The iPhone XS Max review

The iPhone XS Max is a big phone.  A big, speedy, impressive phone.  I’ve owned mine now for a couple of weeks and while things my change, here’s my take on Apple’s new big iPhone.


In my first impressions, I noted how giant the phone felt in the store.  It still does feel giant, but the more I use it, the more I’m getting used to it.  After a couple of days, I don’t think I even really notice how over-sized it feels after coming from the iPhone X.  Now it feels almost normal. I’ve put the free Apple Case I was given by Apple for waiting so long on the phone, and while it’s not a giant case, it is adding even more bulk to the phone. But I’m loving the big phone. I’ve mentioned before how I felt when moving from my 7 Plus to my X last year.  For the most part, I loved the smaller size with the big screen but I felt like videos and games were more cramped.  This feeling vanished after using the Max for a couple of days.  Videos and games feel big again. I love the design of the iPhone X series (X, XS, XS Max, and XR), how the screen takes up the entire body of the phone. Now that the chins of the older iPhone design are all but gone (still remain on the iPhone 7 and 8 which are still for sale), these new phones just look better and more futuristic.  They are closer to the idea of a slab of glass as a phone than better.  But really, that extra screen at the top and bottom aren’t really too practical.  You aren’t going to fit too much data or buttons there. It’s the same for the Max.  The chins are gone, and the screen has been expanded but when holding the phone up and down like a phone, there isn’t too much usable.  Unlike the smaller X and XS though, when you turn the phone horizontal, there actually is more usable space. When you turn it horizontal some apps such as messages and mail will have a two-column display, just like on the iPad.  The Plus sized phones have had this the iPhone 6 Plus, but it never seemed like it worked that well because you couldn’t see much on the screen.   With the extra room afforded by the Max, you can actually use this mode more effectively.  I’m not sure that I will ever use this mode, if I do, I will probably use it sparingly, but it’s nice to know that it’s there. Towards the end of the of using my iPhone 7, I grew tired of the big phone in my pocket. I wanted a smaller phone.  So far, this hasn’t been the case for the Max.  It fits pretty easily in shorts and jeans pockets.  I know that women will have a problem since the fashion industry has it out for women and pockets, but it will probably fit fine in a back pocket (if there is any) or in a purse (as long as the screen and case are protected).


I need to take back what I said in my explanation of what was different with the camera on the iPhone XS.  I’ve heard that there was a bit of a physical change to the camera between models, something in the lens was changed, but still, most of the camera improvements are coming from the processors. But hot damn! These pictures are great.  The color, the light, everything seems better on this phone.
I was planning on shooting some action shots at our dual tennis match yesterday, but the rain kept me inside most the day.  Being trapped inside all day didn’t give me too much to shoot by my dog. I was trying to play with the portrait mode here and test the slider.  It’s crazy how much control you have over this stuff now.  The slider and make the background completely blurred clear and everything in between. One issue with the portrait mode before was that the camera wouldn’t always get all of the person you were taking a picture of.  I think all of the improvements in the lens, the software, and the silicon have come together to make this process even easier. If you upgrade your phone for the camera, this is a huge update.  I feel like these are some of the best pictures I have ever taken.  I’m not a professional by any means, but these photos look so good.  Even the low light shots that I took looked bright and noise free. I’m going to go downtown later and try to take some good shots since the weather is almost perfect right now.  I’ll post some pictures if it actually happens.


I haven’t really put the phone through any strain so far, but everything seems pretty speedy.  Again, I’m sure it is the combination of software and hardware that make it so good.  iOS 12 was such a great speed boost to the iPhone in general and since the iPhone XS shipped with iOS 12, it’s hard to know what’s happening here. Apple claims that the FaceID system is faster, but honestly, I don’t notice anything.  FaceID on the iPhone X was already fairly quick.  If anything is different it’s that this is even quicker. Restoring the phone felt pretty fast as well as pairing my new Apple Watch. I think as time passes, we’ll start to see how fast the phone really is.  I’m most curious about the Neural Network Processor that Apple has developed.  I think that’s where most of the interesting stuff will be in the years to come. Apple is using this chip to improve FaceID, Photos, Maps, and Siri.  Your new phone will be getting smarter and know more about you.  Luckily, Apple keeps all that information on the phone.  They don’t harvest your data for gain. You don’t have to worry too much about your data getting hacked or you being compromised.


So far, the only issues I’ve had have come from the software side of things.  I’m not sure why, but my music and Siri were unable to talk to each other, and my phone kept asking for my Apple ID and password every couple of minutes.  Something on the restore got knocked loose or something, but it was highly annoying. After restoring things seem to be running much better now. Similarly, I was getting some hiccups in settings.  I think these were software issues that stemmed from a bad backup.  I’m assuming that the servers being slammed on the first day while everyone was restoring and installing caused the issue. I haven’t had that issue since restoring again though. Also, developers have not been updated apps to support the new screen size yet.  Hopefully, Apple will solve this soon.  The biggest issue I’ve seen so far are in games that aren’t accounting for the notch.  While the app is still usable, some of the screen is covered by the notch.  It’s more of an annoyance than a hindrance.

Bottom Line

Everything I said in my post about which iPhone you should get still stands. I think this is a great phone.  The iPhone X was my favorite phone since probably the 5 or 6.  So far, I’m so happy with everything the XS Max has offered. The screen size, as big as it is, shows much more.  If you can handle a big phone, if you liked the Plus-sized phones and you are wanting to upgrade to a new phone, this one is pretty great. If you upgraded last year and you’re happy with your phone’s size, then I’d hold off until next year. I upgraded and traded-in my favorite iPhone in a while, and so far I’m supremely happy. Of course, this might all change when the XR comes out next month.

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