iPhone XS vs iPhone X: What is the difference?

The iPhone XS is Apple’s follow up to the drastically different iPhone X. As the name suggests, this time is more of an evolution than revolution.

The XS bears a similar notched design but with new internal upgrades that make it technically better than but quite similar to the older iPhone X. This is not as big a jump in tech as the iPhone X was last year.

But with a faster processor and, Apple says, better battery life, is the iPhone Xs worth the extra spend?

Apple also launched the iPhone XS Max, a larger version of the iPhone XS. It has a 6.5in display and specs mostly the same as the normal XS.

iPhone XS vs iPhone X: Price and availability

The iPhone XS will be available for pre-order direct from Apple on Friday 14 September and costs £999/$999 for the 64GB model, £1,149/£1,149 for the 256GB and £1,349/$1,349 for the new 512GB model.

The XS Max costs from £1,099/$1,099.

The iPhone XS and XS Max will officially go on sale on Friday 21 September.

In the UK you will be able to pre-order from Three, EE, O2, Vodafone and Carphone Warehouse

The iPhone X is no longer sold by Apple, though the iPhone 7 and 8 are.

iPhone XS vs iPhone X: Design and build

These phones are basically identical. They both have 5.8in notched OLED displays, dual cameras with a small bump and glass backs that allows wireless charging.

They also both have stainless steel rims that house speakers, mic, Lightning port and buttons. There’s no headphone jack, as we are now all used to from Apple.

This design is a big departure from older iPhones as there is no home button, with the front facing camera and sensors unlocking the phones with Face ID.

iPhone XS vs iPhone X: Features and specs

Here is a comparison of the iPhone XS and X. Try and spot the difference:

  iPhone XS iPhone X
iOS iOS 12 iOS 11 or 12
Colours Gold, Silver, Space Grey Silver, Space Grey
Display 5.8in Super Retina Display (2436x1125, 458ppi) OLED 5.8in Super Retina Display (2436x1125, 458ppi) OLED
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/2.4, 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 Face ID
Wireless charging? Yes Yes
Waterproofing IP68 IP67
Dimensions 70.9 x 143.6 x 7.7mm 70.9 x 143.6 x 7.7mm
Weight 174g 174g
Price £999/£1,149/£1,349 £999/£1,149 ($999/$1,149)
Buy SIM-free Pre-order 14 September From Carphone Warehouse
Buy on contract Pre-order 14 September From Carphone Warehouse

The iPhone XS looks identical to the iPhone X, largely because it is basically the same. On the inside, there’s the A12 Bionic processor rather than the X’s A11.

It’s the first 7nm chip in a smartphone, beating Huawei’s Kirin 980 processor to market. It is a 6 core CPU, with two high performance cores and two high efficiency cores. The former can be 15% faster and 40% more energy efficient while the latter are capable of being 50% more efficient, according to Apple.

The company also said the Apple A12 GPU can be 50% faster than the A11 found in the iPhone X. Apple also says the neural engine in the A12 is designed with 8 cores to better manage operation and power efficiency, quoting an extra half an hour battery life in the XS compared to the X.

The cameras look to be practically the same in the XS as in the X with a 12Mp wide angle camera, 12Mp telephoto camera and supposedly improved True Tone flash. The 7Mp front facing camera is also the same.

But the XS's dual cameras have 1.4µm pixels instead of the 1.22µm of the iPhone X, meaning larger pixels and therefore technically the ability to take in more light. This should help with low-light photography, but we will have to see in our full review.

You of course get Face ID on both phones, and Apple said it was using faster algorithms to make it quicker – though this will come to the X too as it’s a software update. 

The XS has a built-in e-SIM with dual SIM capabilities so you can run two numbers at once for the first time on an iPhone, so you can’t do this on the iPhone X. If you travel a lot, the e-SIM makes it easy to purchase a data bundle, for instance, in another country.

iPhone XS vs iPhone X: Software and apps        

The iPhone XS will ship with iOS 12, but the iPhone X will also receive this update from iOS 11 on 17 September, so both will run the same version.

In software tweaks on the XS, you can now adjust the depth of field in the Photos app in post processing like you can on the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 or Huawei P20 Pro, but it’s the first time on an iPhone.

It’s unclear if this will come to the iPhone X but seeing as the cameras are exactly the same it probably will. Apple is also pushing an update to its Clips app in an attempt to draw in more users. iOS 12 also adds more Animoji and introduces Memoji using the clever front facing camera array.

Siri shortcuts is a new feature that allows you to pre-programme specific routines that you then trigger using Siri. We don’t trust Siri to do this as successfully as Apple’s live demo, but we will find out soon if it’s up to the task.

OUR VERDICT

You can’t buy the iPhone X direct from Apple now, so the iPhone XS is a decent upgrade for the same RRP. But if you don’t care about the gold colour, larger XS Max or the promise of a tiny battery life improvement, you might want to seek out the iPhone X on a cheaper contract from a reseller.

As the iPhone XS is an incremental ‘S’ upgrade, it is probable that next year’s iPhone will see a bigger design change. If you have an iPhone X and are happy with it, there is not much reason to upgrade. 

But if you're upgrading from an older iPhone like the 6S or 7, go for the newer XS.

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