iPhone XS Max: A condensed review


iPhone XS Max
It's thought every handset has this problem.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Having been the proud new owner of the iPhone XS Max for a few days, I’ve gotten a feel for the device.

Here’s a compressed iPhone XS Max review.

iPhone XS Max is fast, fast, fast

Everything is very fast and responsive. Apps spring right open. Photos scroll without delay. Maps render without a hiccup. Everything is basically instantaneous, and it’s a joy.

It’s all thanks to the A12 Bionic chip. Apple is so far ahead in mobile chips, it’s head-spinning. One benchmark shows the iPhone XS is faster than the new iMac Pro, a $5,000-plus pro workstation!

It’s definitely not too big

iPhone XS Max vs. iPhone XS size: Sometimes bigger really is better.
Sometimes bigger really is better.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

For such big phone, it doesn’t feel too big. Having used an X all last year, and liking it, I thought the Max would be too big. But it doesn’t feel as big as the old Plus iPhones used to. It feels very thin and light. My daughter compared it to a magical tablet from a sci-fi movie, and she’s right.

The battery lasts forever

iPhone XS Max battery life is excellent. I only charged it for about 30 minutes all weekend and it was fine, despite near constant use. I used it most of the day Friday, fast charged it for about half-an-hour Saturday, used it all day, and finally fully charged it Sunday morning. The battery lasts forever. The seemingly endless battery life of the Max is one of its most impressive features.

iPhone XS Max camera

The iPhone XS Max camera is a marvel.
The camera on the iPhone XS Max is a marvel.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

The camera is excellent, especially the new Portrait mode with advanced bokeh and Depth Control. The Max is less a phone, and more an advanced, near-DSLR camera with a cellular connection. It’s basically magic to take a Portrait Mode photo and then adjust the background blur afterward. Smart HDR is great, too. My photos are so much better.

The big screen is amazing

The screen is so big and clear, there’s no need to take your laptop or iPad on flights any more. The Max will do nicely.

It deserves to be caseless

Despite dropping my old iPhone X numerous times, it has just a few scuffs and no cracked screen (it was, however, often in a case). But this time, because the Max is so thin, I’m going to try it caseless for a while. I’d like to enjoy Apple’s design for a change, without a bulky wrapping. (I know; I may regret this later.)

Upgrade using iMazing

DigiDNA's iMazing is the best way to transfer all your data and apps to a new iPhone.
DigiDNA’s iMazing is the best way to transfer all your data and apps to a new iPhone.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

DigiDNA’s iMazing software is the best way to transfer to a new iPhone that I know of. Faster and easier than iTunes or iCloud backup, it’s a seamless way to transition to a new device. Just plug in your new phone and your old phone, and the $44 software sucks everything right over.


Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • The Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.