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Review: iPhone XS Max, a classic β€œS” upgrade for the Apple smartphone

Year by year, usually in mid-September, Apple has graced us with the launch of new iPhones that always bring interesting news to some users.

Not only has the annual schedule become a tradition, but so has Apple's evolution of the iPhone. We usually have a year with a more significant change (mainly in terms of external design) and, in the other year, an ?S? upgrade that maintains almost the same design as before but comes with some very important internal improvements.

Line of iPhone Xs with the three colors

The iPhone XS / XS Max is a classic ?S? upgrade. In fact, I confess to you that at the end of the September keynote I was left with an initial impression that it would come with less changes than other past "S" upgrades, but gradually I realized that the leap was indeed remarkable. Which does not mean, as always, that whoever has a device of the past generation should buy the new one; I do this because it is part of my job, but as a ?common consumer? I would easily change my iPhone every 2-3 years (even to get a greater sense of the changes besides saving, of course).

In 2018, we launched a direct successor to the iPhone X (the XS), a bigger brother to it (the XS Max) and a more affordable variation (the XR). My tests were all based on the iPhone XS Max, but there are only two major differences between it and the XS that I will touch on in the first topic below; that is, the review in general is valid for both. In the future, we will also have a review focused on the iPhone XR, but we need more time to test it, since it just hit the market recently.

Let's go? ?

XS vs. XS Max

Since 2014, with the iPhone 6, Apple has offered its model flagship in two sizes one normal, the other Plus. Last year, it maintained that structure with the iPhones 8 and 8 Plus, but launched the iPhone X in a single size and 5.8 inch screen occupying its entire front.

This year, everything has changed. The iPhone XS has the same structure as the X, while the XS Max comes with a 6.5 ? screen and the XR, with a 6.1 ? screen (this, LCD instead of OLED, with a lower pixel density and without 3D Touch). That is, we have two sizes in the flagship but now we have a third model a little more affordable with an intermediate size screen.

Photo of the XS and XS Max iPhones (by MacMagazine)

Apple does not speak officially, but the reason for changing the suffix "Plus" to "Max" probably has to do with the fact that the iPhone XS Max is nothing more than a larger version of the iPhone XS. Absolutely everything is the same between the two models, with the exception of the screen size (and, consequently, of its resolution, but maintaining the same pixel density) and, of course, of a larger capacity battery.

The old ?Plus? models had a dual camera system at the rear, which was a plus for both the larger and more expensive model. This time, the consumer only has to decide whether to spend more for a slightly larger screen and more battery.

Last year, I jumped for the joy of being able to have an iPhone again with dimensions that I consider ideal on a smartphone. J was used to the bigger models (I had an iPhone 7 Plus and an iPhone 8 Plus), but I thought the size of the iPhone X was wonderful. I still think the same when I look at the current line, but I decided to give the iPhone XS Max at a try for have another differentiating factor compared to last year's model.

I don't regret it and I even feel like I've gotten used to it again. ramble. The screen is beautiful, but if next year Apple came with a new iPhone of 5.8 ? that achieved by some miracle the same battery life of the 6.5 ? model, it would return to the smallest in the blink of an eye.


Apple calls the screens of the XS / XS Max iPhones "Super Retina HD", since both are OLED with a density of 458 dots per inch.

Photo of the XS and XS Max iPhones (by MacMagazine)

The iPhone XS screen is basically identical to the X, with 5.8 ? and 1125 × 2436 pixels of resolution. IPhone XS Max 6.5 ? J, with 1242 × 2688 pixels.

Both support HDR, have a contrast ratio of 1: 1,000,000, True Tone technology (adapts colors on the screen to the tone of the environment), wide range of colors (P3), maximum brightness of 625cd / m2 and have 3D Touch (pressure sensitivity).

Although the screens of the iPhones X and XS, with 5.8 ?, are already nominally even bigger than those of the old ?Plus? models, the iOS running on them never really worked as a ?Plus? model. The iPhone XS Max, yes: we have several applications that run horizontally with two columns, almost like a squeezed iPad mini. Fortunately, Apple gave up the bad idea of ??making the home screen with the icons rotate, too; hated that.

There is not much to talk about the screens of the XS / XS Max iPhones. The DisplayMate itself has already done the technical work of analyzing and crowning them one of the best ever placed on a smartphone, the Pixel 3 XL, launched shortly after the iPhones , is currently wearing the crown.

Battery and recharge

Since we are dealing with one of the differences between the iPhone XS and the XS Max, we will soon kill the second and last one: its batteries.

It is known why, Apple continues to prefer not to inform the nominal capacity of the batteries of its products on the pages of technical specifications. It is the biggest nonsense, because this is soon discovered through homologation certificates or simply by opening the devices.

Officially, Apple says that the iPhone XS "lasts 30 minutes longer than the iPhone X" and that the XS Max "lasts 1h30 longer than the iPhone X". Technically, however, the XS battery dropped 2.2%, from 2,716mAh to 2,658mAh, while the XS Max has a capacity of 3,174mAh.

I haven't tested the iPhone XS to see if it really delivers on Apple's promise, but it doesn't usually go wrong in those numbers. My experience with the iPhone XS Max battery, of course, has been excellent. With iPhone X, it was not uncommon for me to have to give a small charge to your battery to get through the day; now, sometimes I go to sleep with the remaining 30-40%.

The charging part has practically not changed: besides the Lightning port, the new iPhones support wireless recharging in the Qi standard and Apple even says that it is a little faster in this new generation but clearly still a slow method, good for you to use in a base while working, on a vehicle mount or on the nightstand while sleeping.

Just like last year's iPhones, the new ones also support fast recharging reaching up to 50% in just 30 minutes, but Apple has maintained the audacity to include in the box the same old and vague 5W charger. Okay, it's tiny / portable, but forcing the user to spend more on an extra adapter to take advantage of this fast recharge while Chinese smartphones that cost half an iPhone put this in the box a shame.

The newly launched iPad Pro had its Lightning port replaced by a USB-C and have, in their boxes, a USB-C to USB-C cable and a new 18W charger, which, by the way, was rumored to come just with the new iPhones. This is something that Apple should have done since last year, I couldn't believe it when it repeated the mistake now. In 2019, it is mandatory to make this transition.

Design and durability

Although the visual aspect of iPhones does not change in ?S? generations, there is always something that sets them apart from previous models. This year, in addition to the obvious Max bigger version, we also won a new golden color, which joins the traditional space gray and silver.

When I went to get the iPhone X, I was in doubt between the two and opted for space gray. This time, I decided to change and went silver. I found the golden version very beautiful, even incredible, as the tone changes according to the light, but not for me.

"Photo "Photo

Apple promises, for the XS / XS Max iPhones, the ?most resistant glass ever placed on a smartphone?. Bullshit. On iPhone X it already promised something similar and I never saw a front glass scratch so easily on an iPhone; I don't mean large / noticeable scratches, but a lot of micro-scratches that are easily visible in the sunlight. These glasses may even be resistant to drops, but definitely not scratches.

And, again, this promise to new people is broken. Believe me if you want, but I'm already on my second iPhone XS Max. I got the first one in Orlando, at launch, and in less than two weeks a huge scratched area appeared on my screen that at first I thought was dirt. I am very careful with my devices (I never put the iPhone in the same pocket as my keys, for example, never!) And I have no idea how the screen looked like that, but I ended up changing the device in Miami when I went to cover the launch of the iPhone XR. Holy AppleCare +.

Apple also says that the XS / XS Max iPhones are now officially classified as IP68, which means they can stand up to 2 meters underwater for a maximum of 30 minutes. Even so, she continues to say that the devices are * resistant * and not * waterproof *, that is, no diving into the pool to take underwater photos.

Person in the rain using an iPhone Xs

Finally, there is one more thing that really differentiates an iPhone XS from an X: looking at the bottom of it, we now have a new line of left antenna (I'll talk about it below), which made your microphone holes and speakers leave to be as symmetrical as they were years ago. There are three holes on one side and six on the other on the iPhone XS, while the XS Max has four on one side and seven on the other. If you have OCD, skip this generation.

Photo of the XS and XS Max iPhones (by MacMagazine)

The iPhone XS measures 70.9 × 143.6 × 7.7mm and weighs 177g, while the iPhone XS Max measures 77.4 × 157.5 × 7.7mm and weighs 208g.


You may not like Apple, prefer Android, not accept spending so much on a smartphone, but it is undeniable that Apple continues to bathe in all the competition when it comes to the chips that equip iPhones and iPads.

The XS / XS Max iPhones come equipped with the A12 Bionic chip, the industry's first manufactured in a 7 nanometer process. This not only provides more energy efficiency, but also greater power: benchmark indicate gains of about 12% in performance single-core, a more modest increase in multi-core and a ~ 45% jump in the GPU. It has six cores in all, two focused on performance, four on energy efficiency.

Person playing with AR on iPhone Xs

They also have a new generation of Neural Engine, which is now capable of performing up to 5 trillion (!) operations per second against 600 billion of the previous one. RAM jumped from 3GB to 4GB in both models (only the XR keeps the 3GB of the previous generation).

There is not much to talk about the performance of the devices. I already had nothing to complain about the performance of the iPhone X, which had already won a small boost with the arrival of iOS 12. Improvements in this sense are always welcome, but it is not so noticeable in the daily use of the device. In short: t too good!

The other various sensors that contribute to the power of the iPhone are all still there: three-axis gyroscope, accelerometer, proximity and ambient light sensors, barometer, etc.


Apart from the physical Lightning port, all iPhone connectivity remains wireless. The bulk (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, GPS) has not changed, but there are some differences and news that we need to point out.

In 4G, the XS / XS Max iPhones gained support for what is known as ?Gigabit-class LTE?. This obviously depends on carrier support, but it basically makes it able for the device to connect to multiple bands / frequencies and achieve higher download / upload speeds. They are able to beat 1Gbps, which is a good indication of what we will have in a few years with 5G technology. And precisely because of this novelty that we have, at the bottom of the new iPhones, a new antenna stripe.

Due to all the legal imbroglio between Apple and Qualcomm, the new iPhones are all equipped with modems from Intel. This does not matter to the vast majority of people, but it has resulted in something very bad for us here in Brazil: the models sold in the United States no longer support the band 28 (700MHz ATP), which is gradually being adopted by operators in national territory . You will be able to use them on 4G here without problems, but only in bands 7 (2,600MHz) and 3 (1,800MHz).

Golden Xs and Xs Max iPhones on top of each other

My iPhone XS Max is American and, fortunately, I felt no difference in the use of 4G. Here where I live my operator hasn't even enabled band 28 yet, so there really wouldn't be any way for me to feel any improvement / worsening. Still, it is something that must be taken into account; there are certain locations in the country that have only gained 4G signal due to the implementation of band 28 and, in others, it has greatly improved its range.

Another important novelty is that, in addition to the tray for Nano-SIM chips, the new iPhones now incorporate an eSIM (electronic chip) and can be used in Dual SIM mode, that is, two phone and data lines working on the same device.

There is no official support for Dual SIM enabled on any Brazilian operator yet, but whoever wants to can already play with the novelty through a virtual operator. Personally, this is of little interest to me in everyday life, but very much to international travel. It will be great to be able to keep my main line active (for calls, SMS, etc.) while using the data plan of a local operator in the country where I am. Also excellent, of course, for those who happen to have two devices up and down one person and the other at work.

Front camera and Face ID

The front TrueDepth system of the new iPhones is identical to that of the previous year. Same sensors, same 7 megapixel camera with a /2.2 aperture and Flash Retina that uses the brightness of the screen to illuminate people.

Improvements in selfies basically come from the A12 Bionic chip, which allows photos with Intelligent HDR (greatly improves the dynamic range, even for videos), Portrait Mode with bokeh advanced and blur adjustment, Portrait Lighting Mode with five different modes, better stabilization of images and footage in Full HD 1080p with up to 60 frames per second.

"Selfie "Selfie

iPhone X left, iPhone XS Max right: selfie no flash taken in a low light environment. At first, I even ?preferred? the iPhone X photo, but analyzing the capture there at the moment, it was clear how the XS Max photo became closer to reality. Also, notice how the background lights are blown out at X; in the image of the XS Max, we see details of the ceiling that were lost in that of the X.

Apart from the #BeautyGate controversy that was already resolved in iOS 12.1, improvements to the front camera of the XS / XS Max iPhones are very welcome but this remains an area where Apple can improve a lot. At selfies taken with Google Pixel 3 (XL) leave those of iPhones in the shoes.

The first iPhone that incorporated Touch ID into the Incio button was the 5s, in 2013; it only won a second generation faster two years later, on the iPhone 6s. It was natural, then, to imagine that Face ID would remain the same as last year but I had hopes that Apple could surprise us and improve something here, something there.

As bad as Face ID is bad, I wouldn't use Touch ID on an iPhone again by decree; my experience with him, as I mentioned in the iPhone X review, is wonderful. And it even got slightly faster on iOS 12, but there are two things I?m looking forward to next year: support for any guidance (which?s already here, but only on the new iPad Pro) and perhaps a slightly more open operating angle (so that I can identify myself even with the iPhone placed on the table, for example).

Rear cameras

Do you know what I said, at the beginning of the review, about having the impression that the news of this year's iPhones were not many? Well, a lot of that has to do with your rear cameras and the fact that, at least in the conventional technical specifications that we see on the Apple website, they are ?identical? to last year. Not only, not even far.

Yes, on paper everything is the same: two 12 megapixel cameras, a wide angle with aperture /1.8 and a telephoto lens (2x) with aperture /2.4, both with optical stabilization, capture with a wide range of colors, Quad-LED True Tone flash with Slow Sync, Portrait mode with bokeh advanced and blur control, Portrait Lighting Mode with five different modes, Smart HDR, video recording at up to 4K at 60 frames per second or Full HD 1080p at up to 240 frames per second, etc.

IPhone Xs rear camera

But there is a change in the hardware of the wide-angle camera that makes a lot of difference. Its sensor is 32% bigger than before with pixels that are also bigger, of 1.4m. In practice, this means that the camera is capable of capturing much more light than before, which, combined with all the advances in software (including the arrival of the Smart HDR), generates noticeably better images than those taken with the iPhone X (and the DxOMark score proves this).

It is very easy to imagine that photos and videos will look better when you change something in the camera specifications (like a larger aperture), but that was what surprised me most about the iPhone XS / XS Max camera. Everything is better: dynamic range, sharpness , colors, low light capture, without a doubt, one of the biggest leaps in quality that the iPhone has ever had from one generation to the next.

Here are some comparative photos:

"Photo "Photo

iPhone X left, iPhone XS Max right: if you compare the two photos well, you will notice the slightly wider viewing angle of the XS Max's wide angle (the impression is that the second photo was taken a little more than three, but not). The highlights here are for the light on the ceiling, well blown in the X photo, and for the floor that was much clearer on the XS Max.

"Photo "Photo

iPhone X left, iPhone XS Max right: absurd difference in tones and colors. Much more contrast in the XS Max photo, sky blue and much more vivid greens. I wouldn't expect such a brutal difference in an external photo like that.

"Photo "Photo

iPhone X left, iPhone XS Max right: Here is an example whose differences are much more subtle. With the naked eye, the light on the pole was much closer to the image captured by the XS Max's camera than the X's. In addition, once again, the more open angle of the lens is noted; in the first photo, the name ?Macy's? (and the flags) there in the left corner was almost completely cut out.

"Photo "Photo

iPhone X left, iPhone XS Max right: challenging photo, in a very dark environment. A priori, X looks even better, with a slightly higher exposure, only with some lights a little blown out because of that. The two were very faithful to the environment where we were.

"Photo "Photo

iPhone X left, iPhone XS Max right: macro photo, taken close up (in Portrait Mode). Bokeh natural background very similar between the two devices, with the wood becoming lighter and with a slightly more vivid color tone in the XS Max.

"Photo "Photo

iPhone X left, iPhone XS Max right: yes, a Portrait Mode using the telephoto lens of both devices. how to get from water to wine there are many more details visible in the person and in his clothes, the skin color is very vivid and the background is not even mentioned. The Intelligent HDR did beautiful in this photo, generating an incredible dynamic range to preserve the details of the background including the blue sky.

"Photo "Photo

iPhone X left, iPhone XS Max right: yet another challenging example, with low light, in which the XS Max shines. We have a much greater balance of colors and exposure of light throughout the image until the blue sky is burst in the image of the X. We have more details visible in the trunk of the tree and in the green leaves of the background, as well as tiles visible on the floor below. strong light.

"Photo "Photo

iPhone X left, iPhone XS Max right: to finish, another comparison which shows that the camera of the iPhone X, yes, excellent and does not always lose ugly to that of the XS Max. Subtle difference here, basically thanks to the Intelligent HDR of the new devices.

And, like icing on the cake, in video capture the iPhones XS / XS Max are now able to record stereo sound, something else that makes an absurd practical difference (the audio capture really left something to be desired).

We show this in the video below:


Speaking of stereo capture, again Apple showed that it has a very good team specialized in sound. Even with all the physical space limitations on smartphones, it continues generation after generation to improve the speakers of iPhones.

It's not something we can quantify, but clearly the speakers on the XS / XS Max iPhones are better and more powerful. They do not distort at all and, unless I am in a really noisy place, it is very rare to turn the volume to maximum.

It is worth noting, in this topic, that consumers continue to receive traditional EarPods with a Lightning connector in the box, but this year Apple no longer includes the dongle Lightning to 3.5mm.

That is, who has headphones with the P2 connector need to buy this adapter part. I understand that this should irritate some people a lot and that it was better to come in the box even if many were not going to use it, but I understand Apple's motivation. Offer the dongle in a transitional period it made sense, now really forcing even more everyone to buy AirPods to migrate to a completely wireless world.

Prices and conclusion

Before the XS / XS Max iPhones were released, there was a long discussion about what their prices would be: either Apple would maintain the same entry price as the X, putting the bigger brother at an even more expensive level, or reduce the direct successor to X at $ 100 making his big brother occupy the same level as before.

Well, you all know that she chose the first option. Not only that, but in addition to the 64GB and 256GB models from before, we now also have a 512GB. That is, if the maximum amount paid for an iPhone X was US $ 1,149, now they reach an unimaginable US $ 1,429 (plus taxes). Here in Brazil, the maximum price was R $ 7,799 there, what a pain! R $ 9,999.

Gold iPhone Xs and Xs Max on a black background

I find it difficult to recommend upgrading an iPhone to anyone who has the previous model and it really doesn't make much sense to the average consumer. But if money is a problem and you want a bigger iPhone with a long battery life, improved cameras and you want to take advantage of Dual SIM technology, the exchange may even make sense.

For everyone else, it's the same old story: the older your iPhone, the bigger the jump you feel. If last year you opted for an iPhone 8 or 8 Plus instead of X, I would say that there is still another year to wait. If you have an iPhone 7/7 Plus or earlier, the thing is already getting pretty interesting. There are noticeable improvements in many areas of the device.

Looking ahead to the 2019 iPhones, I would like to see a snip (notch) slightly smaller with more cones appearing on the top bar, the second generation of Face ID, a special focus (no pun intended) on the front camera, replacing the Lightning with USB-C (with USB-C cable and 18W charger in the box) , a more global 4G / LTE model and really stronger glass. Whatever comes in addition to profit.

And you, what did you think of the iPhones XS / XS Max? ?

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O MacMagazine thanks Go Imports reseller of Apple products that aims to provide Apple products at a fair price in Brazil for the opportunity to cover the XS and XS Max iPhones. If you are thinking of buying Mac, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch or Apple accessories, Go Imports the place!

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