Long-time iPhone users should be familiar with the iPhone product release cycle by now. Usually, it works like this: Apple releases a major product, then the following year is the “s” generation of iPhones that offer incremental upgrades. In this case, the new iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are the incremental upgrades to last year’s iPhone X.

The iPhone X was an exciting release, so what can the iPhone XS do to follow it up? It does plenty, but if you currently own an iPhone X, you’ll probably be fine with sitting this model out and waiting to see what happens next year. If you own an older iPhone, now’s the time to upgrade. You’ll be glad you did.

Faster is always better

You can never have too much speed in an iPhone, and the XS is the fastest yet, thanks to the new A12 Bionic processor. It’s a 64-bit processor with six cores; two performance cores and four efficiency cores, the same number that the iPhone X’s A11 Bionic had. But Apple says that the A12 Bionic’s two performance cores are up to 15 percent faster, and the four efficiency cores use up to 50 percent less power.

CPU and graphics speed

To gauge the processing and graphics speed to compare against past iPhones, we ran several benchmarking tools on the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. You can read our complete benchmark analysis of the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, but we’ll sum them up here.

Results with Geekbench 4 showed about a 13 percent boost in single-threaded performance with the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max over the iPhone X, which is close to the 15 percent increase Apple claims. The multi-core increase was a more modest 10 percent.

iphone xs benchmarks geekbench4 fixed Jason Cross/IDG

Results are scores. Higher scores/longer bars are better. Click to enlarge.

In graphics-based benchmarks, Geekbench results with its Metal-based compute test showed a 40 percent increase over the iPhone X; Apple states that the iPhone XS is capable of up to a 50 percent graphics improvement. When we tested with the 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme test, we saw results that were the same across the old and new phones, but we saw an improvement in the 3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited test. The Sling Shot Extreme test probably hits a memory and cache bottleneck that affects performance.

Cellular and Wi-Fi speed

To test the connectivity performance of the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, we used the Speedtest app. Granted, there are a great many variables that affect wireless connectivity, so your experience may differ from ours. You can read our complete analysis of iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max networking performance, but our summary is as follows.

In our Wi-Fi tests, we saw an improvement in download speeds, sometimes as high as a 45 percent increase. Our upload speed saw much smaller boosts, if any.





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