One month later: iPhone XS versus the iPhone XS Max

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When upgrading to Apple's new iPhone XS, you have to choose between the 5.8-inch XS or the 6.5-inch XS Max. After spending a month with both phones, there's a few real-world differences between the two models that may be worth knowing about before reaching a decision.

Bigger is better

First of all, the massive 6.5-inch display of the iPhone XS Max is so immersive and mesmerizing. It's perfect for everything from watching YouTube videos to movies on Netflix, or playing games like Fortnite.

It finally competes with other manufacturers displays like Samsung's Galaxy Note 9 in terms of screen size, with the XS Max's display actually one inch larger on the diagonal. The Note 9 also has pretty large bezels on the top and bottom of the phone that are very noticeable.

Of course, the XS Max has the notch, but it's actually less noticeable than on the XS. The notch is still the exact same size on both phones, but it takes up a much smaller percentage of the entire display compared to the XS, making it far less noticeable. This difference is huge when watching videos.

Not only that, but the display area on the left and right side of the notch is larger, so things like the time, cellular signal, and battery life don't seem as cramped along with everything else that occupies that space.

iPhone XS Max Notch

The bezels on the XS Max are actually slightly thinner than the ones on the XS. It's hard to notice, but the specs show that the screen to body ratio is 1.5 percent higher than its smaller counterpart.

iPhone XS Max UI

Depending on what you're doing with it, the iPhone XS can look a bit cramped, whereas the Max looks very open and roomy.

It's also packing the highest-resolution display on any iPhone ever, with 2688 by 1242 pixels. On top of that, it's been awarded DisplayMate's Best Smartphone Display award, setting or matching records in 8 different categories, like highest color accuracy, highest full-screen brightness for OLED smartphones, and lowest screen reflectance.

Technically the display used on the iPhone XS is actually identical when looking at performance, but the award and records gives the iPhone XS Max the bragging rights.

One thing you can't get on the iPhone XS is landscape mode, which was present on the Plus-sized iPhones and was missing on the iPhone X. While most probably don't care for it, it's there for the people who do like to use it.

iPhone XS Larger Keyboard

The keyboard is also bigger with larger buttons for each key, which will help those prone to making mistakes while typing with cramped keyboards.

With all that said, the larger screen does introduce some issues.

Size isn't everything

If you've used the iPhone 8 Plus and found that it was a little hard to reach the top of the screen for the notification center, you may find it's a lot harder with the XS Max. Since the control center comes down from the upper-right corner of the screen, it's also harder to reach, even with large hands.

iPhone XS Max Control Center

Not only that, but just using the iPhone XS Max with one hand is quite a bit harder than it is with the iPhone XS, since you have to stretch your hand out to reach anything near the top side of the screen. If you do have large hands, you'll get used to it over time as you find creative ways to hold the phone to get better reach, but the problem with that is the risk of dropping your device increases.

There's always reachability mode, but I never really got used to it and I can reach the control center just fine.

If you're somebody with small hands, good luck using the iPhone XS Max without using both hands effectively all the time, or constantly using reachability mode.

The power

Now let's move onto battery life.

If you're someone who really cares about battery life or you've noticed that you're constantly running low every evening with your current iPhone, the iPhone XS Max is the right choice for you.

The XS Max is loaded with a 3,174 mAh battery, compared to 2,658 on the iPhone XS. It's rated by Apple for an extra hour of overall battery life, but a real-world test by Consumer Reports saw that the XS Max got about an hour and a half more than the XS, and 6.5 hours more than the iPhone X.

iPhone XS Max Battery Life

Results can vary, since a test by Tom's Guide showed that the iPhone X actually lasted longer than the XS, but still almost an hour less than the XS Max.

Over the last month, I've personally experienced longer battery life with my iPhone XS Max than on any iPhone ever, including my old iPhone 8 Plus which lasted longer than the iPhone X.

The iPhone XS Max lasts literally all day and more, and I've been using my phone a lot more than I used my iPhone 8 Plus. I basically only ever have to plug it in when I'm going to sleep, making it more convenient.

iPhone XS Max vs iPhone XS

In short

Overall, the iPhone XS Max is basically the iPhone of my dreams. The screen is so massive and immersive that it's just awe-inspiring.

When Apple revealed the iPhone XS Max costs only $100 more the XS, I was shocked. Having both phones in hand for a couple of weeks, there's no question that the iPhone XS Max is easily worth the extra $100 and even more.

If you are still trying to decide between buying the iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Max, unless you've got small hands and feel more comfortable with a more compact phone, just spend the extra $100 and go for the bigger option. I'm pretty confident that you won't regret it.

Deals on the iPhone XS and XS Max

If you haven't already ordered Apple's iPhone XS or XS Max, wireless carriers are incentivizing the purchase. Want to get your hands on a new device asap? eBay sellers are also shipping units now.

Carrier deals:

  • AT&T Wireless: Buy one iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max, get a second $700 off when you add a line.
  • Verizon Wireless: Get up to $300 off with an eligible trade.
  • Sprint: Get the 64GB iPhone XS for $0 per month with eligible trade-in and Sprint Flex lease.
  • T-Mobile: Save up to $300 on the iPhone XS with an eligible iPhone trade.