Apple iPhone XS vs. iPhone X: What difference does a year make?

iPhone XS review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The world of smartphones is constantly moving forward, with a never-ending parade of improvements and upgrades. A year on from Apple’s biggest overhaul of the iPhone range and we have a direct successor to the iPhone X. Clearly part of the same family, with a notched OLED screen and all the same design cues, we find the iPhone XS vying for our affections.

Owners of an iPhone X will be weighing up whether the upgrade to an iPhone XS is worth it. Others may be anticipating a price drop for the iPhone X and wondering if the iPhone XS justifies the extra outlay. We have all the answers you need right here as we compare last year’s iPhone X with this year’s iPhone XS. You can learn about our in-depth impressions in our iPhone XS review.

Specs

Apple iPhone XS Apple iPhone X
Size 143.6 × 70.9 × 7.7 mm (5.65 × 2.79 × 0.30 inches) 143.6 × 70.9 × 7.7 mm (5.65 × 2.79 × 0.30 inches)
Weight 177 grams (6.24 ounces) 174 grams (6.14 ounces)
Screen size 5.8-inch Super Retina AMOLED display 5.8-inch Super Retina AMOLED display
Screen resolution 2,436 × 1,125 pixels (458 ppi) 2,436 × 1,125 pixels (458 ppi)
Operating system iOS 12 iOS 11
Storage space 64GB, 256GB, 512GB 64GB, 256GB
MicroSD card slot No No
Tap-to-pay services Apple Pay Apple Pay
Processor A12 Bionic A11 Bionic
RAM 4GB 3GB
Camera Dual 12MP rear, 7MP FaceTime HD front Dual 12MP rear, 7MP FaceTime HD front
Video 2,160p at 60 fps, 1,080p at 240 fps 2,160p at 60 fps, 1,080p at 240 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5 Bluetooth 5
Ports Lightning Lightning
Fingerprint sensor No No
Water resistance IP68 IP67
Battery 2,658mAh 2,716mAh
App marketplace Apple App Store Apple App Store
Network support AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint
Colors Gold, Silver, Space Gray Space Gray, Silver
Price $1,000 $1,000
Where to buy it Apple AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Apple
Review score 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.5 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

iPhone XS
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The most notable thing here is the upgrade to Apple’s latest A12 Bionic processor. This new chip is faster and more power-efficient than its predecessor, the A11, which you’ll find in the iPhone X. Apple suggests it’s 15 percent faster and 40 percent more power-efficient. There’s also an improved Neural Engine in the A12 Bionic, along with augmented reality and graphical improvements that should please gamers in particular. Apple has also seen fit to add an extra 1GB of RAM, giving the iPhone XS 4GB of RAM, which should make it a more capable multitasker.

We’re not sure how much the extra speed will be felt right now, since the iPhone X will comfortably handle anything you can throw at it, but as more demanding apps and games are released to take advantage of this jump in raw processing power, we will see a gap. Apple also suggests that apps will load up to 30 percent faster on the iPhone XS. It definitely feels a bit faster than its predecessor and FaceID is a bit quicker to unlock.

You may also see slightly better battery life in the iPhone XS. We found we still had to charge it at the end of every day, but Apple suggests it should last half an hour longer per day on average, even although the capacity is slightly smaller. You can fast charge the iPhone X if you snag a fast charger, but charging speeds, both slow and fast, are going to be similar for these phones. Both iPhones also support Qi wireless charging.

Winner: Apple iPhone XS

Design and durability

iPhone XS review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

You’ll be hard-pressed to tell these phones apart. As is tradition with an S upgrade, the body of the iPhone XS is identical to the iPhone X. We’ve got the same glass sandwich design with a notch cut into the top of the 5.8-inch OLED screen. However, while you can get both in space grey or silver, only the iPhone XS comes in gold.

A case is going to be a necessity for either of these iPhones, so check out the best iPhone X cases and the best iPhone XS cases for some ideas. The iPhone XS is covered in tougher glass, so it may fare a little better in a fall. Water won’t be a major concern for iPhone X owners because it can be submerged in shallow water — up to a meter deep — for up to half an hour without damage. The iPhone XS has a slightly higher IP68 rating that means it can handle depths of up to 2 meters for the same period.

Winner: Apple iPhone XS

Display

iPhone XS review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

There’s nothing to separate the iPhones here, because both sport the same 5.8-inch OLED screen with a 2,436 × 1,125-pixel resolution. They’re sharp, bright, and boast accurate colors. The aspect ratio is 19.5:9, so this is a wide screen, though that distinctive notch cuts out a portion of it. The screen-to-body ratio is still one of the highest around at 82.9 percent.

Winner: Tie

Camera

iPhone XS review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

We’ve been impressed by the dual-lens camera in the iPhone X, and Apple stuck with the same setup in the iPhone XS. You’ve got two 12-megapixel lenses, both with optical image stabilization (OIS), but one has an f/1.8 aperture while the other has an f/2.4 aperture and supports 2× optical zoom. It’s capable of capturing great shots in a wide variety of different situations, though it doesn’t match some competitors when it comes to low-light photography. Something it is very good at is capturing great portrait shots with blurred backgrounds, and the iPhone XS allows you to adjust the depth of field after taking a shot.

Apple claims the sensor in the iPhone XS is twice as fast, and it’s definitely the best iPhone camera we’ve ever used. Low light performance has been improved significantly with the bigger sensor in the iPhone XS camera and we’ve seen significant improvements from Smart HDR, which combines exposures to avoid blowing out or overexposing areas of your photos.

The front-facing camera has the same TrueDepth support, which enables the FaceID to work so securely and also allows Animojis and Memojis to work so well. Apparently, the iPhone XS has a faster Secure Enclave and an algorithm update, and we have found that FaceID works just a little faster in the newer phone.

Winner: Apple iPhone XS

Software and updates

iOS 12
Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

The Apple iPhone XS launches with the iOS 12 operating system on board, while the iPhone X launched with iOS 11, however the iPhone X can be updated to iOS 12 very easily. Apple rolls out updates regularly, and both these iPhones will be easy to update over-the-air.

The software experience and update schedule should be identical for both these phones, but we’re going to give the newer iPhone the slightest of edges, because it will likely continue to get updates for slightly longer than its predecessor. If we look at iOS 12, for example, we find that the iPhone 5S is the cutoff line and the iPhone 5 won’t be getting it.

Winner: Apple iPhone XS

Special features

how to make a memoji on iphone in hand
Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

Perhaps the headline feature here is the TrueDepth front-facing camera, which is capable of scanning your face, even in the dark, to unlock your iPhone. Apple has employed the same technology to enable your facial expressions to animate fun creatures in the shape of Animojis or caricatures in the shape of Memojis. They add a little fun to your chats and work a lot more smoothly than similar features on other phones.

The iPhone XS adds dual SIM support, which is great for international travelers, but there isn’t too much else to speak of here. These iPhones are great all-rounders that are focused on doing the essentials very well.

Winner: Apple iPhone XS

Price

When Apple releases a new iPhone, last year’s model usually drops in price, however, the iPhone X has been discontinued. The base model of the iPhone XS with 64GB of storage will cost you $1,000.

The iPhone XS replaces the iPhone X on Apple’s website, but you should still be able to pick it up from major retailers or from any big carrier, so watch out for deals.

Overall Winner: Apple iPhone XS

It will come as no surprise that Apple has made improvements over the last year and the iPhone XS is a slightly better phone than the iPhone X. It boasts better performance, longer battery life, and a few other tweaks to make it more appealing, but the difference isn’t massive. If you have an iPhone X already, we think you should hang to it on for at least another year. For those choosing between the X and the XS, we’d definitely opt for the newer iPhone.

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