Apple iPhone Xs: The Complete Rundown

One year after the release of the iPhone X, Apple has returned in 2018 to completely revamp its entire phone lineup with multiple new handsets based on last year’s $1,000 flagship: So say hello to the iPhone Xs. But that’s not all, because this year, Apple’s flagship has a super-sized sibling in the new iPhone Xs Max.

As before, the smaller iPhone Xs features a 5.8-inch screen, while the new Xs Max gets a monstrous 6.5-inch screen that’s even bigger than what you get on a Samsung Galaxy Note 9, with both sporting OLED display tech for extra rich colors in pictures and videos. But for those afraid of what sounds like a monstrous device, fear not, because thanks to much slimmer bezels, the iPhone Xs Max is actually about the same size as last year’s iPhone 8 Plus.


Additionally, Apple says its OLED screens are now even brighter and sport 120Hz touch-sensitivity and HDR support for enhanced viewing and smoothness, and for all you 3D Touch fans out there, both the Xs and Xs Max have that too. But a good viewing experience isn’t all about the screen—sound matters too. So Apple has given both phones new speakers with what Apple is calling wide stereo sound as well.

A full Face ID future

Of course, one of the iPhone X’s most loved and hated features has returned as well, with both the Xs and Xs Max getting Face ID notches up top. Powered by Apple’s TrueDepth camera system, crammed inside that little notch is an ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, flood illuminator, infrared camera, and a 3D dot projector that can scan your face to make sure that you—and hopefully only you—can unlock your device. Apple says it has even upgraded the iPhone’s algorithms and secure enclave so that Face ID recognizes you faster.

The guts


Like clockwork, inside both the Xs and Xs Max, Apple has once again made a new chip called the A12 Bionic to help boost general performance and AI-related processing. Apple claims the A12 Bionic is the industry’s first 7 nanometer chip, though Huawei would almost certainly disagree. It’s got a 4-core CPU and a 6-core GPU totaling 6.9 billion transistors, with a mixture of high and low-performance cores in order to more efficiently handle various workloads with energy efficiency gains of up to 40 or 50 percent.

And when it comes to the “Bionic” part of the A12, Apple says the real star of the chip should be its neural engine which is comprised of eight cores dedicated to AI and machine learning duties. Elsewhere, other parts of Apple’s SoC boast improved ISPs, video processing, memory controllers and more, which should result in more fluid operation, something that has been one of the iPhone’s biggest selling points over the years.


And for those who need a ton of room to store photos, videos, apps and anything else, max storage on the iPhone has doubled from 256GB to 512GB. Apple is even saying that with the new A12 Bionic and some of the performance upgrades in iOS 12, launching apps on a new iPhone Xs or Xs max should happen 30 percent faster.

New camera improvements


For all your picture taking needs, Apple has redesigned the iPhone Xs’ camera with new dual 12-MP sensors: one for wide-angle shots, and one for telephoto. Inside, the sensor itself sports larger 1.4 micron pixels, with the wide angle lens getting an aperture of f/1.8. Unfortunately, the zoom on the telephoto lens has remained pat at 2X, though at least both cameras will come with optical image stabilization.

And when you want to shoot things with portrait mode or special depth effects, both cameras can work together to add extra dimension to your shots.


Behind the scenes, the Apple’s image signal processor is also working harder to improve your pics by more accurately setting white balance, focus, reducing noise, preserving highlights and more, then combining all those adjustments into a single high-quality composite.


And for 2018, Apple’s new Smart HDR feature will now shoot a four-shot burst to make sure you don’t miss a moment, while additional interframes and long-exposures are snapped to help capture as much detail as possible. Even the iPhone Xs’ bokeh (the blurry out of focus part of a photo) has been improved to better mimic a big DSLR or mirrorless camera, and if you’re still not satisfied with that, you will even be able to adjust a picture’s depth of field after the shot has been taken.


Battery life and other little things


So how ‘bout that battery life? For the iPhone Xs, Apple says it will last just 30 minutes longer than last year’s iPhone X. That’s not exactly a huge increase, which is preciesly where the iPhone Xs Max comes in. Featuring the biggest battery Apple has ever put in an iPhone, the iPhone Xs Max should result in an extra hour and 30 minutes of runtime over an iPhone X.

And as a bonus for frequent travelers, both the iPhone Xs and Xs Max will come with space for dual SIMs, so you can switch off between multiple phone numbers and data plans on the fly. Though depending on where you buy your phone, you’ll either have the choice of one SIM card plus an eSIM, or two physical SIM cards for phones sold in China and elsewhere.


Price and availability

Both the iPhone Xs and Xs Max will be available in 64GB, 256GB and 512GB storage sizes, with the smaller Xs starting at $1,000, and the larger Xs Max starting at $1,100. They will be available for pre-order on Friday, September 14, with shipments going out a week later on September 21st.


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About the author

Sam Rutherford

Senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.