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The iPhone Xs and Xs Max are more water-resistant than prior models. Photo: Apple

The first iPhone Xs and Xs Max reviews are in —and while there's a consensus that the Max's big is truly beautiful, there's also a raft of critics saying you might want to wait for the more humanly priced iPhone Xr next month.

Why it matters: The iPhone is Apple's most important product and the iPhone X has been its best seller. The new phones are modest updates, with the big-screen Max option being the most visible difference, along with a faster processor and new camera tricks.

What they're saying:

  • The Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern: "The Max just feels like a blown-up iPhone, when it could be a new sort of computer" and "One-handed use is a struggle at times with smaller hands, especially typing."
  • The Verge's Nilay Patel: "[The Max has] a gigantic, beautiful screen, and I have enjoyed looking at it a lot," but "the Pixel 2 still has a better camera than the iPhone Xs."
  • Wired's Lauren Goode: "This year’s phones don’t spark strong feelings — except maybe chagrin that they cost so much."
  • The New York Times' Brian X. Chen: "By eliminating the bezels, which are the screen’s borders, Apple did a terrific job of increasing screen size without adding bulk or compromising the usability of the Xs Max. I still think the smaller XS is a better fit for most people."
  • BuzzFeed's John Paczkowski: "Apple has certainly improved the iPhone with the Xs and the Xs Max... But, crucially, it hasn't improved my experience of the iPhone."

Go deeper: Here's our hands-on first look at the iPhone Xs and Xs Max. We'll have our full review in the coming days.

Early sales: Loup Ventures' Gene Munster measured the earliest pre-order data and found significantly shorter lead times for the iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max than for last year's iPhone X. However, given that the iPhone X was a big leap forward, that's not terribly surprising.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Health

NYC to impose vaccine mandate on private employers

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) on Monday announced a new COVID vaccine mandate for all private companies.

Why it matters: De Blasio, speaking on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," said the "first-in-the-nation measure" will go into effect starting Dec. 27. It will apply to approximately 184,000 businesses.

D.C.-Beijing tensions are shifting markets

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. markets stand to lose $2 trillion in value if D.C. and Beijing drift further apart.

Why it matters: Political chasms are showing up in new securities regulations that put companies and investors in a bind. The rules are also another reflection of how much relations between the world’s largest economies have cooled, even as they remain economically interdependent. 

5 hours ago - Health
Axios Investigates

Documents reveal the secrecy of America's drug pricing matrix

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

American businesses spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year on prescription drugs, and the bills keep getting bigger. But some of the companies promising to help rein in those costs prevent employers from looking under the hood.

Why it matters: Documents provided to Axios reveal a new layer of secrecy within the maze of American drug pricing — one in which firms that manage drug coverage for hundreds of employers, representing millions of workers, obscure the details of their work and make it difficult to figure out whether they're actually providing a good deal.