What is the iPhone XS?
The iPhone XS is the middle of Apple’s current flagship phone. It closely becomes like last year’s iPhone X. While its bigger brother, the “iPhone XS Max” offers a much biggest display with the same design. Finally, there is the iPhone XR: this has a cheaper (£749/$749) price and loses some of the more premium XS features, like the OLED screen.
It is a very frequent update for Apple, but that is hardly a surprise considering how much of a jump the iPhone X was. Is this phone better enough to force people against picking up an Android device like the Samsung Galaxy S9, OnePlus 6T or Google Pixel 3?
iPhone XS – Design
If you’ve seen the iPhone X then the iPhone XS has slightly improved. Last year the X displayed a bold new design compared to iPhones of old. Its predecessors replaced a polished stainless steel alternative with the aluminum frame. The screen now reached of the phone’s front and a glass back facilitated the phone have a new wireless charging feature.
- 5.8-inch HDR OLED display
- Apple A12 Bionic processor
- 12-megapixel Dual camera with Smart HDR and OIS
- 64GB/256GB/512GB (non-expandable)
- 4GB RAM
- IP68 certified
- Dual SIM (eSIM)
- Face ID
- Wireless charging support
iPhone XS -Specification
|Display||5.8-inch Super Retina OLED; 2,436×1,125 pixels|
|Pixel density||458 ppi|
|Weight||6.24 oz; 177 g|
|Mobile software||iOS 12|
|Front-facing camera||7-megapixel with Face ID|
|Processor||Apple A12 Bionic|
|Storage||64GB, 256GB, 512GB|
|Battery||N/A, but Apple claims it will last 30 minutes longer than iPhone X|
|Fingerprint sensor||None (Face ID)|
|Valuable features||Dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM), Face ID, Water-resistant (IP68), wireless charging, Animoji|
|Color||Gold, Silver, Space Grey|
iPhone XS – Display
The iPhone XS gives a stunning display, practically without change from the one on last year’s top iPhone, and that’s no bad thing. It nearly reaches to the edge of the phone’s front, packs rounded corners and a notch.
An uncommonness when the iPhone X launched, the notch was one of the handset’s biggest talking points and it unapologetically makes a return here. Almost as wide as the screen itself, the notch plays host to Apple’s own True Depth sensor technology, along with the phone’s front-facing camera.
With so many substitutes now sporting a notch of their own. Its appearance on the iPhone XS seems far less jarring than it was a year ago. While Apple’s notch is still one of the biggest out there, I’m far better comfortable with its attendance than I was on the iPhone X.
- 5.8 in
- Super Retina custom OLED true tone display1
- 2436 X 1125 (resolution)
- 485 (pixel per inch)
iPhone XS – Performance
The first mobile chipset announced to utilize an impressively small 7nm manufacturing process. However, Apple is the first company to get a 7nm chip onto a market-ready device in the form of its new A12 Bionic.
It’s what powers the iPhone XS, XS Max, and the iPhone XR, and it is an ultimate beast. This year both the iPhone XS and XS Max Perform the same 4 GB, meaning performance is almost equal between the two.
Apple’s official line highlights the A12 offers a 15% CPU performance faster, over last year’s A11 Bionic chip and brings a 50% boost to graphical performance on top of that. There’s also a beefier neural engine for AI-related tasks (like image post-processing) toting more cores and a few other benefits such as Gigabit-class LTE (think faster web browsing and video streaming).
With the new iPhone processors, it’s effectively too early to really reap the benefits of the A12’s extra grunt, at least until developers create more demanding apps. In the meantime, the only external differences over iPhone X and its A11 chip are in mildly reduced app-load times and (as mentioned earlier) fractionally faster Face ID unlocking.
Benchmarking also confirmed my opinion that the A12 was a solid performer through and through, trumping every previous A-series chipset and most of the other big players from 2018’s flagship smartphone contingent.
Another feature that Apple said it worked to rise in the move from X to XS was the phone’s loudspeaker setup. The iPhone X give stereo with its earpiece working in tandem with the downward-facing loudspeaker, but it was essentially just upping the volume, resulting in a louder, tinnier sound.
Apple has supposedly balanced things out this time around using a more robust speaker in the earpiece, that more closely matches that of the existing loudspeaker at the bottom of the phone. I would argue that the commitment of a wider soundstage is markedly less pronounced on the iPhone XS compared to the XS Max, but I will concede that the sound out of that earpiece is both richer and clearer than it was before when enjoying media and when taking calls, even if the difference is only slight.
iPhone XS – Camera
Apple puts best cameras on its smartphones and although the XS appears to sport, the same main snapper as last year’s iPhone X, a few meaningful tweaks make for a notable bump in quality and performance.
The dual 12-megapixel sensors, both with OIS (optical image stabilization). The main snapper sports a 26mm focal length and a f/1.8 aperture, while the secondary lens features a narrower f/2.4 aperture and a 52mm focal length – this gives the iPhone XS 2x Optical zoom, something not possible on single-lensed.
Apple gives new Smart HDR technology is also a big improvement to the iPhone XS. By default, the phone captures multiple shots at a difference of exposures every time, you press the shutter and composites them into a single image, showcasing a better dynamic range than you did see from the older iPhone cameras. It’s similar to the wizardry Google has employed on its latest Pixel phones, albeit with the inclusion of over-exposed samples that become part of the final image too.
In practice, this means the phone takes stunning shots almost any scenario, with great exposure and dynamic range ensuring that details in both the brightest and darkest areas of the frame are preserved. Larger 1.4μm pixels (on the iPhone X 1.22μm pixels) mean low light performance is also supposedly improved.
iPhone XS – Battery
The iPhone XS technically sports a less battery than last year’s iPhone X, but does it matter in practice?
Power efficiency is the name of the game here and in Apple’s testing, even with the same power pack, the XS commitment 30 minutes more usage compared to its predecessor, no doubt thanks in part to the new, more efficient chipset and the improved power management at play as part of iOS 12.
- Up to 30 minutes bigger than iPhone X
- Talk time (wireless): Up to 20 hours.
- Internet Use: Up to 12 hours.
- Video playback (wireless): Up to 14 hours.
- Audio Playback (wireless): Up to 60 hours.
- Fast-charge: Up to 50% Charge 30 minutes.
Why buy the iPhone XS?
It’s telling that Apple has totally removed the iPhone X from both its online and brick-and-mortar stores. The iPhone XS is so much like its precursor that it’s hard to see some of the improvements that Apple promises it’s made, but despite this, the iPhone XS is still an undeniably excellent handset.
Every fact, save for perhaps interaction on iOS, has been refined and honed to out-do its every previous iPhone. The two fundamental upgrades that the XS brings to the table – its faster processor and (especially) its Upgrade camera.
If you are looking for a flagship with a better HDR-capable OLED screen along with wireless charging, water resistance, and a solid dual camera, you can get all of that for less in the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus.
If you want to upgrade your previous iPhone, only make the jump if you’re rocking an iPhone 7 or older. Last year’s iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and especially the iPhone X has more than enough life left in them to serve up a top-notch smartphone experience for at least another year.