2018 is what man calls Apple’s ‘S’ year – the year in the company’s decade-long phone history when no major design changes have been introduced. Apple unveiled three new iPhones this year, a more diverse spread than ever before. The slightly cheaper (you might argue that Rs 76,900 is certainly not cheap for a smartphone) iPhone XR that doesn’t get here until October 26, the iPhone XS and the larger XS Max. My favourite in this line-up is the XS, even though it brings the least changes vis-à-vis last year’s flagship, at least on the outside. So, how does the iPhone XS compare with its predecessor, and should you buy it if you already own the iPhone X?
Form: The iPhone XS looks identical to its predecessor, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s the same beautiful, all-glass build bound by a high-quality stainless steel band. There’s a new colour – a gold that is reminiscent of the iPhone 8, which joins last year’s duo of silver and space grey. The display specs are similar too – a terrific OLED display (1125 x 2436 pixels / 19.5:9 aspect ratio / 458 PPI). It’s one of the best out there with deep blacks and gorgeous colours.
Hardware: Apple usually makes significant changes on the inside with each ‘S’ edition, and 2018 is no exception. The big story of the iPhone XS (and the XS Max) is the new A12 Bionic chip. It’s faster and smarter with the next generation neural engine. You may not notice it, but this chip is geared for advanced machine learning that improves everyday experiences like photography and augmented reality (AR). I noticed faster app loading times during tests and also a more responsive and faster Face ID response time vis-àvis the iPhone X. Apple also adds a new storage variant – a whopping 512GB, pushing internal storage over a new threshold for the iPhone. You’re never going to run out of space on this one. The other noticeable change is the dual speaker set-up that produces a better output and sound quality.
Camera: Enhanced camera performance is one of the prominent features of the XS. It’s not just the improved processor at play, but also a couple of critical updates. One of them is Smart HDR that creates images with more highlights, and larger and deeper pixels, which makes a perceptible difference in lowlight photography. Then there’s portrait mode, which many love in the iPhone camera; the XS refines portrait mode with advanced depth segmentation professional quality bokeh images.
Battery: Apple claims a 30-minute improvement in the battery performance over the iPhone X, but it’s not a change that’s discernible during everyday use. You might want to consider the XS Max if you’d like a more noticeable improvement – Apple claims a 90-minute advantage over the iPhone X.
Bottom-line: The iPhone XS is undoubtedly pricey, but it delivers a smartphone experience that is a perfect harmony between cutting-edge hardware and software. If you’re upgrading from an iPhone 8 or an earlier iPhone, this is a big leap. If you already own an iPhone X, you are probably better off avoiding an upgrade now. If the enhanced quality of the camera is what you are after, then go for XS Max, which has a larger screen.
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs Apple iPhone XS Max
Design: Both these allglass phones are for those who like huge screens and don’t mind the extra heft. The dimensions are very similar – they will barely fit into tight jeans, and both devices weigh a touch above 200 gms. They’re both IPS 68-certified and ready to be dunked into the pool. The Note 9’s USP is its S-Pen.
Hardware: Both these flagships aced our performance tests; this one’s a tie. While the Note 9 is powered by Samsung’s very own Exynos 9810 processor, the XS Max has the new A12 processor under its hood. Both devices offer a heavy duty 512GB variant – but there’s one difference. Samsung also provides a Micro SD slot with support for up to 512GB. Both these phones are evenly matched on the battery life front.
Camera: The XS Max shoots terrific portraits, while the Note 9 shoots excellent images in low light. Both the XS Max and Note 9 feature dual cams (12MP + 12MP) in their rear cam set up and are among the best smartphone cameras out there.
Price: The Note 9 scores on the price. The 6GB RAM/128 GB storage variant starts from Rs 67,900 while the 8GB RAM/ 512GB storage variant costs Rs. 84,900. The iPhone XS, on the other hand, starts at Rs 99,900 (for the 64GB version) while the XS Max begins at Rs 1,09,900.