iPhone Xs and Xs Max hands-on: The new normal


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The thing is, the value of these changes aren’t always apparent at a glance. It’ll take time to see how — or if — they substantially add value to the iPhone experience. There’s other stuff I haven’t addressed, like the improved dual cameras, but this is an S year. If you splurged on an iPhone X last year, the changes here might not be enough to force a switch.

That is, unless you wanted a bigger version. The iPhone Xs Max is the closest Apple has ever come to full-on smartphone overkill. That’s mostly because of the phone’s massive display — at 6.5-inches diagonal, this is the biggest screen that Apple has ever squeezed into a smartphone. To say it’s a handful is putting it very mildly, but here’s the really crazy thing: it’s surprisingly light, almost shockingly so. That might not sound like something to get worked up over, but take it from me, a habitual phablet fan: every fraction of an ounce a company can shave off a phone’s weight means my old-man wrist won’t hurt quite as much in the long term.

The flip side is that, if you’re anything like me at least, you’ll have to shimmy your hand and up and down the Xs Max’s body a lot to actually get anything thing done. It’s an inescapable truth for phones with massive screens, and the only way to know if it’ll work for you is if you pick one up yourself.

Beyond that, though, the iPhone Xs Max doesn’t stray very far from the standard Xs formula. In the past, there has usually been some other reason to splurge on a bigger iPhone, whether it’s the extra screen space or a dual camera. This year, that difference doesn’t really exist: apart from possibly battery life, the only reason to drop the extra $100 is because you want that bigger screen.

And to be fair, the standard Xs formula has been improved in lots of little ways. It’s damn-near impossible to really get a sense of speakers in a room as crowded as this, but the Xs and Xs Max’s stereo speakers did seem to sound better than the iPhone X. Support for dual SIMs is a godsend for international travelers and foreign customers who have multiple phones numbers or have to juggle data plans. The ability to change the amount of bokeh in a photo after you’ve taken it isn’t actually all that new, but it’s nice to finally have here.

And at long last, Apple has introduced with phones with IP68 water and dust resistance — that’s really the least Apple could do to help protect your $1,000 investment. Phil Schiller joked on-stage that Apple has tested these phones in lots of different liquids, including beer, for thoroughness’s sake. We haven’t received review units yet, but you’d better believe we’re going to perform similar testing. In fact, it’s already part of our testing suite.

This is a developing story, please refresh for updates.

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