After several days using Apple’s new iPhone XS Max, I can testify that it’s an excellent phone. The screen is brilliant, the camera better than ever and the fit and finish is everything you’d expect from an Apple flagship phone. It’s even more durable than previous models. I haven’t dropped my phone, but CNET “dropped a brand-new gold iPhone XS onto the sidewalk four times,” and it didn’t crack.
Even though the phone has a whopping 6.5-inch display, it fits nicely in my relatively small hands. It’s a little heavier than previous iPhones, mostly due to its stainless steel frame, but I don’t think it’s too heavy.
The 2688×1242 (458 pixels per inch) resolution “Super Retina” OLED display is one of the best I’ve ever seen on a phone in terms of its color accuracy, brightness and contrast.
Apple says that its new A12 Bionic chip provides for faster and better pictures as well as enhanced editing options. The company claims the new chip has a 15 percent performance increase over the previous A11 chip and uses “up to 50% lower power.” I didn’t benchmark power consumption, but I was able to get through an entire day on a single charge. Tom’s Guide rated the XS Max battery at 10 hours and 38 minutes, which is mid-range compared with other high-end phones. The smaller XS came in at 9:41. By comparison, the Huawei P20 lasted for 14:13 while Google’s Pixel 2, scored 12:9 on their endurance test.
Like last year’s iPhone X, the phone has Face ID, which immediately unlocks the phone as you glance at it. I found this to work almost flawlessly, with my glasses on or off. Face ID can also be used to unlock some apps and payment services.
Better camera and sound
I really like the phone’s camera and, despite what other reviewers have said, I think it’s better than the excellent camera in Google’s Pixel 2 XL — the phone I’ve been using nearly every day for the past year. The Pixel 2 is reputed to have the best phone camera on the planet, but I prefer the images I get from the new iPhone. I find that especially true with pictures of people where flesh tones look richer and better on an iPhone than they do with the Pixel 2.
As with previous high-end iPhones, the XS has a “dual-camera system,” with 2x optical zoom. All phone cameras have digital zoom, but optical zoom gives you higher-quality images. One impressive feature is the ability to adjust depth of field after a picture is taken, which determines what part of the image is in focus and what part you want to be blurred. Getting depth of field right on high-end cameras can be tricky. On an iPhone it’s incredibly easy. As with previous iPhones, there is also an optional portrait mode that automatically blurs the background for closeup photos, including selfies.
And there’s one improvement that you can’t see but can hear. The phone’s stereo speakers make music and videos sound better, though most people probably listen via headphones. The phone’s video camera can now record stereo, which might be a bigger deal.
All of the features I described for the XS Max also apply to the smaller (5.8-inch screen) and somewhat less expensive ($999 and up) XS.
Less expensive iPhone XR
Apple also announced a $750 iPhone XR, which will be available for pre-order on October 18 and will ship on October 26. This phone, which I saw at the announcement but haven’t yet reviewed, will have a 6.1-inch “Liquid Retina” LCD display with a resolution of 1792×828 or 326 pixels per inch, compared with the higher resolution 458 pixels per inch of both the XS and XS Max. Like its more expensive siblings, the XR screen fills up the entire front of the phone, what Apple calls an “all-screen design.”
In most important ways, the XR appears to be nearly comparable with the XS and XS Max. Its 6.1-inch screen is a tad smaller than the XS Max (though bigger than the 5.8-inch XS) and it doesn’t have a 2X optical zoom camera like its more expensive brethren. It also has a less expensive aluminum frame, but I don’t think that matters a great deal. It has a less expensive and somewhat lower resolution LCD screen, but it still looks great. But it’s an iPhone with all the requisite qualities. $750 is hardly an inexpensive smartphone, but it is a way to get what promises to be an excellent large-screen iPhone for $350 less than the XS Max. I have a feeling it’s going to be a popular choice.
And, of course, you can save money by buying a phone from almost anyone but Apple. There are a lot of great Android phones on the market, including the aforementioned Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, and Google is expected to announce its Pixel 3 phones on October 9, which are likely to be even more of a challenge to Apple. And then there is Samsung, LG, Motorola and so many other manufacturers to choose from, with an array of choices and price points.
Larry Magid is a tech journalist and internet safety activist.
Published at Thu, 27 Sep 2018 07:30:59 +0000