The abstract differentiator between indulgence and addiction lies in our definition of moderate and excess. What would you prefer? A normal meal with standard cola and a side of fries, or an extra-large meal with extra fries and a tall cola? Accomplishing a state of bliss and fulfilment is similar. How far are you willing to go? What is the price for fulfilment? Apple does offer you a means for indulgence, but it can get excessive very easily as most of us discover. This is our review of Apple’s flagship smartphones for 2018 – the iPhone XS and XS Max.
The launch of a new iPhone has been nothing short of a festival. The charm may have dampened over the past couple of years, primarily due to steep pricing. But the enthusiasm evident in consumers hasn’t entirely waned away. Despite industry reports and predictions, when Apple sets a date to unveil a new iPhone, the whole world stops to follow proceedings. Its latest iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max were no different. The two flagship Apple smartphones have been on sale in India for over a month, and having used them extensively since, here’s our review.
Apple’s iPhones have been setting trends for the smartphone industry at large, and it is no different with the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. Both smartphones build upon what Apple achieved with the full-screened notch-totting iPhone X last year. It’s a reality they’ve been copied (and to an extent, improved) by Android device manufacturers. So much so, that today a smartphone without a notch is considered outdated.
Both the iPhones ooze premium-ness in design and feel. They look and feel identical. The only obvious difference is size. Besides the price tag, buyers’ decisions will be swayed by the device size they prefer.
Apple iPhone 8 Plus users will feel at home when handling the iPhone XS Max. The size of the display on the new device may have jumped up, but the form factor remains the same. In fact, the iPhone XS Max is slightly slimmer than the iPhone 8 Plus. Apple iPhone X users, on the other hand, will be hard-pressed to find any difference when handling the iPhone XS. The biggest leap however is for iPhone 8 users, who will see a jump in size, design, display, and performance.
Beefed up iPhones
The new iPhones are mean machines. Throw any task at them, and you’ll never find yourself struggling or stuttering. There have been occasional instances of freezing, but those are the kind attributed to buggy apps. Having used the iPhones for over a month now, there hasn’t been any significant instance of disappointment. In case you’re wondering why a lag-free experience on a flagship device is worth mentioning in a review, it’s because even the most expensive Android devices can leave you in momentary blackouts.
A lot of this buttery smooth performance is down to the incredibly powerful A12 Bionic chipset, and the well known synergy between Apple hardware and iOS. In short, you can expect consistent high-level performance when playing graphics-intensive games like Asphalt 9: Legends at max settings or watching high-definition videos.
Well past the digital age, we live social lives. Virtually social, where smartphone cameras paint a picture of our lives and aspirations. This fascination with photos have made it a critical factor to consider while buying a new smartphone (yes, we are talking about the Google Pixel 3). In this department too, the iPhones hold their own at the very top of the table. Both the iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Max feature the same set of dual 12-megapixel cameras at the back, and a 7-megapixel selfie camera up front.
When it comes to shooting photos in ideal lighting conditions, the iPhones continue to set new standards. It is true that cameras on devices like the Google Pixel 3, Huawei Mate 20 Pro or the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 are on par (if not better) in some aspects. But the iPhones continue to take the most natural-looking shots and that too with minimal effort.
It is the same when it comes to shooting portrait shots. In our experience, the iPhones have managed to take the most natural looking portraits in ideal lighting conditions.
Having said that, low-light shots using the iPhones tend to fall short of expectations. When you look at photos shot using the Pixel 3, or the recently launched Huawei Mate 20 Pro in less than ideal conditions, you realize that Apple has its work cut out next year.
Selfies are equally easy to shoot, and they look good in most lighting conditions. In ideal lighting, portrait shots come out really well. At the time of launch, the iPhones were marred with what came to be called ‘Beautygate’. This bug made the selfies look soft as if a built-in beauty mode was turned on. But this was fixed with an iOS update, and selfies now look natural as ever.
The iPhones may have been surpassed when it comes to static photos, but there is one aspect where they continue to be top-notch – videos. Few phones today come close to shooting videos like the new iPhones.
Should you buy one?
The scenario has changed a bit since Apple launched the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max in India. In the flagship segment, buyers now have the choice of opting for well-rounded devices like the Google Pixel 3/Pixel 3 XL or the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 to name a few. The Pixel 3’s cameras are clearly on a different level, and the Galaxy Note 9 is a productivity-centric device like no other.
Then there is the obvious price tag. Prices for the iPhone XS start from Rs 99,900, and go up to Rs 134,900. Similarly, pricing for the iPhone XS Max start from Rs 109,900, and go up to Rs 144,900.
For the majority, these price tags are the biggest obstacles in owing a new iPhone. But Apple’s iPhones have been much more than just an expensive smartphone. These are lifestyle products that people aspire to buy, and with it comes a sense of entitlement that is difficult to shake off.
Those looking for a more affordable variant of the iPhone though can go for the iPhone XR. It’s prices start from Rs 76,900, but there are a few compromises that you will have to live with. Another great option is last year’s iPhone X. It remains a competitive device that refuses to give up despite Apple officially discontinuing it. In fact, such is the demand for the device that the company has reportedly had to restart production.