Last year Apple released the iPhone X. This was arguably the biggest change in the iPhone since the introduction of the “Plus” sized phones a few years prior. You can read my review from last year.
I was very bullish on the iPhone X and I regard this as the best phones I have owned… until now.
The iPhone Xs and Xs Max are an evolution of this product. The changes are not significant but they are meaningful. Whether they are meaningful enough for you to upgrade - that’s up to you but I will spell out some scenarios to consider.
The biggest decision when considering the Xs is the size. I decided to purchase the “Max” or the bigger one. I will admit that this was the toughest decision for me to make. After living with the phone for a week, I’m glad I made this choice - but it’s not a perfect choice. I think the size of the new iPhone Xr (which I won’t plan to review) is closer to what I’d want.
Here is what I said about the size last year
If you are coming from a plus sized phone the first thing you will notice is that this phone is smaller (a lot) and lighter. It fits in my pocket again. Years of keeping my phone in my back pocket, jacket or out on the table are now over. I can return to the normalcy of having a phone that is not a tablet size. I'm cherishing these moments where I still feel the impact of this as I will soon forget and this will become normal.
At the same time you give up very little as a result. The screen of the X is nearly the same size as the plus. It's a bit narrower and taller.
If you are coming from a regular sized iPhone you will gain a lot of new features such as the two camera lenses (wide angle and telephoto) as well as a larger screen.
Apple has simplified things for you this year - there are no feature differences between the two phones other than 1. size 2. battery.
The screen on the Xs Max is absolutely stunning. After a few days of using it I’m not sure I could settle for a smaller one. The iPhone X was a bit more narrow than the old Plus phones and that made some tasks on the phone harder - namely looking at and working with photos.
Unfortunately, apps have to be updated to take advantage of the new iPhone Xs screens and this will be a slow process that I expect will take a few months. I really like this handy graphic to show you the different amount of screen you will get.
So how does the Max “feel”?
It doesn’t feel as big as the Plus. This is a combination of a few clever things:
Grippy glass surface and back - makes holding it easier
Camera lens vertical orientation vs the side by side cameras gives the phone a more slimming effect to the eye
A bit thinner and narrower than the plus but only by a few mm. Hey, a few mm matters.
I don’t have similar pocket issues as I did with my old Plus phones. I still carry the Max in the front pocket - I have no case at all and can’t fathom having one as I don’t want any more bulk on this phone. I did pick up this sleeve though to use when I travel in case I keep my phone in a bag or something.
Two cameras - instead of one camera + 2 lenses both phones have two separate cameras. That’s crazy cool. Each phone has a dedicated sensor and the new wide angle sensor is better than last year. This phone takes incredible photos, better than the X.
If you want to know all the crazy awesome technology in the new cameras read this article.
Dual Sim support - this is HUGE for international travelers. Now you can have your main phone plan tied to the phone in an “e-sim” like the Apple Watch and use a physical sim card for data when traveling. My parents as an example have two phone numbers they use 50% of the year. They have to swap them in and out of the phone and now they can have both active at all times greatly simplifying how people can call and reach them.
This feature has not yet been released and will be supported in the next OS update, iOS 12.1. It will also require support from your carrier which AT&T and others have announced they will support. I would put your main phone line on an e-sim freeing up your SIM slot for travel where you can just purchase a cheap SIM and then activate.
Faster Face ID - every performance boost matters. For something you do hundreds of times a day, speed here makes a noticeable difference.
Gold - it looks dammed nice.
Bunch of other stuff - many other things I won’t write about and you can read about here.
What should I get?
I upgrade every single year and don’t think for 2 seconds about this. I sell my old phone (trade-in value to Apple of $550) to a friend or sell back to Apple and that pays for 40% of the new phone. I do this every year. You will always get 40% and possibly more as a trade in credit. If you wait 2 years you get less.
If you did not upgrade last year - upgrade this year. If you have the money, this is a simple decision as you get a much better everything.
If you did not upgrade last year and you have the regular sized iPhone - probably the regular “Xs” as this will be a huge upgrade.
If you did not upgrade last year and you have the Plus sized iPhone - the Xs Max.
if you have an iPhone X and like the bigger phones - the Xs Max for sure. Otherwise the safe bet is the X.
This was a much bigger year for the Apple watch as Apple introduces a new design. The two Apple watches are each 2mm larger and thinner. That also means they have new features such as watch faces that only work with the new watch.
The good news is that all the old bands work.
I had the old 42mm watch and upgraded to the new black stainless 44mm watch. I love the black stainless cause it has a sapphire crystal screen and is bomb proof - my old watch had ZERO scratches on it and looks brand new.
I do like the new watch a lot. It’s not a radical change, but it’s a nice update - arguably bigger than the phone but it's a watch and for many doesn’t do much more than the one you probably already have.
Other than size and appearance - which by the way for a normal watch this would be the ONLY reason to upgrade, there are a bevy of new features such as ECG reading, new digital crown, new watch back made of ceramic and sapphire, louder speaker, 64 bit (faster) and of course the new Gold stainless finish which looks amazing.
What should I get?
If you have a series 3 watch I don’t see a big reason for you to upgrade. I am not upgrading my wife’s watch for example. But if you have an older Apple Watch now might be a good time to upgrade. I don’t expect a big change to the watch next year either.