Apple’s iPhone XR named best single-lens smartphone by DxOMark


The photography software firm’s benchmarking arm praises Apple for improvements to flash but criticizes zoom shots and low-light images. For overall quality, the iPhone XR still beats the previous best phone, the Google Pixel 2.

Detail of an iPhone XR with its single rear camera

Detail of an iPhone XR with its single rear camera

Apple’s iPhone XR is now the top-ranked single-camera smartphone according to photo specialist DxO’s benchmarking unit, DxOMark. Testers shot over 1,500 images and more than two hours of video to conclude that the XR is “excellent.”

It beat the Google Pixel 2 and DxOMark says the cheaper iPhone “offers a very similar proposition for image quality as the flagship iPhone XS Max.” This is in spite of the XS Max’s dual-camera setup.

Where the iPhone XR falls down compared to the more expensive XS Max is in zoom and bokeh shots. The iPhone XR attempts to mimic the bokeh of a dual-camera phone through software algorithms. While Apple claims to have “turned the model of a lens into math,” in this case software is never going to equal hardware.

Yet if the XS Max maintains its hardware lead, the software has been improved for the XR. Of note, the single-lens iPhone boasts a digital zoom function that produces “very acceptable” results up to 2x magnification.

A high-contrast scene photographed during testing (Credit: DxOMark)

A high-contrast scene photographed during testing (Credit: DxOMark)

Equally, the firm reports that Portrait Mode on the XR performs well in low-light environments, offering better detail on faces than the XS. However, the company says that the XR’s “depth estimation is relative poor making the overall effect look a bit ‘photoshopped’.”

DxOMark notes that its bokeh tests involve both people and objects. Using Apple’s built-in Camera app, the iPhone XR’s computational bokeh is activated only when a face is detected. Outside of those scenarios, users looking to add bokeh to images must rely on iPhone’s physical lens stack, which produces minimal blur effects due to a relatively short equivalent focal length.

“Apple has managed to improve the flash on the XR a little, which we identified as a weak point for the XS Max during our testing,” said DxOMark.

These same flash issues in part hindered iPhone XS Max’s chances of taking top honors in a round of testing earlier this year. DxO ultimately named Huawei’s P20 Pro as the world’s best smartphone camera system.

DxOMark's iPhone XR feature ranking

DxOMark’s iPhone XR feature ranking

According to DxOMark’s points ranking system, the iPhone XS Max scored 110 in photo and 96 in video. By comparison, the newly announced results for the iPhone XR are 103 points for photo and the same 96 for video. DxOMark describes the XR’s video, saying it gives: “outstanding performance in bright light conditions.”

DxOMark's overall smartphone rankings

DxOMark’s overall smartphone rankings

While the iPhone XR is now the top-ranked single camera smartphone in DxOMark’s testing, it is still bested by dual camera handsets. DxOMark currently places the XR seventh out of all smartphones, with the Huawei P20 Pro still top overall.

Keep up with AppleInsider by downloading the AppleInsider app for iOS, and follow us on YouTube, Twitter @appleinsider and Facebook for live, late-breaking coverage. You can also check out our official Instagram account for exclusive photos.


Every Android maker to have 5G flagship by end of 2019, Qualcomm says

Providing insight into the future of smartphone technology — and taking a jab at Apple — Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon said that by the end of 2019, all Android handset makers will have at least one flagship device capable of accessing speedy 5G networks. Apple’s iPhone is not expected to make the leap to 5G until 2020.

Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon discusses 5G at the Snapdragon Technology Summit. | Source: CNET’s Shara Tibken via Twitter.

With Qualcomm being the sole provider of baseband chipsets to most major Android manufacturers, Amon’s statement is less a prediction than it is a promise.

“When we get to exactly this time of year one year from now we will see every [handset maker] on the Android ecosystem, their flagship across all US carriers will be a 5G device,” Amon told CNET in an interview at Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Technology Summit in Hawaii. “Every Android vendor is working on 5G right now.”

Specific release dates and details were left unmentioned, but a slide presented during Amon’s keynote listed a number of major firms who are partnering with Qualcomm on the 5G rollout initiative. Those companies include Asus, Fujitsu, Google, HMD, HTC, InSeeGo, LG, Motorola, Netgear, NetComm Wireless, OnePlus, Oppo, Samsung, Sharp, Sierra Wireless, Sony, Telit, Vivo, WingTech, WNC, Mi and ZTE.

Hammering home the notion that 5G is knocking on consumers’ doors, Samsung at the event showed off prototype devices running on hyper-local 5G networks set up by AT&T and Verizon. The “proof of concept” phones were powered by Qualcomm guts including Snapdragon X50 5G NR modem and antenna modules, an integrated RF transceiver and other components from the Snapdragon Mobile Platform.

Apple, and any mention of iPhone, was conspicuously absent at the event. The Cupertino tech giant is embroiled in a bitter legal battle with its former supplier, and has since turned to Intel to meet its cellular modem needs.

In November, and again this week, reports claimed a 5G-capable iPhone will debut in 2020. That puts Apple’s timeline more than year behind Android vendors that plan to first integrate the technology in early 2019.

That said, Apple is typically slow to adopt the fastest cellular standards. The first iPhone, for example, launched without support for the then-cutting-edge 3G standard, while 4G LTE integration arrived much later than competitors when iPhone 5 received support in 2012.

While missing out on “first to market” claims, Apple’s launch plans should ramp well with a buildout of supporting infrastructure. Carriers like Verizon, AT&T and Sprint are in the early stages of seeding their respective networks with compatible base stations, and widespread availability is not expected until at least 2020. Amon at Tuesday’s event highlighted Qualcomm’s 5G working partners, which include the three major U.S. carriers and international players like China Mobile.

Still, the road to 5G will be slow going. At the event, AT&T senior vice president Kevin Petersen said the percentage of devices with 5G capabilities in the U.S. in 2019 will be in the “low single digits,” the report said.


Hands-on: Boosted’s flagship electric skateboard, the Stealth



We’re taking an adventurous turn here at AppleInsider by checking out an iPhone-connected gadget you can ride: Boosted’s top-of-the-line electric skateboard, the Stealth.

Boosted Stealth

Boosted debuted on Kickstarter six years ago, and in 2014 launched its first three board models. Since then — helped in no small part by hype from YouTube celebrities like Casey Neistat — the company’s boards have become some of the most sought-after, challenged mainly by the likes of Onewheel and Evolve.

Boosted’s products are now in their third generation, characterized mainly by the company’s switch to in-house parts such as the trucks and deck, and the addition of two smaller boards, the Mini S and Mini X.

The Stealth is a longboard like previous Boosted boards, but no longer uses a bamboo deck, instead turning to a composite design combining poplar, fiberglass, and foam. The company has also reinforced the edges to reduce wear, and done away with a mid-section taper — the result is a flexible yet pretty sturdy-feeling board with more foot space. Other upgrades include metal pulleys and wider, Boosted-made 85-millimeter wheels.

Boosted Stealth

As someone with relatively little skateboard experience, these changes made me feel a little more confident in stepping on, especially since the Stealth starts out in a “Beginner” ride mode that caps speed at 11 miles an hour and stops you from attempting hills. Make no mistake though: unless you’ve been on an electric skateboard before, expect to take several days learning how to comfortably balance and carve. You’ll also want to wear a full assortment of safety gear, not just a helmet, until riding becomes second nature.

It’ll be a little while before I can test another feature, Hyper Mode. This is an option exclusive to the Stealth, with even more acceleration than the Boosted Plus and a top speed of 24 miles per hour. From what I’ve seen online only the brave need apply, and it comes at the cost of battery life — while the board can otherwise last up to 14 miles, that figure gets cut in half.

The Boosted iPhone/iPad app lets you estimate range, update firmware, and track and share rides. You also get an odometer, and notifications when a board is finished charging. None of this is strictly necessary.

Boosted iPhone app

If you have an Apple Watch you can check speed and battery percentage on the fly. I should say that you’ll need to load the app before you start riding, and in practice I found that I was often too focused on balance or steering to safely raise my wrist.

Keep following AppleInsider in coming weeks for a full review, including video of the Stealth in action.


Black Friday 2018 iPhone deals: Free iPhone XR; iPhone 7 for $5 per month; BOGO iPhone 8


Sprint’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are already in effect with buy one, get one free offers, $100 off the Apple Watch Series 4, and iPhone 7 devices for just $4.17 a month.

Deals on iPhones and Apple Watches are going on now at Sprint with instant savings on iPhone 7 devices — and prices as low as $4.17 per month. Apple’s latest iPhone — the XR —is also eligible for a buy one, get one free promotion (or up to $550 toward the iPhone XS, XS Max or X) with a qualifying lease and two new lines of service (or one new and one upgraded line). Meanwhile, the Apple Watch Series 4 is $100 off when you add a line as well.

Find out how to activate the promotions below —and keep checking back as more deals will be added as they go live.

Sprint’s Black Friday deals

Additional Apple Deals

AppleInsider and Apple authorized resellers are also running a handful of additional exclusive promotions this month on Apple hardware that will not only deliver the lowest prices on many of the items, but also throw in discounts on AppleCare, software and accessories. These deals are as follows:


Qualcomm must license modem tech to rivals like Intel, court rules


Denying a motion to delay court proceedings while settlement talks are ongoing, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh on Tuesday issued a preliminary ruling against Qualcomm in the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust lawsuit.

Qualcomm offices

Qualcomm must license some of the patents it holds for smartphone modems to firms like Intel, Koh ruled according to Reuters. The company is accused of forcing companies like Apple to buy its wireless chips in exchange for better patent royalty rates.

In fact Apple was in an exclusive modem supply arrangement with Qualcomm for several years, but started mixing in Intel chips with 2016’s iPhone 7, and is now Intel-only with the iPhone XS and XR.

The FTC case is related to an Apple action dating back to January 2017. Apple filed a $1 billion lawsuit shortly thereafter, marking the beginning of a global legal war, compounded by actions from various government bodies and Qualcomm accusations that Apple handed trade secrets to Intel to improve chip performance.

In August, Qualcomm reached a settlement with Taiwanese antitrust regulators, avoiding a $773 million fine in exchange for paying $93 million and investing $700 million in the country over the course of five years. It has also made deals with parties like Samsung, which like Apple is a major phone customer.


Blind comparison of photography on the iPhone XR versus Google Pixel 3 XL

Comparing the iPhone XS Max’s camera to the shooter on Google’s Pixel 3 XL is a bit unfair, given the iPhone has a telephoto lens and costs $200 more. The iPhone XR has a single lens camera, just like the Pixel 3 XL, and it’s actually $150 cheaper than Google’s flagship, but will that work in the Pixel 3 XL’s favor?

The Blind Test

There’s been a lot of talk claiming the Pixel 3’s camera is the best in the business, though our earlier test against the iPhone XS Max suggested otherwise. The change in cameras from two to one in the iPhone XR gives another opportunity for Google to claw its imaging credentials back when put against Apple’s latest iPhone.

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In this blind A-B test, there are 15 images shot with each phone. If you want to play along, make a note of which images you prefer from each pair. The devices are identified below the gallery, so be careful if you don’t want to spoil the surprise.

For all of the photographs in the blind test, image A was from the iPhone XR, while image B was taken on the Pixel 3 XL.

A Closer Look

While image preferences are largely subjective and can differ between people, in my case I found I like the Google Pixel 3 XL photographs better overall. Here’s why.

In this first photo, the iPhone just lacks contrast and looks a little bit too warm. The story’s exactly the same in this photo. As for this one, the Pixel completely bombed the white balance, making it unrealistically blue.

One interesting thing is that the Pixel automatically crops in 2x while taking portrait photos, which also adds more blur and makes the background look more compressed.

Here, the Pixel is still too blue, and prefer the blur edging more on the iPhone.

In this one, the iPhone looks a lot more natural, but the Pixel did better job at bringing the shadows up.

In this coffee shop, the white balance is better on the iPhone, but the Pixel 3 XL produced sharper detail.

Here, the Pixel 3 messed up the white balance, but in the opposite direction. It’s now way too orange.

In this shot where we zoomed in as close as we could, the Pixel got closer and looked more detailed, despite the aggressive noise reduction.

In this one, we actually framed the shot the same by getting closer on the iPhone XR, since you can’t zoom in with a portrait photo, and it really showed the difference in compression. Because of this, the Pixel looks better.

In this selfie photo, the iPhone XR looks better because the face and background are brighter and the colors really pop.

Here, the iPhone’s photo just looks really dull, which is honestly what it looked like in real life, but the Pixel 3’s photo is more pleasing to the eye.

Zooming in, the Pixel could get closer and you can see more detail on the sign as well. Definitely a win for Google’s flagship here.

Now testing dynamic range, the Pixel actually blows out the brightest part of the sky, and I myself am darker than I am on the iPhone. The roof itself is way too blue on the pixel, so that’s a win for the iPhone.

This photo basically illustrates the fact that you can’t take portrait photos of objects on the iPhone XR, which is really unfortunate because of how great the blur looks on the Pixel.

And finally, we see the same thing here. The Pixel’s photo just looks so much better with the blur.

In conclusion, the iPhone did a much better job with white balance accuracy, but it wasn’t enough to beat the Pixel 3 XL because that phone crops in 2x for portrait mode photos. The cropping makes the background look less compressed because you have to stand farther away.

You can’t zoom in before taking a portrait photo on iPhone XR, though you can crop in in post. Not everyone is willing to do that, however.

The Pixel 3 XL is also able to take portrait photos of objects, making those shots look so much better.

Not only that, but the iPhone’s photos lack contrast, making the Pixel’s photos look more detailed.

Overall, we’ve got to give the win to the Pixel 3 XL.

If you want the best in photo quality, the iPhone XS Max performed better than the Pixel 3 XL in our photo and video tests. The extra telephoto lens not only improves blur edging, but adds compression to portrait photos and improves zoom quality.

Deals on the iPhone XR and Google Pixel 3 XL

If you haven’t already ordered Apple’s iPhone XR, wireless carriers are incentivizing the purchase. Want to get your hands on a new device asap? eBay sellers are also shipping units now.

Carrier deals:

  • AT&T Wireless: Buy one iPhone XR, get a second $700 off when you add a line.
  • Verizon Wireless: Buy an iPhone XR and get a save up to $300 with a qualifying trade.
  • Sprint: Get the 64GB iPhone XR for $0 per month with eligible trade-in and Sprint Flex lease.
  • T-Mobile: Save up to $390 on the iPhone XR with an eligible iPhone trade.

Those interested in purchasing the Google Pixel 3 XL can save up to $300 with an eligible trade at Verizon Wireless.


iPhone XS versus iPhone X – which phone unlocks faster with Face ID

The iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max are all packing Apple’s second-generation Face ID, an updated version of the biometric authentication system which is supposed to be faster than the version introduced with the iPhone X. Is there actually a noticeable difference between the already-fast and the potentially faster versions in the real world?

Testing Face ID speeds on the iPhone X versus iPhone XS

Testing Face ID speeds on the iPhone X versus iPhone XS

The theory

Face ID uses machine learning algorithms and the Neural Engine built into the iPhone’s processor to analyze and recognize scans of the user’s face made by the TrueDepth camera system, the array of sensors located in the notch at the top of the screen. In the unlocking process, the iPhone has to make a depth map of the user’s face using the sensors, which is then compared with a mathematical representation of the registered user’s face stored in the Secure Enclave, a task that can largely be improved just by increasing processing performance.

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Along with other processor-related improvements expected from the A12 chip in the 2018 releases, the Neural Engine has been upgraded from a dual-core design to an 8-core version, making it capable of running at 5 trillion operations per second than the 600 billion operations offered by the version in the A11.

By this measure alone, this should make a Face ID check take less time, but Apple has also claimed that the Face ID algorithms in the new phones are faster as well. The only real way to find out is to put last year’s iPhone X up against the iPhone XS and to see if there is much of a difference.

The trial

To make the tests as fair as possible, my face was rescanned on both phones under the exact same lighting conditions. While the iPhone X will have updated its stored depth map data over time, it would be best for testing purposes if both devices share as close to identical data as possible.

To determine a winner in each case, footage of the unlocking process was examined frame-by-frame, to see which completed the home screen animation first. For the initial 15-round run, the iPhone XS was fastest 11 times, a tie was declared 4 times, and the iPhone X failed to finish first at all.

Testing different angles for Face ID unlock on the iPhone X versus iPhone XS

Testing different angles for Face ID unlock on the iPhone X versus iPhone XS

While the test revealed the second-generation Face ID is generally faster than the first-generation version, the fact that it had to be checked on a frame-by-frame basis strongly suggests most users won’t notice a sudden jump in performance just by looking at it.

The same test was conducted again, but under low light conditions. In this second trial, not only did the iPhone XS win every single time, but in three instances out of seven, it was very noticeable, even without slowing the video down. It seems that darker conditions give the newer models an advantage.

Lastly, it was decided to try and find issues with Face ID just by trying to unlock at weird angles to the face, and in the process discovered a weak spot for the iPhone X while holding it near the user’s legs. While the iPhone XS unlocked every single time in this situation, the iPhone X had to be lifted up a bit in order to unlock.

Other than that single situation, both iPhones did equally well for practically all tested angles.

The result

So let’s answer the original question: is the second-generation Face ID on the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR faster than the first-generation version used on the iPhone X? Yes, it is, but for the majority of real-world situations, it won’t make that much of a difference to most people. There was a bigger improvement in low light, but it’s still not that much faster overall.

It seems that Face ID is just as usable as before, and probably just as secure, but only a hair faster.

Further tests are planned for the iPhone XR, which AppleInsider will be putting through its paces soon, but given the similar specifications, it is probably going to be a similar story as for the iPhone XS for Face ID.

Deals on the iPhone XS and XS Max

If you haven’t already ordered Apple’s iPhone XS or XS Max, wireless carriers are incentivizing the purchase. Want to get your hands on a new device asap? eBay sellers are also shipping units now.

Carrier deals:

  • AT&T Wireless: Buy one iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max, get a second $700 off when you add a line.
  • Verizon Wireless: Buy an iPhone XS or XS Max and save up to $300 with a qualifying trade.
  • Sprint: Get the 64GB iPhone XS for half off with eligible trade-in and Sprint Flex lease.
  • T-Mobile: Save up to $390 on the iPhone XS with an eligible iPhone trade.

Keep up with AppleInsider’s coverage by downloading the AppleInsider app for iOS, and follow us on YouTube, Twitter @appleinsider and Facebook for live, late-breaking coverage. You can also check out our official Instagram account for exclusive photos.


Apple declares iPhone 5 obsolete six years after launch


As this year’s cutting edge iPhone XS and XR handsets ship to rave reviews, Apple quietly declared its six-year-old iPhone 5 — itself once considered the world’s most advanced smartphone — obsolete.

The iPhone 5 was added to Apple’s “vintage and obsolete” product list on Tuesday, noting the hardware is now considered vintage in the United States and obsolete in the rest of the world. Devices that fall into the “vintage” category, defined as products in production for more than five years but less than seven, are excluded from ongoing repair support except in regions where local laws preclude such prohibitions.

Mac Otakara noted the addition to Apple’s product support document on Wednesday.

Apple debuted iPhone 5 at a special media event in 2012. The 4-inch handset was the first of Apple’s smartphones to move away from the 3.5-inch screen size that dictated iPhone’s form factor for five device generations. Apple has since embraced a looser stance on designs with larger screens, a trend toward “phablets” that culminated in this year’s 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max.

Along with a larger Retina display, iPhone 5 introduced a number of technologies, some of which, like the proprietary Lightning port, are still in use today. The handset was Apple’s first to support 4G LTE connectivity and its last to sport a 32-bit A-series chip. Apple cut off iOS support for iPhone 5, and other legacy devices with 32-bit processors, when it released iOS 11 last year.

Apple routinely obsoletes legacy devices as new hardware versions take their place.


Crime blotter: Find my iPhone locates stolen police cruiser, murder of Apple India exec, more

As California Apple Store thefts have stopped following the recent arrests, new Apple thefts are reported elsewhere in the country. Plus, the uproar over an Apple India executive’s murder continues.

The late Vivek Tiwari (via the Vivek Tiwari memorial Facebook page)

The late Vivek Tiwari (via the Vivek Tiwari memorial Facebook page)

The latest in an occasional AppleInsider series, as we look at the world of Apple-related crime.

Controversy continues over police shooting of Apple executive in India

Vivek Tiwari, an Apple sales manager in India, was shot dead by police in late September in the Northern town of Lucknow. According to an al-Jazeera account, Tiwari was shot by a constable during a traffic stop, in what is described as “the latest in a series of extrajudicial killings by police in the state.” Those constables have been arrested. The death, according to Reuters, has been described by police as an accident, while a Special Investigations Team recently reconstructed the crime scene for the third time, according to The Times of India.

The death has been huge news in South Asia but has not been much reported in the U.S. media, and Apple has not commented on the matter.

Huge Apple product haul taken from Illinois Best Buy

Thieves took more than $150,000 worth of Apple items, including computers, iPads and Apple Watches, from a Best Buy location in Peoria, Ill. According to the PJ Star, the theft took place after hours, either Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

Arrests made in Missouri thefts

While the recent spate of Apple Store thefts in California appears to have ended after the ring responsible was indicted, another Apple theft operation may be active in the Midwest. Three were arrested for iPhone, iWatch and iPad thefts from a pair of Walmart locations in Missouri, KMOV reported. As all three suspects are from Houston, police believe they are part of a “larger operation.”

Target employee accused of stealing iPhones, iPod from distribution center

A woman from Milwaukee has been charged with stealing $2,649.97 from a Target Distribution Center in Oconomowoc, Wisc. The woman admitted that she took two iPhone Xs, an iPod Touch and two pairs of Airbuds, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

$6,000 in Apple Watches stolen in Virginia>

Two women stole $6,000 in Apple merchandise from a Virginia Beach Apple Store, most of it Apple Watches, in a two-day period at the end of September. According to WAVY, the two women were captured on surveillance video.

Apple Store theft in Connecticut

Another Apple Store theft was reported this month on the East Coast. A man from Staten Island was arrested for stealing three laptops from the Greenwich, Conn., Apple Store. According to Greenwich Time, the thefts took place in January of 2017, although the man wasn’t arrested until this month.

Find My iPhone helps cop locate stolen cruiser, arsonist

A deputy in Florida had his police cruiser stolen by an accused arsonist– but then used Find My iPhone to find the car. According to The Orlando Sentinel, the officer rescued a man from a burning home, but then came outside to discover the cruiser gone, with his phone in it.

Police chased and eventually located the car while the alleged arsonist, a 58-year-old woman, was discovered by a police dog. The suspect was arrested and charged with both arson and grand theft of a car.

Man arrested in Delaware with fake Apple products, fake money

Police in Delaware arrested a New York man this month after they searched his car and discovered both counterfeit cash and fake Apple products. According to WDEL the man, who “looked nervous,” had bogus computer and iPhone USB cables, ear plugs, and power adapters in his glove box.

The man was charged with counterfeit trademark, driving without a license, and making an improper lane change.

Have an Apple-related crime story for us? Email AppleInsider and tell us about it!.


Finding the best iPhone XS Max case for your needs: we put dozens to the test

Apple’s iPhone XS Max has a new larger size, which means many who pick one up will be looking for new case options. We’ve scoured the internet to find over 50 cases from over 20 of the best case purveyors to help you find one that best suits you.

iPhone XS Max cases

With so many options, we couldn’t include them all in this written post, so check out our hands on video as we show off all the cases in glorious HD.

Pad & Quill

Few companies have such a strong history of using premium materials in their products as Pad & Quill. This holds true for their latest cases as well. Our favorite was their Bella Fino Leather iPhone XS Max folio-style case.

Pad & Quill Bella Fino Folio

Pad & Quill Bella Fino Folio in Chocolate

The one we rock has the Chocolate hue of exterior leather and Deep Sea Blue on the inside. Because of the added size found on the iPhone XS Max, Pad & Quill is able to add four card slots to the left along with a cash pocket and a clear ID window.

As far as the iPhone portion goes, the phone can be snapped into a thin shell-style case, or the case can be removed and the iPhone can be mounted directly within the folio with removable 3M adhesive. We preferred the minimalist style of putting the phone in naked rather than in the shell.

Where to buy: Pad & Quill’s Bella Fino Folio for the iPhone XS Max is currently on sale for $80.95 with exclusive coupon code INSIDER.


Kerf Walnut case

Kerf Walnut case

If you want something to set you apart, Kerf’s fantastic wood cases are a great option to consider. Coming in several different woods including bulletwood, spalted beech, paduk, African mahogany, and more. The model we use is the walnut.

Each case is handmade and has many small touches, including moving wood buttons for the volume and side buttons. Inside is a velvety soft suede lining.

Where to buy: Kerf’s iPhone XS Max wood cases start at $79 and can be ordered from Kerf directly. Shoppers can also save 10% with promo code PS10.


RhinoShield cases

RhinoShield SolidSuit Cases

RhinoShield’s offerings are comprised of two main case styles. The full coverage snap-on soft shells, and the modifiable Mod NX.

Their frames are what we really love, as you can choose the color of the bumper, the buttons, and the edge/back panel. This kind of modular system is rarely seen on cases because of the level of detail that has to go into all the parts, while still being protective. That is what is so impressive because all RhinoShield’s cases can withstand drops of up to 11 feet.

RhinoShield Mod NX Cases

RhiinoShield Mod NX case in red with clear back panel

Each of the Mod NX cases can have different colored buttons, different bumpers, and different backs. They could be used purely as a bumper with an open back, or they can ditch the rim and use a backplate for more protection.

Where to buy: RhinoShield’s Mod NX cases for the iPhone XS Max can be ordered in a variety of colors on Amazon for $34.99 with free shipping.


Sena iPhone XS Max case

Sena black leather case

Sena is leather purveyor, who has a fantastic simple leather case for the latest iPhones.

This black, pebbled leather case is minimalistic and wonderful. The oft-ignored interior has a racing-inspired design in the microfiber that we loved. They’ve also taken a cue from Apple using metal buttons on the sides, rather than the hard-to-discern leather imprints others employ.

Where to buy: Sena’s full selection of iPhone XS Max cases can be found on its website, while select offerings are also available from Sena through Amazon.


Nomad Rugged Folio for iPhone XS Max

Nomad Rugged Folio in black and brown

Nomad, an AppleInsider favorite, has many new cases available for the latest iPhones. In particular, we check out the Rugged Folio, Rugged Tri-Folio, and the Rugged Case.

All cases use premium Horween leather out of Chicago that develops a rich patina the more you use it.

Nomad rugged case

Nomad Rugged Case in brown

Both the Rugged Folio and Rugged Case have been around awhile but they got some new upgrades for the new devices. The Rugged Folio is thinner, with a more flexible cover. The Rugged Case is also substantially thinner, which makes a huge difference when in use.

Nomad Rugged Tri Folio iPhone XS Max case

Nomad Rugged Tri-Folio case

The Rugged Tri-Folio is all new, offering a great integrated solution for those with huge wallets. There are so many pockets and card slots to handle cash, cards, and more. We love that you can hold so much while keeping the back of the phone open for wireless charging.

Where to buy: Nomad’s Rugged Case for the iPhone XS Max retails for $44.95, while the Rugged Folio sells for $59.95. The all-new Rugged Tri-Folio wallet case costs $79.95, with all three options available from Nomad directly.


Spigen iPhone XS Max cases

Spigen cases

Spigen is a prolific case maker, putting out countless designs and styles to appeal to a wide variety of users. Our favorites for the iPhone XS Max include the Ultra Hybrid, Liquid Crystal, and the Liquid Air.

Ultra Hybrid has a clear back with a rubberized bumper surrounding the edges as well as camera bump. The border is a matte black which offers some great contrast with the rest of the phone. Liquid Crystal and Liquid Air are both minimalist cases. Liquid Crystal is a simple all-clear case with some flexibility and Liquid Air offers a thin case with a textured pattern on the back.

Another popular option is the Tough Armor case that integrates a kickstand into the body.

Where to buy: Spigen’s iPhone XS Max cases can be purchased through Amazon at a discount off retail. The Ultra Hybrid is currently selling for $11.99 and up, depending on color selected, while the Liquid Crystal is up to 20% off with prices as low as $11.99. The Liquid Air sells for slightly more, at $12.99, while the Tough Armor case with a kickstand can be purchased for as low as $16.99.


Toast iPhone XS Max case

Toast walnut case with chevron inlay

There are a few wood cases out there, see Kerf and Pad & Quill above for example. Toast is different by optionally adding designs into the wooden skin that attaches with genuine 3M adhesive.

Saying we were pessimistic about these skins is an understatement, but after quickly affixing this to our XS Max, we loved it. There is so much detail, all of which is laser cut. The designs are super intricate and look even better in person.

The skin even is perforated to go around all the corners of the phone as well, with optional covers for the front edge, buttons, and camera cutout. We neglected the front rim, but did like using the coves for the camera and buttons.

Our cover was walnut with a series of chevrons embedded within it that we got to design ourselves. For some designs, there is also a metal component to add an additional design element.

Where to buy: Toast’s wooden cases for the iPhone XS Max start at $34 with the front panel available for an additional $10. Optional designs range from $5 to $10, with the entire lineup available directly from Toast.

Tech 21

Tech 21 clear iphone xs max case

Tech 21 clear case

Clear cases are clearly popular this year, most likely to highlight the wonderful glass and metal nature of the new iPhones, including the stylish gold color.

Tech 21’s clear case can withstand drops from up to 10 feet and has internal ribs along the sides to aid shock absorption.

Where to buy: Retailing for $$39.95, the Clear Case for the iPhone XS Max can be ordered from tech21 directly.


Incase too has a clear case, but we fell more in love with the Coque textured snap case.

Incase Coque texture case

Incase Coque texture case

This two-tone case has a soft-touch matte finish on the bottom and a unique fabric on the top.

Each of the buttons is denoted by subtle markings on the outside which frankly can be a bit tough to feel, but keeps the design simple.

Where to buy: The Textured Snap Case sells for $39.95 at Incase.


Leather cases are popular, which makes Burkley a go-to for all-leather cases.

Burkley wallet case

Burkley wallet case

They have several designs, especially when it comes to wallet cases. They have ones that open horizontally on the back as well as vertically depending on your preference.

If you don’t like the wallet cases, they have a snap-on case with a TPU exterior, textured leather on the back with color matched suede on the inside.

Burkley leather shell case

Burkley leather shell case

Our favorite case though was their simple leather shell. It has a burnished leather look we love that even has leather on the insider. Most cases go with a cheaper suede or microfiber, but Burkley went all leather. Plus, it is already broken in so you don’t have to wait for it to start looking distressed.

Where to buy: A variety of Burkley’s leather cases are available through Amazon fulfillment with prices starting at $39. Alternatively, the cases can be purchased from Burkley Case directly.


Silk Wallet Slayer Vol 1

Silk Wallet Slayer Vol 1

Silk has a very simple and affordable wallet-style case for the XS Max that is entirely made of a rubber-like material. Even the tension device that keeps the cards from falling out.

They come in more vivid colors which is a nice changeup from the usual medley of browns and blacks.

Where to buy: Silk’s Wallet Slayer Vol. 1 case for the iPhone XS Max is available on Amazon in a variety of colors and patterns, with prices starting at $14.99. Users can even customize the design for $24.99 for a personalized feel.


Jumping into the Incipio cases, there are once more many options, colors, and styles.

Incipio Cases

Incipio Esquire Series (left), Octane Pure (center), and Designer Series (right)

We chose our top three to talk about which includes the Esquire Series, Octane Pure, and Designer Series.

The Esquire Series utilizes an almost denim-like fabric to wrap the case which has a classy, handsome look to it. Octane Pure has a tough, clear, solid back but mixes it up with a colorful bumper around the edges. Lastly, the Designer Series is a clear case with some beautiful prints on the back. This one looks particularly good on the gold iPhone XS Max.

Where to buy: Incipio’s Esquire Series for the iPhone XS Max sells for $34.99 on Amazon, with the Octane Pure retailing for $29.99. The Desert Dahlia case from Incipio’s Design Series is available on Amazon for $24.99 as well, with free shipping.


One can’t put together a case roundup without OtterBox being in the mix. This old standby has slimmed up their cases over the years, much to the joy of their customers.

Otterbox commuter pursuit defender pro cases

Otterbox Commuter (left), Pursuit (center), and Defender Pro (right)

Their three case lines include the Commuter, the Pursuit, and the Defender Pro.

Commuter has the smallest footprint (though not the thinnest) while still offering lots of protection. It also uses a two-material design with a hard shell case on top of the soft silicone shell. Pursuit ups the ante by covering the speaker ports as well as the Lightning port. They’ve also used that added protection to route the audio from the lower speaker towards you, rather than away.

Defender Pro is the most rugged of the series, with the bulkiest design that really does add the most protection. With the Pro version, a holster/belt clip is included for carrying while out on a job site and covering the screen.

Where to buy: Although OtterBox is knocking 10% off cases through its own website with promo code OTTER10, Amazon rings in cheaper on the Commuter Series, which is currently up to 36% off.


Totallee case

Totally shell in black

Totallee makes astonishingly thin cases that feel more like a skin than a real case. They may not necessarily protect everything when you drop your phone, but it adds some protection along the back and edges, prevents scratches, adds a lip to the camera module, and the texture provides additional grip.

We had the black model, but there are clear, frosted, and colored ones to choose from.

Where to buy: Amazon has Totallee’s iPhone XS Max cases on sale for $27.97 in your choice of six colors.


Casetify case

Casetify clear case

Casetify has another clear shell, this time with a rugged and grippable black bumper around the edge of the phone.

There is also a ring of lettering around the camera module showing off the brands name.

Where to buy: Casetify’s clear grip case for the iPhone XS Max can be ordered from Casetify directly for $40 with free shipping.


X-doria defense shield

X-Doria Defense Shield case

From X-Doria, we checked out the Defense Shield. This stunning case has a solid clear back with a vivid red metal frame around the edge.

It is on the high-end of protective cases, capable of protecting against 10 feet of impact.

Like Otterbox, the audio on the bottom is routed forward, though it doesn’t have as much of a chin.

Where to buy: The Defense Shield is available at both Amazon and X-Doria itself, with X-Doria coming in slightly cheaper at $25.50 thanks to 15% off coupon code DORIA-15%.


Pitaka may look like a simple skin-style case, but it is so much more. It is actually an exceptionally rigid case made of aramid fiber, similar to carbon fiber. It is extremely sturdy and thin when attached. There is a slight ridge around the camera module to add protection when set down.

What sets Pitaka apart is the integrated magnetic plate that allows it to attach to any of the magnetic mounts out there on the market. Of course, Pitaka has their own magnetic mounts to go with it.

Unlike others that have an integrated metal plate, this case also works with wireless chargers.

Where to buy: The Pitaka Magcase retails for $49.99 at with free shipping.


UAG’s Monarch series of cases is their flagship line of iPhone cases. It uses a series of layers of premium materials for great protection and an eye-catching appearance. On our crimson red case, there is top grain leather, metal alloy, a proprietary rubber-like material all cradling your phone.

UAG Crimson Monarc case

UAG Crimson Monarc case

There are less flashy versions of the Monarch with black and silver, but we were partial to the red.

If you are looking for less expensive versions of the Monarch series, there are similar UAG cases that keep a familiar appearance without all of the premium materials.

Where to buy: Retailing for $59.95, the Monarch series is available in your choice of three colors at


Alto cases

Alto iPhone XS Max cases

Alto uses fine Italian leather in their products, be it wallets, Apple Watch bands, or their cases.

They come in some vivid colors that we rarely see with leather cases such as coral, lime, and caramel.

For the XS and XS Max line of cases, Alto is bringing back some of their fabric cases —another popular trend this year.

These cases are usually split between the denim top and a leather bottom portion.

Three different styles of cases are available —a standard shell case, the metro case with a slot of a couple cards, and the Anello case that has anchor points to attach a strap.

Where to buy: All three styles (Original, Metro and Anello) retail for $72 at Alto.


Lifeproof cases

Lifeproof Next (left) and Slam (right)

LifeProof, another old standby, has a few options for the new iPhones. Notably, the Slam and Next cases, which are a bit similar in their design.

Both cases completely seal in your phone, requiring a “key” that is included in the box or perhaps a nickel to open. This helps keep out dust, snow, and other debris.

They each have a clear back and tinted sides, though the Slam has the stylish patterns printed on them.

Where to buy: LifeProof’s Slam case sells for $49.99, while the Next cover costs $79.99 at

Just Mobile

Just mobile case

Just Mobile clear case

Lastly, bringing up the tail end of our roundup is Just Mobile. Their Tenc Air is a clear case unlike the others because of more built-in protection including the air cushion anti-shock corners. It also won’t yellow over time like the cheap ones.

To pair with it, they’ve also introduced Xkin 3D screen protector that truly goes edge-to-edge on the curved displays of the iPhone XS Max. It is made of several layers including tempered glass and anti-stain coatings.

Where to buy: Both the Tenc Air case and Xkin 3D screen protector for the iPhone XS Max sell for $34.95 on Amazon.