You want the best new iPhone for your lifestyle, but which one should you buy? Great question. The iPhone XS, XS Max or iPhone XR lineup is a tight race, mostly because the three new models are so closely matched, with the price, screen size and a few odd specs to tell one from the other.
We’ve reviewed the 5.8-inch iPhone XS and 6.5-inch XS Max. While both are excellent, with almost identical hardware, the 6.1-inch iPhone XR is different enough to throw a monkey wrench into your buying plans. If you can afford to wait for it.
Here’s why. The iPhone XR has a single rear camera instead of two (no 2x optical zoom here) and a lower resolution LCD screen compared to the XS’ OLED display. The iPhone XR also lacks the 512GB storage option of the XS models. But before you cross it off the list, note its many comparative advantages: A 6.1-inch screen that’s bigger than the standard iPhone XS (and last year’s iPhone X), and a battery life that Apple says will outlive the XS and XS Max.
You’ll get the same speedy processor in the XR as the other two iPhones, and although there’s only one rear camera, you won’t sacrifice portrait mode. That’s because the XR’s single rear camera has new software to make your shots artful (yes, this is the fancy SLR-style “bokeh” camera effect that blurs the backgrounds of headshots). Fun, exclusive color choices like coral and blue cap off the iPhone XR’s unique iPhone personality.
Best of all, the iPhone XR starts $250 less than the iPhone XS, making it the most affordable new iPhone of 2018. But here’s the rub: While the XS models are, the iPhone XR won’t arrive until Oct. 26. That’s why we strongly advise iPhone shoppers wait until we’ve reviewed that model before making a final decision– we want to make sure it’s as great a value in real world tests as it sounds like it is on paper.
That said, we know many of you JUST CAN’T WAIT, so we’ve answered some of the “which should I buy” questions below.
If you want…
- The absolute biggest screen: iPhone XS Max
- 2x optical zoom and no-compromise camera: iPhone XS or XS Max
- Most affordable new iPhone: iPhone XR
- iPhone with home button and Touch ID : iPhone 7 and phones are still around, with price cuts
If you feel tempted to save money on the now-discounted iPhone 8 Plus…
…and having a home button on your iPhone isn’t important to you, resist! Spend $50 more for iPhone XR, at the very least. You’ll get a much faster processor, better photography, longer battery life and fast Face ID.
If you have a really old iPhone and want the best budget iPhone option
A factory refurbished iPhone 7 will. Its software is just as secure and up-to-date as the iPhone XS, and this 2016 flagship is still an above-average phone. (Pro tip: Spend up for the 128GB version. You’ll thank us later.)
You could also get an iPhone SE, which is downright dainty compared to the iPhone XS and XS Max. Keep in mind that you’ll have to buy it through carriers and other retailers. Apple has— and the iPhone X — from the Apple store. It’s also got a comparatively restrained price, selling for $350, £249 and AU$699.
If you’re not sold on the iPhone and want alternatives
For the budget-minded, the Motorola G6 and Moto E5 families deliver outstanding value for price. And if you want a small phone, the is really the only diminutive way you can go.
Still Android-curious? You’re in luck
We have no fewer than four major global phone launches in October alone. These are all premium handsets with the latest and greatest specs, likely in the camera department. The Pixel 3 especially has the opportunity to make some striking gains over last year’s impressive Pixel 2. It’s worth waiting to see if Google’s able to repeat its photo magic, especially compared to Apple’s iPhone XS camera gains.
iPhone XR, XS, XS Max specs
|iPhone XR||iPhone XS||iPhone XS Max|
|Display size, resolution||6.1-inch LCD Retina Display; 1,792×828 pixels||5.8-inch Super Retina OLED; 2,436×1,125 pixels||6.5-inch Super Retina OLED; 2,688×1,242 pixels|
|Pixel density||326 ppi||458 ppi||458 ppi|
|Dimensions (Inches)||5.9×3.0x0.33 in||5.7×2.8×0.3 in||6.2×3.0x.3 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||150.9×75.7×8.3 mm||143.6×70.9×7.7 mm||157.5×77.4×7.7 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||6.8oz; 194g||6.24 oz; 177g||7.3oz; 208g|
|Mobile software||iOS 12||iOS 12||iOS 12|
|Camera||Single 12-megapixel||Dual 12-megapixel||Dual 12-megapixel|
|Front-facing camera||7-megapixel with Face ID||7-megapixel with Face ID||7-megapixel with Face ID|
|Processor||Apple A12 Bionic||Apple A12 Bionic||Apple A12 Bionic|
|Storage||64GB, 128GB, 256GB||64GB, 256GB, 512GB||64GB, 256GB, 512GB|
|Battery||N/A, but Apple claims it will last 90 min. longer than iPhone 8 Plus||N/A, but Apple claims it will last 30 min. longer than iPhone X||N/A, but Apple claims it will last 90 min. longer than iPhone X|
|Fingerprint sensor||None (Face ID)||None (Face ID)||None (Face ID)|
|Special features||Water-resistant: IP67, dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging; Face ID, Animoji||Water-resistant (IP68); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging; Face ID, Animoji||Water-resistant (IP68); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging; Face ID, Animoji|
|Price off-contract (USD)||$749 (64GB), $799 (128GB), $899 (256GB)||$999 (64GB), $1,149 (256GB), $1,349 (512GB)||$1,099 (64GB), $1,249 (256GB), $1,449 (512GB)|
|Price (GBP)||£749 (64GB), £799 (128GB), £899 (256GB)||£999 (64GB), £1,149 (256GB), £1,349 (512GB)||$1,099 (64GB), $1,249 (256GB), $1,449 (512GB)|
|Price (AUD)||AU$1,229 (64GB), AU$1,299 (128GB), AU$1,479 (256GB)||AU$1,629 (64GB), AU$1,879 (256GB), AU$2,199 (512GB)||AU$1,799 (64GB), AU$2,049 (256GB), AU$2,369 (512GB)|
Article originally posted on Sept. 18, 2018 and updated most recently on Sept. 30 at 4am PT.