What do you miss out on with the XR? Is the XS worth the extra outlay? Are the XS’s dual cameras that much better than the XR’s single lens? Compare My Mobile put them to the test to find out.
But how much has that got to do with the fact that it’s £300 cheaper to buy SIM-free? Should you go for broke and invest in the top-of-the-range model? How do the phones really match up?
Take a look at our one-stop iPhone XR and iPhone XS comparison for the answers.
iPhone XR or iPhone XS: what's the difference?
In the 2018 iPhone line-up, the iPhone XR is the entry-level model.
Although it's cheaper by than the XS by a couple of hundred pounds, the iPhone XR features a similar all-screen design, but has a less advanced camera set-up than the XS and the top-of-the-range iPhone XS Max.
The XS sits between the huge, top-of-the-range XS Max and XR in the specs and features department.
Unlike the XR, it's got a dual-lens camera that comes into its own for close-ups and depth-of-field shots and features a higher quality screen that's brighter, crisper and performs better in challenging light conditions.
Below we take a look at each of the phones' key facets in our iPhone XR vs iPhone XS comparison review.
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iPhone XR vs iPhone XS design
To the untrained eye, there’s not too much to differentiate the XS and XR.
Both phones are dominated by edge-to-edge screens and have no physical home button. And, in truth, they look equally striking.
But while the XS comes in sober, silver, space grey and gold colourways, there’s a much greater array of colour options on the XR. Take your pick from yellow, red, coral, blue and less eye-catching black and white.
Around the back, the XS features a camera module that protrudes rather more than we’d like. But the XR’s camera protrudes a fair bit too.
Which is less justifiable, given that it’s home to just a single lens rather than the XS’s dual lens camera.
At 8.3mm thick, the XR is slightly less sleek than the XS that comes in at 7.7mm. And the XR is a bit weightier too. It tips the scales at 194g, compared with the XS’s 177g.
There’s no headphone jack on any of the 2018 iPhones. So you’ll either have to invest in a pair of wireless headphones, or use an Apple adaptor (sold separately).
Winner: It's entirely subjective, but we're giving this one to the XR. Thanks to its arresting colour options.
iPhone XR vs iPhone XS camera
The front cameras on the iPhone XS and Phone XR are identical.
They’re both equipped with a 7-megapixel single-lens camera, which takes a very nice selfie. And allows you to make and send Animoji, which are cute, customisable animated emoji, and to unlock your phone with Face ID facial recognition security.
But the phones’ main cameras are a very different story. The XR has a single 12-megapixel standard lens. But the XS pairs the same lens with a secondary 12-megapixel telephoto lens.
To what end, though? Well, thanks to some clever software workarounds, the XR can still take pretty good, depth-of-field shots.
But you’ll only be able to get that ‘blurred-background’ effect on people. It won’t work on objects or animals, or anything else you might want to shoot.
It’s undeniable that the XS’ depth of field shots are that much more dramatic, though. The telephoto lens also features a 2x zoom, so you can get a lot closer to your subject than the digital zoom on the XR. And with less loss of detail.
Still the XR takes a very good photo in a range of conditions. And if you’re comparing photos taken on the XS and XR, we think you’d have a hard time noticing much difference.
Winner: This one goes to the iPhone XS, purely for the superior depth-of-field shots it serves up.
iPhone XR vs iPhone XS screen
The top-of-the-range XS Max is equipped with a 6.5-inch screen, while the standard XS is home to a 5.8-inch display. The XR comes in somewhere in between, with a 6.1-inch display.
However, while the XR’s display uses LCD technology, the XS has an OLED screen.
What does that mean in practice? Well, it means that images on the XR are a little less sharp and the colours are a bit less vibrant. It also performs poorer in bright light, we found.
But as we’ll see, there’s a trade-off to be made for that brighter, more colourful screen. And that’s that it’s more of a drain on the XS’s battery.
Winner: A comfortable win for the iPhone XS, which is brighter, crisper and performs better in low light.
iPhone XR vs iPhone XS battery life and performance
The XS and XR are powered by the same A12 Bionic processor. And as you’d expect, both are zippy and very responsive.
Both phones can be charged wirelessly and have handy fast-charge modes that can get you from zero to 50% in half an hour.
Battery life is a real point of differentiation, though. The XR’s battery comes in at 2942mAh, while the XS is 2658mAh.
We found that on days when we really put the XR through its paces, we’d get as much as two hours more than the XS. That’s with both phones’ screens on 60% brightness.
The XR’s larger power pack is part of the reason for the discrepancy. But it’s also down to the fact that the cheaper phone’s LCD screen drains a lot less power than the OLED display on the XS.
It’s worth noting that when iOS 13 software becomes officially available, both phones will offer a Dark Mode to help you eke out your charge.
Winner: It's a win for the iPhone XR. And by some distance.
iPhone XS vs iPhone XR software
All Apple’s 2018 smartphones come with the iOS 12 software out of the box. Key features of which include Group FaceTime calls and Animoji.
You also get the Screen Time app that lets you monitor and control your usage.
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iPhone XS vs iPhone XR verdict
Pick up the XR off-contract and SIM-free and you’re looking at £799. The entry-level XS and XS Max editions are priced £999 and £1,349 respectively.
The extra outlay for the XS models essentially gets you better cameras and a brighter screen. And in the case of the XS, a much, much bigger display too.
We’d say if money’s no object, or you want the very best of Apple, then the iPhone XS is the one to go for.
But if you’re a bit more cost-conscious, the XR is a very impressive handset that does almost everything that its stablemates does. Only for a much more wallet-friendly price.
Winner: In a rare triumph for a cheaper phone, we're awarding the winner's medal to the iPhone XR.