Apple iPhone XS – Long-Term Review and Report

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My first task was to get used to Face ID. I liked Touch ID and thought I’d miss it but, in general, I’ve found Face ID on the XS to be faster except when using Apple Pay, as using Apple Pay requires an additional step – double-clicking the button on the right side of the phone – to complete a transaction.

While it may not be immediately noticeable, the XS has faster cellular connectivity than its predecessors and the XR including gigabit LTE and improved 4×4 MIMO Wi-Fi antennas.

What is noticeable is that the OLED display is more vibrant. It has much better black levels and the resolution is higher but not everyone will pick up on that in normal everyday use. Where I did really notice the impact of the display was when watching “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” “Blade Runner 2049,” and other HDR movies where the vibrancy of the display was unparalleled.

I’ve also found that the iPhone XS’ speakers are even better than the 8 Plus and X. I no longer need to travel with a travel speaker (specifically for shower time) and I find this very convenient as it means one less device to carry and recharge. Speaking of recharging, the XS handles wireless charging better as Apple has made improvements to the device’s wireless charging coil. This means that there are fewer misses when I place it on the wireless charger on my nightstand.

Finally, we’ve found that the updated iPhone XS camera – which is the same in the XS Max – delivers better photos than the iPhone 8 Plus and X in both dark and high-contrast environments.

I haven’t had to test this yet (and don’t plan to), but Apple says that the XS has greatly improved water and dust resistance. The XS is safe to submerge up to 2 meters (6’) and Apple says it handles salt water, chlorinated water, and miscellaneous liquid spills better as well.

For those of us who would like to lug around a DSLR all the time but simply do not, the dual-lens camera is a deal breaker. The setup makes it possible to frame shots better and for a more versatile portrait mode (useful for close-ups as well as portraits).

The ability to use the depth control slider, which simulates changing the aperture of the lens, after the photo was taken is simply unparalleled. The more you widen, the more background blur you get in your picture. It’s that simple. (The widest possible aperture is f/1.4.)

There are other subtle improvements as well. The new image processor on the A12 Bionic chip allows for what Apple refers to as Smart HDR. This results in better photos that are taken in low light and high contrast situations, think a dimly lit restaurant or bar or a park in bright sunlight.

The chip also treats bright lights more kindly, and they are no longer rendered as rather incongruous bright spots.


After several months with the iPhone XS, I’m quite happy with my decision to have skipped the iPhone X and to have gone directly from the 8 Plus to the XS. Its smaller footprint and display and better camera are marked improvements in the iPhone family.

Jonathan Spira and Paul Riegler contributed to this review.

(Photos: Accura Media Group)

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