The iPhone XS and XS Max will both cost you a pretty penny. With their base, 64GB models starting at $999 and $1,099, respectively, and the higher-storage 512GB costing $1,349 and $1,449, you’re looking at laptop level investment.
For many, there’s little need to sink that much money into a new phone, especially if you already own an iPhone X. If you can appreciate the XS and XS Max’s subtle improvements, however, and you’re a power user who can’t do without the increased performance and upgraded camera, these new models might be worth your time.
Subtle Differences: Comparing the XS and XS Max
The XS and XS Max are largely similar. Both have the same processor (the new A12) and the same amount of RAM (4GB), but they aren’t completely identical. The most obvious difference between the two are their screen sizes.
While the XS has a 5.8-inch screen, the XS Max offers a bit more space with its 6.5-inch screen.
With the extra size the XS Max is sporting, it also features a slightly larger battery capacity — 3,174mAh compared to the XS’s 2,658mAh. For both models, however, Apple claims the battery life is greater than that of the iPhone X, with the XS lasting about 30 minutes longer and the XS Max lasting about 1.5 hours longer.
Battery life isn’t these phones’ only selling point, however, as the pair make several other slight improvements over the original iPhone X.
Where the XS and XS Max Improve
For starters, Face ID on the XS and XS Max seems faster than the iPhone X. You’ll still have to swipe to complete the unlock process on your phone, but if you found Face ID to be somewhat burdensome in the past, it should now be a bit less of a hurdle.
Apple has also made some improvements to the XS and XS Max’s speakers. While listening with headphones will still provide the most enjoyable experience, you’ll find the onboard speakers to be both louder and clearer, almost equivalent to those of the iPad Pro. These are welcome changes, but still pale in comparison to what might be the biggest change Apple has made with these new models — the camera.
The Jewel in the Crown: The New iPhone Camera
On both the XS and XS Max, the defining new feature is the improved camera. While it’s the same as the camera on the iPhone X in many respects — 12 megapixels, 2x optical zoom, identical aperture settings — the XS and XS Max have a noticeable advantage thanks to the new image processing chip and larger sensors.
In combination, the two enable something Apple has coined as “Smart HDR,” which increases the phones’ ability to combine multiple images into a single “high dynamic range” image, and gives you better photos in low-light conditions. Smart HDR also provides an advantage in high contrast situations, such as bright sunlight, reducing blown-out bright spots and providing a crisper overall image.
While there are also some minor improvements you’ll see with photos taken in the XS and XS Max’s “portrait mode” (like the new depth control feature which allows you to customize the amount of blur), the true benefit comes from the phones’ ability to capture better images in a wide range of lighting conditions. The detail and color accuracy are noticeably improved from the iPhone X, and if you’re accustomed to taking a lot of photos with your phone, it’s exactly what you’re looking for.