Apple iPhone XS vs iPhone XS Max vs iPhone X: What's the difference?

Apple announced a collection of new iPhones at the beginning of September, with two new models that advance the iPhone X launched in 2017. They are the iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Max. How do the iPhone XS and the XS Max compare to last year’s iPhone X though?

We have put the specifications of the 2018 models up against 2017’s iPhone X to see exactly what the differences are.

Apple iPhone XS vs XS Max vs iPhone X design

  • Similar design across all three models
  • IP68 protection on XS models
  • XS Max is largest
  • XS and XS Max come in gold

The Apple iPhone X features a stainless steel core with a glass front and back, allowing for wireless charging. There is a vertically aligned dual camera on the rear and a notch at the top of the display on the front. The X comes in Space Grey and Silver colour options, measures 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7mm and weighs 174g.

It is IP67 water and dust resistant. The iPhone XS and XS Max successors continue to offer a stainless steel core with a glass rear and front, a notched display and a vertically aligned dual camera on the back. The XS Max is larger than both the iPhone XS and X, but the design remains the same across the three devices.

Improvements have been made for Wi-Fi and cellular transmissions in the XS and XS Max however. The iPhone XS measures 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7mm and weighs 177g, making it almost identical to the iPhone X, so it’s very much a replacement for that phone. The XS Max meanwhile, measures 157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7mm and weighs 208g, so it’s more tailored towards the Plus user.

Both are IP68 protected, and they come in Space Grey and Silver colour options, as well as a new Gold colour which is lovely.

Apple iPhone XS vs XS Max vs iPhone X display

  • X: 5.8-inch, 458ppi
  • XS: 5.8-inch, 458ppi
  • XS: 6.5-inch, 458ppi

The Apple iPhone X has a 5.8-inch Super Retina HD display, which translates to a resolution of 2436 x 1125 pixels and a pixel density of 458ppi. It’s an OLED panel that has a 19.5:9 aspect ratio and it features True Tone technology, meaning it adapts to its surroundings, as well as 3D Touch, which provides various options and shortcuts based on the force with which you press. All the phones have this in common.

The iPhone XS retains the 5.8-inch size, as well as OLED technology. The 2018 iPhone XS has the same resolution as its predecessor for a pixel density of 458ppi. The iPhone XS Max has larger 6.5-inch display, increasing the resolution to 2688 x 1242 pixels, but that means it’s the same pixel density at 458ppi.

In theory, all these phones should show the same detail on the display. What’s really new, however, is Apple embracing this move to bigger displays – the XS Max has a larger display than the old Plus models (hence the Max name), and it’s a fabulous display at that. The details are sharp, text is crisp and the whites and colours are well balanced, as they are on the iPhone XS and X.

Apple iPhone XS vs XS Max vs iPhone X hardware

  • New A12 Bionic chip in iPhone XS and XS Max
  • 512GB storage capacity for XS and XS Max
  • Increase in battery life for XS and XS Max

The Apple iPhone X comes with the A11 Bionic chip with 64-bit architecture, a neural engine and an embedded M11 motion coprocessor.

There are two storage options of 64GB and 256GB. The iPhone XS and XS Max come with a new chip called the A12 Bionic. This a step forward, moving to a 7nm architecture with a next-gen neural engine, making it one of the most advanced chips you’ll find in a phone right now, so they are more efficient and more powerful.

Storage options have also changed slightly compared to last year with 64GB, 256GB and 512GB variants available. Battery life is said to deliver up to 21-hours talk time on the iPhone X, but that’s boosted to 21 hours and 30 minutes on the iPhone XS, or 25 hours on the iPhone XS Max. Both the the XS and XS Max last longer than the iPhone X in our experience with them, though it is the XS Max that really shines.

All offer wireless and fast charging. The iPhone XS and XS Max also offer dual SIM, meaning you can have two numbers or networks on the same device. Everywhere, except China, will do this via eSIM, a technology already available on the iPad and Apple Watch.

The iPhone X only supports single SIM.

Apple iPhone XS vs XS Max vs iPhone X camera

  • Dual rear camera on all three
  • iPhone XS and XS Max offer adjustable bokeh
  • iPhone XS models offer Smart HDR
  • iPhone XS and XS Max offer stereo audio on video

The Apple iPhone X comes with a vertically-aligned dual-rear camera. This is made up of two 12-megapixel sensors, one wide-angle with an aperture of f/1.8 and one telephoto with an aperture of f/2.4. It offers a range of features including optical and digital zoom, dual optical image stabilisation and portrait mode, along with 4K video recording.

The front camera is a TrueDepth 7-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/2.2 and features like Animoji and Portrait Mode. The iPhone XS and XS Max continue to offer a dual rear camera, with both offering the same composition as the iPhone X – the megapixels and apertures remain the same, but Apple has introduced the ability to change the bokeh effect on portrait mode photos after you take the shot. The feature won’t be coming to the iPhone X.

The iPhone XS and XS Max also offer a Smart HDR system, which the iPhone X doesn’t have either. This betters the previous HDR system thanks to more power, meaning it can give you better HDR photos in any conditions. Overall, the iPhone XS and XS Max offer better camera performance than the already great iPhone X, including improvements in low light.

The iPhone XS and XS Max also add stereo audio capture to video, along with wider dynamic range, so video looks and sounds better than the iPhone X. All these iPhones have the same front camera and Face ID.

Apple iPhone XS vs XS Max vs iPhone X software

  • iOS 12
  • Same software experience

The Apple iPhone X launched on iOS 11, but it has now been updated to iOS 12. The iPhone XS and XS Max both arrive with iOS 12, with all the new features this software brings with it, including enhancements to Photos, Siri and ARKit to name but a few.

The software experience between the old X and the new XS is therefore the same, aside from a few extra features here and there like the Depth Control within the Portrait Mode pictures. You can read all the details on the new iPhone XS and XS Max in our separate feature if you want to know more.

Apple iPhone XS vs XS Max vs iPhone X price and conclusions

The Apple iPhone X started at GBP999 when it first launched in 2017. As the iPhone XS is a replacement for this model, the iPhone X will no longer be available from Apple – but there could be stock at other retailers.

The Apple iPhone XS starts at GBP999 (as a direct replacement for X) and the XS Max starts at GBP1099, naturally making it more expensive as the biggest phone.

You can read all the details on the iPhone XS and XS Max in our separate feature for more information on the new models, but the iPhone XS Max is certainly a breakthrough device for Apple – it’s the first time that Apple has embraced the big display.

Both the new phones better the old iPhone X, but in terms of aesthetics and display, the older model stills hold its own – especially if you can find one at a significantly juicy price.

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