Earlier this month, Apple announced three new iPhones at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino: the iPhone XR (known as the “iPhone ten R”), the iPhone XS (known as the “iPhone ten S”), and the iPhone XS Max (known as the “iPhone ten S Max”).
If you do not know exactly what the differences are, then it may be overwhelming to decide which one of these devices you should buy. In this guide, I will make the decision process simpler by breaking down the differences.
The biggest changes in this new line of iPhones are that Apple no longer has the Touch ID fingerprint reader built into the devices. The removal of the Touch ID fingerprint reader allows for edge-to-edge displays and implementation of the Face ID facial recognition system across all three devices. This also means that the Home button is completely gone too.
Another point that has to be made before getting into the nitty gritty is that Apple is no longer going to include a 3.5mm adapter for the Lightning port in the box. So you will have to buy one separately from Apple in case you are still tied to an auxiliary cord.
Here is a breakdown of the other specifications:
iPhone XR Vs. iPhone XS Vs. iPhone XS Max Screen Size Differences
The iPhone XR has a 6.1-inch screen size, which is slightly smaller than the iPhone XS Max and slightly larger than the iPhone XS. The iPhone XS has a 5.8-inch screen size, which means it is just like its iPhone X predecessor. And the iPhone XS Max has a 6.5-inch screen.
While the differences in sizes may not seem like that much, it actually has a major impact in how you carry around your iPhone. If you have small pockets, then carrying around the iPhone XS can be challenging. And the iPhone XS Max gets very close to a tablet size so I would avoid buying skinny jeans and pants with small pockets.
iPhone XR – 6.1-inch
iPhone XS – 5.8-inch
iPhone XS Max – 6.5-inch
iPhone XR Vs. iPhone XS Vs. iPhone XS Max Display Differences
The iPhone XR is considered the lowest end version of the new iPhone line because it has an LCD display technology rather than the OLED displays that are used for the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max.
Apple is calling the display of the iPhone XR “Liquid Retina Display.” The “Liquid Retina Display” is still wide color and has True Tone support so it adapts to the lighting around you. This ensures that the colors that you see on the iPhone XR really pops. But because it is still an LCD display, Apple has been able to bring down the price of the iPhone XR (more about that below in the price section).
The iPhone XS and XS Max have the same OLED display technology as the iPhone X. Both of these devices have curved corners and the same notch as before. If you have not used an iPhone X, then you will be especially impressed by the jump in display quality compared to previous generation iPhones. Currently, I have an iPhone X and it is one of the sharpest displays I have ever seen. The iPhone XS and XS Max also support True Tone.
One of the display features I like the best is Night Shift. This feature automatically softens the colors on the iPhone based on the hours you set. I generally prefer to see less intense colors in the evening and at night time. The Night Shift feature was actually introduced in iOS 9.3 a couple of years ago.
It’s also worth mentioning that the display of the Apple iPhone XS and XS Max support Dolby Vision and HDR10. What does this mean?
The simple explanation is that the colors are brighter and more colorful. And the more complex explanation is that the iPhone XS and XS Max are able to receive Dolby Vision data from streaming platforms that offer this display technology like iTunes, Netflix and Vudu. And you may have to pay extra for the 4K versions of the content across those platforms. But this could feel like you are taking a movie theater screen and shrinking it to the size of your iPhone.
The glass cover of the display has been improved on the iPhone XS compared to the previous generation iPhone X as well. The iPhone X actually scratches a bit easier.
iPhone XR Does Not Have 3D Touch
Unfortunately, the iPhone XR does not have 3D Touch support. This means that the Quick Actions function does not work where you can push down on the display to see additional menu options.
iPhone XR – LCD, 120 Hz, Liquid Retina HD, 1792 x 828 pixel resolution (326 ppi)
iPhone XS – OLED, HDR, 120 Hz, Super Retina HD, 2436 x 1125 (458 ppi)
iPhone XS Max – OLED, Super Retina HD, 2688 x 1242 (458 ppi)
iPhone XR Vs. iPhone XS Vs. iPhone XS Max Design Differences
The biggest design differences between the iPhone XR and iPhone XS / iPhone XS Max is the metal that is being used. While all the new iPhones have glass on the front and back, the XS and XS Max are built with steel. This makes the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max much more durable than previous generation iPhones and the iPhone XR.
Apple is calling the glass that is used in the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max “the most durable glass ever in a smartphone.” And the stainless steel bands are an Apple-designed alloy that is machined in three finishes.
iPhone XR – Aluminum design with glass on the front and back
iPhone XS – Steel design with glass on the front and back
iPhone XS Max – Steel design with glass on the front and back
iPhone XR Vs. iPhone XS Vs. iPhone XS Max Size Differences
In terms of the dimensions, the iPhone XS is unsurprisingly the smallest of the three. And the iPhone XS Max gets very close to tablet dimensions. As a comparison, the iPad mini 4 tablet has an 8-inch height and 5.3-inch width.
iPhone XR – 5.94 inches (height) x 2.98 inches (width) x 0.33 inch (depth)
iPhone XS – 5.65 inches (height) x 2.79 inches (width) x 0.30 inch (depth)
iPhone XS Max – 6.20 inches (height) x 3.05 inches (width) x 0.30 inch (depth)
iPhone XR Vs. iPhone XS Vs. iPhone XS Max Weight Differences
Correlating to the screen size differences, the iPhone XS is the lightest of the three followed by the iPhone XR and then the iPhone XS Max.
iPhone XR – 6.84 ounces (0.43 in pounds)
iPhone XS – 6.24 ounces (0.39 in pounds)
iPhone XS Max – 7.34 ounces (0.46 in pounds)
iPhone XR Vs. iPhone XS Vs. iPhone XS Max Chip Differences
All three of the new Apple devices have an A12 Bionic chip. The A12 Bionic chip uses Apple’s next-generation Neural Engine, which supports real-time machine learning to improve the way you experience photos, augmented reality, gaming, etc.
The A12 Bionic chip has two performance cores for handling heavy computational tasks and it has four efficiency cores for handling everyday tasks. And the A12 chip knows when to use all six cores when needed for a boost.
In the A12 Bionic chip, there are 2 performance cores — which are up to 15% faster than Apple’s previous A11 Bionic chip. And the 4 efficiency cores consumes up to 50% less power usage than the previous A11 Bionic chip.
iPhone XR – Apple A12 Bionic with 3GB RAM
iPhone XS – Apple A12 Bionic with 4GB RAM
iPhone XS Max – Apple A12 Bionic with 4GB RAM
iPhone XR Vs. iPhone XS Vs. iPhone XS Max Camera Differences
Rear Camera Differences
Apple made a major camera upgrade on the XS and XS Max from the iPhone X. For example, the telephoto camera on the back of the device has an optically stabilized f/2.4 lens. And the rear wide-angle camera has been updated with an optically stabilized f/1.8 lens with a 12-megapixel sensor so it can collect more light.
All of the cameras across the board have Smart HDR support. This means that all of the images are processed with Apple’s A12 image signal processing subsystem and Neural Engine.
The iPhone XS and XS Max have twice as many “focus pixels” compared to its predecessor, which is a specification known as phase-detect autofocus.
The iPhone XS is able to capture underexposed and overexposed images for every shot that is taken, which enables the final image to pick up sharp details in the shadows of the image. From there, it looks at the other frames in the buffer to see if additional details can be added. And then several images are merged together for the final photo, which also helps prevent blurring.
Using computational algorithms, photos taken from these line of iPhones may look better than photos taken with DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. And this ensures better photos in low light.
Unfortunately, the iPhone XR has a single 12-megapixel camera. The iPhone XR can still take Portrait Mode photos, but it only works on people.
Improvements have been made to the Portrait Mode on the XS and XS Max. Specifically, the blur can be adjusted from the photos taken in Portrait Mode.
From a video standpoint, Apple created new software stabilization algorithms for the rear cameras. And there is a new stabilization feature on the front cameras. Plus the iPhones can record stereo audio now.
iPhone XR – Single 12-megapixel and Smart HDR
iPhone XS – Dual 12-megapixel (one lens for 2x zoom) and Smart HDR
iPhone XS Max – Dual 12-megapixel (one lens for 2x zoom) and Smart HDR
Front Camera Differences
Interestingly, the front camera on the iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and XS Max appears to be the same as the iPhone X. The f/2.2 lens on the front is able to capture depth information from the TrueDepth system to support Portrait Mode and the Face ID facial recognition system.
iPhone XR – 7-megapixel True Depth and Smart HDR
iPhone XS – 7-megapixel True Depth and Smart HDR
iPhone XS Max – 7-megapixel True Depth and Smart HDR
iPhone XR Vs. iPhone XS Vs. iPhone XS Max Wireless Charging Differences
By having a glass design on the front and back of all three devices, the iPhone XR, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max all support wireless charging. So if you have a Qi-compatible wireless charger, then you can use it for any of these three iPhones. Apple said that wireless charging on these devices are faster than the iPhone X.
iPhone XR – Qi-compatible wireless charging support
iPhone XS – Qi-compatible wireless charging support
iPhone XS Max – Qi-compatible wireless charging support
iPhone XR Vs. iPhone XS Vs. iPhone XS Max IP Rating Differences
There is a subtle difference between the iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max in terms of the IP rating. The iPhone XR is IP67 so it can still be used in pools and showers. But the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max can be submerged deeper.
iPhone XR – IP67 Rating (1-meter water submersion for up to 30 minutes)
iPhone XS – IP68 Rating (2-meter water submersion for up to 30 minutes)
iPhone XS Max – IP68 Rating (2-meter water submersion for up to 30 minutes)
iPhone XR Vs. iPhone XS Vs. iPhone XS Max Color Differences
In terms of colors, the iPhone XR has many more options. I don’t consider this specification to be as important because most consumers end up covering their devices in a case right away.
iPhone XR – Blue, white, black, yellow, coral, and red
iPhone XS – Silver, space grey, gold
iPhone XS Max – Silver, space grey, gold
iPhone XR Vs. iPhone XS Vs. iPhone XS Max Storage Size Differences
One of the biggest differences between the iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and XS Max is that the XR lacks a 512GB option and the iPhone XS and XS Max lack a 128GB option. The higher storage options for the iPhone XS and XS Max are especially important if you download hundreds of apps and you do not back up your files that often.
iPhone XR – 64GB / 128GB / 256GB
iPhone XS – 64GB / 256GB / 512GB
iPhone XS Max – 64GB / 256GB / 512GB
iPhone XR Vs. iPhone XS Vs. iPhone XS Max Price Differences
As mentioned above, the iPhone XR is the “budget” version of the new line of iPhones. I would not exactly call $750 a low-cost option. If you decide to finance the cost of the devices across 24 months, then it would cost $31.25 per month for the starter iPhone XR and $45.83 per month for the starter iPhone XS. So if an extra $14 per month does not seem like it would break the bank for you, then it might be worth getting the higher end version.
iPhone XR – Starts at $750
iPhone XS – Starts at $1,000
iPhone XS Max – Starts at $1,100
Note: This article may be periodically updated as more details are discovered
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