A few thoughts on the iPhone XS Max

M.G. Siegler sharing his thoughts on the iPhone XS Max:

It’s been awhile. Over a month since my last post, in fact. I’ve been busy — in the best way possible.¹ Since it has also been about a month that I’ve had the latest iPhone, I wanted to jot down some thoughts before they fade into time.


Yes, even a month later, the name is still ridiculous. Yes, still Microsoft ridiculous. My rationale for getting the massive model was pretty simple:

I had used the iPhone X for the past year so I wanted something different. I debated Gold, but didn’t think I could pull it off. Plus, prior to the iPhone X, I had used the iPhone ‘Plus’ models, so I figured I was used to the larger form factor.

The ‘Max’ is slightly shorter and thinner while weighing a smidge more than those models. But, of course, the screen is significantly larger (6.5” versus 5.5”). Thank god for the ‘Reachability’ feature in iOS.

As it turns out, I may have been too used to the ‘Plus’ size — from day one, the ‘Max’ model didn’t feel all that different than the regular ‘X’ size, even though it is (it’s quite a bit taller, wider, and heavier). I continue to be surprised that this is the case, but it’s just not a huge difference in my book.

And that’s a little annoying to me. Because…

A month later, I think I’ve determined I actually prefer the ‘X’ — and now the ‘XS’ — size. This wasn’t the case when “downgrading” from a ‘Plus’ phone to the “regular” iPhone in generations past — I found the smaller versions to be almost comically small when switching between the two. With the ‘Max’ to the ‘X’ or ‘XS’, to be honest, I just like the latter form factor more — I find it to be a more natural size that feels better in the hand.

Obviously, your mileage may vary, but I think part of my feeling is due to the fact that unlike when the ‘Plus’ models hit, it doesn’t seem like developers have really done anything to tailor their apps for the larger screen of the ‘Max’. Apple did, but not in the same way as they did with the ‘Plus’, where the entire OS changed in landscape mode, for example (it doesn’t here). And as a result, many apps just look sort of chunky now. I thought reading would be a huge advantage on this screen, but it looks weird reading sort of chunky text.²

All of that plus the fact that the bigger model doesn’t have the better camera system this time around (again, unlike the ‘Plus’ era), puts a lot of checks in the ‘XS’ box. If there’s one saving grace of the ‘Max’, it’s the bigger battery and as such, the slightly better battery life. That’s nice, but I still think I would have gone ‘XS’ all things considered.


In terms of things like speed, I honestly can’t say I notice any difference with this device versus last year’s X model. Both are insanely fast and nothing seems to push either all the much. I do seem to have fewer memory issues now, which could be due to more RAM,³ or just the device being newer.

The new camera system is much better in low-light environments. And I still find it weird how little Apple played up the camera upgrades in the keynote — maybe they didn’t want to draw the comparisons to Google’s Pixel devices, which many folks now seem to consider to have the better camera system?

Lastly, I’ll just give a shout-out to the clever way Apple “hid” the notch with their default iOS 12 “bubble” wallpapers.⁴ The bubble’s crest comes up just to the edge of the notch but doesn’t touch it, leaving the OLED’s ultra-black black to fill in the rest and hide the notch from view. It’s subtle and clever. Very Apple.

I could go on with iOS 12 changes, but there’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said since so many people (myself included) have been using the (very stable) betas for a long time now. I will give a special shout-out to the addition of third-party password managers, like 1Password, to the system-wide keychain. This is a total game-changer in terms of productivity.