iPhone Xs and Xs Max: The first reviews are in

The notices range from warm to glowing.

Nilay Patel, The Verge: Solid updates to a winning formula. After a week of using it as my primary phone, the XS Max feels both bigger and smaller than I expected. Physically, it’s the same size as the iPhone 8 Plus and the Pixel 2 XL, and it definitely shares the same surfboard quality as Apple’s previous Plus-sized phones — at least when you look at it from the back. But the edge-to-edge screen makes it seem much more reasonable from the front. The XS has the same OLED display as last year’s X, and the XS Max looks exactly like that display, just bigger. And because the screen fills the entire front of the phone, the XS Max doesn’t seem as huge as the Plus phones. It’s absolutely killer for watching video or playing games — a huge, gorgeous display. I love it.

Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch: The power of long-term thinking. The iPhone XS proves one thing definitively: that the iPhone X was probably one of the most ambitious product bets of all time.

John Paczkowski, Buzzfeed: The Best iPhone Since The Last One. I have owned, or used at length, every model of iPhone that Apple has released from the original to the X. It is my strong opinion that the iPhone X is the best iPhone Apple has ever made and the best smartphone on the market. And it is my strong opinion that the iPhone Xs is better. But it is also my (strong) opinion that this doesn’t particularly matter.

Brian X. Chen, New York Times: Bigger Is Now Definitely Better. The 6.5-inch screen on the iPhone XS Max is Apple’s biggest ever. (The original iPhone in 2007 started with a 3.5-inch screen.) I have been troubled by this trend. These devices spend a lot of time in your pocket and your hand, and there are often compromises in portability and comfort when the screens balloon in size. For those reasons, I never liked the Plus phones, the line of iPhones that Apple introduced in 2014 with 5.5-inch screens. They felt impossible to use with one hand and far too bulky in a pocket. So it’s humbling to come to you now with another confession: The iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Max may be making me a convert to bigger smartphones.

Joanna Stern, Wall Street Journal: Sit Tight for the XR. Imagine Goldilocks only tested the cold and hot porridges and never found the one that was “just right.” Her life might have been entirely different. That’s how I feel about testing the iPhone XS and XS Max—without the iPhone XR—for the past week… With subtle but strong improvements over last year’s X, (subtle, that’s what the S stands for, right?) the XS and XS Max are fabulous phones. But we’ve hit a point where every smartphone is great—it comes down to what you want and what you want to spend.

Lauren Goode, Wired: An evolution, not a revolution. Aside from one of the phones having a giant display, the iPhone XS and the larger iPhone XS Max don’t feel much different from last year’s iPhone X. This year’s phones don’t spark strong feelings—except maybe chagrin that they cost so much.

Todd Haselton, CNBC: Skip them if you already have an iPhone X. I’ve been testing two of Apple’s three new iPhones over the past several days… They’re the best iPhones Apple has ever made, and also the most expensive. The fully loaded iPhone XS Max with 512GB of storage costs $1,449, for example, which is more than some MacBooks. But apart from the bigger screen on the Max, I’ve had a hard time really noticing a huge improvement over last year’s iPhone X, which I still love. And if you want to save some money, you should wait for Apple’s more affordable model — the iPhone XR — which starts at $749 and launches in October.

Scott Stein, CNET: A slight notch above the iPhone XThe iPhone XS is an “S” iPhone, an overall polish and refinement of the bold iPhone X ($820 at Amazon Marketplace) from last year. But unlike “S” iPhones of years past, the XS doesn’t have one new, impressive feature. Instead, it spreads out the improvements, the most notable being its cameras and the new A12 Bionic chip, another step up in speed that could offer a major difference in AI, AR and graphics. A great phone has gotten better.

Raymond Wong, Mashable: Monstrous performance and cameras that will blow you away. The biggest misconception about “S” model iPhones is that they’re just the “tock” to the previous “tick” release, and there isn’t much reason to upgrade because Apple recycles the same design. That couldn’t be more incorrect.

John Gruber, Daring Fireball: The iPhones XS. I’ve been testing an iPhone XS and XS Max — both in gold — since Wednesday evening last week. I spent the first few days mainly with the XS Max, and the remainder mainly with the XS. This year, I strongly considered titling this review “The iPhone XS”. Not to ignore the XS Max, but because I honestly think it’s best to think of them as two sizes of the same iPhone, not two separate iPhones — in the same way we treat color options. Pick your size, pick your color. It makes no more sense to review the iPhone XS and XS Max as different devices than it would to write separate reviews of medium and large cups of the same coffee. (There is no small coffee.)

More as they come in.


  1. Fred Stein said:
    Cherry picking:

    Nilay: “absolutely killer for watching video or playing games”

    Scott: “iPhone X ($820 at Amazon Marketplace)”; and “A12 Bionic chip, another step up in speed that could offer a major difference in AI, AR and graphics”

    The FY2019 total of used iPhone X sales plus all three new X phone sales will be stunning. It may take a while for the analysts and the stock market to absorb this.

    September 18, 2018
  2. Gregg Thurman said:
    Somewhat off-topic, but Counterpoint has made a change to how it reports “premium” smartphone share.

    Counterpoint now classifies “premium” in three price distinct categories. They are: Over $800, $600-$800 and $400-$600.

    In the Over $800 category, Apple owns 88% unit share.
    In the $600-$800 category, Apple owns top honors with 44% unit share (#2 is Samsung with 41% share).
    In the $400-$600 category, Apple shares top honors with Oppo with 22% unit share.

    It’s important to note that Apple competes in the $400-$600 category with iPhone models that are up to two years old.

    Consumer preference seems to indicate that the iPhone is two years advanced over the competition. This is consistent with observations by close iPhone followers that iPhone technology is two years ahead of Android equivalents, and by extension, would justify the iPhone’s premium pricing.


    September 19, 2018

Leave a Reply