New Phone, New me
It’s been a week since I picked up the iPhone XS as my so called daily driver. In this scenario that means it is my only phone at the present moment. I am all in on the iPhone express.
My daily usage contains a morning Youtube-session, checking news nearby and smartphone-news as well as some meaningless smartphone price-checking to stay up to date. I have recently switched jobs and in my new office the Wi-Fi is way better than last, so Wi-Fi is mostly on at this time. The camera gets a lot of attention right now as I am frequently trying it to see how it handles different scenes and lighting-conditions.
Today I will focus on an early camera-review as I have had some time to play with it over the past week. Apple wants to make the best point-and-shoot smartphone camera out there, and there is no manual mode available. The phone automatically utilizes the new Smart HDR mode, with an option to capture the original photo as well if you wish. Mostly I have been very happy with the post-processing results though. According to Apple the phone captures several photos with different exposures and stitches them together to create a pleasing image.
The iPhone XS packs dual rear cameras very much similar to last years offering. they are both 12 MP with the primary(wide) lens being and the secondary being a 2x telephoto lens. Subtle changes have been made to the sensors sizes however to optimize light-intake and quality. From what I can make out of Apples advertisements both lenses should be optically stabilized.
I really appreciate the Smart HDR functionality in most cases. I have however noticed that it sometimes ruins the beautiful orange colors of the sun, leaving me with a cold light-ray that doesn’t match what my eyes were watching. There is also the risk of losing contrast, or shadow-depth, favoring visibility over reality.
I have read and watched several reports saying that the iPhone XS favors a warm color-temperature, but in a lot of my usage I actually found that it makes the scene look cooler than it was. Might it be that Apple didn’t optimize it for the Scandinavian climate?
Details are great and I haven’t found much to complain about. This is an automatic camera, and the only thing you can do is point and shoot. In other words there is no manual/pro mode to be seen. That’s alright for me seeing as I have yet to learn how to utilize those for better images, but some might miss the ability to control their camera.
You can manually set the exposure focus if you wish. I usually try that at the sky to make it less blown out, but more often than not that leaves me with an image that is overall to dark.
In this image I wanted to capture the way the light came out orange. In reality I saw a mystical, almost fantasy-like setting. The image came out cold, or bleak, which was a bit disappointing. the second image is with a manually selected exposure point.
This was also a beautiful scene in my eyes, but without actively setting the exposure I lost the shot to a out-blown white sky. To bad I didn’t check it before leaving.
Now I am not saying that the phone has a bad camera. On contrary I really appreciate most of the pictures taken and a lot of the time Smart HDR makes this a highly capable point-and-shoot camera. But with a main-feature that sets out to make me not think about these things it is easy to get comfortable, and a shame when a less ideal photo is taken. Of course, this being managed by machine learning the feature should only improve with time.
Looking past Googles troll-comparison of the Pixel 3 and the iPhone XS low-light capabilities the phone seems to handle low light photography pretty well.
Obviously the building in the back was harder to exposure correctly seeing as a lot of the foreground is pretty dark. Overall though I am pretty happy with how the phone handled the brightness-levels but the sharpness is pretty diminished when compared to photos in good lighting.
While not being the first company to offer dual cameras with the ability to change the focused object and blur-strength Apple pioneered the now so popular Portrait Mode with the iPhone 7 Plus. The titled heavy-weight champion belt for the feature have been tossed around ever since, but with the iPhone XS I find the mode really capable. I also appreciate the ability to add Portrait-effects like the all-black background.
Rear camera portrait of our dog. I find edge detection to mostly work out great using the rear camera in well-lit scenarios.
Selfie camera Portrait Mode. Utilizing the camera and depth-sensors the front-facing camera also does a good job, most of the time. Details like my shirt and arm are blurred out in this image.
Daily Usage of the iPhone XS
What Bothered me:
Battery statistics. I understand that showing screen-on-time(Sot) is new to iOS and I guess there’s only to hope for updates but I take issue with the way it is displayed. In the battery screen Sot is shown as “last 24 hours”. That makes it quite pointless to me being used to seeing since last full charge. I feel like it is more of a way to monitor how much I use the phone rather than how long the battery lasts. On the new Screen Time page (similar to Digital Well-being on Android) I do get the option to see “today” however so I don’t see why battery-statistics cannot display this as well.
Performance is really good, but I do find that the camera sometimes doesn’t respond. This is a rear happening, but leaves me with a black viewfinder for a while. I have found myself changing modes desperately hoping for it to wake up. I also miss the double tap of the power button to activate the camera, although you quickly get used to it not being there.
The lack of a quick-charger have left me undesired to use the “physical” charger altogether. Maybe that is what Apple wants users to feel though? Hashtag conspiracy anyone?
I have noticed that the case i bought have left small marks on both the power button and the volume-up button. Maybe I am destined to stop using cases? I can understand that this happens on the OnePlus 6, being a cheaper phone and all, but I would have expected my (way) past $1000 phone to withstand wearing a case better. I guess I’ll have to see how well the phone holds up with time.
What I Liked:
Let’s begin with the most basic of the basics. I have been using Bluetooth headphones for a long time now. I was previously tethered to the Jaybird 2X but recently bought a pair of Marshal Major 2 BT. In comparison to my previous Android phones, the iPhone never skips a beat. With that I mean that the reception is constant with little to no interference. On both the Oppo Find X, the OnePlus 6, and the LG G7 I noticed and was bothered by frequent lag as soon as my arm came in the way or I moved my head to far right. I have simple shrugged this off as normal, seeing as Bluetooth is supposedly easy to interfere. On the iPhone XS the issue haven’t come close to that of which I experienced in the past. Once or twice the phone have audio has skipped just as I’ve placed the phone in my pocket, but then no more. I can tell you that it is heavenly.
I am thankful to Apple for including Qi-Wireless Charging last year, leading other manufacturers to include the feature as well. As I said in my unboxing this will be my first choice for charging the iPhone XS, and having a compatible charger at my bedside table as well as on my office desk allows me to think less about how I charge the phone. Out home consists mostly of USB-C chargers, and now my fiancee gets to use them all.
Bettery-life have been exceptional so far. Coming from Android it’s hard to expect much from a 2659 mAh battery, but somehow iOS is power-efficient without sacrificing performance. Most days I leave work with over 50% left with 2,5 hours of screen time. As I am writing this it’s 11:19 am, I have 78% left and Sot is measured to 1 hour and 46 minutes. That is great in my book. The charge was stopped at 6:20 am.
iOS proves to be quite a change on my part, but mostly out of habit. I’ve found myself looking for a back button or in-app gestures I am used to like the tab-switching in Google Chrome or the system-wide reload by swiping down from the top of a page. Overall, however, I am positive to the way iOS works and despite always having thought that iOS is illogical I guess it is time to agree that the system mostly just works.
The gestures are so well implemented into the system and fluidity is surprisingly great. It is almost hard to imagine having used buttons for going home or switching apps in the past. I said that I have found myself looking for a back-button, but the truth is that iOS provides an experience in which the need for such a button disappears quickly.
I have mixed feeling about the notification tray. It feels to me like I am dragging the lockscreen down, which is both good and confusing at the same time. I also notice that it requires a longer swipe than I expected. On the other hand this means that the camera, flashlight and widget-screen is available at any time. Watching Youtube, I have been able to open the camera through here with the app continuing to play my video. For me, this is a great find when walking around with my headphones. Youtube playing in the background while I am snapping the shot I wanted.
The phone preforms like a champ, with fluid and pleasant animations. I find myself reacting to how quickly I can open the email app, select an email and read it with no stopping what so ever. The same goes for web-pages and apps in general. The phone flies, so to speak. And to hell with double-tap to wake, the iPhone mostly lights up the second I pick it up, but if it doesn’t for some reason a simple tap wakes the display right away.
Face ID is similarly quick and only on a few selected occasions have I actually seen it working when unlocking the phone.
I do agree that the haptic-feedback engine from Apple is very pleasant. Since the removal of the home button it is less noticeable though but pressing buttons or scrolling through the alarm-clock almost feels like clicking a button or turning an old leveler. Utilizing 3D Touch also gives a pleasant vibration, both when activated and when you select an option on the home-screen.
Speaking of 3D Touch I belong in the category of people who likes the idea of a pressure-sensitive display. I have liked using long-press actions in Android but I feel like this design gives more options. In the web-browser it is possible to preview the page from a link and on the home-screen I can press and slide to pick a shortcut instead of holding, lifting my finger and then selecting. It’s not like it is hard to lift a finger to pick something, but the slide/gesture-based layout is more intuitive in my opinion. Please Apple, don’t throw this feature away.
Shout out to the mute-switch. One of my favorite OnePlus-feature’s have to be the Apple-”inspired” Alert-Slider. On the iPhone the simple 2-step switch goes from muted to ring and vibrate, freeing the volume-buttons to default to setting the media-volume.
One week in Review
I am still highly positive to the iPhone XS, finding it way more comfortable than I might have expected.
There is a shameful feeling of prestige using the newest iPhone that I didn’t expect to feel.
The design is premium, and the display is crisp and bright.
When writing this I was looking to check out the “about” page in the settings when I found that the search bar covered the area, leaving me unable to enter. Sooner or later I realized that closing the settings app and re-opening it might fix this, which it did, but seeing as that’s been my only real problem with stability I’d say that iOS 12 (or 12.0.1) is very stable.
Last-minute entry: Today (181019) I was presented by a lockscreen without a clock, and I was unable to enter the phone by swiping up. Luckily I had notifications waiting and I was able to enter the phone by clicking those. The phone kept this up for a few tries of opening the phone but has since then stopped acting out.
I’ll be back next week with a focus on performance and a more calculated Battery-review!
If there is anything in particular that you’d like to know about the iPhone XS or iOS, don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.