First iPhone XS and XS Max reviews: Great phone, but not revolutionary

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iPhone Xs Max
This is what we've been waiting for.
Photo: Apple

Early reviews for the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max have already come in and while most of the people that have tested the new device are impresssed, this years models aren’t as big a leap as the iPhone X.

Testers are raving about the camera, A12 processor, big display and faster LTE. The new phones are truly impressive, but if you have an iPhone that came out in the last two years, you might want to see what the experts are saying first.

Amazing Cameras

iPhone XS

If the iPhone is your main camera and you’ve got an older model, the new cameras on the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max might be worth the upgrade alone. Both have dual rear cameras and the improvements even over the iPhone X are pretty big, according to Mashable.

“The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max deliver arguably the best smartphone cameras yet again…Though the megapixels are the same, the image sensors that absorb light are better than before… For outdoor photos, the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max cameras definitely produced wider dynamic range and better details in both highlights and shadows. Compared to the iPhone X, parts of a photo that would normally be overexposed or underexposed are more balanced.

Faster Face ID?

Face ID iPhone X
Face ID isn’t always easy.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple promised that Face ID unlocking is even faster on the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, but some reviewers didn’t really notice a difference. TechCrunch‘s Mattew Panzarino noted that the difference could be because his iPhone X has been trained on his face for longer. Hopefully, the iPhone XS Face ID will get faster with time.

“As far as Face ID goes, there has been no perceivable difference for me in speed or number of positives… The gist of the improvements here are jumps in acquisition times and confirmation of the map to pattern match. There is also supposed to be improvements in off-angle recognition of your face, say when lying down or when your phone is flat on a desk. I tried a lot of different positions here and could never really definitively say that iPhone XS was better in this regard, though as I said above, it very likely takes training time to get it near the confidence levels that my iPhone X has stored away.”

Long Battery Life

iPhone keynote

The battery life on the iPhone XS Max might be even better than Apple promised during its keynote. Nilay Patel at The Verge came away impressed with both the iPhone XS and XS Max after putting them through some grueling real-life tests.

“I mostly tested the XS Max, and it did great — better than even Apple’s claim of 90 minutes more than the X. In fact, I got a full 12 hours of battery life out of the XS Max without low power mode, and that’s even under my heavy daily use of constant Slack and email usage, video watching, photo taking, and browsing. The smaller XS is rated to get 30 minutes more than the X, which has run for about 8 hours for me this past year. It’s solid.

iPhone XS Max screen is addictive

iPhone XS Max
All the screen might be a bad thing.
Photo: Apple

iPhone-lovers that have a screen addiction might want to stay away from the big, beautiful display on the iPhone XS Max. New York Times editor Brian Chen found the screen so alluring, he felt like it was a bad influence. Whereas the iPhone XS screen is just right for a smartphone.

“As a self-diagnosed phone addict who is trying to cut down on screen time, I decided the XS also felt healthier for me. The XS Max screen was so good-looking that I wanted to keep reading articles and looking at photos on Instagram. When I used Apple’s new Screen Time feature to monitor my use of each device, I discovered that I spent an average of roughly five and a half hours a day on the XS Max, two hours more than on the XS.”

A12 Bionic chip is speed freak

A12 processor
Forget the specs, just know the A12 is insanely fast.
Photo: Apple

With the new A12 Bionic chip and iOS 12, the iPhone XS makes gets some huge gains when it comes to overall performance. TechRadar had some big praise for the A12 chip, which is the first-ever to use a 7nm manufacturing process.

“That speed improvement is easy to feel within the phone, as the iPhone XS is one of the snappiest handsets we’ve ever tapped our way through. It’s tricky to say how much of this is down to the hardware and how much to the improved iOS 12 software – but either way, it’s a really, really rapid experience. The A12 chipset brings a step up in graphical performance too – gaming is getting ever closer to console-level graphics, and we had the chance to check out a few AR titles too.”

Touger screen still breaks

iPhone Xs
Don’t drop your iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max.
Photo: Apple

The iPhone XS is supposed to have the toughest screen of any iPhone ever. That doesn’t mean its breakproof though. You’ll definitely still want a case. Joanna Stern at the Wall Street Journal managed to crack her display within the few days she was reviewing the new iPhones.

“Both the XS and XS Max have what Apple says is ‘the most durable glass in the world.’ That said, my XS Max review unit cracked after a minor fall onto wood. All these glass slabs still need protection.

Definitely coffee-proof

iPhone XS

One of the funniest parts of Apple’s iPhone XS keynote was when Phil Schiller bragged that the iPhone XS is not only waterproof, it’s also beer-proof and coffee proof. USA Today put that to the test by intentionally dunking coffee on their review unit and it had no problems.

“Yes, prior iPhones have been water resistant, as is this one. But Apple says the latest device can also withstand everyday spills of wine, tea, beer, soda and other liquids. To put it to the test, I intentionally spilled coffee on the XS Max. I wiped the phone dry and was immediately good to go.”

Super-fast LTE

Gather Round
Apple didn’t hype up the LTE speeds as much as it could have.
Photo: Apple

5G wireless data won’t be coming to iPhones until next year at the earliest, but the new LTE modem on the iPhone XS is so fast, it might outperform your home WiFi. CNET says its definitely faster than the iPhone X.

“On the test Verizon account I used, iPhone XS delivers. I got download speeds of 250 Mbps in New Jersey, versus 170 Mbps using the same SIM in the iPhone X. My home broadband, by contrast, is only about 85 Mbps. The iPhone’s now my fastest home internet device.”