Hands on: Apple's iPhone XS and XS Max are gorgeous, and a boon for photographers

Posted:
in iPhone edited September 21
Apple turned up the iPhone X to 11 with the iPhone XS and XS Max. AppleInsider goes hands on with the iPhone X successor, as well as the largest-screened iPhone ever, to provide our first impressions and thoughts on Apples latest handset.



In the box

Taking a peek in the box, we have the same components as last year. nothing has changed. Still a 5W USB-A wall charger, still a Lightning to USB-A cable. This is especially disappointing on the iPhone XS Max because of this jumbo battery.




The usual set of Lightning-powered earbuds are also provided, though no Lightning to 3.5mm jack adapter is included, which is a drag for those who still rely on that over Lightning/wireless headphones.

The phone!




The iPhone XS Max feels huge because of that edge-to-edge OLED screen. Comparatively, it is actually the same size as any of the Plus-sized phones.

There is certainly some heft to it, but that and the glass back actually make it a bit easier to hold than the aluminum iPhone 8 Plus.

Otherwise, from the exterior, this looks like a scaled up iPhone X. We still wish Apple would make better use of the screen real estate by giving us extra rows of app icons, though. Maybe in a future version of iOS 12.

Initially, some mistakenly believed the iPhone XS comes with 120Hz ProMotion display, technology introduced with iPad that dynamically refreshes onscreen content at a rates reaching 120 frames per second. It does not. Apple did, however, carry over the 120Hz touch sample rate from iPhone X, meaning the screen assembly collects more information per frame displayed than previous iPhones.

Some also misunderstood Apple's marketing material, thinking iPhone XS' display achieves 60 percent greater dynamic range than prior models. In actuality, the company is referring to a new Smart HDR photo capture that boasts the dynamic range boost.

iPhone XS

iPhone XS

Aesthetically, the iPhone XS is almost identical to last year's iPhone X, but if you take a closer look, you'll see that the speaker grille layout is completely different. The iPhone X had six speaker holes on the left side of its Lightning port, while the XS cuts that number down to three to make room for an added antenna band. Users will also notice a similar band at the top of the handset right above the camera lens.

Interestingly, the XS' camera bump has gotten a bit larger as well. We tried to fit an iPhone X case on our iPhone XS, but it didn't fit perfectly due to the bump's larger dimensions. Users who have rigid cases that fit exactly to spec might need to purchase a new accessory.

Camera time

The first thing we did, after booting up the new phone, was jump straight into the camera. We've been dying to check out the new controllable aperture feature exclusive to these new phones.




We noticed that XS Max was quicker than our iPhone X in activating the Portrait Mode blur effect as we aimed at our subject.




Our photo loaded, and a moment later an adjustable row of f-stops appeared below the image. As we increased or decreased the aperture, the level of blur in the background would increase and decrease. It looks pretty slick. There is going to still be a difference in the look of the blur on an iPhone versus a DSLR, but being able to adjust it was pretty amazing to see.

Aperture Depth Control


We will certainly be spending much more time testing out this new feature, as well as the other improvements to the camera soon.

Stay tuned




We've only just had a chance to play around with the new iPhone XS and XS Max but we are pretty happy with both. It doesn't quite feel like there are as many new things to play around with compared to the X, but anyone who appreciates large displays will love the XS Max.

Be sure to keep your eyes on AppleInsider in the coming days and weeks as we continue coverage of Apple's new handsets.

Deals on the iPhone XS and XS Max

If you haven't already preordered Apple's iPhone XS or XS Max, the following wireless carriers are incentivizing the purchase.

  • AT&T Wireless: Buy one iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max, get a second $700 off when you add a line.
  • Verizon Wireless: Buy one iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max, get a second $700 off when you add a line. Or save $100 with an eligible trade.
  • Sprint: Get the 64GB iPhone XS for $0 per month with eligible trade-in and Sprint Flex lease.
  • T-Mobile: Buy one iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max, get a second $700 off when you add a line. Or save up to $300 with eligible trade.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 187
    It’s a really big phone, but I absolutely am interested in checking one out.
    Avieshekwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 187
    Wish I could try mine. Stupid UPS. 
    GeorgeBMacMissSteelworkertoysandmeAvieshekwatto_cobrawlym
  • Reply 3 of 187
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 2,726member
    Is there a difference between the camera mode you are describing and what Huawei phones have done for years?

    The reason I ask is that when they announced the feature I automatically assumed it would be different but what you describe is practically identical to how Huawei phones have operated since the P9. I thought it was already possible on Apple's dual lens phones.



    Or is not so much what it does as how it does it?
    gatorguyspheric
  • Reply 4 of 187
    avon b7 said:
    Is there a difference between the camera mode you are describing and what Huawei phones have done for years?

    The reason I ask is that when they announced the feature I automatically assumed it would be different but what you describe is practically identical to how Huawei phones have operated since the P9. I thought it was already possible on Apple's dual lens phones.

    ....

    Or is not so much what it does as how it does it?
    Huawei? Who cares. Do major US network carriers even carry that pos?
    edited September 21 StrangeDayswilliamlondontoysandmewatto_cobrawlym
  • Reply 5 of 187
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,398member
    I'd like to get to the point of trying the camera but my 2018 MBP doesn't see the device. I've gone through the Trust settings/resetting multiple times and the Max shows "Connected" for about a second each time, before reverting to "Connect to iTunes" and never appears in iTunes on the Mac. On my iMP, the Mac notified that additional Apple software had to be installed before the Max could first be accessed. The software was automatically installed in ~3 minutes. Then the Max appeared in iTunes, but my iPhone backup is on the MBP, not the iMP. The notification of additional software did not occur on the MBP.  Both Macs are running 10.13.6 and have never seen a beta.
    williamlondontoysandme
  • Reply 6 of 187
    nunzynunzy Posts: 662member
    Apple now has the best cameras ever made. Professional photographers will not need anything else.

    I defy anybody to see any differences unless the photo is blow up to billboard size.
    dougdtoysandme
  • Reply 7 of 187
    I've been using a 6s Plus. The most impressive aspect of my Xs Max so far is the quality of selfies taken by the front-facing camera. For the first time ever, I look better in selfies than in the mirror. There's obviously some "beauty filtering" going on because I know I don't look this good in real life. I'm not sure how I feel about that just yet.


    GeorgeBMacAvieshekwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 187
    Remember how we used to make fun of people that took pictures with their iPad? 
    Welcome to the new normal.

    tmaybaconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 187
    Or maybe you're just a handsome dude and you never realized it.
    zroger73 said:
    I've been using a 6s Plus. The most impressive aspect of my Xs Max so far is the quality of selfies taken by the front-facing camera. For the first time ever, I look better in selfies than in the mirror. There's obviously some "beauty filtering" going on because I know I don't look this good in real life. I'm not sure how I feel about that just yet.


    zroger73Avieshekredgeminipasmack416watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 187
    cpsro said:
    I'd like to get to the point of trying the camera but my 2018 MBP doesn't see the device. I've gone through the Trust settings/resetting multiple times and the Max shows "Connected" for about a second each time, before reverting to "Connect to iTunes" and never appears in iTunes on the Mac. On my iMP, the Mac notified that additional Apple software had to be installed before the Max could first be accessed. The software was automatically installed in ~3 minutes. Then the Max appeared in iTunes, but my iPhone backup is on the MBP, not the iMP. The notification of additional software did not occur on the MBP.  Both Macs are running 10.13.6 and have never seen a beta.
    My wife had the same problem.  We got around it by reinstalling iTunes.  You can get a .dmg of the latest version of iTunes from Apple's website.  It didn't do anything to her music, nothing was lost.

    It won't see the new phone without the software update and reinstalling iTunes reset whatever flag iTunes had to see in order to trigger the update.
    cpsroRayz2016Avieshek
  • Reply 11 of 187
    DAalseth said:
    Remember how we used to make fun of people that took pictures with their iPad? 
    Welcome to the new normal.

    The Max is just about the same size overall as the previous plus models. I've believe I have seen you comment about wanting a new SE and liking a smaller phone previously, but the iPad comparison is a bit of a reach. 
    bb-15watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 187
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,340administrator
    DAalseth said:
    Remember how we used to make fun of people that took pictures with their iPad? 
    Welcome to the new normal.

    Why? The XS Max is very nearly the same size as the iPhone 6/7/8 Plus.
    williamlondontoysandmebb-15uraharaAvieshekwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 187
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,398member
    All-Purpose Guru said:
    My wife had the same problem.  We got around it by reinstalling iTunes.  You can get a .dmg of the latest version of iTunes from Apple's website.  It didn't do anything to her music, nothing was lost.

    It won't see the new phone without the software update and reinstalling iTunes reset whatever flag iTunes had to see in order to trigger the update.
    Thank you! I re-installed iTunes 12.8.0 (the version that had been installed) and the MBP is now installing the additional software required to access the XS.
    edited September 21 avon b7Avieshekwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 187
    nunzy said:
    Apple now has the best cameras ever made. Professional photographers will not need anything else.

    I defy anybody to see any differences unless the photo is blow up to billboard size.
    Youy siound as juvenile as it gets. First think: study density of glass and those limitations. Then study how professional photography eveloved. You might be surprized what professional need these days... unless of course you consider yourself professional in that space ;) You remind me some person who argued with me on monitors tellin me that his wife is professional in graphics design and there is no better quality in monitors than Philips from Costco (yes he was so arrogant to talk like that while we are running professional Adobe studio with projects for major international publishing company). Well graphics design does not and on HTML and JPEG's.
    nunzybaconstangAvieshek
  • Reply 15 of 187
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,168member
    DAalseth said:
    Remember how we used to make fun of people that took pictures with their iPad? 
    Welcome to the new normal.

    I'd love to have the same camera system as the XS on the 12.9 inch iPad Pro update.

    I'd rather carry that than wear glasses, necessary for the smaller screen of my current iPhone 7 Plus, for other than "snapshots" anyway.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 187
    My XS Max is on the way, arriving one day next week.
    What crystal clear case do you guys recommend, and what's the best Apple charger for it?
    edited September 21 watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 187
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,249member
    .
    avon b7 said:
    Is there a difference between the camera mode you are describing and what Huawei phones have done for years?

    The reason I ask is that when they announced the feature I automatically assumed it would be different but what you describe is practically identical to how Huawei phones have operated since the P9. I thought it was already possible on Apple's dual lens phones.

    ....

    Or is not so much what it does as how it does it?
    Huawei? Who cares. Do major US network carriers even carry that pos?
    So you assume that rest of the world does not matter, huh? Arrogance like that does not pay of. Huiwaei dominates markets elswhere and perhaps instead of being arrogant you may need reality check that those phones as well as Samsung dominate in Europe and Apple iPhone is nowhere near. You should star caring because on competitive markets other vendors build solutions that Apple follows (not leads) and some brainwash seems to be out there that Apple is the only innovator. The fact is that Apple came with few features 9(like biometrics) later than Samsung for example, but Samsung never claimed it was copied by Apple so you assume that Apple was first. Instead of reading only Apple news maye be you should start tracking general technology state. You would be surprized what you did not know and assumed that only one vendor innovates.

    Yes we do care about Huwaei, Samsung, LG and Google. Some pople did not review some features and thise dominant on other markets companies already have some stuff that nobody seems here to have a clue about. On top of that some of it is far more practical. Some even say that Pixel 2 photo quality is now top on the market - not Apple iPhones. there will be those now claimin that Aperture mode is so innovative. Well on phones it alreay exist, and it was used on SLR cameras (I used it for years) for decades now. It just got squeezed into smaller package - nothing else.
    "Dominates" is absolutely correct if you're referring to junk phones.  

    They don't matter.
    ericthehalfbeeStrangeDaystoysandmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 187
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,168member
    .
    avon b7 said:
    Is there a difference between the camera mode you are describing and what Huawei phones have done for years?

    The reason I ask is that when they announced the feature I automatically assumed it would be different but what you describe is practically identical to how Huawei phones have operated since the P9. I thought it was already possible on Apple's dual lens phones.

    ....

    Or is not so much what it does as how it does it?
    Huawei? Who cares. Do major US network carriers even carry that pos?
    So you assume that rest of the world does not matter, huh? Arrogance like that does not pay of. Huiwaei dominates markets elswhere and perhaps instead of being arrogant you may need reality check that those phones as well as Samsung dominate in Europe and Apple iPhone is nowhere near. You should star caring because on competitive markets other vendors build solutions that Apple follows (not leads) and some brainwash seems to be out there that Apple is the only innovator. The fact is that Apple came with few features 9(like biometrics) later than Samsung for example, but Samsung never claimed it was copied by Apple so you assume that Apple was first. Instead of reading only Apple news maye be you should start tracking general technology state. You would be surprized what you did not know and assumed that only one vendor innovates.

    Yes we do care about Huwaei, Samsung, LG and Google. Some pople did not review some features and thise dominant on other markets companies already have some stuff that nobody seems here to have a clue about. On top of that some of it is far more practical. Some even say that Pixel 2 photo quality is now top on the market - not Apple iPhones. there will be those now claimin that Aperture mode is so innovative. Well on phones it alreay exist, and it was used on SLR cameras (I used it for years) for decades now. It just got squeezed into smaller package - nothing else.
    I'll post this link;

    https://www.ped30.com/2018/09/20/counterpoint-regions-apple-iphone/

    Apple doesn't have an iPhone under $449, though there may be lower cost models manufacturer for India.

    Seriously, do you think that this data makes Apple look bad?

    Sure, Apple doesn't cater at all to the under $400 market, where the bulk of Huawei's sales are, but I will state that it is likely that Apple will sell a similar number of XS and XS Max units World Wide by the end of this month, as Huawei has sold of the P20 series since its March release. The P20 Pro isn't a great seller, although Avon B7 has tried to portray it as a great success, with pretty flakey data. Maybe it is. Nonetheless, is a likelihood that Apple will sell 80 to 85 million iPhones next quarter, and about 70% of those, will be the X models.

    Being first with niche features is a fool's game, but appropriate for the Android OS device market, where any differentiation at all is a huge marketing necessity. That's likely why we see mostly unbaked innovation in these devices first. Apple, works off of internal roadmap, so these companies, and their customers, as guinea pigs for new features is actually savvy.

    edited September 21 radarthekatRayz2016watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 187
    So Apple sells me 2 brand NEW iPhone Xs and sends it with a USB-A cable!! When you sold me a new MBP in January 2017 you told me to switch EVERYTHING to USB-C. I did but you didn't!! Then $5500 for new computers and $3300 for 2 new phones and they can't be connected to each other until I give Apple another $20 for a cable?? USB-C should have been an option when I purchased my new iPhone!! Or am I expecting to much?
    edited September 21 williamlondontoysandmemuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 20 of 187
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 2,726member
    tmay said:
    .
    avon b7 said:
    Is there a difference between the camera mode you are describing and what Huawei phones have done for years?

    The reason I ask is that when they announced the feature I automatically assumed it would be different but what you describe is practically identical to how Huawei phones have operated since the P9. I thought it was already possible on Apple's dual lens phones.

    ....

    Or is not so much what it does as how it does it?
    Huawei? Who cares. Do major US network carriers even carry that pos?
    So you assume that rest of the world does not matter, huh? Arrogance like that does not pay of. Huiwaei dominates markets elswhere and perhaps instead of being arrogant you may need reality check that those phones as well as Samsung dominate in Europe and Apple iPhone is nowhere near. You should star caring because on competitive markets other vendors build solutions that Apple follows (not leads) and some brainwash seems to be out there that Apple is the only innovator. The fact is that Apple came with few features 9(like biometrics) later than Samsung for example, but Samsung never claimed it was copied by Apple so you assume that Apple was first. Instead of reading only Apple news maye be you should start tracking general technology state. You would be surprized what you did not know and assumed that only one vendor innovates.

    Yes we do care about Huwaei, Samsung, LG and Google. Some pople did not review some features and thise dominant on other markets companies already have some stuff that nobody seems here to have a clue about. On top of that some of it is far more practical. Some even say that Pixel 2 photo quality is now top on the market - not Apple iPhones. there will be those now claimin that Aperture mode is so innovative. Well on phones it alreay exist, and it was used on SLR cameras (I used it for years) for decades now. It just got squeezed into smaller package - nothing else.
    I'll post this link;

    https://www.ped30.com/2018/09/20/counterpoint-regions-apple-iphone/

    Apple doesn't have an iPhone under $449, though there may be lower cost models manufacturer for India.

    Seriously, do you think that this data makes Apple look bad?

    Sure, Apple doesn't cater at all to the under $400 market, where the bulk of Huawei's sales are, but I will state that it is likely that Apple will sell a similar number of XS and XS Max units World Wide by the end of this month, as Huawei has sold of the P20 series since its March release. The P20 Pro isn't a great seller, although Avon B7 has tried to portray it as a great success, with pretty flakey data. Maybe it is. Nonetheless, is a likelihood that Apple will sell 80 to 85 million iPhones next quarter, and about 70% of those, will be the X models.

    Being first with niche features is a fool's game, but appropriate for the Android OS device market, where any differentiation at all is a huge marketing necessity. That's likely why we see mostly unbaked innovation in these devices first. Apple, works off of internal roadmap, so these companies, and their customers, as guinea pigs for new features is actually savvy.

    Flakey data?

    Niche features?

    The data on P20 Series sales came straight from Huawei. Official numbers. It has been a massive success.

    Aperture Mode is one of the main features on Huawei phones, not a niche feature. Even on my little Honor 10.

    I didn't ask this question last week simply because I thought the feature was different. Seeing the description here, and noting that the process is virtually identical, prompted me to ask.

    There is no need to go on the defensive.
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