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Apple iPhone XS Max vs iPhone 12: What Will The 12 Add?

author Luis Silva (October 2020 Updated: August 2021 - 6 min. reading time)

The iPhone 12 will cost you more, but it's the smartphone you should pick.

It has better performance (+53%), a better display, and more OS updates (2 additional years).

What else sets them apart?

The iPhone 12 also gives you a lightweight body (44 g./1.55 oz less) and faster wireless charging (15w vs. 5w). But the iPhone XS Max features a larger (+0.4") display and a telephoto lens (+39 mm).

But how much more will I have to pay for the iPhone 12?

If you're not considering going for a carrier subscription, you'll have to spend approximately $230 more.

Is it worth buying the iPhone XS Max in 2021?

The iPhone XS Max is a pretty decent smartphone in 2021, especially now that it's cheaper. However, you should also consider other phones like the iPhone 12 Pro because it has better performance, better cameras, more storage, more security updates, faster charging, and more RAM.

Is the iPhone 12 still worth getting in 2021?

The iPhone 12 was indeed released in 2020, but it still stands out, thanks to its good performance, good cameras, and excellent glass protection. That's why I'll continue to recommend it in 2021, but that doesn't mean a phone like (again) the iPhone 12 Pro with more storage and more RAM isn't a better choice.

Keep reading for answers to all your questions about their differences, how they differ from their competition, and how other specialists evaluate them.

Check prices on Amazon Check prices on Amazon
Click here or scroll down to check prices on eBay, BestBuy, and Walmart.

I earn a small fee from qualifying purchases. It doesn't affect the price you pay nor my opinions.

Apple iPhone XS Max, Apple iPhone 12

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

CONTENTS

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Introduction

Whether you're considering to go small, or size doesn't matter and you just want one of these, welcome, you're in the right place.

In October of 2020, Apple launched its iPhone 12. The iPhone XS Max, however, saw the light of day in September 2018.

Here you can look at the iPhone XS Max and the iPhone 12, compare each other's features, and decide which one is best for you. Let us delve into the finer details.

The weight of each section

For additional information regarding our smartphone comparisons, check this FAQ.

to check who their rivals are.

Price*
vs.
Device iPhone XS Max iPhone 12
Release Date 2018, September 2020, October 2y.
OS Updates 6 years 6 years 0y.
Security Updates 6 years 6 years 0y.

*Reference: 100: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

Which One Has The Best Performance?

As for performance, Geekbench 5 scores the iPhone 12 53% ahead of its sibling in the multi-core ranking. This should be noticeable when opening apps or games.

Are you looking for the quickest phone around? The iPhone 12 is clearly above the average by comparing it with other smartphones from this price range. The average score is 2658, but it got 4067.

We can classify the iPhone 12 as high-end.

Performance*
vs.
Features iPhone XS Max iPhone 12
SoC Apple A12 Apple A14
Graphics Apple GPU Apple GPU
Geekbench 5 Score 2655
4067
1412
OS iOS 12 iOS 14.1
Tek-Score
6.4
8.8
2.4

*Reference: 100: Apple iPhone 12.

Which Phone Has The Best Display?

Apple iPhone XS Max front transparent png Apple iPhone 12 front transparent png

There's no phone to praise here, so any of them will do.

Most similarly priced devices stay in the ballpark of 743 nits, while the iPhone XS Max can only do 29% less.

Usually, anything below 500 nits isn't suitable for HDR content nor to use in direct sunlight visibility. So what about HDR?

If you're leaning towards the iPhone XS Max, you should know that 89% of its rivals can play HDR content. Plus, all have an AMOLED screen, and 93% have an Always-On display.

For the iPhone 12, as a reference, 88% of its rivals can play HDR content. Plus, all have an AMOLED screen, and 96% have an Always-On display.

Display Density (DPIs)*
vs.
Features iPhone XS Max iPhone 12
Size 6.5
6.1
-0.4
Screen Type AMOLED AMOLED
Resolution (px) 1242x2688
1170x2532
-376056
Refresh Rate 60hz 60hz 0
Dots per Inch 455.55
457.25
1.71
Always-On-Display No No
Notch Wedge Wedge
Peak Brightness 530 nits
639 nits
109
HDR HDR10 HDR10
Sub Tek-Score
2.7
2.9
0.2
Protection Corning toughened glass Corning Gorilla Glass Victus
Tek-Score
5.8
7.5
1.7

*Reference: 100: Sony Xperia 1 II.

Which Phone Has The Best Cameras?

Apple iPhone XS Max back transparent png Apple iPhone 12 back transparent png

If you value quality photos, you should know that the iPhone 12 is about 38 points above its rivals in its class. And I'd willingly pick this over the iPhone XS Max.

About the iPhone XS Max: DXOMARK gave this shooter a score of 118. And if you take into account its telephoto lens, you'll end up with a score of 126**. For an in-depth review, click here.

I hope this helps: you should know that all of its rivals can record videos in 4K or more and have an ultra-wide-angle lens, and 93% feature Optical Image Stabilization. Yet, only 15% of them feature a macro lens.

About the iPhone 12: DXOMARK has rated this camera with a score of 132. By adding its wide-angle lens, that score goes up to 139. Just click here to read about it.

Winding it up, just so you know, all of its rivals can record videos in 4 or 8K and have an ultra-wide-angle lens, and 96% feature Optical Image Stabilization. Additionally, only 8% of them feature a macro lens.

We can classify the iPhone 12 as high-end.

**You should give this score a margin of error of up to 6 points, especially for cameras with no zoom and with less than 40MP. They moved to a new camera test protocol, and I need more reviewed devices to fine-tune older scores.

Picture Quality*
vs.
Primary Camera iPhone XS Max iPhone 12
Megapixels 12
12
0
Aperture 1.8
1.6
-0.2
Lens 26mm
26mm
0
Lens Type Wide-Angle Wide-Angle
Flash 4 4 0
HDR Yes Yes
OIS Yes Yes
Video 2160 2160 0
Score 126
139
13

*Reference: 100: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra.

Extra Camera(s) iPhone XS Max iPhone 12 vs.
Megapixels 12
12
0
Aperture 2.4
2.4
0.0
Lens 52mm (2x zoom)
13mm -39
Lens Type Telephoto lens Ultra-wide-Angle
Score 8 7 -1
Selfie Camera iPhone XS Max iPhone 12 vs.
Megapixels 7
12
5
Aperture 2.2
2.2
0.0
Lens 32mm 23mm -9
iPhone XS Max iPhone 12 vs.
Tek-Score
7.4
8.2
0.8

Who has the best frame?

If you're still undecided about them, the iPhone 12 is a better choice based on its weight and the number of color options.

The iPhone XS Max is a little bit heavier: About 44 g. (1.55 oz). If you're looking for a lightweight device, I've come up with an adapted "display size to phone weight ratio" score. The iPhone XS Max got 3.2, meaning it's kind of weighty for its display size. The iPhone 12, however, has 6.9, which is pretty nice.

The iPhone XS Max is rated IP68, which means it's water-resistant in up to 1 to 3 meters, on par with the iPhone 12. That should be for up to 30 minutes, and it's freshwater in standby mode only.

Looks*
vs.
Body iPhone XS Max iPhone 12
Size 157 x 77 x 7 mm
(5.54 x 2.72 x 0.25 in)
146 x 71 x 7 mm
(5.15 x 2.50 x 0.25 in)
-12061
Weight 208 g. (7.34 oz)
164 g. (5.78 oz)
-44
Build Front and back glass Front and back glass
Colors Space Gray, Gold, and Silver Black, Red, White, Green, and Blue
Screen To Body Ratio 85.85%
88.18%
2.33
Disp.Size To Weight Score 3.2 6.9 3.7
Looks 8.9/10
10.0/10
1.1
Waterproof IP68 IP68
Biometrics Face ID Face ID
Tek-Score
6.7
8.6
1.8

*100% = 4+ colors + front and back glass + S2BR: 86+%.

Which has the best battery?

The iPhone XS Max features a 3174 mAh battery, while the iPhone 12 has 2815 mAh. But by GSMArena's standards, you should get the same battery life with either device.

Battery life on the iPhone XS Max isn't anything to write home about. Apple could've done much better, as other devices of this size have way better battery life. Its "battery to device size" rate is 2.1.

On any of the new iPhone 12 siblings, wireless charging is also magnetic. It's handy, but I'd favor a non-proprietary USB-C port.

Battery*
vs.
Features iPhone XS Max iPhone 12
Capacity (mAh) 3174 2815 -359
1h Talk + 1h Web + 1h Video 78% left
79% left
1
1h Talk + 3h Web + 1h Video 60% left
64% left
4
1h Talk + 1h Web + 3h Video 64% left
64% left
0
Bat. To Phone Size Score 2.1 6.4 4.3
Sub Tek-Score
6.7
6.9
0.2
Fast Charging 15w
20w
5
Wireless Charging 5w
15w
10
Tek-Score
6.0
6.6
0.7

*Reference: 90: Samsung Galaxy A31.

Which has more storage?

It's a tie.

The iPhone XS Max has 64GB of internal storage and 4GB of RAM. You should know that at this price level, its rivals have more RAM and more storage. They average at 8GB of RAM and 135Gb of storage.

On the iPhone 12, you'll also find 64GB of internal storage and 4GB of RAM. Again, you'll get more RAM and more storage by picking any rival at that price range. 8Gb/143Gb. That's the average.

Both phones have more than enough storage and RAM for the average consumer. However, if you love to store 4k videos, 64 GB alone won't get you there.

Storage*
vs.
Features iPhone XS Max iPhone 12
RAM (GB) 4GB
4GB
0
Internal (GB) 64GB
64GB
0
Micro SD No No
Tek-Score
2.8
2.8
0.0

*Internal Storage + 256GB Memory Card (Max: 512GB).

Which is the most connectivity-friendly?

The iPhone 12, unless you don't care about 5G.

You can find the iPhone 12 in the (LTE and) 5G variant.

Connectivity
vs.
Features iPhone XS Max iPhone 12
Network LTE 5G
Bluetooth 5.0
5.0
NFC Yes Yes
3.5mm jack No No
Tek-Score
3.6
4.6
1.0

Which is more affordable?

Here are the best deals on some major online stores:

Apple iPhone XS Max

Reference: $650

Apple iPhone XS Max

Apple iPhone 12

Reference: $880

Apple iPhone 12

I earn a small fee from qualifying purchases. It doesn't affect the price you pay nor my opinions, but it will mean a lot if you click on one of these buttons before purchasing your next phone (or whatever else you end up buying). You'll be helping to take this to the next level.

Prices on eBay are in $US but Europe-based. You can click to check the prices in your country.

Prices marked with ! are from renewed/refurbished/carrier-locked phones (except eBay prices that, as a last resort, can be from bids or used devices).

How much of a "phone" can your money buy?
That's how much "score" you can get with $100 based on the global score that you'll see in the next section (higher is better).

Have you found better prices elsewhere? The formula is simple: score/price*100.

Value for money iPhone XS Max iPhone 12 VS
Amazon 1.33 ! - ! -
eBay 0.83 0.98 0.15
Best Buy - 0.93 -
Walmart - ! - -

Also, don't forget to check the latest deals from these four stores, and the state of the art on mobile technology, if you don't want to overpay on your next smartphone.


Related articles:


Best smartphone deals


The Best Unbiased Smartphones For All Budgets


Smartphone Specs Statistics: The State Of The Art (Q1 2021)

Are you also considering other options? The global score can help. But first, let's see where its rivals are. They're usually close to 7.0 for both iPhones.

Verdict: What Makes the Apple iPhone 12 Stand Out?

If you fancy big screens and you're not willing to go for the iPhone 12 Pro Max, I suggest you keep your XS Max a little while longer. I know the iPhone 12 is at a whole new level when it comes to performance and peak brightness, but the XS Max isn't that slow or that bad when the sun shines a bit brighter.

Also, you get to keep your telephoto lens, but if you miss an ultra-wide-angle lens, well, you'll have to live with that.

If you're considering the XS Max, you should be aware that the iPhone 12 has much better glass protection, and it's much lighter.

Pros iPhone XS Max iPhone 12
#1 Performance Performance
#2 AMOLED AMOLED
#3 Cameras Cameras
#4 Fast Charging Fast Charging
#5 Wireless Charging Wireless Charging
#6 Glass Protection Glass Protection
Cons iPhone XS Max iPhone 12
#1 Always-On-Display Always-On-Display
#2 MicroSD Slot MicroSD Slot
#3 Weight 3.5mm Jack
#4 3.5mm Jack Price
#5 Price
Relative Score*
vs.
Global Score iPhone XS Max iPhone 12
Gaming Score
5.6
6.3
0.7
Tek-Score
5.62
6.76
1.14
Your Score

Scroll the sliders down below to get your own personalized score. Let's suppose you value performance and battery life, and you don't really care about anything else. Then, just set the "Performance" and the "Battery" sliders up to 5 (5+5=10), and then the other sliders down to 0. You'll know what's the best phone for you.

Performance 1.9
Display 1.7
Cameras 1.4
Frame 0.9
Battery 1.9
Storage 2.0
Connectivity 0.4
Total Should be 10 or as close as possible: 9.6

*Reference: 100: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

For suggestions and bug reports, click here. Your help is appreciated. Thank you.

If you want to know more about them, click here:

About me

Hello!

My name is Luis Silva, and I have a degree in computer management. Ever since I was a teenager, I've loved everything to do with tech. Music, pictures, video editing, I've done it all! This site is a place for me to share some of the knowledge I have, as well as keep up-to-date with current trends. This is a wonderful place for tech-geeks and everyone else that just want to learn more about tech and smartphones in general.


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Apple iPhone XS Max Related Comparisons


Apple iPhone 12 Related Comparisons

×

"Display size to phone weight" ratio explained

This indeed is a "display size to phone weight" ratio, but because every phone ended up somewhere between 0.0272 and 0.0421, I've amplified (adapted) those values so they would fit in a 0-10 scale. As of now, the best smartphone is the Samsung Galaxy A40, with 140g. (4.94 oz) for a 5.9 inch display. It got a score of 9.92. While the worse device is the iPhone 8 Plus, which weighs 202 g. (7.13 oz) and has a 5.5-inch display. It ended up with a score of 0.75.

Please, be aware that this score is subject to change if and when a new smartphone comes along that ends up being outside of this scale.

×

"Battery to device size" ratio explained

This score should give you an idea about the energy footprint of the devices you're considering. It reflects not only the hardware and the energy that it requires but also the amount of energy that the battery can deliver.

The major spenders on any device should be the display and the SoC. But everything from a notification led to its modems need to be optimized, or else, the OEM should simply include a bigger battery as a compensation. Unfortunately, it isn't always possible due to size limitations. But in the end, if a particular OEM can do a good job and give you excellent battery life on a small device, so should everyone else. That's why I've added a "battery to device size" ratio. But since the real scale went from 119 (for the Galaxy S10e, Snapdragon variant) and up to 164 (for the iPhone 7 Plus), I've decided to convert them so they would fit in a 0-10 scale, being 0 the worst device, (the iPhone 7 Plus) and 10 the one every OEM should look up to.

As an example, Apple did an excellent job on the iPhone 7. It has a score of 8. Despite having a small capacity, the hardware is well optimized, and it still gives you decent battery life considering its size. The iPhone 7 Plus, on the other hand, with those bezels shrinking its display size, clearly could've been the #1 in our top 10 list of best battery devices if Apple simply filled all that empty space with a bigger battery.

As a side note: I haven't included the dept of the devices in this formula because even if a device ended up being 1mm/0.03 inches thicker, it wouldn't matter that much to those who really value battery life.

Please, be aware that this score is subject to change if and when a new smartphone comes along that ends up being outside of this scale.

×

Rivals

As of now, these are the rivals that were considered for each of them. They may change every time its prices are updated.

These are the lowest prices found on Amazon, eBay, BestBuy, and Walmart.


 Apple iPhone XS Max 
  • ApplerivaliPhone 12
    $689
  • SonyrivalXperia 1
    $688
  • SonyrivalXperia 5
    $649
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 10+
    $565
  • ApplerivaliPhone X
    $579
  • ApplerivaliPhone 11
    $575
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 9
    $598
  • ApplerivaliPhone 11 Pro
    $684
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S10 Plus
    $689
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S10+ EX
    $689
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 EX
    $697
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 SD
    $535
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20+ SD
    $535
  • HuaweirivalP30 Pro
    $599
  • GooglerivalPixel 4 XL
    $780
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20
    $697
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 Plus
    $600
  • HuaweirivalP40
    $666
  • XiaomirivalMi 10 Pro
    $600
  • GooglerivalPixel 5
    $580
  • ApplerivaliPhone 12 Mini
    $739
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S21
    $729
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S21 Plus
    $600
  • OnePlusrival8T
    $549
  • XiaomirivalMi 10
    $529
  • OpporivalReno4 Pro
    $594
  • SonyrivalXperia 1 II
    $650
  • XiaomirivalMi 11
    $698
  • OnePlusrival9
    $551
  • OpporivalFind X3 Lite
    $554

 Apple iPhone 12 
  • SonyrivalXperia 1
    $688
  • SonyrivalXperia 5
    $649
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 10+
    $565
  • ApplerivaliPhone X
    $579
  • ApplerivaliPhone 11
    $575
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 9
    $598
  • ApplerivaliPhone 11 Pro
    $684
  • ApplerivaliPhone XS Max
    $650
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S10 Plus
    $689
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S10+ EX
    $689
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 EX
    $697
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 U.EX
    $789
  • HuaweirivalP30 Pro
    $599
  • GooglerivalPixel 4 XL
    $780
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20
    $697
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 Plus
    $600
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 Ultra
    $809
  • HuaweirivalP40 Pro
    $799
  • HuaweirivalP40
    $666
  • OnePlusrival8 Pro
    $799
  • XiaomirivalMi 10 Pro
    $600
  • GooglerivalPixel 5
    $580
  • ApplerivaliPhone 12 Mini
    $739
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S21
    $729
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S21 Plus
    $600
  • OpporivalReno4 Pro
    $594
  • SonyrivalXperia 1 II
    $650
  • XiaomirivalMi 11
    $698
  • OpporivalFind X3 Lite
    $554
×

Formula deviation

Since the guys at DxoMark don't review every camera out there, I've come up with a formula based on the ones that they do rate, so I could get an equivalent score for the ones they don't review. After testing it against these cameras, I got the deviation between that and their DxO score.

Device: DxOScore Deviation
Samsung Galaxy A50: 88 -1
Apple iPhone XR: 104 1
Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro: 108 -7
Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro: 87 1
Sony Xperia 1: 99 -1
Sony Xperia 5: 101 1
Samsung Galaxy Note 8: 100 0
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus: 126 2
Apple iPhone 8 Plus: 96 -3
Xiaomi Pocophone F1: 92 -1
Apple iPhone 7 Plus: 90 -1
Apple iPhone X: 101 3
Apple iPhone 11: 112 -1
Samsung Galaxy Note 8: 100 0
Samsung Galaxy Note 9: 107 1
Apple iPhone XS Max: 110 -2
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max: 124 1
Samsung Galaxy S10: 124 2
Apple iPhone XS: 110 -1
Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus: 120 -2
OnePlus 7 Pro: 122 0
OnePlus 7T Pro: 122 0
Huawei P30 Pro: 125 -1
Google Pixel 4: 117 0
Google Pixel 3: 103 0
Google Pixel 2: 100 0
Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus: 127 -2
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra: 132 2
OnePlus 6: 100 0
OnePlus 6T: 101 1
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus: 105 -1
Huawei Mate 20 Pro: 120 0
Xiaomi Mi 9: 115 0
Huawei Mate 30 Pro: 132 0
Huawei P40 Pro: 140 -1
Apple iPhone SE 2: 101 0
OnePlus 8 Pro: 126 0
Xiaomi Mi 8: 105 1
Samsung Galaxy A71: 89 1
Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro: 134 0

As you can see, most cameras sit between 1 and -1, while a few of them go up to 2 or -2. That means it's reasonable to assume other similar cameras that they don't review to, in the worst-case scenario, be anywhere from -2 to 2 points from the score that the formula gets.

For example: Given that the Pixel 4 got 117 points and that the Pixel 4 XL share the same year and camera specs, it's reasonable to expect a score of 117 too. But in reality, if they do review that camera, it may end up anywhere between 115 and 119.

Be aware that at DxO, they give a score based on their opinion, not based on any formula. That's why I think there's an odd difference of 6 points between the iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone X. In theory, they should have the same camera.

I'm guessing that the Mi 9T Pro got a deviation of 7 points because they tested its Chinese variant (the K20 Pro).

Update: They just changed their protocol to include preview image evaluation and trustability. I'm keeping the old table (for now) for reference purposes, and I'll be adding a new one as soon as they review at least a couple of new mclass-range cameras.

You can expect the same (or a bit bigger) deviation for high-end cameras, but anything with a score below 100-110 should be taken with a grain of salt.

This is valid for all cameras tested with the previous protocol. For those that they dclassn't test, the deviation may be up to twice as much.

×

About GeekBench 5

This is just a quick note to let you know that, if, by any chance, the smartphone you're looking for isn't on the GeekBench site yet, you can check on GsmArena.com, as they also usually test smartphones with that benchmark tool.



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