The 5 iPhone XS features that matter most

The iPhone XS can be thought of as an upgrade to the iPhone X, and just enough of one to catch the eye of those who skipped last year's model.

On Wednesday, Apple announced its latest high-end premium phone: the iPhone XS. As the name implies, it’s something of an upgrade to the iPhone X, with a handful of improvements but the same overall design and features. 

That doesn’t mean it’s a bore. Quite the contrary: For those who found last year’s iPhone X just a little too expensive for what you get, this year’s improvements might be enough to win you over. Here are the five ways the iPhone XS really differs from the iPhone X. 

It comes in two sizes

The iPhone X only came in one size: 5.8 inches. That sounds big, but the taller, narrower aspect ratio enabled by the slim-bezel design and removal of the Home button makes the phone considerably narrower than the 5.5-inch Plus-sized iPhone models.

The iPhone XS comes in two sizes: the regular 5.8-inch model, with the same size and resolution as the iPhone X (2436x1125), and the new 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max, which has a resolution of 2688x1242. That’s the same 458 pixels-per-inch density, expanded out to the largest size display ever in an iPhone.

iphone xs sizes Apple

The iPhone XS comes in two sizes: large, and larger.

That iPhone XS Max is about the same size as the iPhone 7 Plus or 8 Plus, only with a much bigger edge-to-edge display. In other words, if you love big phones, you now have a big phone iPhone X.

The prices are still sky high

The iPhone X started at a whopping $999. It was a new high water mark for premium phone prices, and that’s just the entry-level 64GB version.

The same-sized iPhone XS with 64GB is still $999, and the new larger Max model starts at $100 more: $1,099.

But those are just the starting prices. The iPhone X was also available with a 256GB storage option that cost $150 more. The new iPhone XS models have that option as well, for $1,149 (5.8-inch) and $1,249 (6.5-inch). However, Apple’s also adding a new 512GB storage tier, and you’ll pay a pretty penny for that. Opting for a half-terabyte of storage will cost you $1,349 for the 5.8-inch iPhone XS or $1,449 for the 6.5-inch Max model.

The iPhone XS goes on sale for preorders on Friday, September 14 at 12:01am Pacific time. It ships, and arrives in stores, on September 21.

It comes in gold

The iPhone X came in two colors: Silver and Space Grey. The former is actually more of a white with a shiny stainless steel band around the edges, while the latter is nearly black, with a matching steel band. 

apple iphone xs back camera 09122018 inline.jpg.large 2x Apple

Apple has added a third color: Gold. Not Rose Gold, just Gold.

The iPhone XS models maintain these two colors and add a third: Gold. This isn’t the pinkish “rose gold” of previous iPhone models, it’s a very gold gold. The steel band around the edges has a gold hue, and the back looks downright extravagant. 

The A12 Bionic chip is faster and more efficient

The A11 Bionic in the iPhone X and iPhone 8 was the fastest mobile processor on the planet when it was introduced last year. It was so fast, it still outpaces the latest high-end Android phones. Now Apple has upped the ante with the A12 Bionic. 

Made using advanced 7nm manufacturing process technology, Apple claims the high-performance cores on the A12 are up to 15 percent faster than the A11 Bionic while using up to 40 percent less power. The high-efficiency cores use up to 50 percent less power. And GPU performance is up to 50 percent faster. 

apple a12 neural engine Apple

With the A12 Bionic, Apple improved on what was already one of the fastest mobile processors anywhere.

Those improvements pale in comparison to the seriously beefed-up Neural Engine (for machine learning tasks). It is now capable of a whopping five trillion operations per second, up from 600 billion in the A11.

Apple’s also got faster wireless with gigabit LTE and better worldwide compatibility, a better image processor, faster storage controller, and lots of other tweaks and improvements.

In other words, the iPhone X is still one of the fastest phones on the planet, even after a year on the market. And now the new iPhone XS is faster.

The camera is even better

Though the competition is really stiff, each new iPhone can rightly claim to have one of the best (and most consistent) cameras on the market. Apple shows no sign of slowing down with the iPhone XS.

It still has dual rear cameras, one wide-angle and one telephoto. But the wide-angle camera uses a new sensor that has larger and deeper pixels that make it twice as fast. That should really help in low-light situations, as well as taking multiple exposures for HDR.

Speaking of HDR, there’s a new Smart HDR system that takes even more exposures than before and combines them using the Neural Engine, performing over a trillion operations on each photograph. Apple says it means that you’ll see better details in dark areas, fewer blown-out highlights, truer color, and even better bokeh in Portrait Mode.

iphone xs bokeh Apple

Apple promises greatly improved Portrait Mode with the iPhone XS.

Portrait Mode is promised to better detect edges, especially in tricky areas like frizzy hair. And you’ll get to adjust the level of depth from f/1.4 to f/14 even after you take the shot.

The front-facing camera gets a boost too. It’s still 7 megapixels, but is now twice as fast, and can record 1080p video at 60 frames per second (up from 30fps on the iPhone X).

The improved camera extends over to video recording, which promises even better image quality and, for the first time, the ability to record stereo sound.

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Jason Cross

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