iPhone XR is an odd phone. It’s not a budget phone that people were hoping for. Yet it’s still here competing to be our choice for an upgrade. If you are one of the people looking for an upgrade and are stuck between iPhone XS. XS Max and XR, we listed 17 differences between the three devices.
We also went above and beyond and created an upgrade guide for those who are still unsure for their pick.
1. Larger storage on iPhone XS
The base capacity for all three iPhones is the same at 64GB. However, if youʼre always running out of space, the iPhone XSʼs have 256GB and 512GB options whereas the iPhone XR only has 128GB and 256GB storage options.
One of the things we realized was that paying $150 for 192GB additional storage is actually cheaper than giving Apple a dollar a month for the 50GB storage option in iCloud. We know theyʼre not exactly the same thing but itʼs a thought.
2. OLED vs. LCD (Brighter Screen)
The iPhone XSʼs have an OLED screen that Apple has called Super Retina HD while the iPhone XR has an LCD screen called Liquid Retina HD. Whatʼs the difference between Super and Liquid? Well, Liquid sounds way sexier doesnʼt it?
To keep it short, things look better on an OLED screen.
But hereʼs the first kicker, you wonʼt know the difference unless youʼre looking at them side by side. And even then, you might not see the difference. For example, if you get the iPhone XS, youʼre not going to know that the photos youʼve taken are going to be noticeably better on your device than the ones taken on the iPhone XR unless you bought both devices and took the same photo with them. Itʼs like buying a TV at a big box chain, they all look different side by side, but the moment you put it up in your home, you wonʼt see the difference.
Even we canʼt really show you how much better one is over the other because youʼre watching this through the internet and all the video compression will take away the tiny bits of differences.
Hereʼs the second kicker. Even if you wanted to compare the screen quality side by side, you canʼt do that at the Apple Store since the different iPhoneʼs are on different tables (for us anyways).
3. Higher resolution
With the OLED screens, you get higher pixel resolutions. This means your picture and videos will look a little better on the iPhone XS. On the picture above is a microscopic look at the screens. You can definitely tell that one has smaller pixels than the other.
4. Bigger screen
Physically the iPhone XS Max has the largest screen, followed by the XR and then the regular iPhone XS. Itʼs an odd thing to see one of Appleʼs premium products being smaller than one of the their cheaper alternatives. Isnʼt it?
Overall, we found ourselves being impressed with the screen of the iPhone X after spending most of our time with an iPhone 7 Plus. We were even impressed with the screen of the iPhone XS Max after spending a year with the iPhone X and when we started using the iPhone XR we were mildly annoyed because the bezels of the device are quite large and actually makes the screen feel smaller even though it isnʼt.
Most people arenʼt going to follow that progression in terms of iPhone usage though so regardless of which device youʼre upgrading from, unless itʼs from an iPhone X, the larger screenʼs are going to impress.
5. iPhone XS allows for HDR playback
OLED screenʼs generally have better contrast which means that everything you see on your iPhone XS screen is going to look better. The HDR screen comes into play when it comes to video playback from Netflix as well.
6. iPhone XSʼs have better contrast ratio
The iPhone XR has a contrast ratio of 1400:1 which is better than the 1300:1 of the iPhone 7ʼs and 8ʼs. However, the 1400:1 pales in comparison to the 1000000:1 ratio of the OLED screenʼs of the iPhone XSʼs. All these numbers and Oʼs means that the whites are whiter and the blacks blacker on the iPhone XSʼs when compare to the iPhone XR.
7. iPhone XR doesnʼt have 3D Touch
The 3D Touch difference was a little surprising to us since it’s a big technological feature of the iPhone 6sʼs. In our mind, we thought 3D Touch was a base feature of the iPhoneʼs. We put it on the same level as the TouchID and FaceID or whatever ID feature is used to unlock our devices.
With that being said, for those who actually have 3D Touch enabled iPhoneʼs, when was the last time you used it? We were going to make fun of 3D Touch a little bit until we realized that we use 3D Touch everyday.
Yeah, that trick where you turn your keyboard into a mouse pad? Thatʼs 3D Touch.
Using an iPhone XR without it will be a little painful. We know that you can mimic 3D Touch on the keyboard with the iPhone XR but it isn’t the same.
8. Different size/weights
This difference is a no-brainer. The iPhone XS, XS Max and XR are all different sizes. The best handling iPhone? Itʼs the smallest iPhone that costs $250 dollars more than the cheapest one.
In fact, despite being larger, the iPhone XS Max handles better than the iPhone XR because itʼs thinner. The tiny bit of extra thickness is actually quite noticeable on the iPhone XR and becomes even more pronounced when you start using cases with the iPhone XR.
9. Water protection/Splash Protection
When it comes to overall toughness, the iPhone XSʼs is rated to IP68 which means iPhone XS is full submersible to 2m for 30 mins. The majority of the waterproof cases that weʼve reviewed over the years have this rating.
The iPhone XR has an iP67 rating which means itʼs rain proof. But Apple has it on their website that you can submerge it up to 1m for 30 mins. Either way, go ahead and drop either iPhone into a toilet by accident.
10. Single lens on iPhone XR (no telephoto)
In our opinion, the biggest difference between the iPhone XSʼs and the iPhone XR is the camera. The iPhone XR is missing the telephoto lens. Before the iPhone X came around and ruined Appleʼs iPhone naming conventions, our go to iPhone was going to be the plus-sized iPhone 7 because it had the telephoto lens. Out of all the incremental features that Apple has released in the last few years, the telephoto lens has been the one thatʼs made the most difference in our day-to-day iPhone usage when it comes to photos.
When the smaller iPhone X was released with dual lenses, we were quite happy because it meant that we could have two lenses but still can use a phone that didnʼt require two hands to use all the time.
The lack of a telephoto lens on a larger sized iPhone is going to have a couple of ramifications when it comes to taking pictures, portrait mode and shooting videos. If youʼve got an iPhone 7 Plus and are looking to upgrade to iPhone XR, just be certain that you donʼt need the telephoto lens.
The camera is really the only feature on the iPhone that gets a lot of love from Apple. Weʼve been tracking Appleʼs upgrades over the years and the camera section is the one that has the most changed between models.
If youʼre trying to figure out if the camera on the iPhone XR is better or worse than the iPhone XSʼs, well, our preliminary photo comparison shows that both cameras produce photos of quality that are about the same.
11. Fewer Portrait mode settings
The iPhone XR only has 3 portrait mode settings on the rear camera. The iPhone XSʼs have 5. The two that are missing are Stage and Stage Mono.
Does anybody use those settings? We donʼt because our black hair does a great job of blending into the black background.
12. Faster LTE on iPhone XSʼs
The iPhoneXSʼs have a Gigabyte LTE modem. The iPhone XR has LTE advanced. The difference between the two is going to be about 500Mpbs if youʼre wireless network supports it which we doubt since gigabyte cellular speeds is in the realm of 5G.
If youʼre really looking into the future, going with the iPhone XSʼs for the better modem ~might be a good idea. However given that we donʼt think 5G is coming out in the next couple of years there’s a good chance the next iPhone you upgrade too will have a better modem.
13. Better battery on iPhone XR
By a little bit. Appleʼs become quite cryptic with their battery life with statements of “lasts 30 mins longer than the iPhone X” but donʼt really quantify what the iPhone is actually doing. Is it dimmed all the way down in airplane mode because those extra 30 mins are going to be so useful.
But the iPhone XR has an extra 2 hours of internet browsing time and an hour extra of video playback when compared to the iPhone XS Max. If youʼre constantly finding yourself running out of power regardless of iPhone, weʼd strongly recommend getting a fast charger. Donʼt base your iPhone buying decision on whatever Apple says the battery life is.
14. Bottom of the phone is symmetrical on iPhone XR
This is probably going tomatoes for a few people as the bottom of the iPhone XS isnʼt symmetrical. Thereʼs an antennae piece that goes where the headphone jack is suppose to go whereas the iPhone XRʼs bottom is completely uniform. It looks the same regardless of how you look at it.
15. iPhone XR is going to be cheaper to repair
When it comes to overall repair costs, the iPhone XR comes out on top. If you break a lot of iPhoneʼs, the iPhone XR is going to be friendlier on your wallet. And if you break a lot of iPhoneʼs, youʼre going to have a hard time with any of the new iPhoneʼs since they are bigger than the regular iPhones 7ʼs and 8ʼs.
Without Apple Care, replacing the screen on the iPhone XS Max is $329, the regular iPhone XS is $279 and the iPhone XR is only $199.
16. iPhone XR is way more colourful
When it comes to overall colors, the iPhone XR comes out on top if you want something thatʼs a little over the top. Weʼll be honest with you,we could ~almost forgo all the benefits of the iPhone XSʼs for a yellow iPhone XR.
If color is important to you, then the iPhone XR is your phone.
17. The iPhone XR is cheaper
By a lot. The iPhone XR is $750, the iPhone XS is $999 and the iPhone XS Max is $1099. With the iPhone XR, youʼre saving between $250 – $350 dollars each. To look at it another way, the iPhone XR is only ~70-75% the price of Appleʼs Premium device.
So the question we have for you is this: Do you think the iPhone XR is 70% of the phone of the iPhone XS or XS Max?
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Whatʼs our personal deal breaker?
The 3D touch is one deal breaker for us between the iPhone XR and iPhone XSʼs. We honestly didnʼt think we used 3D touch on a day to day basis until we started using the iPhone XR and realized that the mouse pad feature we use on a day-to-day basis was a 3D touch feature. Thatʼs a deal breaker for us because going back to the old magnifying glass method has been awful since the day that weʼve had the device.
Honestly, we personally feel that new tech should be easier to use than previous versions. When we’re forced to go back to the old way of doing things despite buying something newer, it really frustrates us. In our mind, youʼve basically taken away the mouse on our computer and have required us to use keyboard shortcuts to navigate around.
Even accessing the camera on the iPhone XR takes a bit more effort without 3D Touch. Itʼs a split second longer to activate via the button and that split second is painful. At least you can still swipe but maybe this wonʼt be as much of an annoyance since people who are going to the iPhone XR probably arenʼt iPhone X users.
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Hereʼs a quick upgrade guide for the people who are still unsure. We’re going to start with the iPhone 5ʼs and then move incrementally to the iPhone X.
Before we get started, hereʼs a couple of blanket statement upgrades:
- if you like taking photos, go with the iPhone XSʼs. The 2nd lens is going to be great
- if youʼre on a budget and want an upgrade, between the iPhone XR and 8 Plus, weʼd go with the iPhone 8 Plus
- if you work in damp places, get the iPhone XS as itʼs iP68 which is full waterproofing whereas the iPhone XR is only splash proof.
iPhone 5ʼs and iPhone SE
If youʼre using iPhone 5ʼs and iPhone SE, any new iPhone is going to be better. Specifically, you can very comfortably go to the iPhone XR because all the features that are missing, arenʼt found on iPhone 5ʼs and iPhone SE. The biggest change for you is the removal of the TouchID button and the power button has moved as well.
If youʼre worried about size, youʼre better option is going to be the iPhone XS. Regardless of which device youʼre getting, make sure you get a good case because how you use your iPhoneʼs is going to completely change because of the size. Bye bye keeping iPhoneʼs in pockets comfortably.
iPhone 6 and 6 Plus
The iPhone XR is also going to be a worthy upgrade if youʼre rocking the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. If youʼre moving from the iPhone 6 Plus to an iPhone XR, the size difference wonʼt be as shocking as the iPhone 6 but will still be noticeable. Again, the only thing youʼll be missing is TouchID.
Again, if size is a big deal for you, go with the iPhone XS.
iPhone 6s and 6s Plus
This is where the upgrade tips get a little murky because the iPhone 6sʼs were the first iPhones to have 3D Touch. Also, based on our speed tests, iOS12 on a iPhone 6s is quite good so technically you could hold out for another year.
But if you canʼt, get the iPhone XR if you donʼt use 3D Touch or are willing to sacrifice 3D Touch features for a cheaper iPhone.
For iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, you will notice a big leap in terms of video recording capabilities. If you enjoy shooting video, get the iPhone XSʼs with itʼs telephoto lenses. It will give you an extra tool to shoot your videos.
iPhone 7 and 7 Plus
For the iPhone 7ʼs, you could hold off for another year. Apple actually still sells these devices But we wouldnʼt upgrade to the iPhone 7. Your minimum upgrade should be to an iPhone 8 because of Bluetooth 5.0. The iPhone 7ʼs still have the old 4.2 chip so youʼd be going two steps backward with an upgrade to the iPhone 7.
If youʼre using an iPhone 7, you could go with either an iPhone XR or XS.
If youʼre using an iPhone 7 Plus, you could go with the iPhone XR or maybe the iPhone XS
If youʼve been using portrait mode on your device. Going with the iPhone XS means that you have full access to every Portrait mode and lightning feature whereas the iPhone XRʼs portrait mode is a little hamstrung.
iPhone 8 and 8 Plus
You do realize these devices are only a year old right? The iPhone 8 Plus is basically a slight older version of the iPhone XR so there would be no point upgrading…
The only reason we would upgrade iPhone 8 to any of the devices is if we wanted a better camera.