Apple iPhone XS test: the iPhone with luxury upgrade – CNET


There are too many iPhones. Or maybe there is only a new iPhone in several variants.

The iPhone XS and XS max, along with iPhone XRare the three new 2018 iPhones from Apple. But if you look back now, in December, they have a lot more in common than you might think. The same new processors, the same upgraded camera sensors and the same image signal processors. Know that the XS is no longer the starting point for every iPhone X buyer: it's just the slightly improved model.

The iPhone X was a unique design in 2017. This year, the three iPhone X models represent a range from $ 749 to nearly $ 1,500 should you pay for all of the storage. When I first checked the XS, I considered it a modest upgrade from the X and an attempt to wait for the XR (which was released more than a month later). That feeling is true now that I've checked the XR.

The iPhone XR is Apple's "affordable" X model and the best iPhone currently available for purchase. Starting at $ 749, it features facial recognition and a depth-sensing front camera instead of a home button, just like the rest of the iPhone X gang. There is also a notch at the top of the screen. It's faster and has a better battery life than the iPhone X from 2017, but only has a single rear-view camera (equipped with its own software-based portrait mode that simulates depth of field effects) and a lower-resolution LCD screen instead of OLED. But for the vast majority of people, these are far from being deal breakers. In fact, it is the first choice you should make when buying a new iPhone.


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Bigger, big.

Sarah Tew / CNET

So where's the XS and XS Max? Luxury upgrades. Everything that the XS offers stands out if you look closely.

  • An added rear view camera with two telephoto lenses improves the image quality and ensures more versatile photos in portrait mode.
  • The OLED display is more vivid, has a higher resolution, and has much better black levels, but it's not always something the average eye sees.
  • The XS has a more robust construction: the rear glass does not tear as easily and the stainless steel housing does not melt as easily as the aluminum of the XR.
  • The XS has a slightly faster mobile connection with Gigabit LTE and improved 4×4 MIMO WLAN antennas compared to the XR.
  • The XS display has smaller frames than the XR – but the screen is also smaller.

iPhone XS prices

iPhone XS (64 GB)

iPhone XS (256 GB)

iPhone XS (512 GB)


$ 999

$ 1,149

$ 1,349

United Kingdom

£ 999

£ 1,149

£ 1,349


AU $ 1,629

AU $ 1,879

AU $ 2,199

Do you care about any of this? Professional users and anyone using their cell phone as a camera for their work should choose the XS because it offers an additional camera advantage and a perfect display. Everyone else should only get the XR instead.

Yes, it's that simple. Apple may have flooded the zone with many iPhones, but if you imagine "how much phone you have to pay for", the XR is the clear choice for the utility, and the XS is the chic phone -Upgrade you may or may not be convinced for spring.

Everything you need to know about this year's iPhones:

This review was originally published on September 18th. Update, December 7th: Adds final battery comparisons and year-end XR observations.

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Photos have indeed taken a step up.

Sarah Tew / CNET

The HDR OLED display looks very good

The iPhone X OLED display looked great, but the XS OLED makes it a little bit better. While watching Blade Runner 2049 and other HDR films, I noticed improvements side by side on the iPhone XS compared to the X. The new display appears subtly brighter and stronger at maximum brightness than the iPhone X from last year, which already looked very nice. It's a great display and better than the lower resolution, lower contrast LCD of the iPhone XR. In normal everyday use, however, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the OLED from an LCD to a random eye. The XR display is OK. Perfect display enthusiasts or professionals who need premium details may want the XS or XS Max.

The only camera advantage of the iPhone XS: the double rear view camera

The telephoto lens of the XS and XS Max has a double optical zoom and works like the cameras iPhone 7 Plus and 8 Plus in teleportrait mode. This additional zoom can be helpful and gives me great close-ups on many occasions. It's also not strictly necessary, but if you want to take the best photos regardless of price or want to use your phone as a professional camera tool, you should consider upgrading.

The iPhone XR also takes portrait photos, but in wide-angle mode with image processing that simulates the depth effect. It only works for people (the AI ​​literally doesn't recognize anything else to activate the mode), and you need to get closer to your subjects when shooting. But it is good enough that there is one less reason to crave the XS.

Detailed camera comparisons:

Smart HDR: the most important improvement of the iPhone camera this year (also with the XR)

If you compare the camera specifications for the iPhone X 2017 and the new iPhone XS, you would think that almost nothing has changed: the same dual cameras, the same aperture settings, the same megapixel ratings, the same optical 2x zoom. But Apple worked a lot under the hood. The iPhone XR, XS and XS Max all have a completely new image sensor that noticeably improves the quality of photos. You can use one of these phones and take similar single shots.

The better sensor and the new image processor on the A12 Bionic chip together enable what Apple calls "Smart HDR". In practice, this means that my photos look better in low light and extreme contrast. So you get better pictures, whether in a night street, in a dark bar or in bright sunlight.

I love this photo I took of a fly.

Scott Stein / CNET

Bright lights in my living room now show more details and do not turn into blasted bright spots like before. I see more details around windows and street lamps. In addition, I find less blur and noise in most recordings. Sometimes it almost seems that way also a lot of light. The color and brightness of some pictures is surprising. I am now much happier with my photos.

The larger sensor lets in more light, according to Apple, and I can say. The focus is also faster. However, keep in mind that the cheaper iPhone XR can do all of this in exactly the same way.

CNET has done a thorough photo comparison between the iPhone XS and the iPhone X and TL. DR: The photos are better, but not always dramatic. The difference plays a major role in some shots, with significant improvements in detail and far less overexposure. For others, however, the benefits can be subtle. In some cases, the iPhone XS's photo colors look less saturated, which can result in slightly less vivid images. But without a doubt, the iPhone XS takes improved photos and it stands out.

But here too you can buy the XR for the front camera and the rear wide-angle camera and achieve the same effect.

Also note that you need to migrate to Android to get the best overall camera for your smartphone Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL, With the addition of his Night vision functioncan be photographed in dark environments where the iPhone (and almost every other phone) offers little more than hazy blurs.