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When the Apple iPhone X came along, I didn’t jump ship from my iPhone 7 Plus I had been using for a while. The iPhone X technically had a larger screen, though in a much smaller chassis. Since it was a larger screen, it was easier to adjust. Now, Apple has a phone that has the size of the iPhone 7 Plus, with a screen to match. Though Apple is calling it the largest phone it has ever made, keep the iPhone XS Max alongside an iPhone 7 Plus and you realise it is not exactly the largest Apple phone, just the largest screen on an Apple phone. I’ve now had nearly a couple weeks with an iPhone XS Max, so I thought that I would share some experiences and early opinions in the hope that this will answer some possible questions. Before we move on, I want to make it very clear that what follows should not be considered as a deep dive review. When lifting the iPhone XS Max out of its box for the first time, it felt very familiar. And, so it should, as to all intents and purposes, it’s visually a scaled up iPhone X.

The first thing I did, after booting up the new phone, was jump straight into the camera. I’ve been dying to check out the new controllable aperture feature exclusive to these new phones.

iPhone XS Zoey - Portrait

Did great with a flash, in portrait mode in a low light area.

My photo loaded, and a moment later an adjustable row of f-stops appeared below the image. As I increased or decreased the aperture, the level of blur in the background would increase and decrease. It looks pretty slick. There is going to still be a difference in the look of the blur on an iPhone versus a DSLR, but being able to adjust it was pretty amazing to see.

Aesthetically, the iPhone XS is almost identical to last year’s iPhone X, but if you take a closer look, you’ll see that the speaker grille layout is completely different. The iPhone X had six speaker holes on the left side of its Lightning port, while the XS cuts that number down to three to make room for an added antenna band. Users will also notice a similar band at the top of the handset right above the camera lens.

Apparently, the camera bump is also ever so slightly larger than that of the iPhone X. This won’t make a difference to those buying an iPhone XS Max, but anybody who gets an iPhone XS shouldn’t assume that cases originally designed for the iPhone X will also fit their new iPhone.

It’s not just visually that the iPhone XS Max has much in common with the iPhone X. Both feature OLED displays, Face ID, 3D Touch and wireless charging: whilst features like HDR10, Dolby Vision, and Super Retina technology are also identical.

As for differences between the iPhone XS Max and iPhone X, these include improved speakers, the ability to record video with stereo sound, better waterproofing, and an upgraded camera.

iPhone XS Selfie
The front facing camera is pretty amazing as well, as it is able to do portrait mode and for a tiny camera, it takes some amazing photos.

Another notable change with the new iPhones, is that they feature Apple’s new A12 Bionic chip. Apple unsurprisingly claims this to be “the smartest, most powerful chip in a smart-phone”; smarter and more powerful in ways that I am not going to pretend I fully understand or can begin to explain, so I will let Tom’s Hardware assist me here:

The 7nm chip has 6.9 billion transistors. It features a 6-core CPU using Apple’s Fusion architecture combining two performance cores and four efficiency cores. The Bionic also features a quad-core GPU that’s promises to be up to 50 percent faster than the previous CPU. It allows for tessellation and multilayer rendering and lossless memory compression. It also features a new image processor, video processor, a faster secure enclave and more.

It also runs Apple’s neural engine, with an 8-core design. The company claims that it can run 5 trillion operations for second, up from 600 billion operations per second on the A11 Bionic, Apple’s last CPU.

The company also claims that apps will launch 30 percent faster on the XS and XS Max than previous phones.

One area where I have heard reports of people experiencing an immediate impact from the A12 Bionic chip’s Neural Engine, is with the speed and reliability of Face ID. So far, I haven’t noticed any discernible difference. It could be that this will come over time as the Neural Engine familiarizes itself with my face in a range of environments, but for now I am not noticing any improvement compared to that of an iPhone X running iOS 12.

One surprise with the iPhone XS Max, is that Apple hasn’t taken advantage of the extra screen space to add at least one more row of app icons to the Home screen. There may be technical or UX reasons for not doing so. But, if they had, it’s extremely likely that I would have moved to a single Home screen for all of my folders and apps, as it wouldn’t have taken too much re-organizing on my part to have made this happen.

I am also disappointed that Apple hasn’t taken advantage of the extra space available to the Status Bar on the iPhone XS Max. For example, the name of my carrier and the current connection type (3G or 4G in my case) were only displayed on my iPhone X in certain situations. It would have been nice if some of the extra space on the iPhone XS Max’s Status Bar could have been used to make one or both of these present all of the time.

One area where Apple has taken advantage of the larger screen of the iPhone XS Max, is by adding support for expanded landscape applications, allowing for a two-column view in apps such as Mail, Messages and Calendar. I initially struggled with this, as there just seemed to be more to swipe through on the screen than I was used to. However, since switching to using one thumb to navigate and activate what’s in the left column, and my other thumb to do the same in the right column, I actually now find myself enjoying this layout and often opt for it in favor of holding my phone upright.

As I play more with the phone, I find more and more Niche things that are amazing or need improving, as i get to play with it more I’ll make another post and talk about those. Maybe even make a video the 4k is amazing as see on the video below. Be sure to turn on the 4k quality if you can handle it.  BTW, Shameless plug here, but Republican Hair led by a High School, mate of mine, Luke Dick. Luke is well known in the country music community with songs written for artist like Eric Church, Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley, just to name a few.

Republican Hair – Opolis – Norman Oklahoma Video shot with iPhone XS Max 4k
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