iPhone 11 vs iPhone XS: Should you upgrade?

iPhone 11 vs iPhone XS – Is the iPhone 11 an upgrade over last year’s flagship?

While the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max are getting a lot of the headlines for their triple-camera set-ups, it’s the more affordable iPhone 11 that most people will likely end up buying. Just look at the sales numbers for last year’s excellent iPhone XR if you need proof.

With that in mind, we thought it would be a good idea to compare the iPhone 11 with the iPhone XS. Does Apple’s new mid-range smartphone outgun its outgoing flagship?

If you just want a summary, these bullet points should provide you with the gist of our findings. Otherwise, read on for the full lowdown.

iPhone 11 vs iPhone XS – At a glance

  • The iPhone 11 has a larger but less sharp and less vibrant 6.1-inch 828 x 1792 LCD; the iPhone XS packs a 5.8-inch 1125 x 2436 Super Retina OLED display and comes in a larger Max version too
  • The iPhone 11’s A13 Bionic processor is around 20% faster than the iPhone XS’s A12 Bionic chip
  • Both the iPhone 11 and the iPhone XS have a dual-camera set-up, with a pair of 12MP sensors
  • The iPhone XS’s second camera is a telephoto lens for zoomed-in shots; the iPhone 11’s second camera is an ultra-wide camera for zoomed-out shots
  • Both phones resemble their predecessors, with the iPhone 11 looking much like the iPhone XR and the iPhone XS looking very much like the iPhone X; the iPhone 11 is more eye-catching, while the iPhone XS is a little classier

Related: Best iPhone 2019

iPhone 11 vs iPhone XS – Specs and Camera

When it comes to internal specifications, the iPhone 11 gives the iPhone XS a pretty comprehensive run-around.

The iPhone XS runs on Apple’s A12 Bionic CPU, which is a highly capable performer. Indeed, Apple recently boasted that it continues to outperform its Android rivals, some of which launched six months to a year later.

But the iPhone 11 is running on the same next-generation A13 Bionic chip that powers the iPhone 11 Pro, which is the iPhone XS’s successor. The A13 has 8.5 billion transistors to the A12’s 6.9 billion, resulting in a 20% boost to both the CPU and GPU. It also has much better machine learning smarts, enabling it to perform six times faster.

In actual use we don’t think you’ll notice a huge upgrade, however that added performance should help the phone last better over time and hopefully stay fast for many years to come. Both devices seem to have 4GB of RAM, according to the Geekbench benchmarking app.

Storage options, at least at their base, have never felt particularly roomy on iPhones. Both the iPhone 11 and iPhone XS start with 64GB, with the 11 also offering 128GB and 256GB. It’s slightly different for the XS, which also comes in a 512GB flavour. As usual, there’s no expandable storage so choose wisely and avoid the 64GB option.

Both phones have dual-12-megapixel sensors, with a main f/1.8 wide sensor and a secondary unit. However the way they work is very different and the iPhone 11 is a massive step forward in terms of photography.

The iPhone XS goes with a telephoto approach, enabling a 2x optical zoom, but the iPhone 11 goes in the opposite direction, with an ultra-wide lens for a 2x zoom-out. Hardware aside, Apple is adding some nifty new camera tricks that should mark the iPhone 11 out. Chief among these is Night Mode, which promises to dramatically improve extreme low-light shots. The Deep Fusion feature, meanwhile, will form a composite of multiple shots at various exposures to create a single high-detail image and this is exclusive to the iPhone 11 series.

Read our iPhone XS review

So, are the pictures on the iPhone 11 better? That’s easy: Yes. There’s so much more detail packed into the shots and the Smart HDR doesn’t overexposure quite as much as before. Colours are more vivid too, and the ultra wide lens gives you a bit more variety.

One spec that the iPhone XS beats the iPhone 11 on is its display. At 5.8-inches and 1125 x 2436, it might be a little smaller than the 6.1-inch 828 x 1792 iPhone 11 equivalent, but it’s sharper and generally nicer. The old flagship also packs an OLED panel rather than the iPhone 11’s LCD, which makes for a much more vibrant, contrasty picture.

For what it’s worth, the iPhone XS is the last Apple phone to sport 3D Touch display technology, meaning it’s sensitive to pressure in a way that the iPhone 11 isn’t. Apple is phasing 3D Touch out in its own software, but certain apps and games will continue to make use of it – for a while at least.

iPhone 11 vs iPhone XS – Look and feel

Neither of these phones adopt the fresh design that many would have hoped for. Both the iPhone 11 and the iPhone XS resemble their immediate predecessors.

The iPhone 11 is the follow-up to the iPhone XR, while the iPhone XS inherits its looks from the iPhone X. Of course, the iPhone XR essentially followed the design template set by the iPhone X, so these two phones share the same lineage and look very similar.

If we were to make a judgement we’d say that the older iPhone XS arguably looks and feels better, thanks to its use of more premium components. Its frame is made of a more desirable stainless steel, while the iPhone 11 is made with cost-saving aluminium.

Check out loads of our other iPhone 11 content below:

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We also prefer the iPhone XS’s smaller footprint, which makes it easier to wield in one hand. However, that’s largely a matter of personal preference.

We should also mention the iPhone 11’s somewhat divisive square camera module, which makes the iPhone XS’s lozenge-shaped unit seem subtle by comparison. Indeed, those who like their phones to stand out will probably prefer the iPhone 11, which comes in six shiny colours: purple, white, green, yellow, black, and red. The iPhone XS only comes in boring old space grey, silver, and gold. Both phones sport an IP68 dust and water resistance rating, so are equally capable at standing up to a dip in the bath or pool.

Battery life on the iPhone 11 is much better than the smaller XS, and more on par (if not better) than the larger iPhone XS Max. Both phones support fast charging, however neither come with anything but the slow 5w charger in the box.

Related: iPhone 11 vs iPhone 11 Pro

iPhone 11 vs iPhone XS – How much do they cost?

Apple sells the iPhone 11 from £729/$699 and it’s available now. The iPhone XS is no longer officially available from Apple, but up until recently was available from £999/$999. It doesn’t take much shopping around online to find it available for a little less than that, but the iPhone 11 remains significantly cheaper.

iPhone 11 vs iPhone XS – Verdict

If you upgraded to the iPhone XS last year you’re probably best served to hold off on the iPhone 11 and see what Apple might have in store for the iPhone 12 next year. The only real true reason to upgrade is for the better camera, and improved endurance. The iPhone 11 is an excellent phone though, and if you’re in the market for a new iPhone it’s an excellent choice.

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