iPhone XS Max: Biggest screen, biggest battery, biggest price tag – CNET

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The new iPhone XS and XS Max.


James Martin/CNET

Apple on Wednesday unveiled its iPhone XS Max, the gadget maker’s newest big-screen phone.

“This is the biggest display ever on an iPhone,” Phil Schiller, Apple’s head of marketing, said at a launch event at Apple’s headquarters.

The new phone (pronounced “10-S,” not “excess”) has a 6.5-inch OLED HDR display, slightly bigger than the 6.4-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 9.

The phone also offers the biggest starting price tag for any iPhone model. The phone will costs $1,099 for 64GB storage capacity, $1,249 for 256GB and $1,449 for 512GB. (That last price is higher than a base-model MacBook Pro laptop.) It will come in in space gray, silver and a new gold finish. Preorders start Friday and the phone goes on sale Sept. 21.

The XS Max is the big brother to the new iPhone XS, which sports a 5.8-inch display, and cheaper iPhone XR, with a 6.1-inch display, which were also revealed Wednesday. Thanks to the new phones’ thinner frames, all three offer larger displays than last year’s 5.5-inch iPhone 8 Plus.

The XS Max includes the biggest battery for an iPhone model, allowing it to last an hour and a half longer than last year’s iPhone X. The XS lasts a half hour longer than the X.

The phone’s new A12 Bionic chip, a 7 nanometer processor, promises to launch apps 30 percent faster than 2017 iPhones, as well as speed up Face ID and improve photos and videos with automatic edits, such as white balancing and red-eye reduction.

The new Max moniker replaces Apple’s typical Plus name for its larger phones. 


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The new iPhone XS Max should test Apple loyalists’ tolerance for higher prices. Last year, Apple boosted the starting price of the iPhone X to $999 in the US, $300 more than its iPhone 8. The XS Max is priced even higher.

Those increased prices have helped Apple continue to grow its revenue, even after the smartphone market stopped growing.

At some point, Apple and fellow phone makers might hit a ceiling for how much they can price their new phones. The iPhone X didn’t result in a torrent of trade-ins of older iPhones, which many industry watchers expected, but it sold well enough to calm concerns that Apple had overpriced the new device. Considering those prior sales, the XS Max is unlikely to be the big seller of the three new phones.

Samsung, too, has tried to boost its phone prices, with its Note 9 starting at $999. But Samsung has complained about “market resistance” to its higher prices. Time will tell if that same problem will hit Apple.

To keep higher prices from harming sales of its most important product, Apple made sure to offer cheaper models of its newest phones. So, if you aren’t desperate to spend $1,099 or more on the biggest and priciest new iPhone, you’ll have options. The iPhone XR starts at $749 and the XS starts at $999.

The tech behemoth introduced the device as its financial success makes history. Early last month, the company became the first publicly traded US company to reach a trillion-dollar market capitalization. The massive number highlights the iPhone’s status as one of the best-selling devices in the world and Apple’s rapidly growing businesses in wearables, software and services, such as Apple Music.

Also, while rival tech companies Alphabet, Twitter and Facebook have faced withering criticism for failing to protect user privacy or prevent election interference, Apple has largely avoided the backlash because it doesn’t run a social-media site or sell user data to advertisers.

With things going so well for Apple, one of the biggest challenges for its new generation of iPhones is to meet consumers’ and Wall Street’s sky-high expectations. With the iPhone XS Max becoming the priciest new model, Apple will have to work hard to convince people they will be better off handing over more than $1,000 for the top-tier phone. 

Apple managed to keep up its huge sales numbers with last year’s iPhone X, which brought the iPhone’s first major redesign in three years. The company ditched the Touch ID button in favor of Face ID technology and touted the 5.8-inch device as the “future of mobile.” It incorporated a new, sharper OLED screen, and it also featured software like Animoji that can turn your face into a unicorn and other animated emoji.

Apple Sept. 12 iPhone XS live blog and livestream

See everything that Apple has announced at its Sept. 12 event so far

Ben Fox Rubin

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