport mode would be a grudgingly acceptable solution to me if switching it on also did not disconnect all bluetooth devices - specially wireless headphones. Disconnecting wireless headphones is so disruptive. 

ios 11 did nothing to fix this and I see zero chance of a new phone fixing this either.