Everywhere you turn, there are hints that summer is ending and autumn is rolling in. Halloween decorations are on store shelves, people everywhere are either drinking or complaining about the people drinking pumpkin spice lattes, and new iPhones models have the tech world abuzz with excitement.
Even though 2018 is an "S" year in the iPhone world, where we see hardware refreshes and mostly modest upgrades instead of radical redesigns, Apple still managed to cram some interesting surprises into their 2018 iPhone Event, which debuted the iPhone X's much anticipated follow up devices, the iPhone XS, along with two entirely new models, XS Max and the XR.
iPhone XS and XS Max
Unlike Samsung with their Galaxy S9 and S9+ line, Apple is holding no features hostage between their two flagships this year, and instead offer the exact same feature set on both the iPhone XS and the XS Max, with the only major difference being the screen and body size.
Screen Size (diag.)
5.65" x 2.79" x 0.30"
2436 x 1125
iPhone XS Max
6.20" x 3.05" x 0.30"
2688 x 1242
The new iPhone XS Max is, to put it plainly, an iPhone made to fill the gap left last year for those who like plus-sized phones or "phablets," but wanted an iPhone with the new, slick design scheme found in the iPhone X. It certainly delivers that, and in fact, features the largest screen size ever offered on an iPhone while still being physically smaller than 2017's iPhone 8 Plus, thanks to X-style design.
Apple even bumps up the resolution in the iPhone XS Max to keep the same pixels-per-inch as the iPhone XS, as both phones feature the new 458ppi Super Retina HD screen, which is an OLED panel that supports HDR10 for near unparalleled color and contrast.
Outside of the size increase on the XS Max, there are no notable changes to the design and formfactor compared to last year's iPhone X. In fact, the only change of note on the design front is the addition of a Gold bezel color to the Space Grey and Black colors we saw last year.
Under the Hood
Remember when we said that this was an "S" year in the iPhone world? The technical specs are where things become a bit less, but there are still a few interesting performance upgrades in the new 2018 iPhones.
The biggest upgrade is the new A12 Bionic chip that gives an 11% performance increase and is 30% more power efficient than the A11, and includes every modern buzzword one wants to hear when choosing a new smartphone, including octa-core, neural engine, and real-time machine learning.
Hype aside, what we're looking at is typical of Apple's hardware refresh cycle that takes place on the years in between the numbered changes to the iPhone, and what we get here is largely standard fare. Buyers should note that these specs span across the entire line of 2019 iPhones, so you'll have the same horsepower regardless of your choice between the iPhone XS, XS Max, and the XR.
What Apple has declined to make public is the amount of system memory (RAM) found in the XS, XS Max, and XR, so one can only assume that it remains unchanged from the 3GB found in the iPhone X.
Finally, bigger phones mean bigger batteries, but at time of writing, Apple is being cagey about the size of the battery and does not give the actual battery capacity. Instead, they tout that the iPhone XS and XS Max battery will get 30 and 90 minutes more use out of a single charge than the X, respectively.
Outside of the design of the phone, camera upgrades and performance are some of the most anticipated and talked about features of new flagships. Apple set the world of camera phones on fire by offering two cameras on the iPhone 7 Plus way back in 2016. They certainly weren't the first to have a dual-camera setup on a smartphone, but as we've seen time and time again, when Apple makes a radical design change, it becomes an industry standard (See: phone notches).
The dual-camera setup is alive and well on the XS and XS Max, with two 12MP cameras protruding from the otherwise sleek back of the stainless steel bezel. The first camera features a f/1.8 wide-angle lens, while the second camera sports a f/2.5 telephoto lens, both with optical image stabilization and capable of 4k video at 60fps.
This sounds all but standard on 2018 smartphones, but Apple is looking to gain ground on the competition by using the new A12 Bionic chip to do some impressive post-processing tricks with photos taken on the new iPhones. Capable of up to a trillion operations every time you snap a photo, the new 2018 iPhones automatically identify a photo's subject, map faces, and make lighting adjustments in real time as the photo is taken, delivering breathtaking lighting and clarity that really has to be seen to be believed.
Around the front of the iPhone, hidden in that notch, is a 7MP "true-depth" f/2.2 wide angle camera that works in tandem with other FaceID tech to make the new portrait mode a thing of beauty. Pull up a photo after its taken and use a simple slider to adjust the focal length setting after the photo is taken, giving smartphone photographers the power to take the perfect selfie every time.
iPhone XR - Apple's Dark Horse?
The biggest surprise of the 2019 iPhone keynote was, without a doubt, the unveiling of the iPhone XR, Apple's new semi-budget offering that packs a surprising amount of value.
Screen Size (diag.)
5.94" x 2.98" x 0.33"
1792 x 828
First, and perhaps most importantly, the iPhone XR is, at its core, an identical phone to the XS and XS Max. All of the important "under the hood" specs are there, including the new A12 Bionic core, FaceID and all the accompanying hardware, and presumably the system memory or RAM, and operating system. This is very much a 2018 iPhone, and departure from the iPhone SE type of offering that used last-gen tech to power a budget-focused iPhone.
There are a few compromises, however, that shoppers should be aware of before making their choice. First and foremost, the difference in the screen, which is sized right in between the XS and XS Max, is still a "retina" display but is not OLED, but rather an LCD display and the resolution is vastly inferior to it's high-class siblings. To put the screen's drawbacks in more familiar terms, if this was a television set, it would be closer to a 720p HDTV than anything else.
How important is this? The beauty of this screen is truly in the eye of the beholder here, some may not notice or care, but for others, this could be a dealbreaker. This is a "retina" display after all, which is supposed to mean that the pixels small enough that they are all but impossible to see with the naked eye, so if you're on the fence here, it might be best to hold off on preordering until you can see an iPhone XR in person.
The other significant change is with the camera, as the iPhone XR has only a single-camera on it's colorful back side. If camera quality is paramount, this could squash your desire for the iPhone XR. Take note that the camera that is included is identical to the primary shooting camera found on the iPhone XS and XS Max. And thanks to the inclusion of the A12 chip, this camera brings with it the same software and post processing enhancements, including the trillion calculations, subject detection, and the neat bokeh effects we discussed earlier. The camera is no slouch by any means, but might not deliver everything the XS or XS Max can for the most demanding of photo junkies out there.
Speaking of a colorful back side, you'll be sure to spot an iPhone XR in the wild thanks to it's fun and unique color options, which lets XR owners choose from red, yellow, white, coral, black, and blue, each with a matching bezel that wraps around the phone for added style.
Pricing Information and Final Thoughts
With three new iPhones at nine price points, there are a variety of options for those looking to pick up a new iPhone.
iPhone XS Max
To those who thought Apple could never outdo themselves when they released the first ever $1000+ smartphone, Apple happily replies, "Hold my Airpods," with prices of the XS Max soaring over the prices of new iPhones from just a year ago. On the subject of Airpods, beginning with this year's iPhones, Apple has quietly discontinued the practice of including a Lightning to 3.5mm headphone adapter in the box, so if you've got a nice pair of cans, you'll have to pick up an adapter separately with your new iPhone.
With prices like these, seeking out carrier specials and Black Friday offerings will be paramount. Make sure and check back with BFAds.net early and often throughout the holiday season, where we strive to be at the forefront of any and all 2018 iPhone deals that drop this winter.