Apple iPhone XS Max full review

The iPhone XS Max is Apple’s most expensive phone but it boasts the largest screen ever on an iPhone. The year-older iPhone 8 Plus is still available to buy and is a big phone but has a different design.

If you aren’t sure whether to pony up for the XS Max, here we compare it specifically to the 8 Plus to see which is best suited to your needs and budget. (We also look at the iPhone 7 Plus and the XS Max here.)

iPhone XS Max vs iPhone 8 Plus: Price and availability

The iPhone XS Max went on sale on 21 September and costs from £1,099/$1,099 for the 64GB model. You can pay more for 256GB or 512GB.

The iPhone 8 Plus now costs less than it did at launch, now starting at £699/$699 for 64GB, with a 256GB version available too. Even at launch it was less than the iPhone XS Max is now, costing £799/$799 for 64GB or £949/$949 for a 128GB model.

As you can see, the XS Max is quite a lot more than the 8 Plus.

iPhone XS Max vs iPhone 8 Plus: Design and build

These two phones look very different. The XS Max keeps the design first seen on the (now discontinued) iPhone X and enlarges it to a 6.5in screen, the largest ever on an iPhone.

Thanks to the tall 19.5:9 aspect ratio it’s slimmer than you might imagine. The iPhone 8 Plus has a 16:9 screen and is a whole inch smaller at 5.5in. Because of the aspect ratio differences, the phones are nearly the same size despite looking very different.

In fact, the iPhone XS Max is shorter and thinner than the 8 Plus and only 0.2mm thicker, which you won’t even notice. But to achieve this size it has a notch at the top of the display to hold the camera and Face ID sensors.

The bezels on the iPhone 8 Plus recall the classic iPhone design and means it still has the home button, something the XS Max lacks. Both phones have dual camera on the back but orientated differently.

You get a stainless-steel rim around the XS Max and an aluminium one on the 8 Plus, the latter being a bit more grippy. Neither phone has a headphone jack, with only a Lightning port on the bottom.

The XS Max is the better looking for sheer futuristic allure, but the 8 Plus is still a very premium device.

iPhone XS Max vs iPhone 8 Plus: Features and specs

Here’s a table with a direct comparison of the specs of both phones:

  iPhone XS Max iPhone 8 Plus
iOS iOS 12 iOS 11 upgradable to iOS 12
Colours Gold, Silver, Space Grey Silver, Space Grey, Gold
Display 6.5in Super Retina Display (2688x1242, 458ppi) OLED 5.5in Retina HD Display (1920x1080, 401ppi) LCD
Processor Apple A12 Bionic Apple A11 Bionic
Storage 64GB/256GB/512GB 64GB/256GB
Rear camera 12Mp wide-angle, f/1.8, OIS + 12Mp telephoto, f/2.4, OIS, optical zoom, 10x digital zoom, Portrait Lighting, Portrait Mode, quad-LED flash 12Mp wide-angle, f/1.8, OIS + 12Mp telephoto, f/2.8, OIS, optical zoom, 10x digital zoom, Portrait Lighting, Portrait Mode, quad-LED flash
Front camera 7Mp FaceTime HD, f/2.2, 1080p video 7Mp FaceTime HD, f/2.2, 1080p video
Video recording 4K at 24/30/60fps, 1080p slo-mo at 240fps 4K at 24/30/60fps, 1080p slo-mo at 240fps
Biometric security Face ID Touch ID
Wireless charging? Yes Yes
Waterproofing IP68 IP67
Dimensions 157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7mm 158.4 x 78.1 x 7.5mm
Weight 208g 202g
Price £1,099/£1,349/£1,449 (same in $) £699/£849 (same in $)
Buy SIM-free Pre-order 14 September From Apple
Buy on contract Pre-order 14 September From Carphone Warehouse

Although the phones look quite different, there aren’t as many differences as you might think.

The main upgrade you get with the XS Max is the newer A12 Bionic processor and the larger OLED display. OLED screens are more vibrant and can produce deeper blacks.

But Apple’s LCDs are excellent and the screen on the iPhone 8 Plus is still very good. It has 2017’s A11 processor inside which is no slouch either, and real-world use won’t show much difference in performance.

If you really want a 512GB phone then you can have it with the XS Max but it’s the most expensive iPhone version yet at £1,449/$1,449. You could settle for a healthy 256GB iPhone 8 Plus for £849/$849.

The camera modules are also very similar on both phones but the XS Max’s are slightly better. Both lenses have optical image stabilisation and the telephoto lens has f/2.4.

On the 8 Plus, the telephoto is f/2.8 and lacks OIS. But the 8 Plus can still do the portrait mode and portrait lighting shots the XS Max can do, and its video recording capabilities are identical.

The XS Max has Face ID to allow for phone unlocking and biometric verification. The 8 Plus doesn’t have this, but you can unlock and verify with the home button’s fingerprint sensor.

iPhone XS Max vs iPhone 8 Plus: Software and apps

Both phones will run iOS 12 very smoothly. The main difference is on the iPhone XS Max you have to use swipe gestures in the UI as you haven’t got a home button. Swipe up to go home, and swipe up and hold to view the app switcher are the main things to learn, with a pull down from the top right to access the control centre.

On the 8 Plus, the home button and swipe from the bottom from control centre are still in place as they have been for some time.

The Face ID camera array on the XS Max can record Memoji and Animoji as it can scan your face in 3D – the 8 Plus can receive these creations, but can’t create them.

Otherwise, you don’t lose out on much by having the cheaper 8 Plus – it’s mainly Face ID and the novelty emoji fun you can have with it.


The iPhone 8 Plus is the most capable iPhone remaining with the home button and no notch. It's got good battery life, dual cameras and a still-fast processor. With full support of the latest iOS for a few more years, it is by no means a bad choice.

But the iPhone XS Max is the most powerful iPhone ever. It has a taller, larger, better OLED display, Face ID, and faster performance. That comes at a price though, starting at £1,099/$1,099 compared to the £699/$699 of the 8 Plus.


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