– So here it is, the iPhone XS. Wait, that’s the X. Here is the iPhone XS. Now, there’s gonna be a lot of that in this video. But just go with me. I think it’s gonna make this review better. (trendy music) So this is a weird year for iPhones. Usually Apples puts out a new iPhone in September, it drops the price of the old model and it keeps selling it for a few more years. This year Apple didn’t do any of that. The iPhone X, which came out last year in a flurry of hype, is gone. Instead, there’s the iPhone XS and the new mid-range iPhone XR. Apple really wants iPhone X to be its new brand of phones. The letters, S or R, telling the models apart. But let’s be honest. These are horrible names. Especially iPhone XS Max, which looks ridiculous no matter how you write it.And to be perfectly honest, steals the name of my child for which I will never forgive Apple. Anyway, if you’re shopping for a phone this year, that means that you have two Apple phones to look at not just one. We don’t have a XR yet but we’ll review it when it comes out in about a month. So, the iPhone XS. It comes in two sizes, the 5.8 inch regular size and the new 6.8 inch XS Max. (Correction: 6.5 inch XS Max not 6.8 inch) The phones are identical apart from the size, the same A12 Bionic processor, same cameras, same basic designs, same OLED display tech with 458 pixels per inch. The Max also has a larger battery but I think the only real reason you should get the Max is if you really, really want a big screen. And that’s really the main question I got. How big is the Max? Is it too big? Is it worth it? And I think the answer is that it’s both bigger and smaller than you expect.Don’t get me wrong, it’s big, as big as the iPhone 8 Plus and the Pixel 2. From the back it shares the same surfboard quality as Apples previous plus sized phones. But the front is a totally different story. Because the edge to edge screen fills the entire front of the phone, it doesn’t seem as huge as the plus phones. And when you’re watching a video, it’s killer, a huge gorgeous display. It’s great. But the Max’s size also gets away from it. With the older Plus iPhones, you never really had to reach the very top or bottom of the phone because of those huge bezels. But to pull down notifications or control center on the Max, you have to reach the very top of the device. I have big hands and I basically can’t do it. I end up having to use two hands every time. You can
use Apple’s reachability feature to pull down the UI and then swipe. But that’s two swipes for one thing. It just kind of makes me sad.The Max also doesn’t really do anything in software to take advantage of that big display. No, there’s not an extra row of icons. No, you can’t watch video in Picture in Picture. Apps have to be updated for the new display. Instagram just look broken right now. And apps like Slack and Gmail and Twitter show you the exact amount of information, just bigger. In fact, everything is mostly just bigger. Check out how huge the status bar is in control center. It’s huge, so yes, if you want a really big screen get a Max. It’s a beautiful display and I’ve enjoyed looking at it a lot.Nothing about it is easier to handle than the old plus phones. And in some cases it’s harder. In every other way, the Max is identical to the XS, which is almost identical to the X. From the outside you would never know the difference except that you can get the XS in this interesting gold color which has cool coppery iridescent effects in the light. Here’s where I want you to go with me. The iPhone X introduced so much new stuff into the phone world that reviewing the XS gives us the chance to check in on it a year later since so much of it is the same. Take the display. The XS has the same OLED display as the X with curved corners and the notch.It’s still one of the best displays out there with excellent color reproduction, brightness and touch response. Last year we were wondering how Apple would handle burn in on this display and this year we know. There are basically no problems with burn in on the iPhone X display. And I’d expect the XS to keep it up. It’s also been a full year of this physical design and while it’s beautiful, I can tell you the iPhone X scratches way more easily than you’d expect. Apple says the front and back glass are more durable this year, so we’ll see. I can also tell you that getting rid of the home button and moving the screen shot feature to wake plus volume up means I’ve taken 10,000 accidental screen shots. Apple please change this to wake plus power down so they’re not directly across from each other. Or have the neural engine detect that it’s seven am and I’ve accidentally taken another photo of my lock screen. Just do something, I’m begging you. It’s also been a full year since Apple introduced Face ID and we know that it works pretty well most of the
time.Face ID on the XS is ever so slightly faster than the X. It’s noticeable side by side but it’s really just an extra beat. It still won’t work with glasses that block IR light and it doesn’t work in landscape or upside down or anything like that. You still have to adapt to it instead of it adapting to you but overall for most people, I think it’s easier to turn on Face ID and forget about it than it Touch ID. And that is a very good thing.So what’s really new here? You’re basically looking at two things, the camera and the processor. Let’s start with the processor since that’s pretty simple. Last year there was the A11 Bionic and this year there’s the A12 Bionic. Pure CPU performance-wise, the A12 isn’t really that much faster. Apple only quotes a 15 percent performance improvement and I didn’t see a noticeable speedup over my iPhone X.The GPU is 50 percent faster but as usual that feels like headroom for the future since these devices tend to stick around for so long. Last year’s A11 GPU was 30 percent faster than the A10 and it’s not like we’re maxing that out after a year. The big change the A12 is really the vastly bigger neural engine which accelerates machine learning. As more and more apps rely on machine learning that’s gonna be a huge deal.But right now, you’re looking at a bunch of AR demos and some new camera features. Speaking of those new camera features, the camera upgrades on the XS over the X are significant. But I’m just gonna come out and say it. I don’t think the iPhone XS has a better camera than the Pixel 2. And the Pixel 3 comes out in just a few weeks. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a really good camera. And I think people are gonna like the photos it takes. But the Pixel 2 is the standard to beat and the iPhone XS doesn’t really do it for me.Let’s dig in. The iPhone XS has three cameras, two in the back and one in the front. That front camera is the same as the iPhone X, a seven megapixel sensor with an F2.2 lens. Of the two rear cameras, the telephoto camera is the same as the iPhone X. It’s an optically stabilized F2.4 lens with the same 12 megapixel sensor as last year. But the wide angle that you’ll use most often has been seriously updated.It’s still an F1.8 lens with a 12 megapixel sensor but each of those 12 megapixels is physically bigger now. Which means that they can collect more light. There’s also twice as many focus pixels which is
what Apple calls its autofocus system. The cameras and sensors work in tandem with the new A12 processor. Its integrated image processor and the neural engine in a new system Apple calls Smart HDR. The iPhone X also did HDR, but with the XS the effect is way more obvious. It works similarly to what Google does on a Pixel 2. It takes a series of images at different exposures and combines them. Like the Pixel 2 the iPhone XS starts a rolling buffer of four images the second you open the camera app which allows for zero shutter lag. The image has already been captured the shutter button.But unlike the Pixel 2 which combines several underexposed frames, the iPhone XS also captures an overexposed image for each shot in the buffer which picks up additional details in the shadows of your image. Then it looks at all of the other frames in the buffer to see if they can add additional detail merging at least three images together to generate the final picture that you see. But side by side with the Pixel 2 iPhone XS still doesn’t quite hold up. You can see it pretty clearly in this photo when you zoom in. The iPhone aggressively smooths images. The whole thing is just way softer. This loss of detail is the thing that bothered me the most about the iPhone X camera and while the iPhone XS is better the smoothing still disappoints me every time I see it. Apple used to talk a big game about having a more accurate camera than Samsung which has done these aggressive smoothing tricks for years.But I think those days are over. Apple knows that most of these images will only ever be viewed on mobile displays and it feels like it’s really starting to compete with Samsung’s tricks because it knows that no one’s really looking that closely. Loss of detail is one thing, but there are some subjective things I prefer about the Pixel 2 as well. The XS shoots really warm photos while the Pixel is more true to life, if a little muddier in the reds. Pixel 2 photos are also extremely contrasty and evocative which I like, but some people find harsh. I can’t tell you what style of the images to prefer. But I can tell you that these cameras are very different. And I can also definitely tell you that you want more detail in your images, not less. The other big new feature on the iPhone XS camera is the new portrait mode, which lets you adjust the blur after you take the shot. Samsung’s phones have let you do this for a while now but I
think the iPhone looks a lot better because the phone is doing a lot more work.When you pick up an iPhone XS and shoot a portrait mode photo a number of things happen. First the phone does facial recognition and splits apart the foreground from the background. Then it creates a depth map of the entire scene, particularly the subject in the foreground. Then it progressively applies blur from foreground to background, simulating how a real lens on a full frame camera would smoothly transition from front to back.I think it’s nicer than phones of the Pixel and S9 can do. Although it still struggles around the edges and sometimes it makes big mistakes like cutting these glasses off entirely. Apple says it modeled the portrait mode blur against prime lenses on full frame cameras which we happen to have a lot of in our studio. And it looks really different to be honest. Here’s a 50 mil lens on a Canon 5D Mark IV on the left and the iPhone XS on the right. The big cameras and real lenses produce different shapes inside the blur because of the way the physical aperture in the lens closes. The iPhone doesn’t really do that.It just looks like a pretty standard blur to me. Of course, most people don’t have full frame cameras and expensive lenses and portrait mode will do a lot for all of those people. But in the past year of having the iPhone X, I’ve shot nearly 5000 photos. And just 207 of them have been in portrait mode. I don’t think this new version is gonna make me use it much more. There’s also a bunch of updates to video recording. The front camera, which I’m using right now has all new stabilization. The rear cameras have all new software stabilization. And you can record in stereo audio which is cool. So those are the two main upgrades, the processor and the camera. Let’s talk about some of the little stuff. First, battery life. I mostly tested the 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 Max without using low power mode and that’s even under my pretty heavy daily use.The smaller XS is rated to get 30 minutes more than the X, which has run about 8 hours for me this past year. It’s solid. Second, the iPhone XS ships running iOS 12. I didn’t dive into iOS 12 too much in this video because we already made another whole video about it. But here’s the quick version. It’s a lot like iOS 11 but a
little faster. There’s Mimoji and those neat screen time limits that get you off your phone when you’ve used it too much. And needing two taps to send photos from the camera roll and messages is a huge pain. Please, please go back to the old way. Apple made a big deal out of wide stereo during the Keynote and some of you asked me about it, so here’s the deal. The iPhone X also had stereo speakers. But really, it was just making the earpiece speakers super loud to serve as the other channel.This year, both speakers are more evenly matched so Apple can do more signal processing to achieve a wide stereo feel. Is it super noticeable? Only kind of. Is it really loud and clear? Yes. Apple’s also improved wireless charging times. I’m told the XS will get to a full charge around 30 minutes faster and that it’s less sensitive to placement. You don’t need to get a new charging pad or anything. The internals of the iPhone XS are just improved. That’s cool. Yes, the iPhone XS has 3-D touch support so use it while you still can, I guess. There is gigabit LTE support which is carrier dependent. So we weren’t able to test it. There’s that top of the line 500 gigabyte model and there’s new IP68 water and dust resistance, which is better than IP67 on the iPhone X and the iPhone XR.So let’s talk about price and whether you should buy one. First, these are expensive phones. The XS starts at 999 and the top of the line XS Max with 512 gigs of storage is 1449. That’s a lot of money. And just like last year, some of you are gonna find that ridiculous and others of you have already pre-ordered. For those of you that already pre-ordered, I think you’re gonna be really happy with this phone. It is indeed more iPhone. It’s Apple’s top of the line with everything the company can put into it. And I think it’s gonna hold up for years to come. Apple’s fallen behind the camera rates, but not by much. And that camera is still a significant improvement over previous iPhones. I’m sure all of you are gonna let me know how you feel about that in the comments. For everyone who hasn’t pre-ordered, I think it’s worth waiting to see how the iPhone XR turns out. It’s got the same processor, the same main camera, and a big screen for $750. In fact, that was the biggest question I got. Is the iPhone XS worth the premium over the XR? And right now, I just don’t know.We’re gonna have to review the phone when it comes out next month. But
for right now I can tell you that the iPhone XS is an update to the iPhone X. And if you like the iPhone X, you’re gonna really like the XS. Hey, so there’s one big feature we were not able to test which is dual sim support. That won’t arrive until a software update later this fall. So we’ll be on it when it comes out. In the meantime, we’re gonna be working on a big camera deep dive when the Pixel 3 comes out. So let us know what you want us to test and we’ll get right on it. .