Apple iPhone XS Max Review

Apple iPhone XS Max

Apple iPhone XS Max

Apple

September, 2018
6.5" OLED display, Apple A12 Bionic chipset, Dual: 12 MP + 12 MP primary camera, 7 MP front camera, 3174 mAh battery, 512 GB storage, 4 GB RAM, Scratch-resistant glass.
EUR:€1,250 | USD:$1,413 | PKR:167,999 | INR:100,851

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Apple iPhone XS Max Review

Apple iPhone XS Max Review


Introduction

After a summer of fairly accurate rumors, Apple launched three new iPhones, Apple iPhone XS Max, Apple iPhone XS and Apple iPhone XR. One criticism we hear often about Apple iPhone X is that its 5.8-inch screen simply isn't big enough. Last year, big-screen lovers had to opt for less fully-featured Apple iPhone 8 Plus to get most of screen real estate. Well, not anymore as Apple's iPhone XS Max offers the biggest screen available in an iPhone to date, along with many of top-shelf features like Face ID. It's a perfect option for people who want to upgrade from older Plus models as it features an all new display, a much powerful processor and improved camera setup. Only concern remains, it comes with a pretty hefty price tag, way over 1000-dollar price point. For some users, however, price won't be a major concern, as Apple has one of the most loyal fan following. So, let's dive deep into Apple's latest plus sized flagship and find out whether it is worth the hype or you're just better off with smaller Apple iPhone XS.

Design

Being an S model, there have been almost no design change as Apple iPhone XS Max looks exactly like previous Apple flagship. Its most prominent feature is that its way bigger, a touch shorter and narrow than Apple iPhone 8 Plus, with a bigger screen. Apple iPhone XS Max's design is deceptive, pick it up, and rounded sides of device make it feel noticeably thick. Result is a phone that doesn't sit as comfortably in hand as it could, and considering size and cost of Apple iPhone XS Max, it's a phone you want to be able to securely hold. Reason for this is lack of tapered edges, as Samsung, Sony and OnePlus all taper their rear edges, giving impression of a thinner device while also allowing them to sit a little better in curvature of your hand. On the other hand, Apple iPhone XS Max has a totally flat back that's a little more awkward to hold, however, it still uses same glass and metal built, with glass on both front and back, held by a stainless-steel frame in middle. Steel frame around outside and new formulation of glass on front and rear, which is tougher than glass on Apple iPhone X, give Apple iPhone XS Max a supremely premium look and feel.

At front, phone features a fairly large display, with same old wide notch Apple uses. Bottom bezel is merely there with sides bezels appearing even thinner than they did last year. What's impressive is that Apple iPhone XS Max manages to squeeze a huge 6.5-inch display into a body that's a touch shorter and narrower (at 157.5 x 77.4mm) than Apple iPhone 8 Plus, which only boasts a 5.5-inch display.

Back of phone is again reminiscent of last year's Apple iPhone X, with same vertical dual camera setup on top left of device, an Apple logo in middle and some iPhone branding on bottom. Back is indeed made of glass so that means it catches fingerprints quite easily, however, lighter colors are much less susceptible to them.

Power button is on right side of phone and is easy enough to hit with thumb or forefinger, while volume keys sit below physical mute switch on left of device. Top is left clean, while at bottom you'll find a lightening port and speaker grill. And of course, no 3.5 mm headphone jack. Apple has upped protection to IP68, enabling Apple iPhone XS Max to be submerged to a depth of up to two meters for 30 minutes without suffering any ill effects. Apple claims it's tested protection in a number of liquids, including salt water, chlorinated water, milk, wine and beer, although I wouldn't advise purposefully exposing phone to any of these, especially without Apple Care.

If you look at smaller Apple iPhone XS, it looks identical to Apple iPhone XS Max, just in a much compact size. There are no differences whatsoever, so if your major concern is design, then pick either of the two models. Overall, it's what everybody was expecting, same design with some minor tweaks here and there. Being an S iteration, this is the best you can get with Apple iPhone XS Max when it comes to design.

Display

Display is where things get interesting, as this is where Apple iPhone XS Max really shines and outweighs Apple iPhone XS. On Apple iPhone XS Max, it's safe to say that this is the largest display ever on an iPhone. It's a 6.5-inch FullHD+ OLED display with a resolution of 2688x1242p, aspect ratio 19.5:9 and pixel density of 458 ppi. To be honest, it is absolutely stunning, leading field in vibrancy and colors without question, even if 6.4-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 9 actually has it beaten for sharpness.

When things are this high-resolution, though, small difference is no problem at all. Watching movies on this screen is especially impressive, and all of Apple's OLED phones support Dolby Vision, which is the most advanced kind of HDR, and is supported by Netflix and iTunes movies, so there's plenty of content. Firing up a blockbuster that makes the most of dynamic range on offer here puts most TVs to shame, depth of blacks and richness of the colors is gripping. It's a screen you won't want to stop staring at, and I didn't have any trouble glancing at it outdoors in direct sunlight (though I did need to max out brightness). True Tone technology is back, and it adjusts screen's tone to ambient lighting in your surroundings, making its display more pleasant to look at.

Apple claims display on Apple iPhone XS Max (and Apple iPhone XS) boasts 60% better dynamic range versus older Apple iPhone X, making photos and videos appear more vivid. It may not be QHD resolution boasted by the likes of Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and Sony Xperia XZ3, but it is superior to panels on other top-end phones, such as OnePlus 6 and Huawei P20 Pro. Comparing Apple iPhone XS Max and Apple iPhone XS side-by-side with Sony Xperia XZ3 however, HD movie playback looked better on Sony. Image quality is noticeably sharper on Sony's flagship, helped in part by its superior pixel density and it's able to pull out more tonal variation when watching dark content than Apple iPhone XS Max, thanks to Sony's smart upscaling technology. Still, that doesn't change the fact that Apple really has got this department quite right, it's a gorgeous display.

Comparing both devices, there's nothing to set them apart if you compare display quality. If you like big displays, however, Apple iPhone XS Max really takes the edge and is gorgeous to look at. If screen real estate and punchy OLED colors is your thing, you're going to love this display, and for Apple fans, this is the best treat in this year's flagships.

Hardware

Both Apple iPhone XS and Apple iPhone XS Max are powered by Apple's new A12 Bionic chip which is Apple's first mobile processor built using a 7-nanometer process. It houses 6.9 billion transistors, and Apple said it can deliver stronger performance, while still being more efficient than last year's A11 Bionic. There's a Neural Engine inside for machine learning tasks, but Apple says it now has six more cores (for a total of eight) than in Apple iPhone X, allowing it to process 5 trillion operations per second. Those numbers are difficult to fathom, but essentially all you need to know is that this is the most powerful smartphone in the world right now. It also promises to be 40% more power-efficient than last year's model, while GPU is said to be 50% more powerful than A11 Bionic chip in Apple iPhone X. Apple is infamous for not showing RAM in their keynotes, however, it's safe to say that Apple iPhone XS Max comes with 4 GB of RAM, with either 64, 128 or 256 GB of onboard storage.

Using Apple iPhone XS Max alongside Apple iPhone X, it's clear that new flagship clearly beats A11-powered device. From general navigation around handset to tweaking blur on portrait mode shots to loading up games such as Clash Royale and PUBG, Apple iPhone XS Max is noticeably quicker. I played an augmented reality (AR) game called AR Robot, as well as graphically intensive games like Asphalt 9: Legends and Alto's Odyssey and didn't run into a single hiccup. Even juggling multiple apps trying to get work done, like signing documents, responding to messages, and creating calendar events didn't give me any problems. Simply said, you won't have issues with performance.

Trying benchmarks, Apple iPhone XS Max scored 11,515 on Geekbench multicore performance test, while Apple iPhone XS scored 11,420, both being higher than Apple iPhone X, Oneplus 6 and Samsung Galaxy Note 9. On AnTuTu, Apple iPhone XS Max achieved a score of 315,175. These numbers are some of the highest I've seen to date from any smartphone, with closest coming from Samsung's Galaxy Note 9 with its 273,992 AnTuTu score. Benchmarks aren't the best measure of real-world performance, but these numbers give you a strong idea of power inside Apple's new iPhones.

Coming towards audio, stereo speakers on Apple iPhone XS Max actually give you true left and right separation if you're using them, you can hear things move in space as they travel across screen. Good headphones will always be better, but these speakers are so clear, loud and well-balanced, that this really doesn't seem like a bad way to watch something. They're among the most impressive I've heard, though Razer Phone's amazing Atmos speakers still have Apple beat, since they somehow also added in height, despite coming from a phone you're holding just in front of you. Also, a surprise this year, both Apple iPhone XS Max and Apple iPhone XS support dual SIM, with one physical sim and one E-SIM. For markets where E-SIM isn't supported, Apple will be shipping phones with both physical SIM slots.

In a few words, well this is one heck of a smartphone when it comes to hardware. Both phones come with same hardware specs and are indeed the most powerful phones I've ever had my hands on.

Battery

Battery life has long been a contentious point for iPhones, but Apple iPhone XS Max has a couple of things in its favor in this department. Firstly, a power efficient processor and secondly, there's a power pack itself. It's a 3,174mAh battery, which is larger than 2,691mAh one found inside Apple iPhone 8 Plus, and it makes it the biggest battery Apple has ever put inside a phone. Apple says the iPhone XS Max battery offers an additional 90 minutes of power over the iPhone X. While it's unclear how Apple arrived at that particular figure, I can be sure about one thing: Apple iPhone XS Max can last a day on a single charge with moderate to high usage.

If you're going to push it with an intensive app such as PUBG, battery is going to take more of a battering, but still won't be a major drain. This isn't a phone that will last you a day and a half to two days with moderate usage, but if you're less intensive then this is possible as on the lighter days we managed to head to bed with at least 30% of power remaining. During an intense battery test, Apple iPhone XS managed to last 4 hours and 56 minutes, 10 minutes longer than Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and Apple iPhone XS Max managed to give a really impressive timing of 5 hours and 8 minutes. This makes this phone a strong contender for the screen on time champion of 2018.

You can charge both devices with lighting cable, and even though phones support fast charging, a fast charging brick isn't included in box. Phone also supports wireless charging, which is convenient if you have charging pads, but they need to be purchased separately, just like fast-charging brick.

Except for this one disappointment of not having a fast charger included, this is a solid battery experience from a solid device from Apple.

Camera

Based on specs, it may seem as though Apple hasn't changed camera from Apple iPhone X, but there are some significant under-the-hood improvements in Apple iPhone XS Max. It's same dual-camera system as before: A 12-megapixel standard lens with a f/1.8 aperture, paired with a 12-megapixel telephoto lens with a f/2.4 aperture. Both have optical image stabilization, and you can capture 4K video up to 60 frames per second. At front, there's a 7 MP selfie camera with an f/2.2 aperture capable of shooting videos in 1080p up to 60 FPS. Image sensor is now larger, however, which helps with better low-light photos. Apple iPhone XS Max and Apple iPhone XS both feature Smart HDR, an improved mode over the standard 'HDR' on Apple iPhone X, which improves shots with high contract, ensuring all areas of photo are well lit and detailed.

Size of pixels have also been increased in Apple's latest dual-camera setup, allowing phone to pull in more light, which results in improved low-light performance. Apple's camera app is easy to use, with settings kept to a minimum for an intuitive and straightforward shooting experience. You can jump quickly between two 'zoom' levels by tapping the '1x' icon on screen which takes you closer to your subject without negatively effecting quality. Slide across to portrait mode and snap a picture and you'll find there's another new feature in store for you on Apple iPhone XS Max. Once you've taken a portrait shot, head to gallery and tap edit. You'll then be presented with a slider at bottom of image, allowing you to adjust level of background blur. This is something we've seen on multiple Android phones over the years, but it's first time this feature has been implemented on an iPhone, and it's a welcome addition.

As usual, there's almost zero lag when trying to snap a photo. The camera app is quick to launch, easy to operate, and it snaps photos fast. Images are often well-detailed with good color, even in low light, but there is one area where dramatic improvements are visible, and it's all thanks to Smart HDR. Essentially, the camera snaps more photos than ever before when you tap on the shutter button. That includes taking photos at three different exposures, and then combining them all to create the best photo that doesn't blow out bright lights or underexpose dark areas. Among smartphone makers, Apple still has some of the best color accuracy and nicest looking bokeh. Smart HDR really does wonders, but I think that Google Pixel 2 still does a far better job of accurately blurring out right places around a subject. While I don't see this as much with rear camera on Apple iPhone XS Max, there are still issues with Portrait Mode accurately identifying edges of a subject, especially with hair, for Portrait Mode selfies.

On video front, both Apple iPhone XS Max and smaller model are capable of recording in 4K at 60 fps. Apple says it also improved dynamic range for videos captured, as well as low-light performance (up to 4K 30 FPS), and results are indeed excellent. Stabilization continues to be strong, but it's colors that impress, as it looks incredibly natural and true to life. There's also stereo recording available, which is a nice addition.

It's an excellent camera with genuinely solid improvements over last year's model. Does it take crown as the best camera phone available on market? Well Google Pixel 2 XL and Huawei P20 Pro give a tough competition. Is it the best camera on an iPhone? Certainly, it is!

Software

Apple iPhone XS Max arrives with Apple's new iOS 12 operating system on board, with handy little additions such as grouped notifications and an easier to access (and manage) multi-tasking window arriving alongside bigger features such as Screen Time, which tracks how often you use your phone, and what you're using it for. From Screen Time menu in settings you can set yourself usage limits, helping you use your phone less. As on Apple iPhone X, one feature is noticeably absent from Apple's new trio of devices: home button. Not only does that mean there's no Touch ID fingerprint scanner, Face ID has you well covered on Apple iPhone XS Max. Instead you're required to use Apple's new gesture navigation, introduced with button-less Apple iPhone X. While some may be disappointed by lack of a physical button on front of Apple iPhone XS Max, good news is that these gesture inputs are easy to learn.

You swipe up anywhere along bottom of the screen to exit an application, while extending this swipe takes you into multi-tasking window, where you can jump between, and remove apps from, sideways-scrolling list of thumbnails. On Apple's past Plus models, a double click of home button would draw screen down 50%, allowing you to tap required action at top of the screen. This feature is called Reachability, but oddly on Apple iPhone XS Max arguably a phone where it's most needed, it's not turned on by default. It is there though, in Settings, and instead of double clicking home button, you swipe down, over bottom of screen to engage it. When enabled it's easy to use, I'd argue easier than double clicking home button, and makes one-handed use much more achievable.

With more screen real-estate, it provides more space for applications, and Apple has taken advantage of this in a few of its own apps. Turn Apple iPhone XS Max to landscape and you'll get a split view in Calendar and Messages apps, allowing you to view more information with the screen divided in half. It's useful, but limited to only a few apps, however, this split-view functionality will likely be implemented by more developers in coming months as Apple iPhone XS Max starts to get into hands of consumers.

It's just the most refined OS on a smartphone and Apple fans will rejoice once they get their hand on iOS 12. It's simply magical.

Conclusion

Both Apple iPhone XS and Apple iPhone XS Max are available in market now. Lager version, Apple iPhone XS Max retails at 1250 euros for the base model and goes up to 1500 Euros. It's available in three colors: Space Grey, Silver and Gold.

Apple iPhone XS Max is likely not for everyone, but you'll find it hard to stop gazing into its beautiful, 6.5-inch screen. It costs an enormous amount of money, and I think Apple iPhone XR sounds like much better value for what you get. If you want a smaller iPhone, go for Apple iPhone XS. It's a 5.8-inch screen and has a smaller battery, but it will still get you through day, and has all same features as Apple iPhone XS Max. If price is a concern, I recommend holding out for Apple iPhone XR, which costs $750 but shares a variety of features such as same primary camera (single lens only), Smart HDR, Portrait Mode, A12 Bionic processor, and more.

If you're okay with swapping to Android, Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is another big screen phone that's a great alternative. It's one of the most powerful Android phones on market with a 6.4-inch screen and has a built-in stylus that can act as a remote control to take photos or trigger other actions. Alternatively, I recommend waiting until end of October as a number of phones are being released, such as Google Pixel 3, LG V40, OnePlus 6T.

At the end of day, it'll all come down to your preference. If you're an Apple fan, you will love new iPhones. With Apple iPhone XS Max, you'll be rejoiced!