Apple iPhone XS Max: Pros And Cons

By Amit Chowdhry ● November 30, 2018

The larger-sized version of Apple’s flagship smartphone this year is known as the iPhone XS Max. The iPhone XS Max is the considered the best phablet on the market right now. Last year, Apple redesigned the iPhone with the introduction of the edge-to-edge OLED display, the Face ID facial recognition system, and a signature notch design with the iPhone X. Even though this year’s models look similar to the iPhone X, there are a number of innovations that make it worth upgrading to the iPhone XS Max.

Below is a breakdown of the iPhone XS Max pros and cons:

The Pros

Pro 1: Meticulous Design With Durability Emphasis

Just like the iPhone XS, the iPhone XS Max was built with a durable aluminum alloy and glass that is stronger than before. However, you should still put a case on your iPhone Max to prevent scratches and cracks in case you drop the device. But I recommend that you do this no matter which smartphone you have.

The iPhone XS Max has the signature notch at the top of the device for housing the front-facing camera and Face ID facial recognition system. Apple introduced the notch last year and it was mocked by reviewer’s and Apple’s rivals. However, a number of other device makers ended up copying the notch design because it is a practical way of setting up the front-facing camera while accommodating edge-to-edge displays.  The iPhone XS and iPhone XR also have the notch.

And the iPhone XS Max has a similar stainless steel band, glass back, edge-to-edge OLED display, wireless charging, and click buttons as last year’s iPhone X. But the wireless charging feature on the iPhone XS Max and iPhone XS is faster this year compared to the iPhone X.

The iPhone XS Max and the iPhone XS devices are available in space gray, silver, and a new gold color. The stainless steel bands on these new iPhones are shiny and the sheen is very reflective when you look at it from different angles.

But if I were to recommend getting a certain color of the iPhone XS Max, then I would say that you should get the gold one. The reflective properties of the gold version stand out a lot more.

Pro 2: Incredible Camera

Apple and its rivals seem to alternate when it comes to pushing the boundaries of advanced camera technology. The Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, and Google Pixel line of devices seem to one-up each other over the best smartphone camera every time a new flagship is introduced by one of those companies. These companies are also using advanced artificial intelligence to drastically improve photos as you take them.

The reviews have been mixed about which company has a better camera. But a number of reviewers have said that the iPhone XS line of devices has the best one on the market now. The iPhone XS Max has the same camera as the iPhone XS. This comes as a surprise because Apple usually makes the camera on the larger-sized versions superior to the other models.

The dual rear cameras on the iPhone XS Max are 12-megapixels, of which one is a wide-angle lens with a f/1.8 aperture and one is a 2x telephoto lens with a f/2.4 aperture. And the iPhone XS Max cameras also have optical image stabilization. Plus the iPhone XS Max camera takes 4K video at up to 60 fps and slow-motion 1080p videos at up to 240 fps. This ensures that the videos that you take look sharp and high-quality especially when you replay it on larger TV screens.

Apple also made an improvement to the image sensors of the iPhone XS Max camera. The image sensors now absorb light better than its predecessor. The iPhone XS Max has larger “micron pixels” than the iPhone X at 1.4 microns this year versus 1.2 microns last year. Since the image sensors in the iPhone XS Max can collect more light, the low-light photos will look better and the dynamic range is wider. And the iPhone XS Max camera lens is wider than the iPhone X so more content can be fit into the frame.

And the autofocus feature on the iPhone XS Max is two times faster compared to its predecessor. Tapping to focus and the tap-and-hold to lock the autofocus feature is speedier than before.

The iPhone XS Max camera’s Smart HDR features taps into Apple’s A12 Bionic imaging signal processor (ISP) and the device’s Neural Engine. Using artificial intelligence, the Smart HDR feature combines multiple photos that are underexposed and overexposed and combines it into a single photo in order to show the best highlights and shadows.

Portrait mode was first introduced on the iPhone 7 Plus and it was improved with the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X. And now it is better than ever before with the iPhone XS Max and iPhone XS. You can make adjustments to the bokeh effect of the Portrait mode on the iPhone XS Max by tapping on the “Edit” button at the top-right and sliding the meter at the bottom for adjusting the depth. This is possible because Apple’s new Neural Engine is able to separate depth information that is captured from the rear cameras and the front TrueDepth camera. And your selfies taken with the iPhone XS Max will look spectacular due to the front-facing 7-megapixel camera specification.

For video recording on the iPhone XS Max, the quad-LED True Tone flash is better at detecting light flickering than before. And the four microphones built into the device are better at capturing stereo sound.

Pro 3: Large And Immersive Display

With a phablet-sized 6.5-inch edge-to-edge OLED display, the iPhone XS Max provides an immersive viewing experience. With an OLED display, the iPhone XS Max has deeper blacks, impressive brightness, a vibrant dynamic range, and better power efficiency.

The 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max has a 2,688 x 1,242 resolution at 458 pixels-per-inch. This is the same ppi as the iPhone X and the iPhone XS. And it is hard to deny that the colors on games, videos, and apps really pop on the iPhone XS Max’s large display.

Pro 4: Faster Face ID

All of Apple’s flagships smartphones this year have the second generation of the Face ID facial recognition system. Face ID uses the iPhone XS Max’s processor to recognize the face of the user in order to unlock the device and allow purchases.

Apple said that Face ID is faster and better. And several reviewers have confirmed that this is true, but the iPhone X is pretty fast as it is so it is not as detectable in real-world situations. But I would still consider a faster Face ID a pro anyway.

Pro 5: Speedy Processing Power

The iPhone XS Max and iPhone XS have Apple’s new A12 Bionic 64-bit system-on-a-chip with six cores, of which two are performance cores that are capable of 15% faster-processing power compared to the A11 Bionic chip. And four of the cores are high-efficiency — which use less than 50% power than the A11 Bionic chip. Plus the A12 Bionic chip is up to 50% faster for apps that are graphics intensive.

While Apple substantially improved the hardware in its new flagships, it also simultaneously increased the efficiency of iOS this year with the introduction of iOS 12. iOS 12 also has an emphasis on performance improvements for older devices so you should definitely upgrade even if you don’t plan to buy a new iPhone this year.

On the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, you do not really notice any lag time while gaming. But I must say that gaming on the iPhone XS Max is a more fun experience because of the larger sized display. And opening non-gaming apps take milliseconds. Plus editing and exporting 4K video takes seconds rather than minutes as well.

Creating Animoji and Memoji on the iPhone XS Max is also slightly faster than the iPhone X. So as you move your head around or stick your tongue out, the Animoji and Memoji are very responsive. This is also the case for other augmented reality apps.

Pro 6: Gigabit LTE

The iPhone XS Max supports gigabit LTE. Gigabit LTE is an advanced version of LTE used by cellular companies to connect to mobile devices. This enables download speeds at 1 gigabit per second, which is the same speed that Google Fiber provides for landline broadband connections.

But to increase the cellular data connectivity, the antenna lines on the iPhone XS Max were moved around. Now there are two new antenna lines at the top right of the stainless steel band the other is at the lower left.

Pro 7: Superb Sound Quality

When Apple introduced the iPhone 7, the 3.5mm headphone jack was removed — which was one of the most controversial moves that the company made.  But Apple was able to make its device more resistant to water damage by doing this and another speaker was added where the 3.5mm headphone jack used to be so it provided a stereo sound experience. This has carried over to the iPhone XS Max and the iPhone XS.

The iPhone XS Max and XS have wider stereo playback than before. With this level of sound quality, you may feel like you do not need to take a portable speaker with you to the beach or the pool. Instead, you can play your favorite tunes from your iPhone XS Max itself and still have a solid listening experience.

Pro 8: Dual SIM Support

The iPhone XS Max has dual-SIM support, which is especially popular if you travel extensively and use a single device for personal and work. With this feature, you can manage two numbers and two data plans on a single phone from separate carriers.

The iPhone XS Max has two nano-SIM card slots. This is different from the smaller-sized iPhone XS, which has room for one nano-SIM card so you will need to have an eSIM if you want to use a secondary SIM with that device.

Pro 9: IP68 Rating

This year, Apple bumped up the IP rating from IP67 to IP68. So now the iPhone XS Max and XS are dust resistant and have a water resistance up to 6 feet of water for up to 30 minutes rather than 3 feet of water (IP67). While this is a subtle improvement, it makes all the difference for those of you who enjoy swimming with your device.

The Cons

Con 1: Not As Portable

The dimensions of the iPhone XS Max are 6.20 x 3.05 x 0.30 inches. This makes carrying around the iPhone XS Max harder in pockets and hand wallets.

To carry around the iPhone XS Max, you may have to keep it in your back pocket or keep it in a larger purse. Or you may have to ensure that the pants or fleece jackets you buy have large enough pockets.

But if you are already used to carrying around “Plus” sized devices, then it will be an easy transition. So it might be time to get rid of those skinny jeans.

Con 2: No Lightning to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter Included

To appease consumers who were upset about the removal of the 3.5 mm headphone jack in the iPhone 7, Apple provided a Lightning to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter. And it was also provided with the iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X. But it is not included with this year’s models.

Con 3: Average Battery Life

Inside of the iPhone XS Max is a 3,174 mAh battery. And Apple said that the iPhone XS Max lasts up to 1.5 hours longer than the iPhone X. While this is a subtle improvement, it is not groundbreaking though.

With the larger-sized battery, the iPhone XS Max lasts longer than the iPhone XS though. For example, the talk time of the iPhone XS is up to 20 hours compared to the iPhone XS Max’s 25 hours based on wireless talk time. And the iPhone XS Max’s lasts up to 13 hours based on Internet use compared to the iPhone XS’ 12 hours.

Note: the iPhone XS and XS Max are fast-charge capable at up to a 50% charge in 30 minutes. Unfortunately, the iPhone XS has a USB-A-to-Lightning cable in the box rather than a fast-charging USB-C-to-Lightning cable so you will have to buy that accessory separately for fast charging.

Con 4: High Price

The iPhone XS Max has a starting retail price of $1,099. And the 512GB variant hits a retail price of $1,449. This price is edging closer to the cost of a high-end 5K iMac. Based on these numbers, I believe that the iPhone XS Max was definitely priced for early adopter consumers who are not on a budget.

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