Apple iPhone XS reviews: should you upgrade?

Critics divided over whether new smartphone is worth the extra money

iPhone XS
(Image credit: Noah Berger/AFP/Getty Images)

The unveiling of Apple’s latest range of iPhones has sparked a flurry of reviews - and a wide range of verdicts.

Following the hype around the iPhone X, which marked the ten-year anniversary of Apple’s smartphone last year, the new XS and larger XS Max bring with them a number of performance upgrades and features.

Standout features include small improvements to the OLED displays, a depth of field effect that can be applied to pictures after they have been taken, and longer battery life.

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A cheaper, XR model was also announced at the Apple keynote in California last night. This budget version has an almost identical design to the other phones but features an LCD display - which isn’t quite as colourful as the OLED screens on its siblings. The XR’s rear-facing camera isn’t as advanced, either.

Pre-orders for the iPhone XS and XS Max kick off tomorrow - so should you upgrade?

Those in favour

The Independent says the iPhone XS is a “deeply impressive” smartphone, with enough improvements over last year’s model “to make a real difference”.

Arguably, this year’s standout feature is the ability to adjust a picture’s depth of field after it has been taken, the news site says. “It’s highly intuitive to use – just swipe a slider left or right to adjust the depth of field - and fun, too.”

Given that the XS is now Apple’s smallest iPhone on the market, after recently axing the iPhone 5-bodied SE, it’s also a great option for those looking for a compact and lightweight handset, says Digital Trends.

However, the “modest” upgrades may not be enough for iPhone X owners who were considering trading up, the tech site says.

Those against

“The XS is one of the most conservative phone upgrades Apple has ever done,” says Ars Technica. Aside from the camera’s depth of field effect, the XS “doesn’t introduce any new features of note compared to its now-deprecated predecessor”.

Although the A12 processor “is a promising development”, the tech site argues, most buyers won’t be able to tell the difference between the new chip and the one found in the iPhone X.

CNBC’s Todd Haselton agrees, describing the XS as an “iPhone X with a few enhancements”.

“Holding it, though, it felt so much like the iPhone X that I already own that I’m not sure I’d upgrade,” he says. “It will probably appeal to people who missed out on last year’s iPhone X, which Apple will stop selling.”

The verdict

The XS and XS Max are a clear improvement over the iPhone X, but neither are significantly better than the cheaper XR, according to The Verge.

The XR comes with the same processor, front-facing camera and security features as its more expensive siblings, the tech site says. Plus, Apple is touting the LCD display as “industry leading”, so it’s unlikely that “most average consumers are going to notice a huge difference” between the XR’s screen and the OLED panels on the XS and XS Max.

“There are some decent improvements” in the XS mix, argues TechRadar, such as the improved battery life and more colourful screen.

But the upgrades aren’t “plentiful or overpowering”, the tech site concludes, so buyers may want to opt for last year’s iPhone X - which will no doubt drop in price through third-party retailers.

Pricing and release dates

Pre-orders for the iPhone XS and XS Max kick off tomorrow, with deliveries from 21 September. The standard 5.8in XS costs £999, rising to £1,049 for the 6.5in XS Max.

The 6.1in XR is substantially cheaper, at £749. The budget handset will be available to order from 19 October, and arrive in stores on 26 October.

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