iPhone XS vs iPhone XR | What’s The Difference?

By Michael Grothaus •  Updated: 09/13/19 •  9 min read

It’s time for our latest comparison: the iPhone XS vs iPhone XR!

In 2018, Apple introduced three new iPhones: the iPhone XS, a successor to the iPhone X; the iPhone XS Max, the new plus-sized version of the iPhone XS; and the new iPhone XR. The iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Max are, for the most part, identical devices except for their screen size.

So Apple has come out with a bit of a confusing lineup. It’s introduced the new iPhone XS and XS Max, as well as the iPhone XR. The iPhone XR is meant to be a cheaper version of the XS for those people that want a full-screen device but can’t shell out the cash for the most premium handset.

But the iPhone XR is different. Its size feels between the iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Max, but its the entry-level iPhone. Here we break down the differences between the new iPhone XS series and the iPhone XR series.

That’s not to say that the iPhone XR is a bad phone. Matter of fact, it’s almost identical to the XS in many respects. But still, it’s not superior in all aspects. So just how is the new iPhone XR different than the XS? Let’s take a look.

iPhone XR vs iPhone XS Quick Comparison

iPhone XSiPhone XR

Display: 5.8-inch OLED display with a 2436x1125-pixel resolution at 458ppiDisplay: 6.1-inch 1792 x 828
Dimensions: 143.6mm x 70.9mm x 7.7mm (177g)Dimensions: 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3mm (194g)
Storage Options: 64, 256, or 512GBStorage Options: 64/128/256GB
Camera: Dual-lens 12MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras, Dual optical image stabilisation, Optical zoom, 4K videoCamera: Dual-lens 12MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras, Dual optical image stabilisation, Optical zoom
Battery Size: 2658mAhBattery Size: 2942mAh
CPU: A12 BionicCPU: A12 Bionic
Wireless Charging: YesWireless Charging: Yes
Water Resistant: Yes – IP68Water Resistant: Yes - IP68


The immediate differences between the two phone series are the display and design. The XS series is made of stainless steel and glass, while the XR series is made of aluminum and glass. Obviously, stainless steel is the better materiel.

Another display point the XR lacks is 3D Touch. Again, Apple eliminated it here to keep the cost of the XR down.

Winner? iPhone XS – It looks much more polished than the iPhone XR. That steel frame is gorgeous, especially in silver.


As for display, all three phones differ in size. But why does the cheaper XR have a bigger display at 6.1in than the iPhone XS at 5.8in? Apple obviously wanted a large-displayed entry-level iPhone, but it’s kept the cost down of the XR’s larger display by keeping it an LCD display. The XS series features OLED displays.

OLED displays will give you much more vibrant colors and deeper blacks than LCD displays. Case in point the display in the XS series has a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, while the display in the XR series has only a 1400:1 contrast ratio.

Winner? iPhone XS – Yes, it’s got the smaller display, but its OLED, which outperforms the LCD display found in the XR in every way.

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As far s the CPU is concerned, all three models are identical. All feature the A12 Bionic chipset. It’s a 7nm chip with 6 cores. The CPU is 15% faster and 40% more energy efficient than the previous A11. The GPU now has 4 cores and is 50% faster. Finally, the Neural engine now has 8 cores for machine learning and is almost 10 x faster. Apps launch 30% faster on the Max and Machine Learning runs nine times faster on 1/10th the energy. The A12 Bionic absolutely flies.

Winner? Draw – Each phone has the EXACT same processor.

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What interesting is Apple uses the exact same front-facing camera in both the XS and XR series. All three models feature the same 7MP TrueDepth camera system with Face ID. There is literally no difference between the XS and XR series when it comes to the front camera.

But things are radically different when it comes to the real camera. The XS series features a dual-lens 12MP system with wide-angle and telephoto cameras, dual optical image stabilisation, 2x optical zoom, and 4K video recording.

On the other hand, the rear camera system on the XR is only a single-lens 12MP wide-angle camera. It does feature optical image stabilisation and 4K video recording, as with the XS series, but lacks the 2x optical zoom.

Winner? iPhone XS – That Dual-Lens Camera Can’t Be Beat By The Single-Lens Found On The XR.

Storage Options

And as for storage, the XS series offers more: 64, 256, or 512GB compared to the XR series 64, 128, or 256GB options.

Battery Life

Battery life is also almost identical between the three phones. Both the iPhone XS Max and the iPhone XR will get 13.5 hours of mixed usage off a single charge with the iPhone XS getting 12.5. You can thank the physically larger batteries in the former two for that extra hour.

Winner? iPhone XS – It Has Slightly Better Battery Life Than iPhone XS, but not by much.


The iPhone XR will be available in late October 2018 and cost £749 (64GB), £799 (128GB), or £899 (256GB). The iPhone XS Max will be available on September 21, 2018 and cost £1099 (64GB), £1249 (256GB), or £1449 (512GB). And the iPhone XS will be available on September 21, 2018 and cost £999 (64GB), £1149 (256GB), or £1349 (512GB).

Winner? iPhone XR – it’s the best value iPhone option around right now!

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Normally it’s easy to choose Apple’s costliest and most advanced device as the winner–that is, which one you should buy. But honestly, it’s not that clear cut this year. If you don’t need a dual-lens camera system (found in the XS), the iPhone XR might be the best choice.

Sure, the XR doesn’t have the OLED display, but it’s not like the LCD display is shoddy. It’ll look fine if that’s what you are used to looking at. Also, from a processing power perspective, the XR and XS series are identical, making it harder to fork out that extra dough for the XS if you don’t need the better camera and the best display tech. Still, if you’ve got the cash, the iPhone XS is the winner.

Another option worth considering, however, is picking up a newer refurbished iPhone – something like the iPhone X or iPhone XS, which you can get for 40% less than retail via Gazelle, our #1 pick for refurbished iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and iMacs.

MORE: Read Our Definitive Guide To The Best iPhone

iPhone XR vs iPhone 8 Plus Specifications Compared In Full

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Here are the specs for the iPhone XS:

And here are the specs for the iPhone XR:

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Michael Grothaus

Apple expert and novelist, Michael Grothaus has been covering tech on KnowYourMobile for the best part of 10 years. Prior to this, he worked at Apple. And before that, he was a film journalist. Michael is a published author; his book Epiphany Jones was voted as one of the best novels about Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly. Michael is also a writer at other publications including VICE and Fast Company.
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