iPhone Xs hands on: First impressions review of Apple's 'deeply impressive' device

Last year, Apple said the iPhone X was the future of smartphones. Well, now we've arrived in the future with three different phones all toting the same striking look

David Phelan
Thursday 13 September 2018 10:49
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At first glance, Apple's new iPhone announcements seemed almost incremental. An iPhone looking just like last year's iPhone X, one with a slightly bigger screen, and a middle-sized model at a lower price.

Look closer, though, and the upgrades became apparent and seem big enough to make a real difference.

For a start, the faster, more powerful iPhone Xs may look exactly like the iPhone X, and cost the same with prices starting at £999, but it offers a decent upgrade to last year's ground-breaker.

The camera, for instance, has a remarkable bokeh effect which lets you change the depth of field after you've shot your picture.

To be clear, this is not a simple adjustment of more or less blur on the background of an image, created by software that decides what's your subject and simply blurs everything else a bit.

No, this involves complex calculations done on the iPhone to work out exactly what's what and adjust the look with consummate subtlety.

It's highly intuitive to use – just swipe a slider left or right to adjust the depth of field - and fun, too.

The level of variation possible is deeply impressive and if it works as well in practice as it did with the images Apple was showing, it will be a genuine step change in smartphone photography.

The twin camera sensors have been improved, with bigger pixels on the wide-angle camera for faster performance, especially in low light.

The improvements since last autumn become clearer when you look at the bigger iPhone Xs Max. It's sized pretty much identically to the iPhone 8 Plus (just a fraction of a millimetre thicker but not as tall or wide) but it looks completely different thanks to the all-screen front.

Last year, Apple said the iPhone X was the future of smartphones. Well, now we've arrived in the future with three different phones all toting the same striking look - which is one of the reasons all three are iPhone X experiences.

(AFP/Getty Images

Holding the Xs Max is as comfortable as the iPhone 8 Plus – or not, if you're one of those people who found the Plus size phones just too big – and it's only when you look at the screen that you see how different it is.

Try using it and the differences become clearer – your thumb needs to swipe higher and lower to reach the top and bottom of this display, for instance. Of course, Apple's reachability feature, where the top half of the screen slides down, is here if you need it.

The iPhone Xs Max also has the biggest battery yet for an iPhone and both sizes of Xs promise increased battery life compared to last year, which is good.

Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple Inc., speaks at an Apple event at the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple Park on September 12, 2018 in Cupertino, California

But the faster, more responsive processors – which already at the keynote's hands-on area impressed because of the speed at which they worked – have plenty of potential to reveal as apps seek to exploit the extra processing grunt.

The lower-priced iPhone Xr is likely to bring the best of the full-screen iPhone to a wider audience and will, I predict, be the biggest selling iPhone over the coming months.

Its use of colours won't appeal to everyone (and hey, there's white and space grey in that case) but they are classy and attractive, especially the gorgeous yellow.

The new Apple iPhone XR is displayed during an Apple special event at the Steve Jobs Theatre on September 12, 2018 in Cupertino, California

And the inclusion of the top-end processor from the Xs and Xs Max mean the performance here should also be irreproachable.

All of which could be enough to start a new super cycle of sales.

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