Short blog posts, journal entries, and random thoughts. Topics include a mix of personal and the world at large. 

Initial iPhone XS Max impressions

I was surprised how easy the preordering process was this year. The Apple Store app opened up right at 12:01am Friday, and within minutes I was ready with a launch-day delivery unit. A stark contrast to the previous few years where the app was unresponsive for a quarter hour, and mere seconds delay in decision bumped me off of first day delivery (last year).

Either Apple’s supply chain have improved immensely, or they’ve got plenty of iPhone XS on hand for everyone. Probably the latter because the line frenzies we are used to seeing in previous iPhone launches were few and far in between. I can walk into an Apple Store right now and buy a unit in any of the three colors.

Of course I’d rather not leave the house if possible, so I optioned for home delivery. Trouble is I didn’t get home last Friday until way late into the night, though I figured the setup process wouldn’t be too much of a hassle: backup iPhone X into iTunes, plug the new phone in, and step 3 profit. The plan was going great until I turned on the new iPhone XS Max for the first time and it ceremoniously failed at the Verizon authentication process.

Turns out Apple screwed up royally with their batch of Verizon phones. Their authentication system still has my old and out-of-date PIN and not the current one from Verizon. I was adamant my info was correct, not knowing it wanted the old PIN. Verizon couldn’t do anything about it, and the Apple tech support I talk to did not yet know the extent of the situation. After two hours of futility, I finally remembered my old PIN and I was home free.

The screen is massive and glorious.

The iPhone XS Max is about the size of the old ‘Plus’ phones, but the display dominates the entire frame. At 6.5 inches, it is desperately close to mini tablet territory, and I simply love the amount of real-estate. After nearly a year of using iPhone X I’ve gotten used to its screen size, but mere minutes of using the XS Max, the previous generation phone already feels uncomfortably small and cramped. I’m very glad I chose to go with the larger model: more text, more information; watching Youtube videos in landscape is a pleasure.

Unfortunately not many apps have been updated to utilize the newfound space. Native Apple apps obviously look great and sharp, but other apps are merely zoomed to acquiesce the new size. Just as we had to wait for apps to update and take full advantage of the iPhone X screen, I fear we may need to do the same for the XS Max. Tick tock, app developers.

Other than the extra screen size, operationally the XS Max is nearly identical to the X. It’s probably speedier and smoother, but I’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference. Even after a year in production, the X is not lacking in speed, especially after the update to iOS 12. The reason for upgrading to the XS Max was the bigger display, and the improved camera.

And what a sweet camera it is. I’ve only had a few days of shooting under my belt, but I can’t stop being impressed with the results. Smart HDR is simply magic, producing images in real-time that an equivalent DSLR camera would require multiple exposures and then combining them in software on a laptop. It’s awe-inspiring to see Apple continually attempt to overcome the limitations of sensor and lens physics with sheer computational might.

More to come on the iPhone XS Max as I get more familiar with its intricacies.

Straight off iPhone XS Max camera, unedited.

Straight off iPhone XS Max camera, unedited.

iPhone X first impressions

It turns out I was lucky enough to have my iPhone X order bumped up from the original third week of November date to it getting delivered yesterday afternoon. Major kudos to Apple's supply chain prowess: to launch a brand-new phone simultaneously in 55 countries where initial demand is surely in the tens of millions is an astonishing feat. 

Or perhaps that's just happy me who got his iPhone X way earlier that expected talking. 

Nevertheless, I've had about a day's worth of use, and here are some preliminary impressions: 

  • Face ID is fast and works seamlessly in all lighting conditions. That said, Touch ID is still faster, which is expected as the fingerprint technology is matured while this is the first go for Face ID.
  • One Face ID quirk for winter months: it doesn't work if you're wearing a mask/half the face is covered. I hope in future iterations the Face ID system will add technologies like retinal scanning to its repertoire so that it can unlock the phone under more situations. 
  • The OLED screen is perfection. It makes even my 5K iMac display look pedestrian by comparison: infinite contrast ratio, precise calibration, and fantastic viewing angles. I'm glad Apple waited this long to introduce OLED in the iPhone because early Samsung OLED screens were atrocious.
  • With the combination of glass front and back with polished stainless-steel surround, the X is the best feeling iPhone to the hand since iPhone 4. There is no chance I'm putting a case on it; the back glass is grippy enough - an upgrade from the soap-like aluminum of iPhone 6 and 7. 
  • I don't miss the home button: swiping up from the bottom edge is quite natural. What isn't natural is the gesture it replaces: control center - it's now swipe down from top right. Rejiggering that muscle memory will take longer.
  • Of course, apps that have yet to be optimized for the new display arrangement look awkward at best and unusable at worse. Most frustrating part is the keyboard - outdated apps don't use the new keyboard layout, and your muscle memory will hate you. 
  • The X is slightly heavier than the 7 Plus, even though it's dimensionally smaller. I personally don't mind it because it'll be less prone to fly out of my hands/easier to clutch. 
  • True-tone is so amazing that I wish all my other displays have it. I turn it off when I need to do photography work (read: instagram), but otherwise it's a pleasure on the eyes. 

More in the weeks to come as I get familiar with the phone, including taking it on a trip to Taiwan during Thanksgiving week.