The trio of iPhones Apple is in the middle of rolling out this fall may look a lot like the iPhone X that inspired them, right down to the notched displays. But take a closer look at the just-released iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max or the still-to-come iPhone XR, and you'll see that a lot's changed. From the processor that's running the show to the new color and screen size options, there are plenty of new features to explore with Apple's latest hardware. Here are the 10 iPhone changes and improvements that have caught our eye.
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With last year's iPhone X, you could have any sized display you wanted, provided it was exactly 5.8 inches. This year, Apple has recognized that variety is the spice of life, and that some people want a lot of screen real estate on their smartphone. The 5.8-inch size is back with the iPhone XS, but you can also go big with either the 6.1-inch iPhone XR or the 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max.
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The first 7-nanometer mobile processor is the star of the show with this new round of iPhone updates. You want better performance? Apple says the two high-performance cores in the new A12 Bionic CPU are 15 percent faster and consume 40 percent less power than the A11, while the four efficiency cores are 50 percent more efficient than last year's processor. The GPU inside the A12 Bionic is 50 percent faster than the A11 as well. Throw in an 8-core neural engine and an new image signal processor, and the A12 is at the center of so many of the improvements highlighting Apple's latest iPhone.
Our benchmark testing supports those claims. The iPhone XS and XS Max were noticeably better than the iPhone X in our testing. And that means Snapdragon 845-powered phones like the Galaxy Note 9 are even further behind Apple's latest phones.
Speaking of the A12's new image signal processor, it's driving some of the biggest enhancements to the new iPhones' cameras. The new phones support something called Smart HDR, which increases the number of exposures captured when you take a photo. That means more balanced shots, and since Smart HDR does this more quickly than before, you shouldn't notice any shutter lag when you're taking pictures.
The dual lens set-up on the iPhone XS and XS Max is the same as what the original iPhone X offered (a 12-megapixel wide-angle lens plus a 12-MP telephoto shooter), but Apple says the sensor is larger on the new models, which should improve the quality of shots captured in low-light settings. We certainly noticed better images when we tested the new phones, though the Pixel 2 XL remains the current standard for camera phones.
Apple's phones have relied on Portrait Mode to produce some pretty impressive photos featuring blurred backgrounds. This bokeh effect gets even more sophisticated on the new iPhones, as Apple is tweaking the Photos app to let you adjust the blur even after you've shot the photo. A slider gives you the power to retroactively change depth of field. You'll even be able to take portrait shots with the iPhone XR's single rear camera, as Apple is turning to computation photography to enable the feature, similar to how Google handles things with its single-lens Pixels.
Like the iPhone X, the new iPhone XS features an OLED panel with the same 2,436 x 1,125 resolution as before. (The iPhone XS Max, with its bigger OLED screen, has sharper resolution.) But Apple didn't just use last year's display on this year's phone. Instead, the new iPhone screens should be more colorful than before, with 60 percent greater dynamic range, according to Apple.
The iPhone X can outpace the average smartphone, lasting 10 hours, 49 minutes on our battery test, where we have a smartphone surf the web continuously until it runs out of power. (The typical smartphone conks out an hour before the iPhone X does.) Apple says the new phones should last even longer. That wasn't the case when we tested and retested the new phones, though the XS Max turned in a time of 10 hours, 38 minutes, which is better than the average smartphone. The iPhone XS's result was a more ordinary 9 hours, 41 minutes. So if you want a phone that gets you through the day on a single charge, opt for the larger model.
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Apple introduced the ability to unlock your iPhone using just a facial scan when it rolled out Face ID with the iPhone X last year. The process isn't changing with the new iPhones, which all adopt the X's home button-free design. But you should be able to unlock your phone or confirm mobile payments faster. Apple says Face ID now has faster algorithms and a faster secure enclave to speed up the facial recognition process.