Apple just announced the iPhone XS and XS Max. They’re iterations on last year’s iPhone X, but the XS Max at least stands out in one very notable way: it’s so much larger. The Max has a 6.5-inch screen, making it a bigger phone than even the latest model in Samsung’s famously large Galaxy Note line.
The event just wrapped up, and Apple has let us out into a demo area with phones to check out. Our initial impression: they feel similar to the iPhone X. Build quality is, of course, up to Apple’s standards. Neither the new, more durable glass nor the steel rails feel any more slippery than before, and a quick snap of a photo shows that it is fast — though we need to do more testing to really know anything definitive.
The screen and glass are apparently better than on last year’s phone, but not so much so that I would upgrade for either on their own. The hands-on area was also a little too loud to really get a sense of the new stereo speakers. But look: these are the most high-quality phones I’ve touched, which is one of those things that is expected of new iPhones, and it’s good to just be able to say that Apple delivered.
The iPhone XS Max is bigger, yes, but as you can see in the photos (below), it is almost hard to distinguish the two when you’re looking at photos. It feels much better than any “Plus” iPhone ever has. I always found the Plus-sized iPhones to be ungainly, but the Max seems to be a little more ergonomic in subtle ways. If you’ve wanted a Plus before but were put off by the size, I’d at least try to hold the new Max size before making your decision.
Both phones have identical specs aside from their screens. They use Apple’s new A12 Bionic processor, which is supposed to be 15 percent faster than the A11, have improved water resistance that’s supposed to let them stay submerged in two meters of water for up to 30 minutes, and have support for two SIMs and gigabit LTE. The rear cameras have each seen improvements to make them faster (larger pixels on the wide-angle lens, a wider aperture on the telephoto lens), and the selfie camera is supposed to be faster as well (though not for any immediate spec-related reason).
More than anything else, the most impressive tech demo this year is the new portrait mode feature, which allows you to adjust the bokeh after the shoot. It’s just fun to slide the dial left and right to get the exact right amount of blur.
The real difference comes down to both phones’ displays, though that’s just in terms of size and resolution. The XS has the same 5.8-inch size, OLED tech, and 2436 x 1125 resolution as the iPhone X, though it’s also supposed to have 60 percent greater dynamic range for more vibrant images. The XS Max takes the OLED screen and dynamic range gains and brings them to a 6.5-inch size, with a 2688 x 1242 resolution. Both have the same 458 ppi pixel density, so you don’t lose out on sharpness by going larger.