Apple introduced the iPhone Xs on September 12, 2018. It was a few days later that pre-orders became available, and the official iPhone Xs release date was September 21, 2018. The iPhone Xs was the successor to the iPhone X, and it launched alongside the iPhone Xs Max and the iPhone Xr. These three models, the iPhone Xs, Xs Max, and Xr, became the 12th-generation of the iPhone. The iPhone Xs carried on using the gesture-based UI with Face ID that was introduced with the iPhone X, and it also brought several key improvements. But is the iPhone Xs still worth buying in 2021?
iPhone Xs specifications
Initially, the iPhone Xr was the model we saw most recommended from the 12th-generation iPhone lineup. The iPhone Xs had better features as compared to the iPhone Xr, but it also had a higher price point, and for some, that was a limiting factor. But when shifting from buying new to buying newish, the recommendation changes and the iPhone Xs becomes the better option when compared against the iPhone Xr. We’ll be diving into the iPhone Xs features throughout this post, but as a starting point, the key specs are as follows:
- 5.8-inch Super Retina HD display (2436 x 1125, 458 ppi)
- A12 Bionic chip with Next-generation Neural engine
- 4GB RAM
- 64GB, 256GB, 512GB
- 2,658 mAh battery
- IP68 rating for Dust, Splash, and Water Resistance
- Rear camera: Dual 12MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras
- Front camera: 7MP TrueDepth camera
The iPhone Xs launched with iOS 12 and is currently upgradable to iOS 14. This means you will be running the latest version of iOS. The iPhone Xs also features a dual-SIM setup with a physical nano-SIM card and a digital eSIM.
iPhone Xs size
Along with specs, the size (and weight) of a phone are often an important factor. The iPhone Xs features a 5.8-inch display, which was the same size as compared to the previous generation, iPhone X. The iPhone Xs dimensions are also the same as the iPhone X, which means the following: 5.65 (H), by 2.79 (W), by 0.30 (D) – inches. Otherwise, the iPhone Xs weighed in at 6.24 ounces.
iPhone Xs colors
Apple offered the iPhone Xs in three color options: Space Gray, Silver, and Gold. The exterior color certainly doesn’t change how the phone performs, but it does allow for some personal choice based on your style and preference. The iPhone Xs has the basics of gray, silver, and gold, but it did not include the wider range of colors, such as yellow, red, coral, and blue, that were available with the iPhone Xr.
iPhone Xs camera
The camera setup is one area where the iPhone Xs shined. It featured an improved setup as compared to the iPhone X, as well as when compared to the iPhone Xr. The iPhone Xs camera setup is as follows:
- 7MP TrueDepth camera
- f/2.2 aperture
- Smart HDR
- Retina flash
- Portrait mode with advanced bokeh
The iPhone X and Xr also featured a 7MP TrueDepth camera on the front, and overall the iPhone Xr and Xs setup were the same. But there were improvements as compared to the iPhone X. The Portrait mode on the Xs included the advanced bokeh with Depth Control, which wasn’t available on the iPhone X.
The HDR also went from Auto HDR on the iPhone X to Smart HDR on the iPhone Xs. This means the camera captures “buffer” frames as soon as you open the camera, even before you tap the shutter button. These buffer frames and the actual image(s) that you capture after tapping the shutter button are captured at different exposures, and then by taking advantage of Apple’s A12 Bionic chip — they are automatically combined into a single Smart HDR image. Essentially, Smart HDR means you can get a better quality image with less effort on your part.
- Dual 12MP wide and telephoto cameras
- f/1.8 aperture (wide) and f/2.4 aperture (telephoto)
- Smart HDR
- True Tone flash with Slow Sync
- Portrait mode with advanced bokeh and Depth Control
The dual camera system on the iPhone X and the iPhone Xs were similar in hardware and in terms of the features available. However, the iPhone Xs did have Smart HDR, which wasn’t available on the iPhone X. Similar to the Smart HDR functionality on the iPhone Xs front-facing camera — Smart HDR on the rear-facing camera means you should be able to get a better quality image with greater dynamic range.
The iPhone Xr also has Smart HDR, but the overall camera setup was better on the iPhone Xs due to the addition of the telephoto lens. The iPhone Xs camera also features dual optical image stabilization, 2x optical zoom in, up to 10x digital zoom, and six effects for Portrait Lighting (Natural, Studio, Contour, Stage, Stage Mono, and High-Key Mono).
iPhone Xs video recording
- 4k video at 24, 30 or 60 fps
- 1080p video at 30 or 60 fps
- Slo-mo video for 1080p at 120 or 240 fps
- Optical image stabilization for video
- 2x optical zoom in
- Up to 6x digital zoom
- Time-lapse video with stabilization
- Stereo recording
iPhone Xs pro display
The iPhone Xs has a high-quality OLED display, but as we’ve noted with some of the other features, the iPhone X and the Xs are similar, with the iPhone Xs being a step above the iPhone Xr. Having said that, the iPhone Xs screen size is 5.8-inches, and the display is a Super Retina HD with a resolution of 2436 x 1125.
The display supports HDR and features Apple’s True Tone technology. The True Tone display means your phone is able to automatically adjust the color and brightness of the screen based on the surrounding lighting. Other highlights of the iPhone Xs display include a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, a 625 nits max brightness, and wide color (P3).
iPhone Xs battery life
The iPhone Xs has a 2,658 mAh lithium-ion battery (rated at 3.81 V and 10.13 W-h). At the time of release, when the battery was brand new, Apple said you would be able to get up to 14 hours of video playback time, and up to 60 hours of audio playback time. It is important to keep in mind that these battery life estimates are based on a brand new iPhone. All rechargeable batteries will experience some battery degradation as the usage and the number of charge cycles increases.
Apple also included support for wireless charging and fast-charging. The wireless charging uses the Qi-standard, while the fast-charging means you can get a 50% charge in only 30 minutes. Of course, these charging methods did require extra hardware. Users need a Qi-compatible wireless charging mat, or an 18W charger for fast charging.
Is the iPhone Xs waterproof?
The iPhone Xs isn’t waterproof but is water resistant. The iPhone Xs has an IP68 rating under IEC standard 60529. The “6” in the rating means the phone is fully dustproof, and the “8” means your iPhone can stand being submerged in up to 2 meters of water for up to 30 minutes. While this rating is good if you get caught in the rain, or suffer an accidental drop in water — Apple doesn’t recommend submerging your phone, and it also doesn’t cover water damage under the standard warranty.
Is the iPhone Xs worth it?
As with any phone, deciding whether the iPhone Xs is worthy of purchase becomes somewhat of a personal decision. However, based on the feature set, the fact that it is still getting iOS updates from Apple, and the price — it should certainly be a phone you consider. We believe the iPhone Xs is worth buying in 2021. And with used iPhone Xs prices lower than they’ve ever been, it’s the perfect time to buy. Perhaps the bigger question is whether you want the iPhone Xs, or the iPhone X, which has many of the same features and an even lower price. Learn more about how the iPhone Xs stacks up to other models in our iPhone Xs comparison guide.