September always brings a new crop of Apples and this year was a bumper crop. No less than three models in many various colours were on offer from Apple Inc.

Apple has reverted to their cadence of big release followed by an incremental S year which 2018 is. Despite this, there were significant announcements for this year’s crop of Apples. The other big news was that the global release of the new models was accelerated, with minor territories such as South Africa obtaining release a week after the USA.

The models available right from the get-go were the iPhone Xs and Xs Max with 5,8” and 6.5” screen sizes respectively. The lower-priced iPhone XR will be available late October 2018.

This review will focus primarily on the iPhone Xs Max 256 Gig and the new Xs as they are substantially similar devices except for screen and battery size.

The iPhone X released in 2017 was a significant break from the past for Apple, gone was the home button, and a full-screen device with a notch emerged. As Apple often sets the trend, the new look and style of the iPhone X fast became the trend to which all phones tended. The notch has become a feature of most new devices across many manufacturers.

The hardware

Having just got used to the iPhone X from a year ago and the changes to navigation and user interaction it brought, along with the Face ID facial recognition platform The 2018 crop of Apples are not much different in any physical way. The main story is the introduction of a large screen device the iPhone Xs Max.

The iPhone Xs Max is almost the same height and width of the iPhone 7 Plus and 8 Plus models and similar in weight and thickness. The main difference is once again the lack of a home button and any top and bottom bezels. The screen stretches from top to bottom except for the notch that shows the front-facing camera and Face ID facial recognition system.

In standard iPhone X fashion, the new S Models are top of the range premium built devices with stainless steel bodies and a toughened glass back and front. The new iPhone Xs is indistinguishable from the older X model except for the introduction of a new gold stainless steel coloured model.

Processor moves forward

The significant advance on last years X is the new A12 Bionic processor and it a significant breakthrough in mobile processors. The new A12 is the first released unit built on a 7-nanometer process with 6.9 billion transistors and a secondary neural processor built in. Huawei is also about to release their take on seven-nanometre processors. At this point, the Apple A12 is the most powerful processor in a smartphone ever made.

The power does not show up much in regular use but fire up a game or app that uses Augmented reality, and the difference to last year A11, which was no slouch, is immediately apparent. Various reviewers have run technical benchmarks and the A12 tops anything available on the market. The bottom line here is that the new Apple 2018 iPhones can take anything you throw at it and remain smooth and fast, and then some.

The power of the processor also results in significantly better photography. The primary camera setup on the iPhone Xs models has not changed much with a dual camera on the Xs models and a similar single camera on the iPhone Xr. They are similar in spec to the iPhone X with dual 12 Megapixel cameras one with a f/1.8 aperture and the second telephoto lens with a f/2.4 aperture, both with image stabilisation. The sensors inside are also larger which will make low light photography better

The trick is the power of the A12 processor which allows computational photography that does make pictures far better. A new HDR system called smart HDR is used which takes three photos at different aperture settings and then combines these for the best picture. No overbright or dull lights in your picture and all this instantly happens as you take the picture.

Overall the new camera setup results in a significant improvement over the already good iPhone X and brings the iPhone Xs right into contention with the Samsung Note 9 and Huawei P20 Pro cameras.

The screen

The iPhone XS Max has a 6.5-inch display and the iPhone Xs has a 5.8” screen which is the same as last year. As the screens run from edge to edge the iPhone Xs is only slightly bigger than the iPhone 8, while the iPhone Xs Max has a much bigger screen, for a body that matches the older iPhone 8 Plus.

The OLED screen is outstanding. It has very accurate colours and avoids looking oversaturated, and the OLED screen offers intense blacks that look so deep that at times it’s hard to see the notch at the top. The screen has 2,436 x 1,125 screen resolution (458 pixels per inch). Movies look incredibly sharp and natural; The S models also support Dolby Vision and HDR10.

The improved screens and the enhanced speakers which now offers wider stereo make gaming and watching Youtube or any movie or video far more immersive.

Apple iPhone Xs

Long battery life

The new processor and advances to screen and memory result in the more efficient use of power. The iPhone Xs will last around 30 minutes longer life than the X with a slightly smaller battery than last year. The iPhone Xs Max will last an hour longer despite its much larger screen. Overall using the Xs Max, I easily got through a heavy day’s usage and had around 20% battery left at 10 P.M.

Fast charging using a suitable charger is also provided. Apple does not include a fast charger in the box. Wireless charging is standard, and the new Xs models do charge a little faster than before. It is genuinely disappointing that Apple does not include either a wireless fast charger or wired fast charger in the box with such expensive devices.

Operating system

The iPhone Xs models come out standard with IOS 12, although all older models back to the iPhone 5s can be updated. IOS 12 is a polished very optimised performer on all new and older iPhone hardware. There are numerous improvements and nice to have updates. One key update is the ability to use third-party password programmes to insert passwords and login details into apps and websites.

Overall IOS 12 is a must update for any iPhone owner. On the iPhone X and Xs models, the use of the face recognition system for Animoji’s and other apps that use the front system is slick and fun for the most part.

The facial recognition of the Face ID setup is still leagues ahead of any other system on a smartphone currently. Once you get used to not using a fingerprint sensor the speed and ease of use of face ID are just entirely natural. You can add glasses, hats, beards, and pull as many faces you want; the system still unlocks pretty much flawlessly.


The iPhone Xs Max is the best biggest Apple phone yet. There is just nothing better from Apple. The screen is enormous while the device is physically big, it is entirely manageable as long as you don’t mind occasional two-handed use. The iPhone XS max is fast and fluid, and from unlock to taking a picture and all other general tasks it flies through anything.

The camera system is as good in most respects as any of the competitors. The Huawei P20 Pro is better in low light, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 can appear more detailed in some circumstances, but overall this is as good as it currently gets.

The iPhone Xs performs in the same way, the question here is it worth upgrading from the 2017 iPhone X? The answer is no unless you must have the better camera or processing power for AR and gaming. For all other use cases, the iPhone X is good for at least another year.

There is so much more to the new iPhone that this review cannot cover. However, Apple once again has kept their flagship at the forefront of mobile technology, and despite the massive price of the new model, they continue to set the standard for premium mobile devices.

Steven Ambrose | Techhuman | @ambio | mail me |

More information | Apple |




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