New iPhone XS 2018 release date, price & specs

Apple has launched its new iPhones, the XS and XS Max, and pre-orders have begun! Here's what you need to know about their release date, new features, design, price & tech specs

By Jim Martin

Apple has, after many rumours and some last-minute leaks, unveiled its iPhones for 2018, and pre-orders have begun. You have three upgrade choices this year: iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR.

You may be viewing an older version of this story cached by Google, click here to see the latest version of this story.

Here we'll talk about the first two, and you can find everything you need to know about the cheaper iPhone XR here.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, Apple has built upon the iPhone X rather than updating the iPhone 8. So new and old models look the same at a glance. Check our iPhone XS Max versus iPhone X comparison so you can see just how much better the new phones are. We also have an iPhone 8 vs iPhone XS comparison.

You can consider the XS the direct upgrade from the X, but the XS Max adds a brand new option with the biggest screen yet seen on an iPhone at 6.5 inches.

Yes, you read that right: not XS Plus, but XS Max. We're into the second decade of iPhone now, so it's reasonable that Apple wants to change its naming strategy. It says it's because the screen is bigger than the 5.5 inch display on an iPhone Plus, but it's also because it is extending its vision of what the iPhone X started. Jonny Ive's words, those, not ours. Most people are likely to pronounce it "excess" rather than "ten ess", but the latter is the correct way of course.

Here are highlights of the new features:

  • A12 Bionic processor
  • IP68 rated
  • Updated 12Mp cameras
  • Adjustable depth of field in photos
  • 512GB storage option
  • Dual-SIM

The UK Tech Weekly Podcast discuss the iPhone XS in episode 102:

There was much debate ahead of the launch about what the new phones would be called. You can see the results of our name poll below (and of course you can vote too).

iPhone XS and XS Max prices

What will they cost you? This table explains what you need to know about US and UK pricing.

 

iPhone XS (5.8-inch)

iPhone XS Max (6.5-inch)

64GB

US$999 / £999

US$1099 / £1099

256GB

US$1149 / £1149

US$1249 / £1249

512GB

US$1349 / £1349

US$1449 / £1449

Colours

Gold, Silver, Space Grey

Gold, Silver, Space Grey

Release date and pre-orders

The new phones, both XS and XS Max, are available to pre-order now, and the first units will ship on 21 September.

You can pre-order on Apple's website, or via the networks and resellers listed below. Also check out our article rounding up the best iPhone XS deals

iPhone XS design and specifications

As this is an 'S' model, no-one will be surprised that the design is the same as the iPhone X. That means your existing cases will fit: buttons and ports are in the same places.

It's made from the same surgical-grade stainless steel, but the screen and rear glass has a new formulation of glass which Apple says is the toughest ever used in a phone.

Water-resistance has been improved to IP68, up from IP67, so you can leave it submerged at a depth of 2m for 30 minutes. And it won't just survive fresh water, Apple has also tested it in orange juice, tea, wine, beer and salt water.

  • iPhone XS: 143.6x70.9x7.7mm, 177g
  • iPhone XS Max: 157.5x77.4x7.7mm, 208g

Screen

The XS' screen is a minor upgrade to the iPhone X's. Resolution remains the same, as does the 5.8-inch diagonal, but contrast is improved to 1,000,000:1, which Apple says gives is a 60 percent greater dynamic range.

The iPhone XS Max is just.. bigger. It shares the same design but has a 6.5-inch screen in a body that's roughly the same size as the iPhone 8 Plus. That's a whole inch more, a real boon for those who can live with physically larger phone as this is now one of the biggest screens on any phone.

In order to maintain the same pixel density as the iPhone XS, resolution is higher at 2688x1242 pixels.

Both screens have the same list of features, though:

  • 3D Touch
  • Tap to wake
  • True Tone
  • Wide Colour
  • 120Hz touch layer
  • 625 nits max. brightness

Performance

The new A12 Bionic processor has a similar configuration to the A11 with a six-core CPU and a quad-core GPU. However, it's the first to be manufactured using a 7nm process and this is one of the reasons it's considerably faster than the A11.

Apple says the new Neural Engine is an octa-core chip that can process 5 trillion operations per second, considerably up from the 600 billion which the A11 could handle.

In practice this means apps launch up to 30 percent faster, but apps which use machine learning also benefit from this extra performance.

They can use real-time machine learning for better depth detection in Portrait mode and better mapping of Animojis in FaceTime.

FaceID is also quicker thanks to faster algorithms and it runs on a faster version of the secure enclave.

Cameras

On the surface, specs look the same as the iPhone X, as do the cameras themselves, but the main sensor in the wide-angle camera is bigger and houses larger pixels.

Smart HDR is one highlight of the new camera features.  With the extra power on tap, it takes 9 rather than a mere 4 photos simultaneously. The extra four "inter-frames" deliver even better HDR shots.

A more noticeable difference from the iPhone X's shots is that bokeh has also been improved to look more like the effect you get from a big-lens SLR camera. More importantly, you can now change the depth of field after the photo when you tap Edit.

Hardware

Keen to appeal to those who want a dual-SIM phone, Apple is at last offering an eSIM alongside the physical SIM tray. This is new technology for iPhone, but eSIMs have been in Apple Watch and iPad for some time.

What's an eSIM? All your questions answered.

Only in China will you be able to buy a true dual-SIM iPhone which takes two physical cards. Both the Chinese model and those using an eSIM work using the dual-standby tech that many dual-SIM phones already use, letting you seamlessly switch between two numbers at any time.

Battery life has been improved, and Apple says the iPhone XS and XS Max have biggest ever batteries in an iPhone. Expect 30 minutes longer runtime from the iPhone XS than an iPhone X. The XS Max will last 90 minutes longer than the iPhone X.

We'll bring you reviews of the new phones as soon as we can.