Design September 13, 2017

Designing for iPhone X

Niels Boey

Product Designer

The iPhone X (read: iPhone ten) is officially here, well it will be on November 3rd. It rocks an edge to edge Super Retina Display with a resolution of 1125×2436px. It also has a cut-out at the top of the screen where you can find some futuristic face unlock features.

Designing for this beautiful machine will bring some new challenges, but also some new design opportunities. The width of the device in portrait mode is the same as the iPhone 6, 7 and 8, but is 145pt taller, which results in ± 20% more vertical space. When designing @ 1x you need an artboard of 375×812px. You won’t export images @ 2x like the iPhone 8, but @ 3x like the iPhone 7-8 Plus, because of the new Retina display.

When creating your design, you must make sure you don’t obscure your UI with the devices unique features (the round edges, the cut-out at the top and the home indicator). By the way, the home indicator is that small line that lives on the bottom of your screen, it replaces the physical home button. You swipe up from any app to go back to your homescreen or into multitasking.

See that white line, that's the new home indicator

See that white line, that's the new home indicator

If you currently have an app that uses iOS native component you will be fine, your app will already be adapted for this new iPhone. This can be navigation bars, tables, collection views and tab bars. They will be automatically inset and positioned.

iPhone 8 design on the left, automatically adapted to the iPhone X on the right

iPhone 8 design on the left, automatically adapted to the iPhone X on the right

If you use custom layout, your app might need to be updated to the new screen layout. If you use Auto Layout however, that might be fairly easy.


Let's get started

First off, embrace the devices design, Apple employees didn’t work this hard for you to hide the wonderful features of this expensive piece of hardware.


Make sure you create a full screen experience

Let scroll views scroll to the very bottom of the screen even beyond the edges of the curved bottom of the display. Apple also kindly asks you not to hide the cut-out at the top and the curved edges at the bottom, so don’t go placing black bars to make it look like a regular old school iPhone 8.


Center and inset important information

Make sure that important content is aligned in the center and use symmetrical insets, so your UI doesn’t get clipped by the device’s sensors or corners. If you use Auto Layout, your content will automatically be placed within a safe area so your design won’t be hidden behind the corners, sensors or the home indicator.


The new status bar

Because of the sensors on top of the display, the new status bar is split in 2 parts. If your UI is doing something special with that space (previously 20pt high, now 44pt), you will need to update your interface because it will be taller on the iPhone X. Make sure that it can be dynamically changed in height. A great thing is that the height won’t be changed if a user makes a phone call or is using a navigation app, which was previously the case on other iPhones.

split and taller status bar

split and taller status bar

Show off the new status bar

If you currently hide the status bar in your design, Apple asks you to reconsider this decision. Since the screen is taller and you have more estate to display your content it might be useful to unhide the status bar. Users can find useful information up there and most of the time the space will not be used by other UI elements.


Full screen images

If you are currently using full screen images in your design, you will need to update them for the new iPhone. They might be cropped and an essential part of the visual might be hidden.



Don't place interactive controls at the bottom of the screen

The spacing around the home indicator is purely created for gestures, swipe up to go home. Placing buttons near this indicator or in the bottom round corners of the display might not be great. Users might accidentally use the home gesture and your UI will be difficult to reach. You can however still use tab bars and function bars if you keep in mind that they should not interfere with the home indicator.


Don't hide the home indicator (all the time)

iOS makes it possible to hide the home indicator in your app, this will auto-hide it when the user doesn’t touch the screen for a few seconds. It will reappear when the user touches the screen again, this should be mainly used for immersive experiences like viewing videos or photos. The home indicator will also change color automatically based on the background of your app.


More colors

The new Super Retina Display displays more colors, P3 color instead of sRGB. This means that it will show richer and more saturated colors. Especially video and photos will benefit of this wider color range.


Swipe up, be mindful with the use of gestures

The physical home button is gone, you will interact with your iPhone (more than ever) by using gestures. When you swipe up you go home or to the multitasking view. When swiping left and right on the home indicator, you switch between your open multitasking apps. By swiping down from the top of the screen, the Notification or Control Center is available. More so in games, you can use custom gestures that may override the native iOS gestures. You can use your own gestures by implementing “edge protect” which is a feature that will prefer the app’s specific gesture first, before the OS gesture, only one time though. Use this sparingly, because it will make it harder for your users to use system features.


Face ID

The previous iPhone had a great feature: Touch ID, it allowed users to unlock their device or perform password locked actions inside apps by using their fingerprint. This sensor was hidden inside of the home button, since the button has gone in the iPhone X, Apple replaced it with a more advanced and secure way of unlocking your device. Enter Face ID, it uses some really great algorithms to detect your face and unlock your device. This will show some new UI in apps, make sure you implement it for your (rich) users that have an iPhone X. Also make sure that you don’t reference to Touch ID anymore in your onboarding or menu, replace it with Face ID.

Custom keyboards

When you are designing a custom keyboard, you shouldn’t add an Emoji or dictation button to your keyboard, it will automatically be added underneath the keyboard around the home indicator.


Larger navigation bars

With iOS 11 the design of the native navigation bars got an update, they are now way taller. This design will especially be great on the taller iPhone X and will blend nicely with that new status bar. So consider using it in your design. They will also sport some nice native animations when scrolling.

TL;DR

  • The iPhone X is 145pt taller, so design for 375×812pt instead of 375x667pt
  • The iPhone X uses @ 3x assets.
  • Create a fullscreen experience, don’t hide the devices unique features.
  • Center the important content of your UI to make sure it’s always visible and not hidden by the device’s sensors or corners.
  • new taller split-in-two statusbar, previously 22pt is now 44pt high.
  • Fullscreen images might need to/should be updated to be fully displayed.
  • Don’t add buttons at the bottom of the screen near the home indicator.
  • Don’t hide the home indicator, only when really necessary.
  • Richer and more saturated colors thanks to the P3 color spectrum.
  • Be aware of custom gestures near the home indicator and status bar, don’t mess with the user’s expected native gestures.
  • Face ID replaces Touch ID, update your UI and replace textual references to Touch ID.
  • Custom keyboards you don’t need to add the Emoji and dictation buttons.
  • Larger navigation bars will look and animate great on this tall display.

Or watch Apple's video on Designing for iPhone X


How do I preview my app UI?

You can use the Xcode 9 simulator the preview your app, this will immediately show you if your UI needs to be updated.


Where can I find iOS11 and iPhone X resources?

You’re lucky, Apple has some great new resources for Sketch, Photoshop and Adobe XD. You can find them here: Apple Design Resources.

Note: most of this information comes from the Apple UI Guidelines.