OUR EARLY VERDICT
The iPhone XS Max appears to be the perfect upgrade for owners of the iPhone Plus who prefer a large form factor with a big screen and a bigger battery. It packs in all the top-end features of the smaller model, but really turbocharges them in the hand.
Get ready for an all-new breed of iPhone – this is the iPhone XS Max. That’s the iPhone ‘Ten S’ Max, not the ‘Excess Max’, but that’s what most people will be seeing in this name. That would miss out on what’s an interesting new product, especially for iPhone fans.
It has a massive 6.5-inch screen along with a bigger battery, plus all the other features present in the smaller iPhone XS such as dual SIM support, an improved camera setup and the super-fast A12 Bionic processor and a new 512GB storage option.
Update: iPhone XS Max pre-orders are now open!
Although in the past Apple has differentiated the Plus models with a better camera setup, the iPhone XS Max is identical to the iPhone XS other than the larger screen and battery.
iPhone XS Max price and release date
The iPhone XS Max, along with the iPhone XS, pre-orders in most countries around the world are now open, and will go on sale from September 21.
It’ll be available in 64GB, 256GB and 512GB configurations, and it’ll be Apple’s most expensive phone to date – although that was expected after Apple introduced the only slightly less expensive iPhone X last year.
On average, the iPhone XS Max price is about $100 / £100 more expensive than the smaller iPhone XS, with the 64GB model priced at at $1,099 / £1,099 / AU$1,799 / AED4,649. The 256GB price is $1,249 / £1,249 / AU$2,049/ AED5,279 while the most expensive 512GB version will set you back $1,449 / £1,449 / AU$2,369 / AED6,129.
That makes the iPhone XS Max the most expensive ‘regular’ handset on the market, with only special editions such as the Huawei Porsche Design costing more.
The iPhone XS Max measures 157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7mm, which puts it around the same size as the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, which comes in at 161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8mm. This is a big phone, and there’s no way you’ll be able to use it with one hand.
Interestingly, even though the iPhone XS Max is slightly heavier than the Galaxy Note 9 (208 grams vs 202 grams), in the hand it feels lighter than its rival. In other words, the iPhone XS Max looks like a big and heavy device, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you pick it up.
Like other iPhone X models, the iPhone XS Max is basically two slabs of glass with a stainless steel frame joining them.
IPHONE XS MAX SPECS
Dimensions: 157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7mm
OS: iOS 12
Screen size: 6.5-inch
Resolution: 2688 x 1242
CPU: A12 Bionic
Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP
Front camera: 7MP
Colors: Silver, Space Grey, Gold
Apple claims that it has used the most durable glass ever made for a smartphone, and it felt less slippery than we expected – but it is a big glass device at the end of the day, and we recommend getting a cover for it if you’re spending all that money on one.
The new iPhone XS and XS Max are now rated at IP68, which means they’re water-resistant for up to two meters and 30 minutes. Apple says it has tested these new phones by submerging them in fresh water, salt water and various other liquids – including beer – to make sure they come out unharmed.
The button and port configuration on the iPhone XS Max is the same as on the smaller model, with the volume buttons and the silence switch on the left, and the power button and SIM card tray on the right.
Apple is bringing dual-SIM functionality to its iPhones for the first time, with the new handsets able to support eSIM in addition to having a nano SIM slot. eSIM means ’embedded SIM’, and it’s a piece of hardware which acts like a SIM card but saves you having to physically swap cards – instead you download software to the phone to change your plan or carrier.
You’ll use a QR code to upgrade it, and in the future apps may be developed where you can download it from a carrier and sign up from within it – although that won’t be around for a while.
The iPhone XS Max will be available in three color options: space grey and silver make a return, with a new gold version that looks pretty impressive, especially with the golden stainless steel band around it.
The biggest draw for anyone thinking about the iPhone XS Max will be the OLED screen, and it’s simply stunning on Apple’s largest phone. It’s gigantic at 6.5 inches, and provides quite the immersive experience, especially with movies and games – provided you can overlook the notch.
Yes, the notch is still present on the iPhone XS Max, although because of the larger screen you have more screen to the left and right of the notch than on the iPhone X.
That being said, we’ve been using the iPhone X for almost a year now and we don’t really think about the notch anymore; you learn to live with it, and before long it just disappears into the background, although that may not be your experience initially.
Specs-wise, the OLED panel on the iPhone XS Max has a resolution of 2688 x 1242 pixels, giving it the same density as the smaller iPhone XS at 458ppi. Apps can now work in split mode, much like they do on the Plus versions of previous iPhones.
We’re not sure if third-party apps will be able to use the new resolution right away though, or whether developers will need to update their apps to support the new resolution.
As on the iPhone X the screen supports TrueTone technology as well as 120Hz input. We were hoping the XS Max would support the True Motion technology found on the iPad Pro, which makes scrolling and moving within the UI very fluid, but that’s not the case.
Apple claims the screen now has a 60% better dynamic range, which should make your photos and videos appear more vivid. We tried the new Bethesda game The Elder Scrolls: Blades, and visually it looked very appealing, although we did notice some stuttering as we flicked around the gameplay settings.
The camera on the iPhone XS Max is similar to the one on last year’s iPhone X, with a dual lens setup, however, Apple has made improvements to both the hardware and software.
You’re still getting two 12MP sensors on the back, but the pixel size has now been increased to 1.4um on the wide-angle camera. The secondary 12MP camera is still fixed at 2x zoom levels with an f/2.4 aperture and OIS.
Meanwhile Apple has improved its camera software by introducing a new Smart HDR mode with zero shutter lag. This allows the iPhone to capture multiple images, and, by teaming the camera sensor with the AI neural processing unit, select and combine the best bits from each frame to produce a single perfectly exposed image.
Another new software feature is the ability to change the depth of field – that is, which parts of the image are in focus or creatively blurred – after you’ve taken a picture.
Apple claims this is slightly different to the rest of the competition that offers the capability to alter the background blur post-snap because it actively changes the exposure – thus resulting in a more natural image.
As well as the larger screen, the iPhone XS Max also has the largest battery Apple has ever put in an iPhone. We don’t know the capacity yet, but Apple is promising an extra 90 minutes of battery life over the iPhone X.
It also packs wireless charging capabilities like recent iPhones have added in, based on the Qi standard – although sadly there’s no fast charger in the box as was previously rumored.
We’ll be making sure to give the battery a full workout when we get our hands on the new iPhones for our full reviews. The Plus versions of previous iPhones have had killer battery life, so we have high hopes for the iPhone XS Max.
The iPhone XS Max is clearly aimed at fans of the Plus-size iPhones – those who want a large device with a large screen, and a large battery to go with it.
It’s very close in size to the Plus models, so if you’re comfortable with one of those phones – and this is strictly a two-handed device – you’ll feel right at home with the iPhone XS Max.
With dual SIM capabilities, an updated camera module and the new, super-fast A12 Bionic processor, Apple looks to be on track to deliver its best iPhone yet.
If you can get over the size and price (and that’s a big ask) the iPhone XS Max is the phone to go for out of the three new devices, packing in the best of everything Apple showcased at its launch event.
We come back to the above points about size and price though: this is a gargantuan phone in every way, and we’re looking forward to putting it through its paces to find out whether it’s just an oversized version of the iPhone XS, or the supercharged, super-sized iPhone you’ll want to go for.