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iPhone Xs vs. iPhone X: What's Changed?

Tom's Guide 2018-09-12 05:30:00

When taking the wraps off the latest iPhones at Apple's launch event today (Sept. 12), Apple executive Phil Schiller said the company's goal with the iPhone Xs was to "take the iPhone X to the next level."

We'll have to wait until we can spend some quality time with the new smartphone, but it's clear the iPhone Xs does more than just add an extra letter to the iPhone X's name.

Credit: Tom's GuideWhile the Xs maintains the look of the original iPhone X, plenty of other features have undergone a noticeable change. From the display to the processor to the cameras, Apple has made adjustments big and small so that its latest iPhone X models stand out from the version that came before.

Here's a closer look at what's new with the iPhone Xs, along with a few things that haven't changed from last year's iPhone X.

iPhone Xs vs iPhone Xs Max vs iPhone X


iPhone Xs
iPhone Xs Max
iPhone X
Starting Price
$999
$1099$999
Processor
A12 Bionic
A12 BionicA11 Bionic
Screen
5.8-inch OLED (2,436 x 1,125 pixels)
6.5-inch OLED (2,688 x 1,242 pixels)
5.8-inch OLED (2,436 x 1,125 pixels)
Storage
64GB, 256GB, 512GB
64GB, 256GB, 512GB64GB, 256GB
Face ID
Yes
YesYes
Rear Camera
Dual 12MP wide (ƒ/1.8) and telephoto (ƒ/2.4)
Dual 12MP wide (ƒ/1.8) and telephoto (ƒ/2.4)Dual 12MP wide (ƒ/1.8) and telephoto (ƒ/2.4)
Front Camera
7MP, ƒ/2.27MP, ƒ/2.27MP, ƒ/2.2
Battery Life (Hrs:Mins)
Not yet tested
Not yet tested
10:49
Metal frame
Stainless steel
Stainless steelStainless Steal
ColorsGold, Silver, Space GrayGold, Silver, Space GraySilver, Space Gray
Weight
6.2 ounces7.3 ounces6.1 ounces
Size
5.7 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches
6.2 x 3.1 x 0.3 inches5.7 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches

What's new with the iPhone Xs

The form factor may be unchanged from last year's distinctive iPhone X design, but there are some noticeable differences with the new phone, particularly under the hood.



Every year brings a new processor to the latest iPhone. In the case of the iPhone Xs, it's Apple's A12 Bionic processor. This could easily be the biggest improvement to the iPhone Xs, because it drives so many of the other changes Apple introduced, particularly enhancements to the cameras.

The A12 is the first 7-nanometer chip to hit the market. (Huawei's Kirin 980 was actually announced at the end of August, but that chip won't arrive in the upcoming Mate 20 until mid-October, a month after the iPhone Xs has been shipping.) The smaller-sized processor means more efficient performance.

The A12 delivers the requisite performance boost over its predecessor, of course. The A12's two high-performance cores are 15 percent faster while consuming 40 percent less power than the A11, while the four efficiency cores on the new CPU are 50 percent more efficient than the A11 inside last year's iPhone X. The A12's GPU is 50 percent faster, too.

But the A12 delivers other noteworthy changes. There's an 8-core neural engine on the A12 that's 9 times faster. It supports things like machine learning and can process up to 5 trillion operations per second. All told, Apple's Schiller said, the A12 processor will "enable new experiences not possible before," even on a phone with a processor as capable as the A11 proved to be. This includes much more immersive and more realistic AR.

The new A12 processor also includes a new image signal processor (ISP), and that's going to drive a lot of the photographic improvements with the new iPhone. Like the iPhone X before it, the Xs has a 12-megapixel wide-angle lens and a 12-MP telephoto shooter, while the 7-MP TrueDepth camera up front handles selfies.

However, the size of the sensor has gone from 1.2 to 1.4 microns on the iPhone XS and XS Max, and the pixels are deeper as well. The result is a 50 improvement in light gathering capability.

With Smart HDR, your iPhone can capture multiple exposures in a short time frame for a balanced shot. The iPhone Xs is able to capture more exposures in a shorter amount of time, reducing shutter lag to the point where you shouldn't notice it.

Apple says the sensor on the main rear camera is larger, which should help the iPhone Xs grab more light even in darker settings. That's a necessary improvement, as the iPhone X wasn't particularly adept at low-light photography when stacked up against other leading flagship phones.

Other camera improvements on the Xs and Xs Max include the ability to adjust a portrait's depth of field after you've taken the shot — a feature you'll find on some Android smartphones, though not on the original iPhone X. Video capabilities are improved too, with the larger sensor helping capture sharp footage even in low light. The new phones also offer extended dynamic range in video modes up to 30 frames per second.

Screen size hasn't changed from the 5.8 inches that the iPhone X offered, and the resolution on the OLED panel is still 2436 x 1125. But Apple insists you'll see improved color on the Xs screen in the form of 60 percent greater dynamic range than the original iPhone X.


You're no longer limited to 5.8 inches if you want more screen real estate. In addition to the iPhone Xs, Apple is also introducing the 6.5-inch iPhone Xs Max, which in spite of its larger display isn't all that much bigger than an iPhone 8 Plus.

Apple's face-scanning feature returns in the iPhone Xs, which is good since there's no fingerprint sensor to unlock your phone or verify mobile payments. But the neural engine on the A12, combined with improved algroithms, should make Face ID go faster on the new phones than it did on the original iPhone X.

The iPhone X carried an IP67 dust- and water-resistance rating, meaning you could drop it in around 3 feet of water for 30 minutes without damaging your phone. The Xs is a little bit more durable, with an IP68 rating. Now, the new model will survive a swim in around 6 feet of water, and Apple also says it can withstand splashes all sorts of sticky stuff like soda and beer.

Apple is usually close-mouthed about the size of the battery inside its phones, and that tradition of "Who's asking?" continues with the iPhone Xs. Whatever battery happens to be inside the new phone, however, Apple will say it will last longer than the one powering the iPhone X.


Apple's promising that the iPhone Xs will last up to 30 minutes longer than its predecessor. If you opt for the larger iPhone Xs Max, the battery can last up to 90 minutes longer. We plan on testing those claims once we get our hands on either model.

Last year's iPhone X topped out at 256GB, and since Apple doesn't include a microSD slot on its phones, that was the upper limit of your storage. There's still no microSD slot on the iPhone Xs, but Apple has boosted the capacity.

The base model of the Xs starts out with the same 64GB of storage, but you can also opt for 256GB and 512GB models if you're willing to pay for the extra space. (Each bump in storage adds $200 to the price tag.)

What's still the same with the iPhone Xs

That's a lot of changes, but some things have stayed the same — including one thing we wish was different.

As noted above, the iPhone Xs has the same screen and form factor as its predecessor. Both the X and the Xs measure 5.7 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches, though the newer phone is a little heavier, at 6.2 ounces versus 6.1.

If you dreamt of Apple possibly dropping the iPhone X's starting price, get ready for a rude awakening. The iPhone Xs costs the same $999 as its predecessor if you buy the 64GB version. (Add $200 if you want a 256GB iPhone Xs and $400 for the 512GB version.) If you prefer the iPhone Xs Max, prices start at $1,099 for that super-sized model.

Wireless charging, introduced with last year's iPhone updates, remains a feature with the iPhone Xs. The new phone also retains 3D Touch, after rumors suggested that feature was headed out the door. (You won't find 3D touch on the new iPhone XR, however, as Apple is opting for something called "haptic touch" instead.)

Should you upgrade?

The better processing performance and improved cameras Apple promises with the iPhone Xs might make owners of the original iPhone X contemplate an upgrade. But the one thing that remained the same between the two phones — that $999 price tag — might be a big enough deterrent to make you hold onto last year's model. Unless you're part of an annual upgrade program, dropping $999 every year on a new phone isn't financially advisable.

If you skipped last year's iPhone X launch and held onto an older iPhone, it's a different story. Enough has changed from last year's model to make the iPhone Xs a more compelling upgrade option. We'll need to test out Apple's new phones to render a definitive verdict, but improvements to the processor, camera and other Xs features could convince holdouts to get on board the iPhone Xs train.