The Apple iPhone X is a near-perfect travel buddy.Getty
• I took my new iPhone X with me on a weeks-long vacation to Italy, forgoing a laptop or tablet.
• The phone’s camera and the battery life made it an amazing travel buddy, and I never felt like I needed a “real” digital camera.
• But the experience wasn’t perfect. Among other things, the nearly borderless screen on its front made the phone unwieldy to use at times.
Every November when my partner and I take our big annual vacation, I take along some kind of computer, just in case I need it.
Typically I bring along a laptop, and last year, I tried using a hybrid tablet-notebook. On this year’s journey – a whirlwind three-week tour of Italy – I decided to travel even lighter. The only computer I took along was my iPhone X.
I had just replaced my trusty old iPhone 6S, and I was eager to see how far my fancy new $999 smartphone could take me. The answer: Pretty darn far!
Here’s what I liked and didn’t like about having the iPhone X as my travel companion.
The iPhone X’s camera is amazing, and I never wished I had a “real” camera
The iPhone X’s camera is really, really good. I’m not a camera expert, so I don’t know how it stacks up against, say, that of the Google Pixel 2. All I know is that it’s amazing, and I never for a second wished I had brought a “real” digital camera with me. Instead, the iPhone X makes for a perfect vacation point-and-shoot camera.
I mean, check this out:
The town of Sorrento, on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, as viewed through the lens of the iPhone X.Matt Weinberger/Business Insider
I’m biased because I took that picture, but it’s pretty good, right?
And the iPhone X’s Portrait Mode, which blurs the background to create professional-looking photos, is extra-fun when you have busy Italian scenes in the background, like so:
That’s the Castel dell’Ovo, a major Naples landmark, blurred in the background.Matt Weinberger/Business Insider
Better yet, it turns out that Portrait Mode was the ideal way to capture every noodle and dollop of sauce in the pasta we ate across Italy:
Gnocchi from Tandem, a terrific restaurant in the heart of Naples.Matt Weinberger/Business Insider
I won’t bore you with another vacation photo, but I particularly loved the iPhone X’s second rear camera, which has a zoom lens. Its 2X optical zoom allows you to focus in on objects without losing image quality. It’s really helpful for getting that perfect photo.
The phone’s battery life is pretty great
The battery in my iPhone 6S left a lot to be desired. Wherever I took it, I had to bring along at least one external battery pack. Heck, I’d routinely run down 25% of the battery just on my normal commute.
It was even worse when I was traveling. I typically rely on the battery-intensive Google Maps to get around. And I’m the annoying tourist who takes photos of everything, which curtailed my battery life even more.
So my iPhone X was a wonderful change. I still carried around my external battery pack out of habit, but I didn’t need to use it once on our all-day journeys. My phone got close to running out of battery life a few times, thanks to long days or late nights, but every single time it held out until we got back to our room.
I haven’t done any scientific testing on the iPhone X’s battery versus those of other smartphones. But I do know that for my purposes, my new phone’s battery life was great.
But the iPhone X isn’t perfect
My colleague Dennis Green sold his iPhone X because he hated how hard it was for him to use with one hand. I don’t feel as strongly as he did, but he had a point.
I’m a fan of the iPhone X’s big, nearly borderless screen. But its design can make the phone hard to use at times. For example, it can be difficult with one hand to access the control panel to adjust the volume or the screen’s brightness, in part because Apple relocated it to the top-right corner of the display.
The result of such design decisions was that instead of paying attention to my surroundings, I had to worry about how I was holding my phone. They also made it more likely I would drop it when I was trying to take in the sights, such as Michelangelo’s David.
I’ve also been underwhelmed by Apple’s FaceID facial recognition system that you use to unlock the iPhone X. It works OK for the most part. But when I was on a bouncing coastal bus, a poorly lit train, or was just speed-walking to dinner, it frequently required multiple tries to recognize me.
Getting rid of the headphone jack still stinks
Much as I like the iPhone X, I’m still not happy Apple decided to get rid of the headphone jack in it and the other new iPhones. Most of the time, the lack of a headphone jack isn’t a big problem. But when you’re on an airplane and you can’t charge your phone at the same time that you’re listening on your headphones to the movie you’re watching? Sheesh. That’s frustrating.