9 things to set up on your iPhone XS or XS Max

Who needs selfies when you have Memojis?

3 min read
Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

Go ahead, call your new iPhone XS the iPhone "excess" -- no one's judging. But get a brand-new iPhone and miss out on some of its best features? Now we're side-eyeing.

If you got an iPhone XS or XS Max, there's a good chance this is your first home button-free iPhone. It's also the first time you'll get into features like Portrait Mode and that insane, face-tracking front-facing camera.

Here are the first things you should do with your new iPhone XS or XS Max.

Watch this: Unboxing the gold iPhone XS

Make your Memoji

That front-facing camera does a few things, including letting you unlock your phone with your face, take selfies and use Memoji.

Memoji are like Animoji, except you're no longer confined to being a pile of poop or a monkey. Now, you can design your own Animoji that looks like you, and with the help of the front-facing camera, moves like you, too. 

Get startedHow to set up and use Memoji

Download the Shortcuts app

One of Apple's most interesting new apps doesn't actually come with your phone. You'll have to download it.

Shortcuts is a new app that lets you use a single Siri command to do a series of things on your phone. For instance, a single "Good Morning, Siri" command could fire off a chain of events, from controlling your smart home to getting information about your day.

Get started: How to use Siri Shortcuts

Control your screen time 

New to iOS 12 and readily available on your iPhone XS, Screen Time lets you get a better grip on how much time you spend with your phone. The new tool lets you see where you spend most of your time and even provides ways to help you curb your addiction.

It's a sobering and incredibly helpful way to enjoy your new iPhone, without going overboard.

Get started: How to use Screen Time on the iPhone XS

Set up an alternate appearance

Instead of using your finger to unlock your iPhone XS, you'll use your face. What we found with the iPhone X, however, was that the success rate wasn't always high -- especially when wearing glasses or a hat. There are a lot of ways to make Face ID more accurate, but there's one setting in particular you should change right away.

Just go to Settings > Face ID & Passcode > Alternate appearance.

You can also use this setting to add a second face, so that a spouse (or parent, or someone else close to you) can unlock your phone.


No home button.

James Martin

Learn how to live without a home button

This is probably the hardest part about switching from an iPhone with a home button. Without one on the iPhone XS and XS Max, you'll rely on gestures -- different types of swipes -- to get around your phone. It's how you'll switch apps, close apps and do everything else you did with the button.

Get started: How to survive without a home button

Set up Apple Pay

If you haven't already, it's time to start using Apple Pay. This feature -- which is infinitely more secure than using a plastic credit or debit card -- lets you pay for things in store, quickly check out in Safari and even send money to friends (like Venmo).

Get started: How to set up Apple Pay Cash

Master Portrait Mode, like a pro

Once you start using Portrait Mode, you'll wonder how you ever lived without it. The shooting mode lets you create those gorgeous, blurry-background photos that are normally achieved on dSLR cameras. To access Portrait Mode on the iPhone XS, launch the camera, then swipe across the screen until "Portrait" is highlighted yellow. Then follow this guide...

Get started: Portrait mode basics

Learn to force a restart

There may be times when you'll want to force-restart your iPhone. Without a home button, that process is a little different.

Get started: How to force restart your iPhone X, XS or XS Max

Sign up for the beta program (maybe)

If you're willing to suffer through some bugs, joining Apple's beta program will let you be the first to try new iPhone features. For instance, Group FaceTime calls are available in iOS 12.1 Beta. To sign up, head to beta.apple.com on your iPhone XS, and log in with your iCloud account. Select the iOS tab, then follow the instructions.

Best iPhone XS and XS Max cases

See all photos

For more iPhone tips, check out everything you need to know about iOS 12.

We also think you might like these 10 hidden iPhone features.