iPhone XS vs iPhone XS Max vs iPhone XR: Which One Should You Buy?

BY Rajesh Pandey

Published 22 Sep 2018

iPhone XR vs iPhone XS

The iPhone XS is a modest upgrade over the iPhone X. The iPhone XS Max only offers a bigger display and better battery life than the iPhone XS. Both phones are exorbitantly expensive. And then there’s the iPhone XR which is coming next month and is a few hundred dollars cheaper than the other two iPhones.

So, does the iPhone XS justify its $999 price tag? And is there more to the $1,099 iPhone XS Max except for just being a bigger iPhone X? Or should one simply save their money and go for the iPhone XR? If you are confused as to which iPhone is right for you, read our guide below.

iPhone XS vs iPhone XS Max vs iPhone XR: Which One Should You Buy?

Which iPhone Are You Coming From?

Before you decide which iPhone you should buy, it is important to account for which iPhone you are coming from. Depending on your usage habits and requirements, this is an important factor that you need to consider.

For iPhone X Owners:

If you own an iPhone X, there’s simply no need for you to consider upgrading to the iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max. There’s a reason why Apple decided to discontinue the iPhone X. The iPhone XS does improve over the iPhone X in many areas like the display, camera, stereo speakers, and wireless charging, but none of the improvements are big enough to warrant an upgrade.

iPhone X

If you are interested in upgrading to the iPhone XS Max from the iPhone XS, you will be disappointed to know that the display density on the former despite its big display is the same as the iPhone XS. Apple says it did not want to make the touch elements smaller on the iPhone XS Max but the same display density means the iPhone XS Max uses its bigger display to show bigger icons and same content in just a bigger size. This makes the whole point of having a bigger display moot since you get to view the same amount of content as on the smaller iPhone XS.

Thus, the only advantage the iPhone XS Max offers over the iPhone XS is the battery life. The Max truly excels in this department but with the iPhone X also offering almost all-day (read 12-14 hours) battery life, I’d say it is not worth upgrading to the XS Max just for its better battery life. Maybe invest in a wireless charger or a fast wired charger. Of course, this all goes for a toss if you have the money to splurge and are absolutely frustrated with the poor battery life of your iPhone X.

iPhone X should simply sit back and save the money this year. Instead, they should probably look forward to upgrading next year when Apple is expected to introduce some major changes.

Why You Should Buy the iPhone XR

There are plenty of reasons as to why buying the iPhone XR over the iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max makes sense, especially if you are coming from the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, iPhone 7, or iPhone 8.

Better Battery Life

If you are looking to buy the iPhone XS Max for its battery life, just go ahead and buy the iPhone XR instead. The XR comes with a slightly smaller battery than the iPhone XS Max but since it comes with a smaller and more energy efficient 6.1-inch LCD display, it is able to offer longer battery life than the other two iPhones.

Apple claims the iPhone XR offers up to 25 hours of talk time, same as the iPhone XS Max and 5 hours more than the iPhone XS. It also offers up to 15 hours of internet use and 16 hours of video playback which is a few hours more than what the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max offer.

iPhone XR Best Features 8

Same Internals

The iPhone XR comes with the same A12 Bionic chip as the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. This means iPhone XR owners will get access to the same 6-core CPU, 4-core GPU, and an 8-core Neural engine as the iPhone XS. Essentially, this means there is not going to be any performance difference between the three handsets. In fact, since the iPhone XR has a lower resolution display than the iPhone XS Max, it will offer better performance than it in games and benchmarks as well.

This also means that the iPhone XR will perform the same as the iPhone XS a few years down the line.

Same Primary Camera and Portrait Mode

The iPhone XR comes with the same 12MP f/1.8 shooter as the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. It has the exact same features as well which means the XR despite coming in a few hundred dollars lower offers the same camera performance as its more expensive brothers. What’s even more impressive is that despite the lack of a second telephoto sensor, the iPhone XR is capable of capturing Portrait photos. Heck, it even offers stereo sound recording and enhanced video recording quality like the other two iPhones.

This makes the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max even more of a hard sell since the iPhone XR offers largely the same experience as the other two devices.

Buy AppleCare+ Instead

Instead of stretching your budget to buy the iPhone XS, you can get the iPhone XR and spend the additional money on AppleCare+ and a fast charger. This will ensure that your iPhone is protected from accidental damages or if it is ever stolen or lost. As for the fast charger, it will greatly reduce the overall charging times of the device which is always a welcome improvement.

If you stretch your budget for the iPhone XS, you will have to stretch it even further for AppleCare+ and a fast charger. And if you don’t get AppleCare+ coverage, you will not have a complete peace of mind protection for your expensive new iPhone which can always backfire.

AppleCare+ logo


The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max do offer superior build quality than the iPhone XR. However, most users are going to end up putting their device inside a case. This makes the whole point of buying the iPhone XS or XS Max for its premium build quality pretty much moot. Buy the iPhone XR, put it inside a decent case, and you will have the same in-hand feeling as you would after you buy the iPhone XS and put it in a case.


While the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are available in only three colors — Silver, Gold, and Space Gray, Apple offers the iPhone XR in six different beautiful colors. This includes Yellow, White, Coral, Black, Blue, and (Product)Red. The Gold iPhone XS definitely looks stunning but the lively colors of the iPhone XR are in a different league altogether.

iPhone XR

What the iPhone XR Lacks

Apple has had to make a few compromises to reach the $749 price tag of the iPhone XR. Below are the areas where the iPhone XR is a step or two below its more premium brothers.

Build Quality and IP Certification

As mentioned earlier, the iPhone XR comes with an aluminum chassis and a slightly lower IP67 certification when compared to the steel chassis and IP68 certification of the iPhone XS series. However, this downgrade is not going to bother a lot of people since they mostly end up putting their phone in a case anyway.

No OLED Display

One of the primary ways through which Apple has managed to price the iPhone XR so low is by using an LCD display on it. While the LCD panel on the iPhone XR is among the best in the market, it still does not hold a candle in front of the iPhone XS’ OLED panel. The latter has better brightness levels, vividness, and contrast levels. This is due to the inherent technological superiority of OLED panels that LCD panels simply cannot match.

No Gigabit LTE

Now this is is a downgrade that might not seem like much on paper but it has a major real-world impact. Unlike the iPhone XS series, the iPhone XR does not come with a Gigabit LTE modem. The slower LTE modem means the iPhone XR will offer slower network speeds when compared to the iPhone XS which would be similar to what the iPhone X offers.

The Gigabit LTE modem inside the iPhone XS offers a massive improvement in LTE download/upload speeds when compared to the iPhone X so this is definitely a major compromise.

The iPhone XS and XS Max Are Not Really Value for Money…

Irrespective of which way you look at it, the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max offer extremely poor value for money. Unlike iPhones of the last few years, the handsets simply don’t bring any major new feature to the table that they would be worth upgrading to. Even from an ‘S’ upgrade perspective, they are easily the smallest ‘S’ upgrade from Apple ever.

Unless and until you want the absolute best iPhone and money is not an issue for you, it simply makes more sense to buy the iPhone XR over the iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max.