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iPhone XS and XS Max review: do Apple’s battery claims stand up?

The results are in – the new iPhones are back from our test lab. Are the new models worth the extra cost and how do they weigh up against this year's rivals?

If you’re shopping for a new iPhone and find yourself set on one of Apple’s notched numbers, you’ll be wondering if the iPhone XS and XS Max are genuine upgrades on the older iPhone X – especially given the extra cost. We’ve got the answer.

The new iPhone XS and XS Max have just returned from our lab, having been subjected to our extensive performance, display, camera, usability and battery-life tests. We’ve paid close attention to the key features of each to see if they’re worth your hard-earned cash.

Apple’s battery-life claims are in focus following the grand unveiling event and we also run the rule over the closest Android rivals.

Best Buy mobile phones – the iPhone XS and XS Max will be looking for a spot on this coveted list.

iPhone X vs iPhone XS vs iPhone XS Max: what’s the difference?

Although the new arrivals share the same design as the iPhone X, Apple says that some tweaks underneath the display should result in a better all-round smartphone.

Below, we’ve rounded up some of the key differences between Apple’s latest premium handsets.

Apple iPhone x Apple iPhone XS Apple iPhone XS Max
Screen size 5.8 inches 5.8 inches 6.5 inches
Display resolution (pixels) 1,125 x 2,436 1,125 x 2,436 1,242 x 2,688
Rear camera Dual 12Mp Dual 12Mp Dual 12Mp
Front camera 7Mp 7Mp 7Mp
Processor Apple A11 Bionic Apple A12 Bionic Apple A12 Bionic
Ram 3GB 4GB 4GB
Battery capacity 2,716mAh 2,658mAh 3,174mAh
Starting price (Sim-free, Carphone Warehouse)* £899 £999 £1,099
Which? review Apple iPhone X review Apple iPhone XS review Apple iPhone XS Max review

* Prices checked as of October 2018.

iPhone XS review: a familiar design

  • 5.8-inch Super AMOLED display
  • 12Mp dual rear camera, 7Mp front camera
  • 64GB/256GB/512GB internal storage

Of the three new iPhones recently unveiled by Apple, the iPhone XS sits in the middle when it comes to specifications and price. Starting at £999, this notched smartphone arrives with a 5.8-inch OLED display, but remains compact thanks to an edge-to-edge design that’s very 2018.

While the iPhone X ran on Apple’s A11 Bionic chip, this shiny new model uses the A12 processor – Apple promises this is a noticeable upgrade that makes the iPhone XS speedier than its predecessor.

A 12Mp dual camera with hybrid zoom helps you get creative with your pictures and videos. The iPhone XS can also record video with HDR, as well as sound in stereo.


Can the iPhone XS build on the strengths of its predecessor? Read our full Apple iPhone XS review for the expert verdict.


iPhone XS Max review: bigger, but better?

  • 6.5-inch Super AMOLED display
  • 12Mp dual rear camera, 7Mp front camera
  • 64GB/256GB/512GB internal storage

The whopping iPhone XS Max shares the same design as its smaller sibling, but opts for a 6.5-inch OLED display. This pricier model also gets a resolution upgrade, running at an improved 1,242 x 2,688 pixels. Under the hood, it’s powered by Apple’s A12 Bionic chip, which aims to keep the experience of running multiple apps at once completely lag-free.

For the most part, the cameras sat on the back of the iPhone XS Max are the same as those on the iPhone X (and identical to those on the new iPhone XS). But on this larger model, editing your photos and taking in the vibrant colours on screen should be even easier.

You have three storage options to choose from, starting at £1,099 for the 64GB model and rising to an eye-watering £1,449 for the 512GB alternative.


Head over to our Apple iPhone XS Max review to see how this pricey phone fares against Android rivals.


Apple’s claims about iPhone battery life

Apple made a point of stating that the iPhone XS should last ‘up to 30 minutes longer’ than the iPhone X. This is an interesting claim considering the battery size of the newer model is a smaller – 2,658mAh compared with 2,715mAh.

It also says the iPhone XS Max lasts ‘up to 1.5 hours longer’ than the iPhone X.

We’re told that on both the iPhone XS and XS Max, having it plugged in for 30 minutes will give you to up to 50% of charge.

Here’s a look at Apple’s other promises when it comes to battery life:

 

We’ve put Apple to the test in our own labs. For every mobile, we run our own rigorous battery-life tests to see how much time you’ll get from your phone. Head over to our smartphone reviews page to see which models are worthy of being made a Best Buy, or see our guide on mobile phones with the best battery life.

Am I better off with an iPhone X?

With the new iPhone models now on sale, the price of the iPhone X has dropped down to £899 Sim-free. For that price, you get a 5.8-inch mobile with a dual rear-camera setup.

A large edge-to-edge display on the iPhone means it’s well suited if you plan on streaming video, but for closer to £699, you could also pick up the iPhone 8 Plus – the screen is slightly smaller (5.5 inches), but the phone runs on the same processor.

Take a look at our full selection of Apple iPhone reviews if you want to see how a particular model performed in our test lab.

Apple vs Samsung: how do they fare?

On paper, the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max have what it takes to go head-to-head with several Android juggernauts, including the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Samsung Galaxy Note 9.

Samsung’s £749 Galaxy S9 follows in the footsteps of the popular S8, featuring a 5.8-inch display (there’s no notch in sight), a single 12Mp camera and space for expandable storage if you need it. Take a look at our Samsung Galaxy S9 review if you’re considering an Android mobile.

Meanwhile, the £899 Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is aimed squarely at users that want to stay productive on the move. The smartphone ships with Samsung’s S Pen stylus tucked inside – you can use it to scribble down handwritten notes and annotate presentation slides. See our full Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review for more details on its key features.

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