The iPhone 11 is on the horizon, but if you're in the market for a top smartphone right now, the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are as good as they get. But it's the 6.5-inch XS Max that I didn't want to put down, thanks to its ginormous screen annd longer battery life, which is why it one of the best smartphones you can buy.
The iPhone XS Max (pronounced ‘Ten S Max’) is the largest smartphone Apple has ever created. With a 6.5-inch display, barely any screen bezel and the now-iconic top-screen notch it’s a dominating presence in the hand.
Each S model pushed the iPhone forward in meaningful ways. The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are no different.
The most significant update to the iPhone line this year is the iPhone XS Max. Where the iPhone XS feels like the smallest jump between new iPhones, the Max version genuinely offers something different.
The iPhone XS Max packs all the design tweaks and material choices that debuted with the X: a stainless steel rim, glass back and the near edge-to-edge display. If someone stretched out an iPhone X then this would be the result.
There are some issues, though. This is a big phone and I feel that Apple should have done more to better deal with its size. For example, with the Galaxy Note 9, Samsung has used curves to almost disguise the size of the device and make it feel smaller.
Processor, memory and storage
The A12 Bionic processor is the first to be made using a 7nm process. That probably doesn’t mean much, but the technology is undeniably impressive. Using a smaller process means better power efficiency, and it’s the main reason why Apple is able to quote an extra 90 minutes of battery life over the iPhone X.
We’ll get to the battery later: it’s time to talk performance.
The A12 doesn’t offer a huge leap over the A11, with roughly 15 percent improvement on average. We saw this in our benchmarks, but such synthetic tests are fairly meaningless in the real world and serve mainly as a way to compare other phones.
Despite having the largest battery of all current iPhone models, the XS Max delivers perfectly normal battery life. You should get around a day-and-a-half of regular use, while frugal usage could stretch this to maybe two days. The battery takes a slight hit when gaming or watching videos, but this is largely to be expected.
Bigger and bolder than anything Apple has ever put in a phone, the iPhone XS Max's OLED display is a sight to behold. Not only is it ginormous at 6.5 inches, you can use split-view mode in various Apple apps, such as Mail and Calendar. The phone looks and feels more like a desktop. However, the Galaxy Note 9 can run two separate apps side by side, including third-party apps.
On the surface it appears that the iPhone XS Max has the same camera as the iPhone X. The protruding module on the rear of the handset still houses two 12MP snappers in a vertical stack, separated by a Quad-LED True Tone flash.
As before one camera is telephoto and the other wide-angle, with the same f/1.8 and f/2.4 apertures, but there is a key difference. The iPhone XS Max and XS both feature Smart HDR, an improved mode over the standard 'HDR' on the X, which improves shots with high contract, ensuring all areas of the photo are well lit and detailed.
Like all of Apple’s other iPhones, the iPhone XS Max runs iOS 12. All versions of iOS 12 across devices are virtually identical, and Apple hasn’t really added anything here to make the most of the larger display offered by the device. Ultimately, this feels like a missed opportunity.