Bigger screen sizes
With last year’s iPhone X, you could have any sized display you wanted, provided it was exactly 5.8 inches. This year, Apple has recognized that variety is the spice of life, and that some people want a lot of screen real estate on their smartphone. The 5.8-inch size is back with the iPhone Xs, but you can also go big with either the 6.1-inch iPhone XR or the 6.5-inch iPhone Xs Max.
Beastly A12 Bionic processor
The first 7-nanometer mobile processor is the star of the show with this new round of iPhone updates. You want better performance? Apple says the two high-performance cores in the new A12 Bionic CPU are 15 percent faster and consume 40 percent less power than the A11, while the four efficiency cores are 50 percent more efficient than last year’s processor. The GPU inside the A12 Bionic is 50 percent faster than the A11 as well. Throw in an 8-core neural engine and an new image signal processor, and the A12 is at the center of so many of the improvements highlighting Apple’s latest iPhone.
Speaking of the A12’s new image signal processor, it’s driving some of the biggest enhancements to the new iPhones’ cameras. The new phones support something called Smart HDR, which increases the number of exposures captured when you take a photo. That means more balanced shots, and since Smart HDR does this more quickly than before, you shouldn’t notice any shutter lag when you’re taking pictures.
The dual lens set-up on the iPhone Xs and Xs Max is the same as what the original iPhone X offered (a 12-megapixel wide-angle lens plus a 12-MP telephoto shooter), but Apple says the sensor is larger on the new models, which should improve the quality of shots captured in low-light settings. That’s been one area where the iPhone X’s camera stumbled, so we’re eager to see how these new cameras perform.
A new tool for portrait shots
Apple’s phones have relied on Portrait Mode to produce some pretty impressive photos featuring blurred backgrounds. This bokeh effect gets even more sophisticated on the new iPhones, as Apple is tweaking the Photos app to let you adjust the blur even after you’ve shot the photo. A slider gives you the power to retroactively change depth of field. You’ll even be able to take portrait shots with the iPhone XR’s single rear camera, as Apple is turning to computation photography to enable the feature, similar to how Google handles things with its single-lens Pixels.
More colorful OLED screens
Like the iPhone X, the new iPhone Xs features an OLED panel with the same 2,436 x 1,125 resolution as before. (The iPhone Xs Max, with its bigger OLED screen, has sharper resolution.) But Apple didn’t just use last year’s display on this year’s phone. Instead, the new iPhone screens should be more colorful than before, with 60 percent greater dynamic range, according to Apple.
Better battery life
The iPhone X can outpace the average smartphone, lasting 10 hours, 49 minutes on our battery test, where we have a smartphone surf the web continuously until it runs out of power. (The typical smartphone conks out an hour before the iPhone X does.) Apple says the new phones should last even longer, promising up to 30 minutes of extra battery life for the iPhone Xs and an hour-and-a-half for the iPhone Xs Max. (That latter model apparently has the biggest battery Apple’s ever put in an iPhone.) You can expect better battery life on the iPhone XR, too, as Apple says it will last 90 minutes longer than the iPhone 8 Plus.
Faster Face ID
Apple introduced the ability to unlock your iPhone using just a facial scan when it rolled out Face ID with the iPhone X last year. The process isn’t changing with the new iPhones, which all adopt the X’s home button-free design. But you should be able to unlock your phone or confirm mobile payments faster. Apple says Face ID now has faster algorithms and a faster secure enclave to speed up the facial recognition process.
Dual SIM card support
The iPhone Xs and Xs Max could be a traveler’s dream phone. Both new iPhones will support dual SIM cards — one a physical SIM and the other an electronic one. That’s good news if you do a lot of globetrotting and like to use a local plan when you’re overseas or you’re just the type who needs two phone numbers on one handset. Incoming calls will be identified on your iPhone’s screen by which SIM they’re coming from, and Apple says it’s working with a number of carriers on eSIM support, including AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon in the U.S.
A broader range of colors
While Apple added gold alongside the silver and space gray options for the iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max, it’s the iPhone XR lineup where things really get colorful. Here, you’ll be able to get your new phone in one of six colors, with unusual-for-Apple hues like coral, yellow, blue and red joining the more staid black and white options. It gives Apple’s new phones a splash of personality, especially now that the once ubiquitous rose gold seems to have faded from the scene.
Get ready for better audio if you opt for the iPhone Xs and Xs Max. The two new phones offer a wider stereo sound than their predecessor, which should make for a more immersive experience when you’re playing games or watching a movie on your iPhone.