After about four years, I decided to swap out my trusty, reliable iPhone 6s Plus for a brand new (and very expensive) iPhone XS Max.
There was nothing wrong with the 6s Plus. In fact, I think I could have comfortably pushed my usage of it for another year or so if I truly wanted to. And love them or hate them, the very fact that you can comfortably use these devices for so many years without having to upgrade is a testament to the quality of Apple products.
Why did I upgrade?
There are so many amazing Android smartphones on the market that buying a flagship feels borderline absurd in 2019. I mean, this iPhone XS Max cost me £1250 for the 256GB model while in my other pocket, the fantastic Honor 10 (currently £300 on Amazon) is £850 cheaper and is a phone I’d recommend to anyone.
With so many good & affordable Android brands on the market like OnePlus, Honor or Xiaomi, why did I choose to pay so much for an upgrade?
For me — and this is a personal decision — iOS continues to be the best smartphone user experience. Android may be open and customisable which I love — and that’s why I continue to use the Honor 10 as my daily ‘Droid in the other pocket — but iOS apps continue to feel less buggy and more refined. I know I can open Instagram, Twitter or anything else and get a solid version of the app. I know the quality of new apps on the AppStore will be more reliable. I know I’ll always be on the most recent version of iOS. These things matter to me because I want to pick up the phone and just use it.
One of my goals this year is to travel more and share my experiences on FabMeetsWorld.com (follow me on Instagram to keep up!). With that in mind, I need a newer and better camera in my pocket and the iPhone XS Max cameras are impressive. With Smart HDR technology which basically picks up much more detail in the shadows and highlights for a better balance photo/video, as well as improved 4K recording and a 1080p front-facing camera, it’s a powerful photography and videography tool.
That OLED display
If your smartphone’s display isn’t high on the priority list but you’re adamant that you want an iPhone, the iPhone XR is probably a better bet for you since it shares many of the same internals as the XS. But for me, the display matters a lot. Enough to pay the premium, anyway.
This new 6.5-inch OLED panel makes everything look pretty, and playing games or watching videos on it had been a pleasure. Plus, having a large display when I’m taking photos and videos to clearly see my subjects is super helpful.
First week with the iPhone XS Max
So one week in, what is it like upgrading from the iPhone 6s Plus to the iPhone XS Max?
Coming from the 6s Plus there will be a noticeable improvement in the cameras. The front facing camera picks up much more detail, the dynamic range — or the ability to pick up shadows and highlights/brighter parts of the photo — is impressive, and Portrait mode is fun to use. It’s not perfect but in the right conditions, you can get some great photos in Portrait mode and you can even tweak the amount of blur in real-time. But in certain scenarios, the edge detection in iOS can mess up photos by blurring out hair, ears and jewellery.
The iPhone XS Max feels a lot more substantial in the hand. After a while holding it you notice its weight and although I don’t mind it, the combination of its size and weight may be a challenge for many.
On that note: the XS Max definitely requires two hands for efficient use. Even if you’re coming from a Plus version of the iPhone, the all-screen design means your thumbs need to stretch further into the corners than before. The XS will definitely be a more comfortable size for most people.
The new stereo speakers on this thing are loud and clear. Being able to hear left & right audio channels is wonderful!
Having come from using a home button, gestures on iOS are more natural to use than I expected. Within minutes of using the phone, I was comfortable with navigating iOS.
Considering I thought I’d miss TouchID, FaceID works surprisingly well. I’ve had no issues with it at all, even at night time with all lights off and display brightness dimmed all the way. I’d like to see TouchID alongside FaceID in the future, but for now, I’m quite happy with it. The only time it causes problems is when my face is halfway into a pillow, meaning FaceID can’t properly acknowledge me.
The iPhone 6s Plus has a very nice display, even in 2019, but jumping to an OLED has been great. It’s bright, colours are vibrant and it’s so sharp and responsive when you play games like Asphalt 9. If you care enough about displays, this is worth the upgrade!
First impressions of the iPhone XS Max
Is the iPhone XS Max worth £1250? In my opinion, probably not. You can get other impressive phones for much less, although it ultimately depends on whether you’re willing to move from iOS.
If you want the best iPhone that Apple has to offer then I’m afraid you have no choice. In my case, I enjoy using iOS and I know I’ll make good use out of the device so I’m willing to spend on the luxury — but for most people, the more affordable XR or XS will be a better option.
Either way, if you’re set on an iPhone then go into an Apple store and make up your own mind on which device is the best fit for you.
So far, I don’t regret my purchase.