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Phones

iPhone XS is the new $1,000 iPhone X

Apple's "middle" iPhone anchors a trio of premium devices for 2018.

apple-event-091218-iphone-xs-0629

The iPhone XS replaces the iPhone X.

James Martin/CNET

The iPhone X is so last year. Apple's all about the iPhone XS now. The 5.8-inch phone sits right in the middle of a trio of new iPhones that includes the relatively cheaper iPhone XR on one side and the massive, pricier iPhone XS Max on the other.

This is the direct descendant of last year's iPhone X, with a notched OLED screen, Face ID instead of a fingerprint reader to unlock the phone and wireless charging. An every-other-year "S" update, the XS is an iterative bump over the iPhone X. This isn't about excitement, it's about everyday excellence.

The iPhone XS gets a faster, more powerful A12 Bionic processor, a larger battery (Apple says it lasts 30 minutes longer than the iPhone X) and better water resistance: IP68, which means you can dunk it in up to 2 meters of water, or 6.5 feet, for up to 30 minutes. There's support for wireless charging, of course, and a newfound ability to support two phones numbers (dual SIM) through an electronic SIM or e-SIM. That'll be available later this fall, and it's possible not every carrier will accept it.

New photo enhancements come to the dual 12-megapixel cameras, including two new portrait lighting effects and the ability to adjust the amount of blur on a Bokeh photo you take with portrait mode. Apple welcomes a new storage option for the XS and XS Max: You get your choice of 64GB, 256GB or 512GB models.

ReadiPhone X specs vs. iPhone XS, XS Max, XR: What's new and better

Like the iPhone X of 2017, the XS starts at $999. Preorders start on Friday, and the phone ships on Sept. 21.

Since Apple pulled the plug on the iPhone X on its online store, the iPhone XS (which is pronounce ten-S) is in a unique position. The 5.8-inch phone is pricey, but not as expensive as the iPhone XS Max, nor as large. It's also got one or two more features than the iPhone XR, a colorful new phone that promises to breathe some life -- and a lower starting price -- into the iPhone franchise. That phone won't arrive until Oct. 26, so if you can wait until we've reviewed them all, you'll have more options to choose from.

Now playing: Watch this: iPhone XS and XS Max: Bigger, faster, plus better battery...
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The iPhone XS has some tough competition. There's the Galaxy Note 9 in stores, which also sells for $1,000 a pop, has a 512GB option and includes a stylus with some powerful writing skills. Google's Pixel 3 phones are also around the bend on Oct. 9, while Huawei will announce its Mate 20 on Oct. 16. Meanwhile, OnePlus' 6T is also destined for store shelves in October, CNET was the first to report, and should come in at about half the price of the iPhone XS.

Buyers will also weigh the cost of the iPhone XS against the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, as well as the iPhone 7, both of which will also upgrade to iOS 12 software on Sept 17. For savvy shoppers, holiday bundles and discounts with retailers and carriers may help make up your mind for you.

iPhone XR, XS, XS Max specs


iPhone XS iPhone XS Max iPhone XR
Display size, resolution 5.8-inch Super Retina OLED; 2,436x1,125 pixels 6.5-inch Super Retina OLED; 2,688x1,242 pixels 6.1-inch LCD Retina Display; 1,792x828 pixels
Pixel density 458 ppi 458 ppi 326ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 5.7x2.8x0.3 in 6.2x3.0x.3 in 5.9x3.0x0.33 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 143.6x70.9x7.7 mm 157.5x77.4x7.7 mm 150.9x75.7x8.3 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 6.24 oz; 177g 7.3oz; 208g 6.8oz; 194g
Mobile software iOS 12 iOS 12 iOS 12
Camera Dual 12-megapixel Dual 12-megapixel Single 12-megapixel
Front-facing camera 7-megapixel with Face ID 7-megapixel with Face ID 7-megapixel with Face ID
Video capture 4K 4K 4K
Processor Apple A12 Bionic Apple A12 Bionic Apple A12 Bionic
Storage 64GB, 256GB, 512GB 64GB, 256GB, 512GB 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
RAM N/A N/A N/A
Expandable storage None None None
Battery N/A, but Apple claims it will last 30 min longer than iPhone X N/A, but Apple claims it will last 90 min longer than iPhone X N/A, but Apple claims it will last 90 min longer than iPhone 8 Plus
Fingerprint sensor None (Face ID) None (Face ID) None (Face ID)
Connector Lightning Lightning Lightning
Headphone jack No No No
Special features Water-resistant (IP68); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging; Face ID, Animoji Water-resistant (IP68); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging; Face ID, Animoji Water-resistant: IP67, dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging; Face ID, Animoji
Price off-contract (USD) $999 (64GB), $1,149 (256GB), $1,349 (512GB) $1,099 (64GB), $1,249 (256GB), $1,449 (512GB) $749 (64GB), $799 (128GB), $899 (256GB)
Price (GBP) £999 (64GB), £1,149 (256GB), £1,349 (512GB) $1,099 (64GB), $1,249 (256GB), $1,449 (512GB) £749 (64GB), £799 (128GB), £899 (256GB)
Price (AUD) AU$1,629 (64GB), AU$1,879 (256GB), AU$2,199 (512GB) AU$1,799 (64GB), AU$2,049 (256GB), AU$2,369 (512GB) AU$1,229 (64GB), AU$1,299 (128GB), AU$1,479 (256GB)

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