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Verdict

When the original iPhone was released, its 3.5-inch screen was amongst the largest in the industry and in that regards, the iPhone XS Max is the same. It's Apple's biggest and, arguably, best phone to date. While the super-sized phone will not be to everyone's liking, it is the general direction that phones have been heading towards. 

That being said, the iPhone XS Max is also impressively compact. It's a touch smaller than the iPhone 8 Plus, but has a much larger display (6.5 inches vs 5.5 inches). It will still dominate your hand, but it's not as unwieldy as you might expect for a phone with a screen this size.

The large screen allows for an immersive experience that feels particularly catered towards media consumption and gaming. This, along with very loud and clear stereo speakers will be music to the ears of gamers, while HDR support will please those addicted to Netflix and YouTube.

Apple's updates to the rear cameras (over the iPhone X) are decent and the ability to adjust the background blur on portrait shots along with the improved Smart HDR mode offer greater flexibility and ultimately better image quality. You'll see much better low light shots on the iPhone XS compared to the iPhone X from last year

There's no denying that iPhone XS Max is the best iPhone Apple has made but it's not a phone for everyone. While it's super-size is relative, it's price isn't. There's simply no getting away from the fact that this is a very, very expensive smartphone. And that will be the biggest reason for many potential consumers to look elsewhere.

Apple is offering two additional phones that are almost as good and cost less- the smaller iPhone XS offers everything the Max does bar the 6.5-inch display, while the upcoming iPhone XR has a 6.1-inch display and even lower price tag, a combination that might make it the best iPhone for the rest of us. 

iPhone XS Max

Who's it for?

The iPhone XS Max is for those looking for the pinnacle of Apple's smartphone line. The firm has never offered a handset with a screen as big as the one on the iPhone XS Max, and that alone will have power users, gamers and video streamers champing at the bit.

You'll need the funds to bankroll your XS Max investment though, so if you're on a tight budget you may want to consider the more affordable iPhone XR. 

However, if money is no object and you want the best screen Apple has ever put on an iPhone, the XS Max is your phone.

Should I buy it?

The iPhone XS Max is a premium smartphone that looks and feels the part. Sure it's expensive, but if your budget stretches you're unlikely to be disappointed with what you get in return.

As we've already mentioned, you won't find a better screen on an iPhone, and there's a huge amount of power inside the handset, which should ensure performance stays high throughout its lifetime.

iPhone XS Max

Worried that the iPhone XS Max may be too big for you, or that its price tag is way above your budget, and want to know what other options you have? 

Well have no fear, as we've pulled together some of the best alternatives to the iPhone XS Max below.

iPhone XS

iPhone XS

iPhone XS

The iPhone XS has the same design, power, operating system and cameras as the XS Max; it just delivers them in a smaller package, and with a smaller, 5.8-inch display.

If you know that you want the latest Apple flagship phone, then you need to make the decision between the easier to handle, and slightly less expensive, iPhone XS, and the pricier, big screen-toting XS Max.

For those who watch a lot of movies, or are big into top mobile games such as PUBG and Fortnite, the extra screen real estate on the XS Max provides a better experience over the iPhone XS. However, for more general users the iPhone XS will likely be more tempting.

iPhone XR

iPhone XR

iPhone XR

The iPhone XR offers up a large screen at a much lower price compared to the iPhone XS Max. It's still not 'cheap', but it at least gives you a viable alternative if the Max's price tag is simply too high.

You get a 6.1-inch display, which is smaller than the XS Max, but larger than the XS, with Apple's new A12 Bionic chip under the hood ensuring you have the latest power at your fingertips.

Its single rear camera isn't as good as the dual setup on the XS Max or XS and the LCD screen technology isn't as punchy as the OLED panel. Also missing is 3D Touch but we doubt that will be an issue to many.

Galaxy Note 9

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is the equivalent of the iPhone XS Max on the Android side. It's the best Android phone that you can currently purchase and comes with a gorgeous 6.4-inch screen that has a higher resolution and an S-Pen for taking notes on the go.

It's not an iPhone but it if you are looking outside Apple's ecosystem, it has everything you'd want in a flagship product such as a fast performance, a great camera along and an excellent battery life.

While not as expensive as the iPhone XS Max, the Galaxy Note 9 is priced on the higher side and thus, price wouldn't necessarily be the biggest factor for choosing this phone over Apple's flagship.

First reviewed: September 2018