iPhone XS vs iPhone XS Max

Apple has announced its new line-up of iPhones for 2018-2019, with three new models bearing the notch design first introduced by the iPhone X. Two of these, the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are direct replacements for the iPhone X, which has now been discontinued, while the iPhone XR is a slightly lower priced option that's sure to have wide appeal.

So, how do the premium models compare, and which one should have you smashing your piggybank to smithereens with gay abandon? We take a look.

Price and availability

Pre-orders for the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max began on Friday 14 September, with the release date a week later on the 21 September. You can order an iPhone from Apple here.

Both models come in three variants, with the iPhone XS costing £999/$999 for the 64GB model, £1,149/$1,149 for 256GB, and £1,349/$1,349 if you want a whopping 512GB of storage.

iPhone XS Max options are £1,099/$1,099 (64GB), £1,249/$1,249 (256GB), or £1,449/$1,449 (512GB).

Be sure to regularly check out our Best iPhone XS deals and Best iPhone XS Max deals to see what offers are around.

Obviously, these are incredibly expensive devices, so it's worth noting that the iPhone XR starts at £749/$749, while the iPhone 8 and iPhone 7 models are still available from Apple and have had their prices reduced with immediate effect.

See our iPhone 7 and 8 get £100 price drop article for more details.

Design and build

The iPhone XS is pretty much identical to the iPhone X. The front is taken up almost entirely by the 5.8in OLED display, with the now famous notch at the top providing a home for the Face ID cameras that obviate the need for a Home button.

iPhone XS v iPhone XS Max

The chassis remains stainless steel, replete with a lightning port, stereo speaker, microphone, and the normal complement of buttons.

More cameras can be found on the rear, with a dual-lens setup housed in a raised area, just as on its predecessor. A glass back allows wireless charging, and the device is rated at IP68 for waterproofing. The latter means it can withstand being submerged in a maximum water depth of 2 metres for up to 30 minutes, or endure moody night-time photoshoots in the rain.

iPhone XS v iPhone XS Max

Everything is the same for the iPhone XS Max, albeit in a larger frame. The display is a 6.5in panel, making it the biggest to ever appear in an iPhone. Due to the retirement of the Home button, the overall size of the handset is actually thinner and shorter than the iPhone 8 Plus, while only adding a few grams of weight.

Dimensions

  • iPhone XS: 143.6mm x 70.9mm x 7.7mm; 177g
  • iPhone XS Max: 157.5mm x 77.4mm x 7.7mm; 208g
  • iPhone 8 Plus: 158.4mm x 78.1mm x 7.5mm; 202g

Features and Specs

The similarities continue on the inside, where both models boast almost identical components. Apple has fitted its latest models with new A12 Bionic chips, which the company claims is capable of a 15% performance increase and 50% energy efficiency gain over the A11 Bionic found in the iPhone X.

The GPU is claimed to be able to reach speeds 50% faster than the A11 as well, while the updated Neural Engine provides more power efficiency. The upshot of all this is that the iPhone XS is stated to have 30 mins more battery life than the iPhone X, while the iPhone XS Max adds an extra 90 mins.

Super Retina HD displays feature on both devices, delivering resolutions of 2436 x 1125 on the iPhone XS and 2688x1242 on the Max, which the mathematicians among you will know equates to a pixel density of 458ppi for either handset.

iPhone XS v iPhone XS Max

These are True Tone displays, and Apple confirmed that the panels support Dolby Vision and HDR10.

While on paper the cameras all seem the same as on the iPhone X, Apple has used a bigger sensor this time around. The upgraded hardware, plus the advances in the A12 Bionic chip (especially in the Neural Engine) means the introduction of features such as advanced depth segmentation, user adjustable depth of field, and a Smart HDR mode.

Apple is so confident in the capabilities of its new optics that it claims this will usher in a 'new era of photography'. We'll put those assertions to the test when our in-depth review arrives very soon, but it's a safe thing to say that taking photos and videos with an iPhone XS or XS Max will return some very nice results.

iPhone XS v iPhone XS Max

The full specifications are listed below and are identical for both devices, all except the dimensions, weight and display sizes

Specifications iPhone XS iPhone XS Max
iOS iOS 12 iOS 12
Colours Gold, Silver, Space Grey Gold, Silver, Space Grey
Display 5.8in Super Retina Display (2436x1125, 458ppi) OLED  6.5in Super Retina Display (2688x1242, 458ppi) OLED
Processor A12 Bionic A12 Bionic
Storage 64GB/256GB/512GB 64GB/256GB/512GB
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 IP68
Dimensions 143.6mm x 70.9mm x 7.7mm 157.5mm x 77.4mm x 7.7mm
Weight 177g 208g
Price £999/£1,149/£1,349 £1,099/£1,249/£1,349

Software and apps

As you would expect, Apple's newest releases arrive with the shiniest of operating systems onboard. iOS 12 brings a number of performance enhancements, while adding updates to Photos, Clips, and shortcuts for Siri commands.

Read our iOS 12 preview for more on what to expect with the new update.

OUR VERDICT

Apple has made it easy for customers to pick up the iPhone they really want this year. There are no trade-offs with cameras or other features, as both units are identical except for size of chassis and screen. True, you get a bit more battery life with the iPhone XS Max, but the real differentiator is now down to how big you want your iPhone to be.

Both are class-leading devices that will make any Apple fan very happy indeed, so we advise popping down to a store, holding the units in your hands and seeing which one fits best.

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