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iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max review roundup: Two powerful new phones, zero surprises

Updated 4 years ago
iPhone XS vs. iPhone XS Max

Two of the three new iPhones Apple announced last week are already available for preorder in a wide range of markets, and they’ll be shipping to buyers later this week. You’ll also be able to buy them in stores beginning this Friday, September 21st. That means the first iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max reviews are out, but — spoiler alert! — the conclusions are exactly what you think they are, especially if you’re a long-time iPhone user.

The iPhone XS phones are the best iPhones ever made, packing many improvements over last year’s models. But if you purchased an iPhone X last year, there’s little that will convince you to upgrade. Most reviews compare the phones to last year’s best iPhone, and they conclude that the high cost and lack of any exciting new features means they aren’t worth the upgrade. But if you have an iPhone 8 or older iPhone model, the iPhone XS series will bring you a refined iPhone experience in every way.

Here are some of the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max reviews out there, including video reviews:


Matthew Panzarino for TechCrunch:

I think there will be plenty of people who will see this [the iPhone feels like the most “S” upgrade ever] as a weakness of the iPhone XS, and I can understand their point of view. There are about a half-dozen definitive improvements in the XS over the iPhone X, but none of them has quite the buzzword-worthy effectiveness of a marquee upgrade like 64-bit, 3D Touch or wireless charging — all benefits delivered in previous “S” years.

That weakness, however, is only really present if you view it through the eyes of the year-over-year upgrader.

The Verge

The full review is available at this link.


The full review is available at this link.


The full review is available at this link.

USA Today

Ed Baig for USA Today:

The new gold finish of my test unit – the other available colors are space gray and silver – is really attractive, but like many people I cover up the finish with a case anyway. Apple says the XS and XS Max displays are fortified with what Apple claims is the most durable glass yet on a smartphone. Short of trying to smash or scratch the device, I’ll have to take their word for it.

The Wall Street Journal

Joanna Stern’s iPhone XS review title says it all: “Sit Tight for the XR:”

The neatest trick is the new advanced depth control in portrait mode. With this effect, you can simulate the artistic blur around your subject that photographers call bokeh. But I found that the phone still can’t always get the blurring right around the edges of certain objects. The smart HDR feature and new sensors did make for a more even and clear photo when shooting almost directly into brighter lights—plus crisper, more colorful low-light shots—but overall my photos looked similar to the ones I’ve taken with the X. In many cases, they were not as good as shots I’ve taken with the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 or Google Pixel 2.


Todd Hasselton for CNBC:

Most of those improvements, though, are kind of hard to notice.

Take the screen, for example. It’s still a brilliant, colorful and sharp OLED display that supports next-gen HDR 4K video. It’s one of the best screens on the market, up there with the display on the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. But some of the improvements, like its increased dynamic range, can only be spotted when viewing photos. And even then, I don’t think most folks will notice. This isn’t bad; it just means the screen is still really good and we’re getting to a point where it’s hard to distinguish upgrades.

Tom’s Guide

Mark Spoonauer for Tom’s Guide:

Before we even get to the benchmark scores, it’s important to note that Face ID is faster on the iPhone Xs and the iPhone Xs Max than on the iPhone X. That’s because of improved algorithms in iOS 12 and the speedier A12 chip. It’s just a half-second difference or so, but it’s noticeable, and I appreciate being able to unlock my phone faster than on last year’s iPhone X.


Raymond Wong for Mashable:

To put these [A12 Bionic] speed gains in perspective, I loaded up a 1 minute and 32 second video clip shot in 4K (3,840 x 2,160) resolution at 30 fps with my iPhone X. I AirDropped the file over to my iPhone XS Max, created a new project with just that one video clip in iMovie, and then timed how long it’d take for both to export the file to 1080p.

The iPhone XS Max took 31 seconds and the iPhone X took 35 seconds. The iPhone XS Max crunched the video 12.9 percent faster, and though a few seconds doesn’t seem like a huge leap, the next part surprised me.

Marques Brownlee

This one is just an iPhone unboxing clip, but since it comes from Marques Brownlee it’s still worth checking it out:


Chris Smith
Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he closely follows the events in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises. Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.