The iPhone XS came out in 2018 and was the iPhone 11’s predecessor. But it is worth buying in 2021 or are you better off with the iPhone 11?
iPhone XS Release Date
Apple launched the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max on September 14. The phones picked up where Apple’s iPhone X left off, adding in improved internal specs and updated cameras.
The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max got a release date on September 21, 2018 – prices started at $999 and went up to $1300+ for a fully maxed-out model. In 2021, the price of the iPhone XS has dropped massively. More on that in a bit though.
The iPhone XR came slightly later in the year, bringing with it a lower price and not-quite-as-good specs and hardware. Still, the XR went on to become the most popular iPhone release since the iPhone 6. The iPhone XS – and the more expensive iPhone XS Max – were two of the most expensive iPhones Apple had ever released when they first arrived in 2018.
Packing in plenty of new specs and updated cameras, the iPhone XS range picked up where the iPhone X left off, adding in more performance, better specs, and better all round performance.
iPhone XS Price
How much does the iPhone XS cost? When it first came out, the iPhone XS cost $999.99 for the base model. If you wanted higher storage variants, you had to pay even more. The iPhone XS range topped out with the iPhone XS with 512GB of storage which retailed for $1349.99.
At the time, these were some of the most expensive iPhones Apple had ever created. In 2021, we’re now all used to these types of prices for iPhones. But back in 2018, $1349.99 for a phone was pretty much unheard of – it also paved the way for price increases across the board inside the phone space.
In 2021, the price of the iPhone XS is now A LOT cheaper – you can get some killer deals on it right now too. How much is the iPhone XS to buy outright in 2021?
You also have plenty of options from carriers – including MVNO networks like Xfinity Mobile and Mint.
And, as you’ll see below, the iPhone XS is still very much a viable option in 2021, especially if you’re after some very impressive value for money.
Why iPhone XS is Worth Buying In 2021
The main reason is simple: price. The iPhone XS is now relatively affordable, thanks to the fact it has been replaced by the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro. The phone still functions brilliantly, it looks more or less identical to Apple’s iPhone 11 releases, and it has a brilliant camera.
The only reason it’s not a popular choice anymore is that the vast majority of people in the UK and the USA have been mugged off by marketing departments into thinking they need a new, flashy phone. Spoiler alert: you don’t – Apple’s 2018 flagship iPhone is just as good and in some ways better than the iPhone 11.
The iPhone XS, if you’re after value for money, is one of the best iPhones you can buy right now. Because it is a few years old, the price of the phone has decreased massively – you can get some really amazing deals on it. But the phone still performs amazingly well where it counts – meaning: battery life, general performance, software usability, and the camera.
If you don’t want to drop $1000+ on a new iPhone, and you don’t need 5G, I would strongly recommend you take a look at the iPhone XS. You will be able to buy the phone outright too, or from as little as $5 per month via carriers.
And that means you can then shop around for the best possible, rolling monthly deal for your data. It also means you avoid contracts and lengthy agreements with careers and/or networks.
And if that wasn’t enough to persuade, think about this: Apple’s iPhone XS will be getting iOS updates until well into the late-2020s.
iPhone XS Specs:
- Dimensions: 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7 mm
- Weight: 177g
- Display: 5.8in Super Retina OLED 1125 x 2436 pixels
- SoC: Apple A12 Bionic
- Memory: 4GB of RAM
- Storage: 64GB, 256GB & 512GB
- Sensors: Face ID, accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer
- Camera (Front): 7 MP, f/2.2, 32mm
- Camera (Rear): 12 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS;
- 12 MP, f/2.4, 52mm (telephoto), 1/3.4″, 1.0µm, PDAF, OIS, 2x optical zoom
- WiFi: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, hotspot
- Colors: Space Gray, Silver, Gold
- Model Number: A2097, A1920, A2100, A2098
How so? Well, for starters, the iPhone XS has a better display; it uses an OLED panel whereas the iPhone 11 has an LCD panel (and OLED is better than LCD). Internally, you’re getting a better CPU on the iPhone 11, but the iPhone XS’ A12 SoC is no slouch either. You have to remember that Apple’s chipsets are LEAGUES ahead of CPUs used inside Android phones – even newer ones like the Galaxy S20.
All iPhones (Kinda) Look The Same Anyway…
If you’re not massively bothered about having a triple-lens camera and can get by with just two lenses, there really isn’t that much to separate the iPhone XS and the iPhone 11 Pro. They look remarkably similar, the function more or less the same, and they both run the same software.
The 11 Pro might have slightly more performance, but you shouldn’t concern yourself too much with this – it’s a bit like saying you should upgrade your Porsche 911 just because the new 911 has 5 more horsepower.
Where it counts (performance, battery life, design, camera, and software), the iPhone XS still looks and feels like a flagship. Given the choice between the iPhone XS and the iPhone 11, I would almost certainly take the iPhone XS.
Simple: the iPhone XS has a better (OLED) display, a comparable camera, it’s water-resistant, it has wireless charging, and it’ll still outperform the vast majority of flagship Android phones released in 2020. And when you look at it like that it’s easy to see why plenty of people opt to buy older iPhone flagship models instead of coughing up four figures for the latest and greatest model.
Isn’t The iPhone XS Discontinued Though?
Yes, the iPhone XS is now discontinued, following the release of the iPhone 11 range. This means you can no longer buy it from Apple.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, though, as you now have loads of options for buying your iPhone XS from a third-party retailer. My advice would be to get a refurbished model because doing this will save you around 40% versus buying the handset new.
If you’re in the USA, the best place to pick up refurbished iPhones – including the XS, 11, X, and 8/8 plus – is Gazelle. You’ll save 40%, every phone comes with a warranty, and has been put through a battery of tests and evaluations before it sold on to you, the consumer.
The phones basically look and function as good as new. I buy all my phones refurbished, have done for years. It allows me to buy the outright and keep my ass away from carrier contracts and huge monthly bills.
If you’re in the UK and are looking for a similar option to Gazelle, go with mResell – they do iPhones, Apple Watch, iPads, iMacs, and MacBooks. The works, basically!
Is The iPhone XS Really Better Than The iPhone 11?
In some ways, the iPhone XS is a better phone than the iPhone 11. It has a better display, for starters, and its camera abilities are still very impressive in 2020. The design is similar as well, although the iPhone XS is more portable and has a smaller display which, for me, is a big plus.
However, the iPhone 11 does have the iPhone XS beat in a couple of ways. Internally, the iPhone 11 does have a better CPU; Apple’s A13 chipset is an absolute monster with respect to performance. But so too was the A12 chipset that you’ll find inside the iPhone XS.
The difference in performance between these two chipsets, to the untrained eye, is negligible. Yes, the A13 is better but, no, you probably won’t be able to notice that much difference if you used both handsets side-by-side. The iPhone 11 might feel slightly snappier, but that’s literally it.
The iPhone 11 also has a bigger battery than the iPhone XS (3110mAh vs 2658mAh in the XS). On top of this, the iPhone 11 is available in more color options. The iPhone 11 also has a slightly more advanced camera, although it’d take a professional photographer to spot the difference between images captured on either phone.
How much does the iPhone XS cost in 2020? If you go the refurbished route, you can pick one up for as little as $459 – that’s for the 64GB model. Want more storage? You’re looking at $629 – and that’s still cheaper than the 64GB iPhone 11. If you want the bigger model, the iPhone XS Max, prices start from $539 and range to $699.
Either way, you’re getting a flagship iPhone for better than the cost of Apple’s non-flagship iPhone 11.
How Does The iPhone XS Compare To iPhone 12?
The most obvious difference between the iPhone XS and the iPhone 12, besides the age difference, is that the iPhone 12 has 5G – something neither the iPhone 11 nor iPhone XS has.
If 5G is important to you, or it is something you want, you’re basically stuck with either an iPhone 12 or an iPhone 13. Apple didn’t start supporting 5G until 2020.
You can, of course, get plenty of Android phones with 5G for not much money at all – all of these Android phones have 5G and cost less than $300/£300.
Another difference between the iPhone 12 and iPhone XS? Performance – Apple’s iPhone 12 uses the company’s A14 CPU and it is monumentally powerful.
The iPhone XS is still a solid performer in most areas, but it cannot touch the iPhone 12 in this regard. If you don’t need high-end performance, the iPhone XS is still very capable – even by 2021’s standards.
Physically, the phones look very similar.
You’d have to be an expert to spot any real differences in the physical design. They are there, of course, but they’re very subtle, so much so that most would not notice them.
I think the iPhone XS is still a solid option in 2021, but only if you can live without 5G.
Personally, I don’t use 5G just yet – and it is not because I don’t have a 5G phone. It is because it isn’t available where I live, as 5G coverage is still patchy in the UK and USA.
This means, as an interim phone, something you’ll run for 12 months or less, the iPhone XS is a great option. You get flagship Apple specs and hardware for a fraction of the cost of the iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro.
You could get this phone, run it until the iPhone 14 lands, and by that point, 5G will be more common across your region. Then you can get a 5G iPhone and enjoy all the benefits of faster data.
And for less than $400/£400, the iPhone XS is still A LOT of phone. It performs great, looks great, and it’ll get iOS updates until well into the late-2020s.
And check out Which iPhone 13 Should I Get?
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: When Did The iPhone XS Come Out?
The iPhone XS – alongside the iPhone XS Max – got its release date on September 21, 2018. The iPhone XS went up for pre-order on September 14, 2018, following its official launch at Apple’s 2018 keynote event.
Q: How Big is The iPhone XS?
The iPhone XS is the smaller model in Apple’s 2018 iPhone lineup. The iPhone XS is 143.6 mm tall, 70.9 mm wide and 7.7 mm deep. The iPhone XS has a 5.85in OLED display which makes it both smaller and shorter than the newer iPhone 11 and iPhone 12. It is also lighter too at 177g
Q: Is The iPhone XS Waterproof?
The iPhone XS, like most modern iPhones, comes with an IP68 waterproof rating. That means it can withstand being submerged in water for prolonged periods of time. This should be avoided, however, as plenty of reports have suggested that Apple’s waterproofing, while adequate, isn’t quite as good as is made out – so always avoid getting your iPhone XS wet!
Q: How Much is An iPhone XS?
When the iPhone XS first came out, it retailed for $999.99 for the base model, with prices topping out at $1399.99 for the 512GB model. In 2021, you can now pick up the iPhone XS for less than $450 via places like Gazelle.
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.