Hands on with iPhone XS, XR, XS Max and Apple Watch Series 4

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We've gathered first impressions of the iPhone XS Max and all the other devices Apple just announced today.
We've gathered first impressions of the iPhone XS Max and all the other devices Apple just announced today.
Photo: Apple

Apple just unveiled a rush of new devices, including three iPhone models and a pair of Apple Watches. A theme for these announcements could be “Bigger is better.” 

None of the products are available yet, and reporters have only been given a short time to try them out. It’s early, but there’s some consensus about each of the new devices.

iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max

The iPhone XS is a speed-bumped version of last year’s iPhone X, so everyone concentrated on the XS Max, the largest smartphone Apple has ever released.

Dieter Bohn from The Verge wrote “The iPhone XS Max is bigger, yes, but it is almost hard to distinguish the two when you’re looking at photos. I always found the Plus-sized iPhones to be ungainly, but the Max seems to be a little more ergonomic in subtle ways.”

Chris Velazco from Engadget opined, “The iPhone Xs Max is the closest Apple has ever come to full-on smartphone overkill. To say it’s a handful is putting it mildly, but here’s the really crazy thing: It’s surprisingly light, almost shockingly so.”

Pete Pachal from Mashable agrees. “It’s impressively light.” And he remarked “Wielding the phone isn’t awkward — well, no more awkward than any other big-size phone — though pocketability is about on par with the iPhone Plus models.”

However, Engadget‘s Velazco isn’t sold on the larger model. “Apart from possibly battery life, the only reason to drop the extra $100 is because you want that bigger screen.”

The Verge‘s Bohn was quite positive about one of the new camera features. “The most impressive tech demo this year is the new portrait mode feature, which allows you to adjust the bokeh after the shoot.”

iPhone XR

The device that attracted as much attention as Apple’s new behemoth is the iPhone XR. This model is at least $250 less than the other two smartphones introduced today, and has an LCD screen instead of an OLED one.

Engadget‘s Velazco  said reassuringly, “For any of you concerned that the iPhone XR might feel cheap, don’t be. It definitely feels a little chunkier than the Xs and the Xs Max, but Apple’s attention to fit and finish remains first-rate here.”

That said, he also warned the LCD “doesn’t have the same kind of color depth that the Xs’s AMOLED screen does.”

Nilay Patel from The Verge wrote, “Looking closely at the notch and the rounded corners, you can see the anti-aliasing tricks Apple had to do to make the technology work, but it all looks great in person.”

Apple Watch Series 4

The 2018 Apple Watch models moved up to 40mm and 44mm displays while still shrinking the casing. Most of the early comments focused on the screens because the ECG built into this wearable wasn’t functioning in the demo units.

The Verge‘s Dieter Bohn wrote “The display looks great. It isn’t quite edge-to-edge, but it makes the Series 3 look pretty cramped. The colors are bright and vivid on a fully black background.”

However, Dana Wollman from Engadget was not so impressed. She wrote “That bigger screen almost feels like a footnote to me. Yes, those rounded edges and barely there bezels are pleasing to behold, but it’s ultimately an aesthetic (and iterative) upgrade.”

The reason all the comments on the iPhone XS Max and Apple’s other new products are so cursory is that there’s only so much you can learn from a device by tinkering with it for half an hour standing in a room crowded with other journalists.