HANDS ON NEW iPHONE Xs and Xs Max // And My New Favorite Feature

It’s always feels like a bit of a tech golden ticket be one of the first to get my hands on the new iPhone, before it hits the shelves. And every go round has been unique with worthwhile surprises. In this post I explain my quick thoughts and favorite features on the latest roll out.

As you probably already know three phones were recently unveiled: the iPhone Xs (pronounced TEN S) and the iPhone Xs Max (TEN S MAX) and the most affordable of the new Apple lineup the XR (TEN R).

In this quick take review I have tested the iPhone Xs and Xs Max. Not too much confusion here though only thing different is the size.

Bigger Size

One could say this unveil is bigger than ever, literally. The iPhone Xs Max touts a 6.5” screen – the largest specs ever for an iPhone. Almost like a little jab to Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9, with a 6.4” screen, Apple goes just a wee bit bigger. It’s no doubt that screen size is a big deal. I, for one, can attest that once you get that generous expanse of real estate size it’s unlikely you’ll ever want to go back to a smaller screen.

Left - iPhone Xs // Right - iPhone Xs Max

Left - iPhone Xs // Right - iPhone Xs Max

Better Speed and Efficiency

With a new iPhone comes the expected upgrades and improvements. We’ve got the need for speed and the new operating system behind the scenes touts itself to be 15% faster at its basic performance cores, while simultaneously running more efficiently with 50% less power usage. There’s also more happening behind the scenes that you as a user don’t even have to think about. This upgrade is thanks to the new A12 “bionic” chip with Neural Engine. I could get all fancy tech here, but just know that it’s using real time machine learning to deliver serious performance when it comes to photography, gaming and things like augmented reality.

Improved Durability

One big concern with the iPhone that I hear a lot from friends and family is their worry about water damage, scratches or cracking from the impact of a fall.Been there – sadly more than once. Structurally the new phone is stronger and less prone to accidents. It has a more durable glass (Apple touts strongest glass front and back on any smartphone) and is made of a stronger surgical grade stainless steel alloy. Apple has also upgraded the level of water resistance so there’s less danger of damage from that coffee or water bottle spill. Even with improved durability, the phone still retains its aesthetics with a sleek design in three color options including silver, space grey and gold (which is rose gold). The XR has comes in a handful of colors including blue, yellow, coral and red, black and white.

HDR Display

Have you ever watched an older film or TV show and been struck how fuzzy the image appears?  Over time we have grown so accustomed to high definition.  The new iPhone contains a “Super Retina Display” with custom OLED panels that provide high definition color, contrast and lighting.  It’s like having a mini HD theater screen right on your phone.  Shadows and details are so fine-tuned… we are getting spoiled with the super crisp looking, detailed visuals right before our eyes.

Upgraded Camera

One of the best features from this roll out and really what I think is the cornerstone success of the iPhone, is the amazing camera capability.  Its’ no surprise the camera specs are better than ever, and I really think we take this for granted!

It was once said “The best camera is the one you have on you.” It’s a true statement, but perhaps for modern times we should upgraded this phrase to say, “The best camera is the one you have on you AND have the easiest access to.” I say this because in my travels “Around the World in Katie Days” I’m always carrying a ton of gear.  When I am on the road filming for a network, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve relied just on my iPhone to capture a scene right in the moment. It’s a fantastic camera – that just keeps improving and getting more powerful.

I’ll admit that I’ve gone into some big-time shoots with a whole gear bag of expensive DSLR cameras, lenses and tripods, but guess what I ended up using?  You guessed it, an iPhone. It’s often the most reliable and accessible camera that I have on me --with reliable quality, the easiest ability to quickly shoot, tweak and then share the photos on social medial.

The new camera boasts several improved features. Dual cameras (both wide and telephoto lens) combined with a new sensor working behind the scenes capture the finest highlights, details and shadows. And don’t just read the verbiage – you’ll see from my images the camera is legit. Improved quad LED lets you get better shots in low light settings and improved video stabilization has me excited especially for those videos that I like to shoot from the car window.

Depth Control

Time to chat my favorite feature: depth control. This is one camera feature that is a true stand out and is unique to the trifecta lineup of TENs thanks to the new A12 chip. This function allows you to adjust the aperture without effecting the exposure. This simply means that after taking a portrait shot you can control how blurry the background is without damaging the primary focus of the shot.  I’ve gone to photography workshops and literally spent days learning how to set up the camera and adjust the depth of field settings.  It is something that I love to toy around with in my DSLR and is a big differentiator in taking a professional photograph. But, let’s face it, in the real world it’s difficult to have the time for this kind of set-up.

The new iPhone camera allows you to take the photo right in the moment and then and then easily adjust the background blur in post-production, without any extra software. Example: You’ll see in the pictures below, when I was at my nephew’s first soccer game. I had a quick moment, before he ran over to his teammates to get the shot.There was definitely no time to set up the tripod with the DSLR! I took my two seconds and was unfortunately photobombed, but with the new software, I just changed the background depth of field (blurriness) to create an amazing shot! 

Left - Original Shot // Right - Modified Depth of Field

Left - Original Shot // Right - Modified Depth of Field

Check out the video review of my new favorite feature, depth control!


I say we mix the Xs with a little Os and by Os I mean “OHHHHs!” I say that because of the price tag.  The latest technology does not come cheap. Without sales tax here’s the breakdown: 

The Xs:
$999 for 64GB
$1149 for 256GB
$1,349 for 512GB

Xs Max:
$1,099 for 64GB
$1,249 for 256GB
$1449 for 512GB