As the year draws to a close, the peak season for smartphone manufacturers and, in this case, smartwatches has arrived. At its annual keynote presentation in September, Apple introduced a series of new iPhones: the iPhone XS and XS MAX and the iPhone XR. I’ve been testing the gold iPhone XS MAX for a few weeks and will now let you know whether it’s worth the upgrade.
For Apple, though, it’s practically off-season since the iPhone X is typically followed by an improved S version a year later. After completely dispensing with Touch ID (the fingerprint scanner) this past year and instead using Face ID (face recognition), Apple has continued to pursue this course because, unlike the competition, it’s been really successful. But let’s start at the beginning.
Design – At last, there is one Max version
The iPhone X was a total success for Apple, but everyone still wanted a bigger version even though the screen was already bigger than the one on the iPhone 8+. With the iPhone XS MAX, Apple increased the display to 6.5 inches as opposed to the 5.8 inches of its predecessor (by comparison, the display for the iPhone 8+ is only 5.5 inches). While this may be too big for some, I quickly got used to it and find it to be a great fit.
In addition to the new display size, Apple has introduced the color gold, as with the Apple Watch Series 4. In my opinion, this takes some getting used to since, depending on the light, it looks more like brown/bronze than gold. Next time, I’ll go with white.
Technology – The new A12 processor
Apple never really changed its S version much in terms of design. On the other hand, the iPhone XS comes equipped with the new A12 bionic chip, which uses a 7-nanometer manufacturing process. Since Huawei is the only one using the same technology in its Mate 20 Pro, Samsung and Qualcomm can pack up their technology for the time being. Still, when testing the iPhone X against the XS MAX, the new processor was only noticeable in CPU-intensive apps like games and AR. Apple has moreover continued to work on its neural engine, which accounts for improved artificial intelligence and facilitates finding objects quickly within images instead of having to scroll.
eSIM – Dual SIM was yesterday
Apple is not often known for being among the first when there’s something everyone wants and the competition has already installed it. While Samsung and Huawei have had dual SIM built in to their devices for years, Apple has taken its time and would rather present an eSIM solution, already familiar to us from the Apple Watch Series 3. Instead of two Nano SIM cards, the iPhone has only one, while the other is already built in. What’s great about that is that the user doesn’t have to go to a store to buy a SIM card but can simply do it online or through an app – perfect for travel. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet had a chance to test this feature 100%, although I did install GigSky and ran through the process. eSIM is also a quick and easy way to book an international fare from your home airport.
iPhone XS Camera – Smart HDR
As expected, there have been no great changes to the camera. While others are banking on more and more megapixels, Apple has preferred to increase the pixel density or improve the software so that the iPhone can produce even more beautiful pictures.
Aside from the new focal length, the 12-megapixel camera hasn’t changed much. Apple has altered the focal length of the new XS camera so that the main lens now operates with a shorter focal length of 26 mm converted (as opposed to 28 mm with the iPhone X). The telephoto lens remains unchanged and still has 52 mm. Thanks to the new A12 chip, it’s now even easier to calculate the distance for portrait pictures. That’s why, like Huawei, Apple has installed a new control mode that allows you to adjust the aperture so that, depending on the adjustment, the background becomes more or less blurred. This worked great for my first test, but in my opinion, the end result from the same feature in the Huawei Mate 20 looks significantly better.
With Smart HDR, which is the default setting, the power of the A12 chip is quickly visible. In this mode, the phone takes a series of pictures and then uses artificial intelligence to combine the best images in order to generate the perfect picture. In this way, dark spots get improved exposure and images taken against sunlight look a lot better. Put to the test, the iPhone XS is convincing.
Apple has also improved somewhat in the area of videos, thanks to its software and chip. You can now record videos in extended dynamic range, which uses only 30fps instead of 60fps while producing one image from two. This means that darker videos look a lot better, and videos taken in daylight yield an even clearer, sharper image.
Capacity – More Space
Better images mean that you’ll need more space. Luckily, in addition to 64GB and 256GB, Apple now also offers 512GB of internal storage to give you more room for creativity.
With the iPhone XS, Apple has entered its smartphone into the race, which admittedly doesn’t demonstrate any earth-shattering innovations but, thanks to the new A12 chip and improved neural engine, does a much better job of keeping up with the competition. With iOS12, the iPhone XS works quickly and reliably. In addition to the improved camera and, thanks to eSIM, dual SIM capability, it remains a faithful traveling companion.
With the MAX version, Apple now also addresses the needs of customers who prefer a larger size. Granted, this takes some getting used to, but once you’ve had it, you no longer want to hold one of the smaller iPhones in your hand.
As with the iPhone X, Apple supports wireless charging as well as fast charging. In addition to space gray and white, the iPhone XS and XS MAX now also come in gold, although it doesn’t appeal to me personally. It’s just too bad the phone doesn’t come with a more powerful adapter so that you can use the fast charging feature right away.
Where can I buy the iPhone XS?
The iPhone XS and iPhone XS MAX are available online through the Apple Store.
Prices are as follows:
64GB Capacity: CHF 1199.00 / EUR 1149
256GB Capacity: CHF 1389.00 / EUR 1319
512GB Capacity: CHF 1639.00 / EUR 1549
iPhone XS MAX
64GB Capacity: CHF 1299.00 / EUR 1249
256GB Capacity: CHF 1489.00 / EUR 1419
512GB Capacity: CHF 1739.00 / EUR 1649