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Why I’m Buying the iPhone Xs Max Instead of the iPhone XR

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I knew I hated the name “iPhone Xs Max” when it leaked, but I had a strong hunch I’d buy one anyways. My expectation was confirmed this past Wednesday (Sept 12), when Apple senior vice president of marketing Phil Schiller revealed the super-duper-sized iPhone of my dreams.

But why am I willing to plunk so much money — the iPhone Xs Max starts at $1,099, and I’ll be tacking on another $150 for the 256GB version — on a phone that’s surprisingly similar to its cheaper brethren? Here’s a breakdown of how I made the decision on which new iPhone to buy.

I just got an iPhone 8 Plus, why upgrade again?

Back when Apple first announced the iPhone X, I had questions and doubts. Would Face ID facial recognition be a suitable replacement for the Touch ID I’d been so accustomed to? How much did Portrait Mode matter to me? What was up with all these apps that were taking months to update for the notched design? And finally, could I get over ditching the headphone jack that still came with my iPhone 6 Plus?

MORE: iPhone Xs vs. iPhone X: What’s Changed?

But then, before I knew it, I was writing about how iOS 11 slowed my beloved iPhone 6 Plus to a crawl. Later, I’d find out this poor performance may have been battery-related performance throttling, but that scandal broke too late to save me from an upgrade.

iPhone 8 Plus vs iPhone Xs Max

iPhone 8 Plus iPhone Xs Max
Starting Price $699 $1099
Processor A11 Bionic A12 Bionic
Screen 5.5-inch OLED (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) 6.5-inch OLED (2,688 x 1,242 pixels)
Storage 64GB, 256GB 64GB, 256GB, 512GB
Face ID Yes Yes
Rear Camera Dual 12MP wide (ƒ/1.8) and telephoto (ƒ/2.8) Dual 12MP wide (ƒ/1.8) and telephoto (ƒ/2.4)
Front Camera 7MP, ƒ/2.2 7MP, ƒ/2.2
Battery Life (claimed) Up to 14 hours of video playback Up to 15 hours of video playback
Metal frame Stainless steel Stainless steel
Colors Gold, Silver, Space Gray Gold, Silver, Space Gray
Weight 7.1 ounces 7.3 ounces
Size 6.2 x 3.1 x 0.3 inches 6.2 x 3.1 x 0.3 inches

So, I bit the bullet and upgraded to the iPhone 8 Plus, which means I now carry a Lightning-to-Headphone-jack adapter. While it’s been annoying to carry that little dingus around — and replace it a handful of times — this loss was something I could get used to. I purposefully bought my 8 Plus on the Apple Upgrade Program, though, as I had a hunch that my concerns would be calmed in a year’s time.

And while I like my iPhone 8 Plus, it definitely feels of a bygone era. In winter, my gloves prevented me from using Touch ID, and I thought to myself, “Face ID would be mighty nifty right now.” (I don’t wear scarves that often, so my face wouldn’t be too obscured).

Credit: AppleCredit: AppleOnce I tried Portrait Mode and its Bokeh effect, I realized how much I wanted this option on the front-facing camera. Taking selfies with the rear-facing camera, while you’re unable to see your screen, is a flawed process, and a stretch.

MORE: iPhone Xs vs iPhone Xs Max vs iPhone XR

While it took Gmail until December of 2017 to add support for the iPhone X design, most apps have caught up to the notched style by now, so that’s no longer a concern.

Max or bust: biggest is best

When pressed as to why I pick the iPhone Xs Max — when the Xs and XR have the same A12 Bionic chip, the same Smart HDR, and all of these phones have portrait mode — I openly admit my bias. Ever since I upgraded to the iPhone 6 Plus in 2015, I’ve known that I want the biggest iPhone I can get my mitts on.

The 5.8-inch iPhone Xs may provide a smaller size and a bigger screen than the 5.5-inch iPhone 8 Plus I own now, but the 6.5-inch iPhone Xs Max packs an even huger screen, at about the same overall size as the iPhone 8 Plus, a phone my hands are used to.

Recently, a reporter from our local FOX 5 local news station balked at my love of huge phones, and I admit, they’re not for everyone. They’re worth my money, though, without a question.

iPhone Xs vs iPhone Xs Max

iPhone Xs iPhone Xs Max
Starting Price $999 $1099
Processor A12 Bionic A12 Bionic
Screen 5.8-inch OLED (2,436 x 1,125 pixels) 6.5-inch OLED (2,688 x 1,242 pixels)
Storage 64GB, 256GB, 512GB 64GB, 256GB, 512GB
Face ID Yes Yes
Rear Camera 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/2.2 7MP, ƒ/2.2
Battery Life (claimed) Up to 14 hours of video playback Up to 15 hours of video playback
Metal frame Stainless steel Stainless steel
Colors Gold, Silver, Space Gray Gold, Silver, Space Gray
Weight 6.2 ounces 7.3 ounces
Size 5.7 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches 6.2 x 3.1 x 0.3 inches

And as the iPhone continues its dominance as the most important computer I own, I want the most screen space for all the YouTube videos I watch (and save locally with YouTube Premium), all of the photos I take (and the GIFs I make) and all the articles I read. A bigger screen means larger images and videos as I scroll through Twitter, and it also means a larger page (without smaller text) to write on, when I’m composing documents in Gmail, Drafts, Bear and Notes.

MORE: iPhone XS Max Hands-on: The Right Kind of Ginormous

Sure, the iPhone Xs’s screen isn’t tiny and boasts a 2,436 x 1,125 resolution, but you’re losing some of that space to the notch at the top and the dead space at the bottom. The slight increase of screen estate on the iPhone Xs Max (2,688 x 1,242 pixels), seemingly takes those losses into consideration.

Size also matters, it seems, on battery life. Check out this table, courtesy of Apple. Of all the estimates provided, I’m most drawn to the extra five hours of audio playback, for when it’s late at night and I’m coming home on a subway train, and trying to finish my favorite podcasts.

 

Yes, the XR is pretty good, but…

Sure, the iPhone Xs Max and iPhone XR share the same A12 Bionic CPU, both have Smart HDR camera technology, and both offer portrait mode. But to my fellow LCD-based iPhone owners, I ask “Have you ever seen an iPhone X in person?”

The first time I saw an iPhone X in public, in an elevator with strangers at the office, I was blown away. Apple’s OLED panels look painted on, and flatter-to-the-glass than their LCD counterparts.

iPhone Xs Max vs iPhone XR

iPhone Xs Max
iPhone XR
Starting Price $1099 $749
Processor A12 Bionic A12 Bionic
Screen 6.5-inch OLED (2,688 x 1,242 pixels) 6.1-inch LCD (1,792 x 828 Pixels)
Storage 64GB, 256GB, 512GB 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
Face ID Yes Yes
Rear Camera Dual 12MP wide (ƒ/1.8) and telephoto (ƒ/2.4) Single 12MP (ƒ/1.8)
Front Camera 7MP, ƒ/2.2 7MP, ƒ/2.2
Battery Life (claimed) Up to 15 hours of video playback Up to 16 hours of video playback
Metal frame Stainless steel Aluminum
Colors Gold, Silver, Space Gray Black, White, Red, Yellow, Blue, and Coral
Weight 7.3 ounces 6.8 ounces
Size 6.2 x 3.1 x 0.3 inches 5.9 x 3.0 x 0.3 inches

The Liquid Retina LCD panels in the iPhone XR might prove innovative for how they cram a screen in a curved casing with rounded edges. But OLED still beats LCD on color. Working at Tom’s Guide, and helping colleagues with face-offs comparing the iPhone X’s screen with competing phones, I’ve consistently been reminded about how muted the colors on my iPhone 8 Plus’s screen look.

Also, I take a lot of photos at live events, and I don’t always have the best view, so I don’t think I’d be happy to be stuck with the single rear camera in the back of the iPhone XR, especially not after having dual rear cameras with the iPhone 8 Plus. So while iPhone XR users max out at a 5x digital zoom, the Xs Max has both 2x optical zoom and 10x digital zoom, so I can zoom without loss, and zoom in even further when necessary.

Oh, and, sure, I wish I could get the iPhone Xs Max in the coral or the blue shades the iPhone XR come in, but that metallic gold looks fantastic, and I’ll probably slap a case on it eventually, anyways.

Bottom Line

So, while there seem to be fewer differences between Apple’s priciest new iPhone and its least expensive model, there’s still enough there to get me to spend hundreds more. Think I’m crazy for going all out? Ready to join me in the Max division? Let me know in the comments below!

Credit: Tom’s Guide

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