Apple just released a new batch of iPhones into the wild, and you may find yourself rushing to your local Apple Store to pick up a model, especially now that the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are widely available and getting rave reviews. It's understandable — there are plenty of compelling reasons to upgrade to the new phones. But there's also a handful of reasons to wait before you hand over all your money to Apple. Here's a look at why the iPhone XS should be your next big purchase, along with a few counterarguments that say you should pass over this update.
The A11 Bionic processor Apple introduced last year has bested all would-be rivals, with A11-powered iPhones routinely trouncing phones with Snapdragon 845 and Kirin 970 chips in benchmarking tests. What does Apple do for an encore? It puts an even faster processor in the iPhone XS. The A12 Bionic has two performance cores that reportedly deliver 15 percent faster performance while consuming 40 percent less power than the A11. Four efficiency cores further optimize power consumption. Games should play better, too, thanks to a 50 percent boost in speed with the A12's new GPU, and a neural engine ups the number of operations your iPhone can pull off per second. Our benchmark testscertainly confirm that the A12 outperforms the A11; more importantly, it leaves the Snapdragon 845 powering top Android phones in the dust. Also, the A12 should be especially proficient at handling all the augmented-reality-powered apps that developers are whipping up with Apple's ARKit tools.
On paper, the dual rear cameras on the iPhone XS haven't changed much from what Apple offered before, with the same 12-megapixel wide-angle and telephoto lenses as on previous iPhones. But the iPhone XS has a new sensor featuring deeper and larger pixels, which Apple says will gather 50 percent more light. That should mean better photos when the lights are dim, an area where iPhones have fallen behind the competition. Apple also added a Depth Control feature to adjust your portrait shots after the fact, while a Smart HDR feature is designed to call out the highlights of a photo, even in shadows. If snapping photos is one of the main ways you use your phone, you might like the iPhone XS, because it has the best camera Apple's ever offered in an iPhone — at least, based on our hands-on tests with the new phone.
Apple promised a noticeable gain for how long its new iPhones could last on a charge, and it delivered in the case of the iPhone XS Max, though maybe not as much as you had been hoping. Apple's supersized 6.5-inch phone lasted 10 hours, 38 minutes on our battery test, in which we have a phone surf continuously over LTE until it runs out of gas. That means the XS Max just missed out on on our list of longest-lasting smartphones, though it's still well ahead of the average result for smartphones. The iPhone XS didn't fare as well on our test, with a result more in line with that 9 hour, 48 minute average. But if you want a phone to go all day on a single charge, the XS Max is an excellent option.
While the original iPhone X sported an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance, the iPhone XS gets a little bit tougher, with a more durable rating of IP68. That means you can drop the phone in up to 6 feet of water and not worry about a calamity. The iPhone XS is durable in other ways, too, using reformulated glass, which Apple touts as the most durable ever used on a smartphone. We haven't had a chance to test this yet ourselves, but the iPhone XS fared well in drop tests conducted by TechSmartt.
Apple's stinginess with built-in storage continues to relax. While the base model of the iPhone Xs continues to offer 64GB — which is more generous than the 32GB capacity of the iPhone 7 from two years ago — you now have the option of going big. Both the iPhone XS and XS Max top out at 512GB of storage. You'll have to pay up for the privilege — the 512GB versions cost $350 more than the base models — but at least you now have the option.
If you waited on buying the original iPhone X just to see how Apple might improve the design in subsequent models, your patience will pay off: The XS is dotted with a bunch of upgrades over last year's version. An improved Face ID means your phone will unlock faster, while the screen offers greater dynamic range than its predecessor. Apple says the new phones offer wider stereo sound, and if you do a lot of globe-trotting, you'll appreciate support for dual SIM cards in the new iPhones.
Oh, you were expecting Apple to drop the price on this year's iPhone X models to make the phone even more attractive? You must not be familiar with the gravity-defying properties of iPhone prices. The iPhone XS costs $999, the same as last year's iPhone X, and you'll have to pay another $100 if you prefer the XS Max. Boost the storage on either the iPhone Xs or Xs Max, and you're looking at the most expensive iPhone that Apple's ever sold. At least you can pick up an original iPhone X for less money now if you still want that notched design.
The iPhone's premium price tag would be more palatable if everything you needed came in the box. However, Apple continues to ship the iPhone without a charger that can take advantage of the phone's fast-charging features. If you want your iPhone XS to charge more rapidly, you'll have to pony up for a 30-watt charger and a USB-C-to-Lightning cable. Imagine paying $999 — or more! — for a phone, then finding out you weren't done tapping your savings account just yet.
While plenty of people have gravitated to the new design Apple introduced with the iPhone X — the company has the sales receipts to prove it — a segment of Apple's user base likely has mixed feelings about the notched display. If you chose against upgrading to the iPhone X because you found its notch off-putting, we've got bad news: Every new iPhone introduced by Apple now has a notch. If you don't want a notch dipping down into your phone's display, you have to either opt for one of the older iPhones that Apple still sells or track down one of the Android devices that hasn't copied the iPhone X's look.
Apple is now taking preorders on the iPhone Xs and Xs Max, but those aren't the only new iPhones hitting retail shelves this year. The iPhone XR, introduced alongside those other phones, ships in mid-October. And while you'll have some trade-offs with the XR — it has an LCD screen instead of an OLED, and you get only one rear camera — Apple's other iPhone has the same superfast A12 processor and a lower starting price, at $749. Maybe you'll decide that the iPhone XS or XS Max is a better fit for your needs. But if you can wait a month, you can keep your iPhone XR option open while seeing if the XS and XS Max really do deliver on Apple's promises.