iPhone XS review: Apple takes the iPhone X and turbo charges it

Is that enough, though? We went hands on with Apple's new iPhone XS and this is what we thought…

iPhone Xs review

Looking to pick the Apple iPhone XS today? Well, T3's iPhone XS review is the perfect resource to help you evaluate the phone. We cover every aspect of the Apple handset so nothing is left unknown. Right now the Black Friday deals on iPhone XS are particularly good, so be sure to browse through the best offers.

The new iPhone XS' release date is set for September 21, with pre-orders opening on September 14 for most countries around the world. 

Gareth notes that the price of the new iPhone XS has not risen over last year's expensive iPhone X, which is  no-doubt good news for many Apple enthusiasts, with the phone starting  at £999. The maximum capacity, 512GB model is £1,349

Despite the price not rising, the iPhone XS is still going to be among the most expensive handsets on the market though, he adds, aside from the "eye-watering" iPhone XS Max price, which starts at £1,099.

iPhone XS review: design and screen

iPhone Xs

Unlike last year's big new design, this year, in its usual style, Apple has iterated rather than redesigned for the "S" update. The flagship has received just a few design tweaks to show change.

The colour scheme, for example, this year includes a new gold shade, which "looks rather striking in the flesh." The  same steel frame remains, though.

Gareth notes that the new iPhone XS feels very premium in the hand, which he believes goes "some way to offsetting that sky high price." 

At T3, we don't consider about a grand for a flagship phone to be 'sky high' as such, but with mid-price phones from Huawei et al offering superb experiences for a lot less, Apple does have to really pull out the stops to make people pay that premium. 

However, given that hardly anybody is going to make the move from Huawei (or any other Android brand) to an Apple flagship at this point, this is really all about keeping the Apple faithful on board. The iPhone XR might be another story, but we'll come to that in another hands-on…

Moving on to the screen, Gareth reports that the iPhone XS sports a 5.8-inch OLED display that is surrounded by very small bezels all the way around. The screen supports HDR 10 and Dolby Vision, which help lead to '60 per cent better dynamic range', whatever that means to a human with eyes. Gareth notes though that "watching HDR video on the screen didn’t instantly feel like it was miles better, but it was engaging and deep."

Last year's notch also returns, and remains loaded with all the tech needed for Face ID facial recognition, which is a pretty slick and seamless system at this point.

iPhone XS review: battery and camera

iPhone Xs

In terms of battery life, the iPhone XS can reportedly last '30 minutes longer' than the  iPhone X, which itself had a 2,700mAh battery and generally got most users through a day of moderate usage. Gareth could not test the iPhone XS battery claim during his hands on session, obviously, and concluded that "there aren’t many huge strides forward in battery life on the iPhone XS." Half an hour is a marginal gain.

This idea of minor refinements, rather than huge leaps forward, also seemed evident in the iPhone XS' camera system,  which Gareth notes highlights "how this is very much an ‘S’ year for the iPhone range."

The phone features two 12MP sensors on the rear, both with optical image stabilisation, and consist of a wide-angle lens with superior low-light performance, and a two-times zoom telephoto lens.

Gareth notes that together these lenses can be used to form Apple's Portrait Mode, which delivers DSLR-style bokeh and lighting tricks. The camera system can also now "dynamically work out scenes and enhance overall photo quality algorithmically", which he believes is something Apple has added to compete with the camera systems installed on the Huawei P20 Pro and Google Pixel 3.

iPhone XS review: early verdict

iPhone Xs

Overall, therefore, TechRadar's Gareth Beavis believes that the upgrades he saw on the new iPhone XS "were many and overpowering", while noting that "there’s always something so disappointing about the ‘S’ years of the iPhone".

However, with "decent improvements in the mix"– he highlighted the phone's louder speakers and  more colourful screen – there's no doubt the iPhone XS looks like a great phone. An exciting phone? Despite all the hyperbole (and duration) of Apple's launch event, perhaps not. It's the iPhone X, but 'S'peedier, and with a fresh lick of paint.

The way that Apple's much-vaunted processing power, AI and 'neural networks' get used by developers may be what determines if this goes down as a classic or an also-ran in the iPhone pantheon.

T3 will shortly be reviewing the iPhone XS in full, so be sure to check back in soon for our official verdict. TechRadar's Apple iPhone XS hands on can be enjoyed in full, at your leisure, right now. 

Robert Jones

Rob has been writing about computing, gaming, mobile, home entertainment technology, toys (specifically Lego and board games), smart home and more for over 15 years. As the editor of PC Gamer, and former Deputy Editor for T3.com, you can find Rob's work in magazines, bookazines and online, as well as on podcasts and videos, too. Outside of his work Rob is passionate about motorbikes, skiing/snowboarding and team sports, with football and cricket his two favourites.