When the iPhone X was introduced last year, its completely redesigned front panel did away with the home button. This changed the direction of the iPhone and led us to this year’s iPhone XS Max.
The larger of the two new XS models, the XS Max, offers the largest screen seen on an iPhone. The 6.5in Super Retina Display is all thanks to the all-screen design introduced last year.
There’s a new processor inside the device. The A12 Bionic chip. Apple claim it’s the smartest and most powerful chip ever placed in a smartphone offering new levels of machine-learning capabilities.
As always the camera system has been improved. And there’s a new gold finish to further help the iPhone XS Max stand out from the crowd. But does it have the substance to back up the style?
The best way to understand the look and size of the XS Max is to think of it as an “iPhone X Plus.” It has the looks of the iPhone X in the larger body of an iPhone Plus-sized model.
In fact, the XS Max’s footprint is a fraction smaller than previous Plus models. This means the XS Max is comfortable to hold in one hand. And while it is something of a stretch to reach every corner even for those with larger hands a lot of tasks can be done one-handed.
Glass is again dominant on the front and back of the phone, and in the new gold finish it’s an eye-catching look. Particularly with the golden stainless steel that wraps around the device.
It looks and feels every inch a premium phone. Which is what we’ve come to expect from Apple’s flagship devices.
The larger screen is impressive too. Watching videos and scrolling through photos is great in such a large space, elevating the experience above its usual relatively mundane experience.
This is the best the iPhone has ever looked – the iPhone X design in this size and that bigger display take the best features of the existing iPhone and literally enhance them.
Look beyond the striking beauty of the iPhone XS Max and things start to become a lot more familiar.
This is both a positive and a negative because while many of the key features that made the iPhone X so excellent are still here – the easy touch gestures to unlock and handle notifications and the razor-sharp facial recognition of Face ID – there is not a long list of new headline features to get excited about.
Having said that, much of what is good about the XS Max is hidden from view, but shouldn’t be taken for granted.
The new A12 Bionic chip harnesses more powerful machine learning and, combined with iOS 12, it drives what is a very quick phone. Face ID has become quicker, while apps, files, web pages and photos all open and appear faster too.
Key aspects of the iOS 12 update are worth a mention too, such as Siri Shortcuts and the new Screen Time feature to monitor how much you’re using your phone, but you don’t need an XS Max to experience them.
Battery life has been cited by Apple has being slightly improved, but in truth the difference is small enough to not really make a difference.
Most users will still find themselves charging the phone at the end of each day, something many other iPhone and other smartphone users also have to do.
One feature of the Max that does stand out is the updated camera system. The 12 megapixel rear cameras have a new sensor, which has improved low-light photography, while Smart HDR has been introduced thanks to the already mentioned improvements in machine learning.
Smart HDR uses multiple shots taken in the background when you’re taking a photo to help the best final image be taken, using advanced algorithms to better highlight shadow and detail in images.
Portrait mode is a vehicle for the depth of field effect bokeh, which blurs the background of an image, placing enhanced focus on subjects in the foreground.
The XS Max houses a new Depth Control feature that takes this to new levels, enabling users to edit the strength of the background blur.
Using a new scroll wheel that appears beneath Portrait photos, users can increase or reduce the amount of blur in an image.
It’s something that can have a striking impact on photos and is easy to use, making a powerful photo editing tool very accessible.
The iPhone XS Max is, without doubt, the best-looking and most well-equipped iPhone Apple has made.
For those yet to make the jump to the X generation of devices, the urge to upgrade is rightly strong.
The big screen, camera updates and boosted AI make the XS Max brilliant for capturing and consuming anything and everything you could possibly want.
Yes it’s expensive. Apple don’t do cheap. But for first adapters and Apple aficionados the iPhone Max is a must have.