Though the iPhone XS lacks a single bold feature, the phone is an improvement and refinement of its iPhone X predecessor. It's faster, with better camera hardware and offers dual SIM support. Read on for a closer look at Apple's latest flagship.
The new X line now has three models, all with Face ID, all with large screens. One notable improvement with the iPhone XS is the new A12 Bionic chip, which steps up the speed for AI technology, AR, machine learning and overall graphics.
Apple doesn't make claims on these being "drop resistant," and the iPhone X shattered really easily. But with the new XS, Apple claims it's better at handling scratches. Stay tuned when we test this for ourselves with a formal scratch test.
The iPhone X shipped in only two colors: a stainless-steel-and-white-backed "silver" model, and a nearly black "space gray" version. This year, there's a gold version. The stainless steel rim is gold-colored, but the back glass is a subtle beige.
On the right is the sleep/power button and the SIM card slot. The ability to handle two SIM cards (i.e. two different phone numbers) won't arrive until later this fall, but these XS models can use a physical nano-SIM plus an eSIM, which means you can add two different phone lines at once.
According to Apple, carrier-locked phones won't be able to add a service on another carrier, but unlocked iPhones will be able to swap out from a service. Go with unlocked, if you want the freedom to SIM swap.
Apple didn't include 5G on the newest iPhones (no current phones have adopted it yet, and it's not available yet anyway). In the meantime, these phones promise faster gigabit LTE than their predecessors.
Compared to 2017's iPhone X, the XS has the same dual cameras, same aperture settings, same megapixel ratings and same 2x optical zoom. But Apple's done a lot of work under the hood: The XS has a totally new image sensor that really does improve the quality of photos.
Bright lights in, say, a living room show more detail now and don't turn into blown-up bright spots like they used to. I see more detail around windows and street lights and find there's less blur and noise in most shots.
The big camera upgrade for 2017's iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus was portrait mode, which delivered dSLR-style headshots: focused face in the foreground, with an out-of-focus background. Known as "bokeh," the feature has carried over to the iPhone XS as well.
Apple's facial recognition works, often uncannily well. But when the technology debuted last year, there were many moments when Face ID didn't recognize myself as a user. Face ID on the new phones is faster, although sometimes not as fast as I'd have liked.
I've come to find the XS works pretty well, but I still think the gestures and navigation learning curve for navigation is more confusing than before Face ID and remains weird for anyone moving from a home-button iPhone.