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iPhone XR vs iPhone Xs: Which Apple handset should you buy?

Apple has launched its latest trio of new handsets. In this article, we compare the ‘affordable’ iPhone XR with the pricier iPhone Xs

Apple has done it again. In a repeat of last year’s Special Event, the Californian tech firm has unleashed a triple threat of brand new iPhones. In 2017 it was the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and the ultra-premium iPhone X. This year, there’s only one “cheaper” option: the iPhone XR (formerly known as the iPhone 9 or Xc), and two luxury iPhone X upgrades, which bear the terribly confusing names of iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max.

In this article I’ll be comparing the first two, the iPhone XR and the iPhone Xs, which are the least expensive – although far from cheap – models. You can read all about the iPhone Xs Max right here; its bank-breaking price tag makes it the least accessible iPhone of all time.

READ NEXT: Apple Event Highlights 2018

iPhone XR vs iPhone Xs: Release date

So when can the general public get their eager mitts on the iPhone Xr and iPhone XS, then? It’s what every hardcore Apple fan wants to know and, luckily for them, there’s not long left to wait. In fact, if you’re after the new iPhone Xs, you can pre-order from September 14. The physical handsets will ship worldwide from September 26.

There’s a long month ahead for anyone planning to upgrade their iPhone 8 or 8 Plus to the iPhone XR. Pre-orders will be available from October 19 and by October 26 the handsets will be making their way into people’s hands and hearts. Not quite as literally as the new Apple Watch Series 4, though, which has an FDA-approved ECG heart rate monitor.

iPhone XR vs iPhone Xs: Design

These are both recognisably Apple phones. Changes have been made, though, and some of them are impressive. Take the new iPhone XR: it has a 6.1in display, which is 0.6in bigger than the iPhone 8 Plus and, yet, it’s smaller and lighter in weight.

This is mainly due to the elimination of the home button and reduction of the top and bottom bezels but also because Apple is using a tall, narrow aspect ratio. This front-filling screen does come at a cost, however. Yes, the dreaded notch has made its way onto the iPhone XR. The XR will be available in a total of six finishes: White, Black, Blue, Yellow, Coral, and Red.

Pre-order the iPhone XR or iPhone Xs now from Sky

Pre-order the iPhone XR or iPhone Xs now from Three Mobile

The iPhone Xs is smaller than the XR but almost identical in appearance to last year’s iPhone X. It has the same size 5.8in edge-to-edge screen with same notched design and the same metal and glass body. What’s different is upgraded IP68 waterproofing (a notch better the IP67 from last year’s phone) and an enhanced 12MP dual-camera setup. It will be available in Gold, Silver, and Space Grey. Both the iPhone XR and iPhone Xs are very pretty, of course, as long as you can overlook that notch.

The exact dimensions of the iPhone XR are 76mm x 8.3 x 151mm (WDH), at a weight of 194g. The iPhone Xs is a little smaller and lighter at 71mm x 7.7mm x 144mm, at 177g.

iPhone XR vs iPhone Xs: Features


The iPhone XR has only one rear-facing camera, although it’s the exact same hardware used in the primary camera of the Xs; a 12MP with a larger sensor and larger 1.4um pixels than last year’s iPhone X, which had 1.2um pixels. It also has a f/1.8 wide-angle lens with Bokeh effects and the ability to take “Smart HDR” photos.

In addition to the 12MP camera, the iPhone Xs is also equipped with a second 12MP telephoto lens with f/2.4 aperture. A host of dazzling photos were shown during the Apple Event, all of them purportedly taken using this new setup.

Face ID

Although it was discontinued for the iPhone X, Touch ID still made it onto the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus; this year Touch ID has been abandoned and neither the XR nor the Xs have it. That’s a shame but you do still get the Face ID unlocking function on both phones, which uses biometric scanning to recognise your face in less than a second.

Augmented Reality

During its bombastic conference, Apple boasted of “never before seen” AR capabilities with its latest iPhones, powered by the new 7nm A12 Bionic chip. Software on display included an underwhelming Augmented Reality version of Galaga, dubbed Galaga AR, and an app that monitors your basketball performance and suggests how to improve your throw-to-basket ratio.

Both the iPhone XR and iPhone Xs will have this new AR technology, which will also work with the camera software to scan surfaces and produce “detailed 3D effects” to enhance your photos.

iPhone XR vs iPhone Xs: Display

The biggest difference between the iPhone XR and Xs is the display technology of the two phones. The iPhone XR has a 6.1in display which Apple calls the “most advanced LCD” screen it has ever made. The resolution of the display is 1,792 x 828 with a pixel density of 326ppi.

Pre-order the iPhone XR or iPhone Xs now from Sky

Pre-order the iPhone XR or iPhone Xs now from Three Mobile

That’s none too shabby but not as good as the 2,436 x 1,242, 458ppi 5.8in OLED display of the iPhone Xs. With the naked eye, it might be hard to say which is better, but colours will be more vibrant and clearly defined on the Xs – deeper black, greener greens, and so on.

iPhones XR vs iPhone Xs: Specifications

iPhone XRiPhone Xs
ProcessorA12 BionicA12 Bionic
Display6.1in, 1,792 x 828, 326ppi5.8in, 2,436 x 1,242, 458ppi
Dimensions150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3mm143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7mm
Camera12MP f/1.812MP f/1.8 & 12MP f/2.4
Selfie camera7MP f/2.27MP f/2.2
Storage64GB or 128GB or 256GB64GB or 256GB or 512GB
Operating SystemiOS 12iOS 12

iPhone XR vs iPhone Xs: Price

Though by no means a budget option, the iPhone XR is the most affordable of the three new iPhones. It starts at £749 for the 64GB model, increasing to £799 for the 128GB capacity, and a wince-inducing £899 for the highest spec 256GB.

Pre-order the iPhone XR or iPhone Xs now from Sky

Pre-order the iPhone XR or iPhone Xs now from Three Mobile

Meanwhile, the iPhone XS starts at £999 for the 64GB model – that’s the same as the launch price of the iPhone X last year. Crank up the capacity to 256GB and the price rises to £1,149. For the mighty 256GB model iPhone Xs, you’ll have to fork out £1,349.

That still seems like a bargain compared to the top spec iPhone Xs Max, which comes in at a whopping £1,449. For a phone. A mobile phone, people! You can get a good laptop for less.

iPhone XR vs iPhone Xs: Early verdict

It’s too early to tell you which handset is better out of the iPhone XR and iPhone Xs. The chief factor in the decision-making process is probably your budget; unless you’re swimming in cash, the iPhone XR is the more accessible mobile. And it will be fantastic, we’ve no doubt.

The iPhone XS will have a nicer display, its battery might run longer and it has a secondary telephoto camera. It’s also slightly slimmer and lighter. But are these slight spec improvements and an extra camera enough to justify a price difference of £250? Once we receive review samples of the iPhone XR and iPhone Xs, we’ll be able to tell you more.

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