I once saw a long queue of people waiting to enter the Louis Vuitton boutique at Delhi’s Emporio Mall. It wasn’t a sight I thought I would see, at least not in India. But this was actually happening. That scene stuck in my head for a long time, and I started to wonder how Louis Vuitton turned a luxury handbag “mainstream” without losing the “exclusivity” appeal.
Five years ago, Apple made an attempt to make smartphones in the same league as that of an LV bag or a Gucci loafer. It turned a $1000 iPhone X – a luxury item as it was then called by press and trade pundits – into a pop culture phenomenon. Not only did the iPhone X trigger a cultural reset, but it also established the market for ‘premium’ smartphones at that point, long after Vertu had exited the scene.
As someone who closely follows Apple and the smartphone market, it sometimes baffles me how Cupertino managed to make the iPhone X a bestseller when many thought it to be a niche product. With the original iPhone recently turning 15, I thought of revisiting the iPhone X, one of my favourite iPhone models of all time.
Thanks to folks at ControlZ for sharing a unit with me, I was able to use the ‘renewed’ iPhone X for over a month. Here’s how I felt using the iPhone X in 2022 and why it remains the ‘it’ smartphone that changed the game for Apple and the entire tech industry.
How the iPhone X established the ‘premium’ smartphone market
The main draw of the iPhone X was a 5.8-inch screen that eliminated the home button and stretched all the way across the front of the device. The home button was replaced with swipe-up gestures. This meant users could not use the fingerprint scanner which used to be on the home button and Apple introduced FaceID replacing the earlier TouchID.
Although many criticised Apple for charging $1000 for the 10th anniversary iPhone, the market reacted totally differently from what analysts had initially predicted. The phone was incredibly fashionable and would instantly turn heads wherever you went.
The iPhone X, or “iPhone Ex ” as it was called by young, affluent influencers on social media, was suddenly everywhere. There wasn’t a celebrity who was not photographed carrying the iPhone X. The iPhone X was just like a Christian Dior tote bag or Chanel’s small classic flap bag… the season’s most-popular fashion accessories.
Elegant and classy design
In the cycle of tech, five years can seem like a lifetime. Unless, of course, it’s an iPhone X. Among the most beautiful products Apple has ever produced, the phone remains a star on the vintage collectables market. Its timeless design, far from being dated, is like a Chanel tweed jacket. The physical size is a little bigger than the iPhone 13 mini and yet it still fits in my jeans pocket.
The back of the phone is made of glass that feels premium even in 2022. The stainless steel band shows the excellent craftsmanship involved. I have been using Apple’s cases to protect the iPhone from regular wear and tear. However, in the case of the iPhone X, I decided not to use the case. It just feels so good in your hand that you don’t feel like using the case.
No home button
The iPhone X has no home button, unlike the iPhone 6s or iPhone SE. I had thought it would be a shocker to lose the home button, something I was so used to on the previous generation of iPhones. In fact, the transition from the home button to the button-less interface was smooth. Instead of pressing the button once to go back to your home screen, you do a small swipe up from the bottom of the display. In many ways, new gestures made the iPhone X easier to operate. To date, every new iPhone uses the same basic template as the iPhone X — no home button and new gestures for getting around.
Switch from TouchID to FaceID…and the notch
Perhaps the biggest change the iPhone X brought in was the switch from TouchID to FaceID. TouchID was a brilliant innovation – and still continues to impress. After all, it made iPhones more secure. FaceID is a better solution. All you have to do is look at the phone and the device will get unlocked. It works in the dark or without glasses. For me, FaceID is a technological pinnacle that combines the best of hardware, software and silicon.
On top of the screen is a notch, which holds the FaceID cameras and sensors. When Apple introduced the notch on the iPhone X in 2017, the company got a lot of flack for it. But I think Apple did the right thing to have the notch. Sure, it wasn’t the most elegant solution to have a small black rectangular cut-out on the top of the screen. The notch remains an integral design element in all iPhone models since then. I don’t know about others but I barely noticed the notch after using the phone for a few days. In day-to-day use, the notch seems to disappear unless you consciously see it on the display.
Another breakthrough feature of the iPhone X was its display. The iPhone X was the first iPhone to ship with an OLED screen. Before the iPhone X, Samsung had an edge over Apple and its iPhone in the display department. Not only did the iPhone X flip the game but it also made OLED mainstream. What also worked in Apple’s favour was that the iPhone X used a flat display and that avoided the accidental touches and inputs that were a larger issue on the exposed edge of the Galaxy S8.
I still find the iPhone X’s screen beautiful. In fact, the iPhone X’s 5.8-inch OLED screen is much richer and more colourful than many premium smartphones I have used this year. The colours pop and images are sharp. It’s a damn good screen, as expected from a premium iPhone.
The iPhone X will remain ‘more’ than its luxury price tag
Smartphones come and go and are easily forgotten. Five years on – the iPhone X is still relevant today. The iPhone X helped form a new standard of what a ‘premium’ smartphone could be. The iPhone X wasn’t about the camera, the screen or the performance. Rather, it promised a new way to use your smartphone with the help of elegant design, its new screen tech and software. High-end phones have always attracted affluent consumers. The iPhone X, however, turned the phone into a fashion accessory. Countless iterations and imitations have followed since, but no other smartphone has been able to match the understated appeal of the iPhone X.
I don’t know how many of you want to buy a renewed or refurbished iPhone X in 2022, but for me revisiting the classic iPhone was a lot of fun. The iPhone X maybe be half a decade old now but it still has a desirable factor and classic appeal which is why Apple products are both popular and expensive. There are many reasons why the iPhone X will continue to impress collectors like myself who value old, vintage Apple products. The price of an iPhone X even if it is in ‘renewed’ condition is the price of a legacy that only Apple enjoys in the tech world.