The iPhone XS Max review – Same old same old, but the price not so old

I’m writing this inside a Grab. On the very device that I am reviewing.

Price

Having purchased my Silver 512GB XS Max for quite a bit lower than the local MSRP, I have to say that this is a worthwhile purchase at the price I bought the phone at. At the local MSRP though, the 512GB Max is probably not a worthy purchase, nor even a reasonable one.

One thing though, for the majority of people the 256GB model will almost definitely be enough for your phone needs, there is no need to pay the additional 400 Singapore dollars or so for the 512GB model.

During the reveal of the iPhone X last year, I was crying foul because the MSRP of the X in Singapore is so much higher than in other countries like Japan and Hong Kong. Apple is price discriminating surely, but nobody seems to mind.

When the rumored 100 USD drop to the pricier XS line did not happen this year, I shuddered at the thought of spending 2349 Singapore dollars on a phone. I knew that I wanted the 512GB, as my previous 256GB phones were chocked full of photos and videos after less than a year of usage, so to me only the storage space of 512GB phone be will enough for my use. The most I ever paid for a portable Mac was around 1.7K (Hi 12” MacBook!), and it almost makes little sense to pay way more for a phone that will likely only last me for a year.

However, in Singapore we have various ways of buying phones that do not directly involve Apple in the sales process. And one of these “ways” worked out quite well for myself. So maybe this is the one time I will tell you not to buy something from Apple directly (either via Apple Orchard or the online store).

Size

The Max is the preferred size of iPhones for me. I had been using the Plus sized phones since the 6s Plus, and the display of the iPhone X last year was simple not wide enough for my use cases. Despite having what seems to be a bigger screen in total area size than the iPhone 8 Plus, the usable area size of the X was definitely more similar to that of the smaller iPhone 8. So the XS Max was a welcomed change.

Battery Life

I don’t know how Consumer Reports was testing the phone, but it does not last longer than my iPhone 8 Plus, frequently unable to last a hectic work day without topping up the charge. However it is likely still going to last longer than the regular XS. iPhones have never had the best battery life in the industry since multitasking become a thing in iOS (and since iPhones don’t trade having a manageable size for more battery life), and it does not bother me so long it lasts most of a day.

So I’ve just repeated what most reviewers said about the phone.

But then this phone is just that – just the exact phone that everyone else is saying it is. It’s a bigger version of last year’s iPhone X. And it is likely to delight anyone who loves the iPhone X last year but thinks that the usable screen estate is too small.

The XR

Unlike most others who used the iPhone XS Max exclusively without any experience of using the XR, I have been using a blue XR (a family member’s phone) since its launch a few weeks ago.

To be honest, there are so many ways that I prefer XR over the Max that I rather use the XR as my main phone if only it had the telephoto lens and 3D Touch. Those are likely the major annoyances on the XR for the majority of power users.

But the XR has a shitty display you say? Not even 1080P you say?

The XR has arguably a better overall display than the XS Max, the colors of photos simply looked more natural on the XR than the XS Max, and while I am not sure how close Android idiots/users look at their phone screen, the XR screen looks as sharp as any other iPhone displays I used. It might not go as bright as the XS Max can, but seriously who uses their phones at full brightness?

Coupled with the fact that you are actually getting the exact same screen estate as the XS Max but in a more usable form factor (without a pop socket or bunker ring) not to mention the great color options (everyday I look at the AWESOME blue body of the XR and then at the boring gold/silver Max, I wonder why anyone pays more for the Max), I have no idea why anyone except the most dedicated iPhone users will buy the Max over the XR (oh yes the regular XS is not even in the consideration, it is not much smaller physically than the XR but shows a lot less information on the screen). Oh, and the battery life of the XR is much better than the Max.

But this is not the iPhone XR review. That is coming later.

In conclusion, I love the 512GB storage tier, the presence of 3D Touch and the telephone lens (but the XR takes better portrait photos, I use the telephoto lens for 2X zoom mainly) about the Max, but nothing much else. I hate the steel antenna bands, for they can scratch to the high hells even with much care, and dislike the weight, unwieldy-ness and the boring colors of the Max/XS. Oh and once again who can forget the high MSRP of the phone? Get it if you buy on contract or get a decent deal on the highest spec models. Miss it if you want to. Either way I don’t care.


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MacRyu is the Mac Blog by Singaporeans and for Singaporeans. It was started in April 2007 as a side project of the then President of the Official Mac User Group of NUS, Ryu, and grew to become possibly one of the most popular Apple-related sites based in Singapore. MacRyu hopes to provide you with more Mac-related info, thoughts and stuff, from the Singaporean perspective.

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