The iPhone XS Max (pronounced ‘Ten S Max’) is the biggest smartphone Apple has ever made. With a 6.5-inch display, hardly any screen bezel and the now-iconic screen notch it’s a dominating presence in the hand.
It also dominates the pocket, both in terms of size and price. As well as being the biggest, the iPhone XS Max is also the most expensive iPhone to date, with Apple delivering a handset with a screen size that rivals the most premium of Android flagships.
Update: the iPhone XS Max has now been updated to iOS 12.1.4 but some other rivals have also arrived, so we've updated this review accordingly.
This is a bold statement from a firm that has, up until 2017 with the introduction of the 5.8-inch iPhone X, resisted the urge to push the screen size envelope to the same scale as its Android rivals.
However, Apple has decided that now is the right time to supersize its smartphone display and the iPhone XS Max is the first generation of the new, larger form factor.
For those who crave more screen for video and gaming on the move, the expansive display of the iPhone XS Max will be a welcome addition to Apple’s lineup, while those wanting a premium experience without the supersized dimensions can take comfort that it’s launched alongside the smaller iPhone XS.
- Read our in-depth iPhone XS review
- Read our in-depth iPhone XR review
- Read our in-depth Apple Watch 4 review
Watch our 48-hour review of the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max video below
iPhone XS Max price and availability
- iPhone XS Max 64GB price: $1,099 (£1,099, AU$1,799)
- iPhone XS Max 256GB price: $1,249 (£1,249, AU$2,049)
- iPhone XS Max 512GB price: $1,449 (£1,449, AU$2,369)
As we've already hinted, this is a premium phone with an even more premium price tag. The iPhone XS Max starts at $1,099 (£1,099, AU$1,799) for the 64GB model, which is $100 (£100, AU$170) more than the iPhone XS. In the UK, our guide will help you find the best iPhone XS Max deals on contract.
If you want more internal storage, the 256GB iPhone XS Max price is $1,249 (£1,249, AU$2,049), while the most expensive 512GB version will set you back a staggering $1,449 (£1,449, AU$2,369).
There's no mainstream smartphone that costs more than the 512GB iPhone XS Max, putting it in a league of its own in terms of pricing. You do get a lot of phone for the money – but there's no getting away from the fact that it's an awful lot of money that Apple is asking for.
- Same design as iPhone X, but bigger
- A touch shorter and narrow than the iPhone 8 Plus, with a bigger screen
The iPhone XS Max design is deceptive. Pick it up, and the rounded sides of the handset make it feel noticeably thick.
The result is a phone that doesn't sit as comfortably in the hand as it could, and considering the size and cost of the XS Max it's a phone you want to be able to securely hold. This is only half the story though.
We compared the iPhone XS Max to a number of phones during our in-depth review, including the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (6.4-inch screen), OnePlus 6T (6.41-inch) and Sony Xperia XZ3 (6-inch), and the iPhone felt thicker, and less planted in the hand than all of them.
The funny thing is though, the iPhone XS Max is thinner than all of those phones at just 7.7mm.
The reason for this is simple: tapered edges. The Samsung, Sony and OnePlus all taper their rear edges, giving the impression of a thinner device while also allowing them to sit a little better in the curvature of your hand.
The iPhone XS Max has a totally flat back that's a little more awkward to hold, and we found that a tactfully-placed pinkie finger on the underside of the phone was a must for one-handed use.
iPhone XS Max hands-on gallery
What's more impressive is that the XS Max manages to squeeze a huge 6.5-inch display into a body that's a touch shorter and narrower (at 157.5 x 77.4mm) than the iPhone 8 Plus, which only boasts a 5.5-inch display.
While the iPhone XS Max does feel a little chunky in the hand there's no questioning the fact that you're getting a huge amount of display real estate crammed into a form factor which does a good job of keeping it usable.
The steel frame around the outside and the new formulation of glass on the front and rear – which is tougher than the glass on the iPhone X – give the iPhone XS Max a supremely premium look and feel, while its resistance to dust and water has also been enhanced.
Apple has upped the protection to IP68, enabling the iPhone XS Max to be submerged to a depth of up to two meters for 30 minutes without suffering any ill effects. Apple claims it's tested the protection in a number of liquids, including salt water, chlorinated water, milk, wine and beer, although we wouldn't advise purposefully exposing the handset to any of these.
It's worth noting that Apple's warranty, like those of all phone manufacturers, doesn't cover 'liquid contact' damage, which means if the liquid resistance does fail on the iPhone XS Max you won't be covered.
There's no headphone jack on the iPhone XS Max. The port is now totally dead after Apple killed off the iPhone 6S and iPhone SE post-iPhone XS launch (the last two handsets with the 3.5mm jack that were available from the firm's site), which means you get a centralized Lightning port alongside speaker and microphone holes on the base of the iPhone XS Max.
There's a pair of Apple EarPods with a lightning connector in the box with the iPhone XS Max, but if you plug this into the lightning port on the base of the phone you can't connect the charging cable to it at the same time.
Thankfully, the iPhone XS Max also supports wireless charging, so if you have a charging pad to hand you can top the handset up while listening to a wired set of headphones.
The power/lock key is on the right side of the XS Max, and is easy enough to hit with thumb or forefinger, while the volume keys sit below the physical mute switch on the left of the handset.
Hold the power/lock key down and you'll bring up Siri, which means turning off the iPhone XS Max requires you to hold down the power and volume up keys until an on-screen prompt appears.
The SIM card tray continues to be located below this key, but there's a new feature inside the iPhone XS Max (and XS). The handset is dual SIM enabled, with an eSIM embedded inside the handset.
This allows you to insert a SIM from the carrier of your choice, and then enable the eSIM on a different plan or carrier. It's worth noting that not all carriers support eSIM technology, and availability varies by region, so make sure you check before signing up to anything.
Overall though, Apple hasn't moved far from the design of the iPhone X with the iPhone XS Max, other than to stretch it a little. There is, however, a new color option over the X.
Apple introduced a new gold finish for both the iPhone XS Max and XS, and it's a little richer than the more subtle gold finish option for the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. If you find the gold a bit too much, the iPhone XS Max also comes in Silver and Space Gray.