We've already covered the improved color selection on the iPhone XS, with the gold / copper color bringing an alternative look to Apple's handset. It feels closer to Rose Gold than anything else, but there's a definite coffee tinge to the coloring that we're not wholly enamored with.
Beyond that, the design of the iPhone XS is familiar because it is exactly the same as the iPhone X from the previous year. The same shape, frame and 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7mm footprint are used, and the temptation to copy and paste the previous year's words here is high.
We shall persevere though, as it's only fair to discuss what works on this newer iPhone and why, in its own right, it's still one of the best-designed phones on the market right now - so much so that even the newer iPhone 11 range hasn't changed the design much.
The iPhone XS Max is a much larger phone, and the stretch across the palm makes it feel a little thicker, but the smaller XS model fits more comfortably into the hand and the curved exterior is decent to hold.
The iPhone X’s stainless steel band scratched terribly in the early weeks of using it, but we’ve not noticed the same in our days with the iPhone XS, despite not using a case. There was, however, a small mark - this is surprising given we didn’t drop the phone at any time.
There’s still no headphone jack at the bottom of the phone, but we’re sure that is going to be a surprise to fewer and fewer people. However, what may dismay is the fact that there’s no adaptor in the box any longer - if you’ve got headphones with a 3.5mm jack, you’ll need to head to an Apple Store and pay for a connector.
The speaker still sits next to the Lightning port, firing out sound downwards while the earpiece shoots it forwards - Apple has upgraded the sound on the speakers to be more expansive, and it really works.
We were mightily impressed with the ability of the speakers to fire left and right depending on what was being played - also, the volume and clarity of music or voice is good enough for this to be a standalone speaker in an emergency.
(We class an emergency as needing to play a song for a friend, or listen to something in the bathroom where you can't have a speaker. Otherwise, never be 'that person' and play music through a phone speaker when friends are around. Or anyone.)
Apple has also upgraded the hardiness of the iPhone XS, with the glass used ‘specially formulated’ to reportedly give the strongest protection on a smartphone ever. We didn’t see any cracking in our time with it, but then again we’ve dropped the iPhone X multiple times and never had an issue (surprisingly).
Apple’s also made the iPhone XS IP68-rated, meaning you can plunge it into the water for deeper or longer if you’re that way inclined. It won’t make a huge amount of difference if you’re just someone that likes to play music in the shower, but Apple has also made the screen easier to stab with wet fingers.
- Slightly better quality over iPhone X
- Colors are still more natural over competition
- Size is good to reach anywhere with one hand... just
The iPhone XS screen builds on the OLED panel from last year’s iPhone X, bringing the same resolution (2436 x 1125) and same pixel density (458 pixels per inch) as the screen from the iPhone X.
However, things have been improved in terms of the dynamic range of the display (dynamic range being the amount of color spectrum emitted), boosting it 60% to make the HDR 10 and Dolby Vision effects more impressive.
In real use, we can’t say we noticed things looking exceptional - that’s not to say that the movies aren’t impressive in the more advanced format, but Apple’s natural penchant for making iPhone screens more natural means the overall effect just doesn’t feel as rich as it might.
The overall quality of the display is different to previously, too. There’s more of a yellow-ish tinge compared to the iPhone X, with the display looking a touch brighter (which makes sense given the points made earlier).
The tinge isn’t noticeable alone, only when viewed side-by-side with another phone, and the overall quality doesn’t feel diminished.
Talking of being viewed side-by-side, we did notice that certain phones compared to the iPhone XS displayed less information, partly because it has fewer pixels than the competition.
It’s also not quite got the quality levels of some other devices - for instance, the OLED panel on the Sony Xperia XZ3 is slightly more natural-yet-vivid looking - but that doesn’t stop this being one of the best phones to look at.
That said, Apple is claiming that its screen offers the ‘best color accuracy in the industry’, so it’ll really depend on what your preference is - we feel that there’s some vibrancy lost on the phone though.
The screen is also packing 120Hz tracking technology, which means it’s twice as fast at picking up your touch input… or your finger on the screen.
While recent iPhones have been pretty snappy under a digit, the iPhone XS takes things up a notch – the combination of this technology, improved and more responsive software in iOS 12 and a stronger engine running things under the hood meant we felt no discomfort poking around the screen.
Gaming on the larger display feels large and fun too - there’s very little the iPhone XS isn’t able to handle, and while there’s a small amount of judder present from time to time when watching movies on the iPhone XS screen, it’s definitely one of the more impressive media powerhouses.