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iPhone X review: Day one with Face ID and animojis

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The iPhone X feels like a concept car, or a secret project. That’s because of the X name, probably, and the legacy of 10 years of iPhones. It’s also the fact that this is an optional step-up model — like an 8 Plus, but smaller. It’s a bold new design, different after three years of each iPhone looking very much the same. Huge kudos to cnet for this. Link to source at bottom of page

I love new technology and the wild ideas that come with it. I love to be immersed in new concepts. But I’m also practical when it comes to tools. Will I use a fully rethought phone? Will it work for me when I need it to? My phone is my mission critical everything. It’s my Indiana Jones hat. Will Face ID work as well as the trusty Touch ID home button? Will I feel safe?

Ultimately the all important question is simple: Is this the must-have upgrade? Should my mom get it? Should my sister? My brother-in-law? My best friend? You?

I’ve spent 18 hours with the device to begin to answer this question. Consider this a living review that we’ll be updating throughout the week — and beyond — as we test, retest and experience the iPhone X.

Face ID works pretty well…

You’ve been able to unlock an iPhone with Touch ID using your fingerprint since 2013. The original iPhone shipped with a home button a decade ago. Apple‘s making a big leap by getting rid of both in one fell swoop and replacing them with Face ID. Your face — or a passcode — is the only way to unlock the iPhone X.

Face ID worked well in early tests. Setup is quick: Two circular head twists and the iPhone adds your face to its secure internal database.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Unlocking isn’t automatic. Instead, the phone “readies for unlock” when it recognizes my face. So I look at the iPhone, and then a lock icon at the top unlocks. But the iPhone still needs my finger-swipe to finish the unlock. It’s fast, but that extra step means it’s not instantaneous. Face ID did recognize me most of the time but sometimes, every once in a while, it didn’t.

I tried the phone with at least five of my coworkers. None of their faces unlocked it — although none of them look remotely like me. I also attempted to unlock it with a big color photo of my face on a 24-inch monitor, but that didn’t register as a face to the iPhone X either. The TrueDepth camera recognizes face contours to identify you.

iPhone X Face ID yes
Face ID worked perfectly in these instances.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Face ID worked perfectly in almost completely dark room, too, lit only by the iPhone’s screen. (It uses infrared). We’ll still need to do a lot more testing to see what Face ID’s limits are. By default, it requires “attention” at the display, but that requirement for direct attention can be turned off for those who need it, or those who prefer to speed up the process.

…but it’s not perfect

By design, the iPhone X doesn’t unlock with just a glance. Once you’ve identified yourself with your face, you need to swipe up with your finger to get to your apps. Not only does the swipe remove the immediacy of Face ID, it means you need your hand to do anything. Quick access to the phone wasn’t quite as quick as I expected.

I pushed my face testing hard. I got a haircut, shaved my beard into several shapes, then off completely. I tried on sunglasses and other frames. I wore hats and scarves. Then I went to more absurd levels, including some that wouldn’t happen in most real-world scenarios, trying on wigs, fake mustaches and steampunk goggles.

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Face ID failed here.


Sarah Tew/CNET

The preliminary results are in my video. This is by no means a final test, but the bottom line is that most of the “real world” tests worked and showed me that Face ID is more resilient than I expected. Face ID didn’t mind my sunglasses. Scarves presented some challenges, but that makes sense if they’re pulled up over your mouth since they’re hiding essential aspects of your face. All the tests worked far better than Samsung’s face unlock feature on the Galaxy Note 8 — though Samsung kept its fingerprint reader on, as an easy backup.

The iPhone X occasionally asked me to re-enter the passcode after a failed Face ID attempt, then locked out further Face ID efforts until I entered the passcode again. If you’ve used Touch ID, this will remind you of trying to use an iPhone with wet fingers.

The big OLED screen is a welcome addition…

The 5.8-inch screen is the biggest on an iPhone to date, and the first Apple handset to use OLED (organic light-emitting display) technology versus the LED/LCD in all previous iPhones. In addition to better energy efficiency, OLED screens offer much better contrast and true, inky blacks — not the grayish blacks of LCD screens.

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The iPhone 8 (left) has a 4.7-inch screen; the iPhone X (center) has a 5.8-inch screen; and the iPhone 8 Plus (right) is 5.5 inches.


Sarah Tew/CNET

At first use, the bigger screen feels great. I’ve wanted more screen real estate on the iPhone, and the X comes closest to all-screen. Picture quality improvement isn’t immediately noticeable over previous iPhones, but that’s a testament to how good Apple’s previous TrueTone displays are. The larger screen gives the iPhone a more current and immersive feel.

I’ll need more time to compare the screen to other iPhones — and to other OLED phones, such as Samsung Galaxy models.

iPhone X

Sarah Tew/CNET

…but the X’s screen feels different from an iPhone Plus

That said, I grappled with a few X display quirks. Sure, there’s a notch cut out of the top of the screen where the front-facing camera array sits. But this isn’t just the Plus display crammed into the body of a 4.7-inch iPhone. The X’s display is taller than recent iPhones — or, when you put it in landscape mode, narrower. For some videos, that means they get letterboxed (black bars at the top and bottom) or pillarboxed (black bars on the left and right) to fit properly and the effective display area ends up a bit smaller than on the 8 Plus.

The rounded edges of the display mean that even if you expand a picture to fill the screen, parts of the image or movie end up cut off.

The notch didn’t bother me — much…

Hear me out. The notch and the two extra bits on either side end up feeling like bonus space: most apps don’t use that area, and it ends up relegated to carrier, Wi-Fi and battery notifications, which saves that info from cluttering the display below.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

…but your favorite apps might not make the most of that screen

Many current apps aren’t yet optimized for the iPhone X. These outdated apps end up filling the same space as on an iPhone 8, leaving a lot of unused area. That’ll certainly get fixed for some apps over time, but it’s a reminder that the extra screen room here might not end up meeting your needs, until or unless the apps are optimized.

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The Witness isn’t optimized for the iPhone X (yet), so it “pillarboxes” (places black bars to the left and right of the screen).


Sarah Tew/CNET

Living without the home button takes some adjustment

A number of new gestures take the place of the old home button. I kept reaching for the phantom button over the first few hours, feeling like I’d lost a thumb.

Unlike phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, which adds a virtual home button to create a “press for home” experience, the X remaps familiar gestures completely.

  • Swiping down from the corner now gives you Control Center, instead of swiping up.
  • Swiping up is the new “home button.”
  • Swiping up and holding brings up all open apps.
  • And another new trick: swiping left or right on the opaque bar below all apps, flips between apps for quick multitasking.
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Sarah Tew/CNET

Meanwhile, there’s a new, large side button that brings up Siri and Apple Pay. I instinctively pressed and held it to shut down my phone, then I realized that is not what that button does. (To turn off the phone, you now hold that same side button *and* the lower volume button at the same time, which feels far from intuitive.)

Those gestures added up to some difficult maneuvers as I walked Manhattan streets in the Flatiron between my office and a local barber shop. At the end of the first day, I admit: sometimes I missed the simple home button.

You’ll need to adjust your Apple Pay routine

Double-clicking the side button brings up Apple Pay, but an additional face-glance is needed to authorize a payment. I tried it on our vending machine at the office and sometimes it worked great. Sometimes Face ID didn’t seem to recognize me. Maybe my timing was off.

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We tested Apple Pay on our in-house vending machine.


Sarah Tew/CNET

I’m definitely going to need to check this out at more places in the days ahead. The bottom line: you don’t want to be the guy holding up the line at the drugstore because your double-click-to-Face-ID-to-NFC-reader flow was off.

The rear cameras are similar, not identical, to the iPhone 8 Plus

Like the iPhone 8 Plus, the iPhone X has a dual rear camera with both wide-angle and telephoto lenses. But X has two changes: A larger aperture (f/2.4 vs. f/2.8) on the telephoto lens, and optical image stabilization on both lenses (rather than just one on the 8 Plus), which should make for better-lit, less blurry zoomed-in shots at night or in lower lighting.

My colleague, CNET Senior Photographer James Martin, has done a deep dive on the new front-facing iPhone X camera, experimenting with portraits and shots around San Francisco.

The front camera is great with Portrait Mode…

In addition to handling Face ID duties, the TrueDepth front camera brings most of the magic of Apple’s rear cameras to the selfie world.

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Scott Stein/CNET

Portrait Mode, where the subject is in the foreground in focus with a blurred background, and Portrait Lighting, which applies various lighting effects to a photo after the fact, both now work on your selfies. Vanity, thy name is Portrait Mode.

…but not great with Portrait Lighting and my face

Portrait Lighting is officially in beta on both the iPhone’s rear and front cameras, and my experiences with it confirmed Apple isn’t finished perfecting the software that makes it work. My face ended up looking oddly cut-out and poorly lit. Unlike the rear cameras, which seemed to produce hit-or-miss Portrait Lighting shots, I haven’t had luck with my own selfies.

iPhone X selfie portrait lighting
Portrait Lighting is still in beta, so temper your expectations.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Get ready to be bombarded with animojis, and other TrueDepth AR and face-mapping apps

Animojis are exactly what they sound like: animated emojis. They’re cute. They’re also Apple’s showcase for the fancy TrueDepth camera, which maps your facial expressions onto monkeys, aliens, foxes and even a pile of poop. (If nothing else, the 10-second clips made my kids laugh when I sent them a few.)

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Animojis map to your facial expressions and mouth movements.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Third-party apps also use the TrueDepth camera for real-time 3D effects. Snapchat created new face filters I got to play with, and some did an amazing job staying on my face. I’m curious to see how future apps use this tech for even more advanced face-aware AR.

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Snapchat face filters just got a lot more realistic.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple’s Instagram-like video app Clips has an update coming that also uses the camera to green-screen my face into different scenes, like an 8-bit gaming experience or a Star Wars filter where it looks like my face is a blue-tinged hologram. Again, it’s fun. For many people, the filters Snapchat already provides are probably enough.

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Apple’s Clips app is now TrueDepth-enabled, too.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple nailed the size and feel: Did it nail the entire experience?

I think the X is in the sweet spot that the older iPhone sizes could never perfectly be. It’s a good-feeling phone with a nice, large screen. The shift to Face ID and the removal of the home button feel like changes that some might be fine with, and others will find unnecessary. I’m still learning the X’s design language.

We’re just getting started!

Want to know more? So do we. This is the beginning of our iPhone X journey, not the final word. We’ve got plenty more on deck, including battery tests, benchmarks and in-depth comparisons to rival phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and Google PIxel 2 XL.

We’ll continue to update our experiences throughout the week as we count down to the iPhone X global launch on Friday, Nov. 3.

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LG G7 ThinQ Is Now Available In the US for $750

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LG waited longer than normal to announce its big 2018 flagship phone, but it finally took the wraps off the LG G7 ThinQ a few weeks ago. Today, the phone is available for purchase on most US carriers. While LG has had trouble competing with the likes of Samsung, it’s still targeting the same premium space. Although, it’s got an iPhone-style screen notch now. That’s what consumers want, right?

The LG G7 ThinQ is the epitome of all things 2018 in smartphone design. It has a glass back, dual cameras, and a display notch that isn’t done particularly well. The missing bit of screen provides a place for the camera, earpiece, and some other sensors. It does seem a little excessively large for how compact these components are, though. In addition, the G7 has a “chin” at the bottom with a larger bezel than the top and bottom. This asymmetric look isn’t as striking as the iPhone X it imitates. The 6.1-inch 1440p display is also an OLED, which lacks the vibrancy of modern OLED panels.

Inside, this phone has all the current flagship hardware you’d expect with a Snapdragon 845, 64GB of storage, and 4GB of RAM. Unlike many other current smartphones, the company has opted to keep the headphone jack for the G7 ThinQ. LG also touts the G7’s unique speaker design that uses the entire chassis as a resonator to boost sound output.

You may be wondering about the name — specifically the “ThinQ” bit. Well, that’s LG’s expanded brand for all its AI technologies. What that means for the G7 is that there’s an AI mode in the camera that looks for objects it can identify and offers possible filters. It’s not very accurate or useful, but LG didn’t even develop any AI software or hardware for this phone. It just licensed a machine vision library from a third-party.

The LG G7 ThinQ is available from all major carriers in the US except AT&T. Apparently, AT&T chose to sell the LG V35 instead of the G7. This marks the third variant of the V30 that LG has sold since it debuted last year. At other carriers, the G7 ThinQ will run you $750, give or take a few dollars. Carriers offer payment plans to split the cost over two years. It will launch on Google’s Project Fi soon, as well. If you don’t want to go through carriers, the phone is also available from Amazon.

 

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Google Doodle honors ‘Prince of Mathematicians’ Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss

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johann-carl-friedrich-gaus

Google

Maths is the latest to receive the Google Doodle homage.

Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss, otherwise known as “The Prince of Mathematicians”, made instrumental contributions to number theory, algebra, geophysics, mechanics and statistics.

Gauss was born on April 30 in 1777 in Brunswick, a city in the north of Germany, near Wolfsburg. Despite poor working-class parents and an illiterate mother, Gauss was a child prodigy, believed to have been able to add up every number from 1 to 100 at 8-years-old.

One of his first major equations was working out his date of birth, which his mother hadn’t recorded. He used the only information she had: that it was a Wednesday, eight days before an Easter holiday.

At university when he was 19, Gauss discovered a heptadecagon, or a 17-sided polygon. He requested that a regular heptadecagon be inscribed on his tombstone, but it was too difficult for the stonemason, who said it would just look like a circle.

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 A heptadecagon.

 


László Németh/Wikipedia

And remember your prime numbers? That year Gauss was involved with proving the prime number theorem, helping understand how prime numbers are distributed among the integers, or whole numbers.

Again the same year, a productive one for Gauss, he discovered the quadratic reciprocity law, which allows mathematicians to determine the solvability of any quadratic equation in modular arithmetic.

At 24, Gauss’ work on number theory, which he completed when he was 21, was published as a textbook. Not only did it involve his original work, but it reconciled that of other mathematicians. It would be considered his magnum opus and had an extraordinary impact on the field.

Oh, and add to those achievements a discovery in astronomy — in the same year, 1801, Gauss calculated the orbit of an asteroid called Ceres.

After a much-accomplished life, Gauss died aged 77 on Feb. 23, 1855.

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