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Apple iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max: Bigger, bolder and better than ever before

The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max offer best-in-class features, specifications and utilities, and are way ahead of Android smartphones, only if you can ignore the price tag

Khalid Anzar  |  New Delhi 

Apple iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max
Apple iPhone XS Max and iPhone XS

While the iPhone X set the benchmark for future iPhones, the latest flagships from the house of the Cupertino, US-based tech giant – iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max – push it a notch higher. Built on the iPhone X blueprint, the new smartphones are only bigger, better and bolder in every respect.

The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max have identical hardware, software, imaging capabilities and everything else, but differ in screen sizes and, therefore, dimensions. While the iPhone XS has a 5.8-inch OLED screen, similar to the iPhone X, the iPhone XS Max gets a bigger 6.5-inch OLED display. Both smartphones carry a form factor similar to the iPhone 8-series, but their compact form factors make them easy to hold and operate.

In design, the continues with the glass-steel-glass build with an all-screen front. The screen in either device has a notch on top, accommodating hardware for Face ID, front camera and earpiece. Unlike their Android counterparts, which are constantly trying to do away with the notch – or at least reduce it to the minimum – has decided to have a fairly big notch area in the new series. However, considering that there is no chin at the bottom, the stands true to the company’s all-screen promise, even with a bigger notch.

Not only the front but also the back of the XS and XS Max is similar to the iPhone X. A vertically aligned dual-camera module placed on the top-left corner protrudes a little, making the phones uneven on flat surfaces. And the glass back is prone to fingerprints. But like the front glass covering the screen, the back glass is also sturdy and does not get scratches easily.

In terms of usage, the XS-series has a new feel to it and a lot more to offer than the iPhone X. Powered by the processor, with an iOS 12 operating system, the XS and XS Max seem best suited for multimedia enthusiasts, casual gamers and content producers. Their OLED screens are bright and vivid, and they support Dolby Vision and HDR 10. The screens automatically adapt to ambience light and adjust colour temperature for natural output, rendering optimised colours best suited for viewing text, video or graphic content.

Imaging has always been one of the strongest areas in iPhones. The maintains that with impeccable imaging capabilities. These phones have dual 12-megapixel shooters on the back, featuring a regular sensor of f/1.8 aperture mated with telephoto lenses of f/2.4 aperture. Both the camera sensors support optical image stabilisation for easy operations, especially in low light. On the front, there is a 7MP camera for selfies and portrait shots. Though the camera modules look similar to those in the iPhone X, the primary camera lens in the XS-series has a bigger pixel size.

The enhanced neural engine at the core of the chip also improves the output, making the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max solid smartphones in the imaging segment.

The features that have been added to the camera interface has improved the output to a great extent. In addition to the features also present in the iPhone X – portrait lighting, bokeh mode, etc – the iPhone XS-series adds a smart HDR mode that enhances the output, rendering shadows, highlights, bright areas and underexposed areas perfectly. What’s more, the HDR photos are captured instantly and the camera does not show any lag in processing information collected through sensors. The new iPhones also feature a depth-control feature for manually adjusting the depth of field after a frame is shot. Though this feature has been there in several Android devices, the iPhone XS-series iteration works seamlessly, allowing proper portrait and background segmentation.

While the overall camera output has improved significantly, it is the stereo audio recording through four in-built microphones that completes the imaging capabilities of the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. Both phones also have loud, crisp and clear stereo speakers suitable for multimedia enthusiasts and gamers.

Speaking of mobile device utilities, the new smartphones are the first offerings to support a dual-SIM module – a physical and an e-SIM. E-SIM allows multiple SIM users, such as international travellers, to swap SIMs instantly without physically removing and plugging a new one in the tray. Additionally, the new iOS 12 functionality of Memoji makes conversations interactive and much more fun. The screen-time feature allows you to keep a check on the time you spend on different apps. The new augmented reality support right within the operating system makes these phones fun to use, especially for games.

In performance, the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max do not seem to have any major weak areas. These devices run power-intensive apps smoothly, keep thermals in control and show no lag – even with multiple apps running in the background. The new feature of swipe-up to close the app in the recent app list makes it single-hand operation easier. The phones have satisfactory on-battery life, too. Both the devices manage to go on for around a day on mixed usage. In fact, the XS Max, despite a bigger screen, manages to squeeze more run-in time on a single charge.

Review verdict

The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are worthy upgrades for iPhone X users. The phones not only address the few limitations that there were in their predecessor, but also bring a host of improvements in software, features, imaging and battery life. With a starting price of Rs 99,900 and Rs 109,900, the premium iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max (respectively) might seem overpriced smartphones. But, if you are not for price but experience, these devices offer best in-class features, specifications and utilities that Android smartphones might not be able to offer anytime soon.

First Published: Thu, October 04 2018. 07:32 IST