Is iPhone XS battery life really better?

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iPhone XS gaming
The first iPhone with ProMotion?
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple promises that you’ll get better battery life if you upgrade to the iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max. Their cutting-edge A12 Bionic chips and power-efficient Super Retina displays should mean that they last longer than any other iPhone in between charges.

But is that really the case? One battery test has found that last year’s iPhone X actually has more stamina than its successor.

We all have different opinions on what makes a smartphone great. Some of us want super-sharp displays with dazzling colors. Some want cameras good enough to replace their DSLR. Others want blazing-fast processors that deliver console-quality games.

But there’s one thing we can all agree on: Battery life is hugely important. No matter what you use your smartphone for, it needs to last all day. No one wants to be carrying around a battery pack or trying to find a power outlet on the train home from work.

iPhone XS and XS Max should last longer

Apple says the iPhone XS and XS Max have better battery life than any previous iPhone. iPhone XS should last around 30 minutes longer than the iPhone X, while the XS Max should last a whopping one hour and 30 minutes longer.

That may not be entirely true, however. Battery tests carried out by Tom’s Guide reveal last year’s iPhone actually outperforms the iPhone XS, and not even the XS Max can keep up with some of the latest Android devices.

Testing iPhone battery life

To find out how long smartphones last in between charges, Tom’s Guide sets their displays to 150 nits of brightness and disables auto brightness and features like True Tone, then uses them to surf the web continuously until they die.

“To ensure consistency, we run all of our phone battery tests on T-Mobile’s network, and we ensure that the phones have full signal strength by using a signal booster called the T-Mobile 4G LTE CellSpot,” they explain.

So, how do the iPhone XS and XS Max perform?

iPhone XS battery test results

The iPhone XS Max certainly has better battery life than previous Apple handsets, lasting 10 hours and 38 minutes before requiring a charge. The iPhone XS, on the other hand, lasted only nine hours and 41 minutes.

Not only is that less than the category average of nine hours and 48 minutes, but it’s less than the 10 hours and 49 minutes achieved by the iPhone X in the same test last year. That’s an additional hour of use out of the iPhone X — and it’s a significant difference.

iPhone XS battery performance
iPhone XS and XS Max battery performance.
Photo: Tom’s Guide

What’s more, a number of Android devices last a lot longer than the iPhone XS lineup. The OnePlus 6, which costs half of the price, was able to run for 11 hours and 22 minutes before dying, while the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 lasted 11 hours and 26 minutes.

Google’s Pixel 2 XL, now a year old, lasted 12 hours and 9 minutes in the test, while the impressive Huawei P20 Pro lasted a whopping 14 hours and 13 minutes.

iPhone XS has a smaller battery

Despite Apple’s claims, the results aren’t too surprising. We recently learned that the iPhone XS has a slightly smaller battery than the iPhone X, so on paper, it should last as long. But we were convinced that the A12 chip and other improvements would make up for that.

It turns out that’s not the case, but we should point out that this isn’t an exhaustive battery test. While it is a good indication of how long you can expect the iPhone XS lineup to last if you do a lot of web browsing, that’s not the only thing we use our phones for.

If we were to take all those other tasks into account, the results could be different. The more efficient A12 chip could mean the iPhone XS lasts longer than the iPhone X during heavy gaming sessions or video editing, for instance.

We were certainly impressed with battery life from the iPhone XS and the XS Max when we reviewed them. How are you finding it so far?