iPhone XR vs iPhone XS: The final verdict

How do these Apple phones compare with each other? Trusted Reviews takes a final and definitive look

Which new iPhone should you buy? iPhone XR vs iPhone XS

Ahead of the new iPhone 11, it’s worth remembering Apple’s trio of iPhones are out and available to buy: there’s the iPhone XR (£749/$749), the iPhone XS (£999/$999) and the iPhone XS Max (£1099/$1099).

The iPhone XR sits at the bottom of the range, offering a similar design to the XS at a more ‘affordable’ price. It’s still far from cheap, however. With prices hitting £899/$899 for the 512GB model, it costs more than the iPhone 8.

Related: iPhone XR 2

The iPhone XS and XS Max both replace the singular iPhone X from 2018 and sit at the top of the range of Apple’s smartphones. The XS is near-identical to the X with a 5.8-inch display, while the XS Max is the next-generation Plus variant with a whopping 6.5-inch panel. 

Now that we have the basics out of the way, let’s have a look at how the iPhones compare internally and externally.

iPhone XR vs iPhone XS vs iPhone XS Max – Specs and features

iPhone XS/iPhone XS Max iPhone XR
Display 5.8-inch or 6.5-inch 19.5:9
1124 x 2436 AMOLED
6.1-inch IPS LCD
Processor Apple A12 Bionic Apple A12 Bionic
Rear camera Dual 12-megapixels Single 12-megapixels
Front camera 7-megapixels 7-megapixels
Video 4K (24fps, 30fps, 60fps) 1080p and slow-motion 4K (24fps, 30fps, 60fps) 1080p and slow-motion
Software iOS 12.1 iOS 12.1
Storage 64/256/512GB 64/128/256GB

They’re all powered by an A12 CPU, and performance is consistent across all models. All three are exceptionally fast and comfortably snappier than the majority of Android phones, perhaps with the exception of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. 

Apple is being tight-lipped about the amount of RAM inside each phone. However we do know the iPhone XS and XS Max pack 4GB RAM, while the iPhone XR has 3GB. We haven’t this make a difference is general use – maybe we’ll notice something down the line when these phones become a bit older. 

Storage size is another differentiator between the iPhone XS and iPhone XR. The XS and XS Max are available in 64GB, 256GB and 512GB variants, with the iPhone XR available in 64GB, 128GB and 256GB options. We’d have liked Apple to bump the minimum (especially for £1099 XS Max) but that hasn’t been the case. Maybe next year?

Related: Best iPhone

iPhone XR vs iPhone XS Max

iPhone XS Max vs iPhone XR

The biggest difference between the XR and XS is the display. The iPhone XR comes with a 6.1-inch Liquid Retina LCD panel, while the XS uses Super Retina OLED tech. It’s also available in two sizes: 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch.

It’s clear, if you’ve got the two phones side-by-side the OLED panel looks noticeably better. Colours on OLEDs are brighter and contrast is better. HDR content also looks superior thanks to the ability of OLED to display perfect blacks. However, the Liquid Retina display is by no means terrible, even though the resolution 1792 x 828 is fairly low.

iOS 12 runs on all the new iPhones, bringing features such as Screen Time, improved notifications and a focus on speed and performance.

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iPhone XR vs iPhone XS Max

iPhone XS Max vs iPhone XR

iPhone XR vs iPhone XS vs iPhone XS Max – Look and feel

All of Apple’s new phones mimic the iPhone X’s iconic design. That means all three have near edge-to-edge displays.

  • None have a Touch ID fingerprint sensor, instead relying on Face ID for unlocking and accessing private apps. This means the notch is now commonplace across Apple’s 2018 phone line.
  • Other similarities include the glass rears, support for Qi wireless charging and water-resistance ratings. It’s great to see Apple keep these features similar across all phones, even if the iPhone XS does have the slightly higher IP68, as opposed IP67, rating. This just means it can be submerged for a little longer. 
  • There are some other big differences between the devices, though. The iPhone XR is the more colourful of the new phones, coming in a range of hues including blue, black, white, coral, yellow and red. If you plump for the iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max then colour options are limited to silver, grey or the new gold. 

Related: AirPower

The phones are made up of different materials, too. The iPhone XR has aluminium sides, while the iPhone XS and XS Max both use stainless steel. Stainless steel is a bit shinier and has a more ‘premium’ finish.

None of the three phones has a headphone jack – something you probably should expect from Apple – and it seems that Apple has removed the 3.5mm adapter from the box, too.

Related: How to factory reset an iPhone

iPhone XR vs iPhone XS vs iPhone XS Max – How good are the photos?

Apple is pushing cameras hard with these new phones, with all models benefitting from at least some form of upgrade. The iPhone XS and XS Max both have dual 12-megapixel cameras on the rear. One of these is an f/1.8 main sensor, while the other is a wide-angle sensor with an f/2.4 aperture. Both feature OIS.

The iPhone XR’s camera is the same as the one on the iPhone XS, but it’s a single-sensor arrangement. This means regular snaps are the same, however there’s no lossless zooming.

iPhone XS Max vs iPhone XR vs iPhone XS

iPhone XS Max vs iPhone XR vs iPhone X

All three phones boast a Smart HDR mode for improving highlights and shadows, along with improved selfie cameras with a faster sensor and the ability to shoot in Portrait mode with variable depth effects.

Photos from the main camera are similar between all the devices. That 12-megapixel sensor takes reliably colourful shots with great dynamic range and impressive contrast.

The bigger difference is with the portrait mode. As the iPhone XR only has one sensor, it lacks the telephoto camera of the XS and as such it can’t create the same depth map needed to accurately differentiate between the foreground and the background. Instead, it purely uses software and the results, while still good, are a little more rough around the edges. Check out our iPhone XS and iPhone XR reviews for a more in-depth look at the cameras.

(iPhone XR)

(iPhone XS)

(iPhone XS)

(iPhone XR)

iPhone XR vs iPhone XS vs iPhone XS Max – How much does it cost?

Pricing for the iPhone XR starts at $749£749 for the 64GB. The 128GB version will set you back $799/£799 and the 256GB will cost $899/£899.

The iPhone XS starts at $999/£999 for the 5.8-inch (64GB) version rising to £1349 for the 512GB and $1099/£1099 for the iPhone XS Max. If you want more storage you’ll have to pay £1249 for the 256GB and £1449 for the 512GB version. All the models are on sale now.

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