The first wave of reviews of Apple’s latest iPhone XS and XS Max are in, and they’re widely favorable.
Of note, it seems the major improvement can be found in the camera, especially with portrait mode and the new “smart HDR” feature that Apple introduced during its keynote event last week. Reviewers were also smitten by how iOS, apps, and videos looked on the 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max.
And there’s seemingly little about the iPhone XS and XS Max to complain about.
As enticing as the iPhone XS and XS Max might seem after reading the reviews, there’s still one more iPhone reviewers need to check out. The $750 iPhone XR, which shares many of the same features as the iPhone XS, will be released in October and has yet to get a thorough hands-on examination. Waiting for reviews of the iPhone XR could save you at least $250.
Check out a few snippets of iPhone XS and XS Max reviews from CNBC, The Verge, Mashable, and TechCrunch on the design, camera, battery life, performance, display, and speakers:
TechCrunch: "My testing of portrait mode on the iPhone XS says that it is massively improved, but that there are still some very evident quirks that will lead to weirdness in some shots like wrong things made blurry and halos of light appearing around subjects ...
"But, man, Smart HDR is where it's at ... The results for me have been massively improved quick snaps with no thought given to exposure or adjustments due to poor lighting. Your camera roll as a whole will just suddenly start looking like you're a better picture taker, with no intervention from you."
Mashable: "Portrait mode is much better on the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max than on previous iPhones."
The Verge: "I definitely prefer the Pixel 2's camera, but the iPhone XS isn't that far behind, and it's still a significant improvement over previous iPhones."
CNBC: "The camera is very good. I was impressed with the iPhone X and the Galaxy Note 9, but the iPhone XS pictures looked better to me."
TechCrunch: "The iPhone XS Max clearly went beast mode, outlasting my iPhone X and iPhone XS."
Mashable: "I got my typical day to day-and-a-half battery life on both the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max as I normally get on my iPhone X."
The Verge: "I mostly tested the XS Max, and it did great - better than even Apple's claim of 90 minutes more than the X."
CNBC: "The battery life is really good on the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, but note that I've only been using them for a few days."
The Verge on XS Max: "Because the screen fills the entire front of the phone, the XS Max doesn't seem as huge as the Plus phones."
Mashable on XS Max: "Even though it's heavier than the iPhone 8 Plus, it somehow feels lighter ... I'd have loved to see a smaller notch and less bulging rear camera."
TechCrunch on gold color: "This is a much deeper, brassier gold than the Apple Watch Edition. It's less 'pawn shop gold' and more 'this is very expensive' gold."
CNBC: "The rest of the design is basically identical to the iPhone X."
The Verge: "In terms of CPU performance, the A12 really isn't that much faster: Apple only quotes a 15 percent performance improvement, and I didn't really see a noticeable speedup over my iPhone X."
Mashable: "When compared to a device like Samsung's Galaxy Note 9, which uses Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 845 chip, it's clear the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are beasts ... With CPU and GPU improvements, everything from the general snappiness of iOS 12 to gaming to augmented reality is faster for sure."
CNBC: "It's one of the best screens on the market, up there with the display on the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. But some of the improvements, like its increased dynamic range, can only be spotted when viewing photos. And even then, I don't think most folks will notice."
The Verge on XS Max: "It's absolutely killer for watching video or playing games on its huge, gorgeous display. I love it ... The XS Max also doesn't really do a ton in software to take advantage of that big display: there's no extra row of home screen icons or picture-in-picture for video ... Everything else is mostly just bigger; apps like Slack, Gmail, and Twitter show you the exact same amount of information as the smaller XS."
Mashable on XS Max: "I already knew the screen was amazing since I'm an iPhone X owner, but everything - and I do mean everything - looks better on the iPhone XS Max's bigger display."
TechCrunch: "As far as Face ID goes, there has been no perceivable difference for me in speed or number of positives."
The Verge: "Face ID on the XS is ever-so-slightly faster than the X ... If you wear glasses like me, you'll still have to enter your passcode every morning when you wake up because you're holding the phone too close to your face for it to work. And sunglasses that block IR light will still prevent it from working."
Mashable: "Face ID is a smidge faster and more responsive, but it still doesn't work in landscape mode."
Mashable: "If you really listen closely you can hear a little more separation between the left and right channels and more depth to the sound quality, but not dramatically so."
The Verge: "The iPhone XS's speakers are definitely louder and clearer than the speakers on the X."
CNBC: "The phones can also be awfully expensive if you want a lot of storage."
The Verge: "I would not rush out to spend another $999 on the XS if you have an X, but if you're already deep into a preorder, don't worry: you will love the iPhone XS."
Mashable: "If you want the best iPhones ... the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are the ones to get, and they're worth the investment."
All rounded up in a neat little package
It's clear from the initial reviews that the cameras on the iPhone XS and XS Max impressed the most.
Otherwise, the iPhone XS design should be familiar to iPhone X owners, and the XS Max should be comfortable in the hands of iPhone Plus users. The battery life, displays, and performance are slightly better, but the improvements are harder to notice.
Reviewers were universally impressed with the iPhone XS Max's 6.5-inch display, but as The Verge noted, Apple didn't really make better use of the larger screen real estate, such as more space for more icons on the home screen.
My biggest disappointment after reading the reviews would be the lackluster improvements made to Face ID. It might be faster, but not much seems to have been done to improve its accuracy or versatility. It seems you still have to enter your PIN at times, something I rarely had to do when Touch ID was around.
As for the price - starting at $1,000 for the iPhone XS and $1,100 for the XS Max - reviewers weren't too worried about it, but they weren't exactly pushing for iPhone X users to upgrade either.