Preliminary reviews for Apple’s iPhone XS and iPhone XR are in. And while tech criticism is inherently subjective, the early conclusions have been extremely similar across the board. Here’s what you need to know about the early reviews of this year’s iPhone lineup.
✓ What Critics Liked About iPhone XS
Bigger Display, Better Footprint
This point only applies to the larger iPhone XS Max, but it’s still a big win for Apple’s 2018 lineup. To put it simply: a 6.5-inch OLED display is massive, leaving you with a pretty profound amount of screen real estate.
But don’t think that you’ll have to carry around a tablet in your pocket. The iPhone XS Max actually fits in a similar form factor to previous iPhone Plus models. And for comparison’s sake, it’s actually slightly smaller than Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 — which has a 6.4-inch display.
While there weren’t really any upgrades to the actual physical camera hardware or lens setup this year, Apple has implemented various software and under-the-hood changes that boost the camera quality on the new iPhones.
That include larger pixels and a new feature called Smart HDR. And while it might be tough to tell an iPhone X photo and an iPhone XS photo apart at first glance, they’re still subtle yet noticeable improvements in bad lighting and capturing fine details.
IP68, Audio, Battery Life, Dual-SIM and More
The other lauded improvements are a bit of a grab bag among early reviewers — but make no mistake, the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are still better than their predecessor.
You have better water resistance (IP68), better audio capture and sound quality, a much faster processor, better battery life and upcoming dual-SIM capabilities. Do these upgrades make the iPhone X, or even the iPhone 8 Plus, obsolete? No, but they’re still upgrades.
The iPhone XR
While the entire industry is moving toward premium-tier smartphones with premium-tier price tags, it’s undeniable that $1,000 is still a lot of money. That’s why the iPhone XR is important. With a starting price of $749 (just about $50 more expensive than the iPhone 8), the iPhone XR could bring a slew of next-generation features to a wider base of consumers.
╳ What Critics Didn’t Like About iPhone XS
It’s an Incredibly “S” Year
The problem with this year’s Apple handset lineup is that last year’s was almost revolutionary. As a result, this year’s incremental upgrades aren’t a massive leap forward — or as exciting as the iPhone X was comparatively.
To be clear, there are significant improvements to the camera, processor, LTE speeds, and other core components. But there wasn’t anything necessarily akin to killing off the Home button or introducing Face ID. One reviewer even called the iPhone XS “one of Apple’s most ‘S’ models ever.”
The Price Tag
Apple, contrary to a variety of rumors prior to this year’s release, did not drop prices on its flagship iPhone XS model. That means it still retails for $999 — and its larger stablemate, the iPhone XS Max, is Apple’s first iPhone to start north of the $1,000 mark.
As many reviewers have said, the top-tier iPhone XS Max with maxed-out storage costs about as much as an Apple notebook. While you can pay that off in installments and trade-in your device, it’s still a hefty chunk of change for a smartphone.
Like with the iPhone XS’ incremental upgrades, there were a variety of smaller — but not deal-breaking — gripes that reviewers had about the new smartphone lineup.
For one, some criticized the nixing of the iPhone SE — which only leaves iPhone 8-size devices left. Others disliked the fact that the new devices didn’t come with a 3.5mm adapter or fast charging-compatible accessories. And while the new glass is incredibly tough, at least one reviewer said that their iPhone XS Max cracked when dropped on wood.
The iPhone XR’s Launch Date
Several reviewers noted the delayed release timeline of the iPhone XR might be a critical factor in deciding whether or not to buy a 2018 iPhone. With a similar set of features and a lower price tag, the iPhone XR may just be a good alternative to the $999+ Apple handsets.
But they weren’t able to directly compare the iPhone XR to its XS counterparts. Thus, early reviews were unable to say whether it was worth getting a new device now, or waiting for the XR to drop. Though some recommended waiting just a little bit longer to see how the XR fares in reviews.
As mentioned earlier, the general review consensus was stunningly consistent.
- If you have an iPhone X, don’t buy the iPhone XS — it’s too similar and isn’t worth the entire cost of a new smartphone.
- On the other hand, if you have an older iPhone, the iPhone XS lineup will be a huge upgrade. (Though you may want to wait for the XR.)
- Similarly, the iPhone XS Max is great. Even iPhone X owners should consider opting for the device with the larger display if they can afford it.
- It might be worth waiting for the iPhone XR, thanks to its lower price tag yet similar feature set.