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Apple iPhone XR vs XS Max in 2021: Which Apple Would You Bite?

author Luis Silva (April 2020 Updated: August 2021 - 6 min. reading time)

The iPhone XS Max comes at a higher price, but it's the smartphone you should pick.

Still, you'll be happy with either one.

Are there other things worth mentioning?

The iPhone XS Max features an AMOLED, larger (+0.4") display, a telephoto lens (+52 mm), and more RAM (4GB vs. 3GB).

Still, you'll have to decide for yourself because they almost share the same score.

How much more will those additional features cost me?

If you're considering a new and unlocked smartphone, it'll cost you around $258 more.

Is it worth buying the iPhone XR in 2021?

Overall, you'll still get a pretty decent smartphone if you go for the iPhone XR in 2021, especially now that it's cheaper. Having said that, the iPhone 12 has better performance, better cameras, more security updates, faster charging, more RAM, and an AMOLED display.

Is the iPhone XS Max still worth buying in 2021?

For a phone introduced in 2018, the iPhone XS Max still has good cameras. It holds up pretty well in 2021, but you'd be better off with (again) the iPhone 12 as a daily driver because it has better performance, better cameras, more security updates, and faster charging.

Keep reading for answers to all your questions about their differences, how they differ from their competition, and you'll know how the tech experts evaluate their specs.

Check prices on Amazon Check prices on Amazon
Click here or scroll down to check prices on eBay, BestBuy, and Walmart.

I earn a small fee from qualifying purchases. It doesn't affect the price you pay nor my opinions.

Apple iPhone XR, Apple iPhone XS Max

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

CONTENTS

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Introduction

Apple introduced its iPhone XS Max model in September 2018. Meanwhile, Apple's iPhone XR started to sell one month later.

In this article, we see how the iPhone XR and the iPhone XS Max compare to each other to help you decide and see which one of these is the right one for you.

The weight of each section

For additional information regarding our smartphone comparisons, check this FAQ.

to check who their rivals are.

Price*
vs.
Device iPhone XR iPhone XS Max
Release Date 2018, October 2018, September 0y.
OS Updates 6 years 6 years 0y.
Security Updates 6 years 6 years 0y.

*Reference: 100: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

Which One Has The Best Performance?

Geekbench 5 scores the iPhone XS Max 3% ahead of its sibling in the multi-core ranking. On daily usage, you wouldn't be able to notice any relevant differences between them.

Performance*
vs.
Features iPhone XR iPhone XS Max
SoC Apple A12 Apple A12
Graphics Apple GPU Apple GPU
Geekbench 5 Score 2575
2655
80
OS iOS 12 iOS 12
Tek-Score
6.3
6.4
0.1

*Reference: 100: Apple iPhone 12.

Which Phone Has The Best Display?

Apple iPhone XR front transparent png Apple iPhone XS Max front transparent png

The iPhone XS Max is the title-holder here, and you'd be able to tell the difference.

The iPhone XR sets itself apart from most smartphones in its class: Its display has a low pixel density.

Most similarly priced devices rarely stay far from 743 nits, but the iPhone XS Max can only do 29% below that.

If your next device can't do at least 450 nits, it will disappoint you when in direct sunlight or displaying HDR content. Now about the HDR feature:

Given the iPhone XR, just know that 88% of its rivals have an AMOLED screen. But only 21% of them feature Gorilla Glass 6 or Victus.

Regarding the iPhone XS Max, as a reference, 89% of its rivals can play HDR content. Plus, all have an AMOLED screen, and 93% have an Always-On display.

Display Density (DPIs)*
vs.
Features iPhone XR iPhone XS Max
Size 6.1
6.5
0.4
Screen Type LCD AMOLED
Resolution (px) 828x1792
1242x2688
1854720
Refresh Rate 60hz 60hz 0
Dots per Inch 323.61
455.55
131.93
Always-On-Display No No
Notch Wedge Wedge
Peak Brightness 660 nits
530 nits
-130
HDR - HDR10
Sub Tek-Score
1.2
2.7
1.5
Protection Corning toughened glass Corning toughened glass
Tek-Score
5.2
5.8
0.5

*Reference: 100: Sony Xperia 1 II.

Which Phone Has The Best Cameras?

Apple iPhone XR back transparent png Apple iPhone XS Max back transparent png

Be aware that the iPhone XS Max's picture quality is, on average, 33 points above its rivals in its class. Nevertheless, these two have similar scores, so...

About the iPhone XR: DXOMARK gave this shooter a score of 112. And if you take into account its digital zoom abilities, it can go up to 116** points. For a thorough review, click here.

PS: keep in mind that 97% of its rivals can record videos in 4K or more, and all have an ultra-wide-angle lens.

About the iPhone XS Max: The guys over at the DXOMARK labs scored this camera with 118 points. By adding its telephoto lens, we'll get to the final score of 126** points. Just click here to read about it.

Furthermore, just to let you know, all of its rivals can record videos in 4 or 8K and have an ultra-wide-angle lens, and 93% feature Optical Image Stabilization. Still, only 15% of them feature a macro lens.

**This score still needs improvement, particularly on mid-end cameras with less than 40MP and no zoom lens. These guys recently updated their test protocol, and I need more reviewed devices to fine-tune older scores.

Picture Quality*
vs.
Primary Camera iPhone XR iPhone XS Max
Megapixels 12
12
0
Aperture 1.8
1.8
0.0
Lens 26mm
26mm
0
Lens Type Wide-Angle Wide-Angle
Flash 4 4 0
HDR Yes Yes
OIS Yes Yes
Video 2160 2160 0
Score 116
126
10

*Reference: 100: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra.

Extra Camera(s) iPhone XR iPhone XS Max vs.
Megapixels - 12
Aperture - 2.4
Lens - 52mm (2x zoom)
Lens Type - Telephoto lens
Score 4 8 4
Selfie Camera iPhone XR iPhone XS Max vs.
Megapixels 7
7
0
Aperture 2.2
2.2
0.0
Lens 32mm 32mm 0
iPhone XR iPhone XS Max vs.
Tek-Score
6.8
7.4
0.6

Who has the best frame?

The iPhone XS Max does win some points here, mainly for its water resistance. But I don't see any meaningful winner here.

The iPhone XS Max is a little bit heavier: About 14 g. (0.55 oz). If you're looking for a lightweight device, the iPhone XR has a "weight to screen size" score of 3.3, and that's another way of saying it's kind of weighty for its screen size. The iPhone XS Max, however, has 3.2, which suggests it's considerably hefty too.

The iPhone XR truly is water-resistant. It can be submerged 1 meter deep, while the iPhone XS Max got the IP68 rating, so it can safely go in up to 1 to 3 meters. That shouldn't last over half an hour, on standby, and freshwater only.

Looks*
vs.
Body iPhone XR iPhone XS Max
Size 150 x 75 x 8 mm
(5.29 x 2.65 x 0.28 in)
157 x 77 x 7 mm
(5.54 x 2.72 x 0.25 in)
-5377
Weight 194 g. (6.84 oz)
208 g. (7.34 oz)
14
Build Front and back glass Front and back glass
Colors Black, Yellow, Red, White, Coral, and Blue Space Gray, Gold, and Silver
Screen To Body Ratio 81.25%
85.85%
4.60
Disp.Size To Weight Score 3.3 3.2 -0.1
Looks 8.6/10
8.9/10
0.2
Waterproof IP67 IP68
Biometrics Face ID Face ID
Tek-Score
5.6
6.7
1.1

*100% = 4+ colors + front and back glass + S2BR: 86+%.

Which has the best battery?

The iPhone XR does have a battery capacity of 2942 mAh versus the 3174 mAh of the iPhone XS Max. But by GSMArena's standards, both should theoretically get the same battery life.

So, you're not considering the iPhone XS Max because of its battery life. Apple should've put a bigger battery and/or energy-efficient hardware on it. That's the conclusion that we take from its "battery to phone size" rate of 2.1.

Battery*
vs.
Features iPhone XR iPhone XS Max
Capacity (mAh) 2942 3174 232
1h Talk + 1h Web + 1h Video 78% left
78% left
0
1h Talk + 3h Web + 1h Video 62% left
60% left
-2
1h Talk + 1h Web + 3h Video 64% left
64% left
0
Bat. To Phone Size Score 4.0 2.1 -1.9
Sub Tek-Score
6.8
6.7
-0.1
Fast Charging 15w
15w
0
Wireless Charging 5w
5w
0
Tek-Score
6.0
6.0
-0.1

*Reference: 90: Samsung Galaxy A31.

Which has more storage?

It's a tie.

In terms of RAM, the iPhone XR brings 3GB. In terms of storage, it has 64GB. Also, similarly priced adversaries usually deliver more RAM and more storage. They have 6GB of RAM and 109Gb of storage on average, but you can find better options.

On the iPhone XS Max, you'll find 64GB of internal storage and 4GB of RAM. Again, you can get more RAM and more storage from most of its opponents. 8Gb/135Gb. That's the average.

Both phones have more than enough storage and RAM for the average consumer. However, if videos or big games are your thing, 64 GB will be a problem sooner than later.

Storage*
vs.
Features iPhone XR iPhone XS Max
RAM (GB) 3GB
4GB
1
Internal (GB) 64GB
64GB
0
Micro SD No No
Tek-Score
2.8
2.8
0.0

*Internal Storage + 256GB Memory Card (Max: 512GB).

Which is the most connectivity-friendly?

There also isn't much to see here.

You can find these two in the LTE variant. Is 4G good enough for you? If you want 5G, you should also consider the iPhone 12.

Connectivity
vs.
Features iPhone XR iPhone XS Max
Network LTE LTE
Bluetooth 5.0
5.0
NFC Yes Yes
3.5mm jack No No
Tek-Score
3.6
3.6
0.0

Which is more affordable?

Here's what we've found out:

Apple iPhone XR

Reference: $392

Apple iPhone XR

Apple iPhone XS Max

Reference: $650

Apple iPhone XS Max

I earn a small fee from qualifying purchases. It doesn't affect the price you pay nor my opinions, but it will mean a lot if you click on one of these buttons before purchasing your next phone (or whatever else you end up buying). You'll be helping to take this to the next level.

Prices on eBay are in $US but Europe-based. You can click to check the prices in your country.

Prices marked with ! are from renewed/refurbished/carrier-locked phones (except eBay prices that, as a last resort, can be from bids or used devices).

How much of a "phone" can your money buy?
That's how much "score" you can get with $100 based on the global score that you'll see in the next section (higher is better).

Have you found better prices elsewhere? The formula is simple: score/price*100.

Value for money iPhone XR iPhone XS Max VS
Amazon 1.56 1.33 ! -
eBay 1.09 0.83 -0.26
Best Buy - - -
Walmart - - ! -

Also, don't forget to check the latest deals from these four stores, and the state of the art on mobile technology, if you don't want to overpay on your next smartphone.


Related articles:


Best smartphone deals


The Best Unbiased Smartphones For All Budgets


Smartphone Specs Statistics: The State Of The Art (Q1 2021)

Are you ready for that final score? We're almost there. First, let me mention the average at their price range. The iPhone XR class is at 6.0, and the iPhone XS Max 7.0.

Verdict: Does any of them really stand out?

The iPhone XS Max has an astonishing display when compared with the XR, although Apple could still improve it further. Nevertheless, if you love big screens, then there's not much else to see here.

Likewise, if you care anything about cellular cameras, the XS Max has a significant advantage over the XR, and that's it's 2x zoom capabilities. I know that 2x isn't much, but when the time comes, believe me, it'll make a difference.

Anyways, if you don't like massive phones, maybe now it's time to start considering other options as well.

If you're anything but a casual user, the extra GB of RAM of the iPhone XS Max may make it a difference too.

But that's about it.

Pros iPhone XR iPhone XS Max
#1 Performance Performance
#2 Cameras AMOLED
#3 Fast Charging Cameras
#4 Wireless Charging Fast Charging
#5 Glass Protection Wireless Charging
#6 Glass Protection
Cons iPhone XR iPhone XS Max
#1 Screen Resolution Always-On-Display
#2 AMOLED MicroSD Slot
#3 Always-On-Display Weight
#4 MicroSD Slot 3.5mm Jack
#5 Weight Price
#6 3.5mm Jack
#7 Price
Relative Score*
vs.
Global Score iPhone XR iPhone XS Max
Gaming Score
3.8
5.6
1.8
Tek-Score
5.37
5.62
0.25
Your Score

Scroll the sliders down below to get your own personalized score. Let's suppose you value performance and battery life, and you don't really care about anything else. Then, just set the "Performance" and the "Battery" sliders up to 5 (5+5=10), and then the other sliders down to 0. You'll know what's the best phone for you.

Performance 1.9
Display 1.7
Cameras 1.4
Frame 0.9
Battery 1.9
Storage 2.0
Connectivity 0.4
Total Should be 10 or as close as possible: 9.6

*Reference: 100: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

For suggestions and bug reports, click here. Your help is appreciated. Thank you.

If you want to know more about them, click here:

About me

Hello!

My name is Luis Silva, and I have a degree in computer management. Ever since I was a teenager, I've loved everything to do with tech. Music, pictures, video editing, I've done it all! This site is a place for me to share some of the knowledge I have, as well as keep up-to-date with current trends. This is a wonderful place for tech-geeks and everyone else that just want to learn more about tech and smartphones in general.


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Apple iPhone XR Related Comparisons


Apple iPhone XS Max Related Comparisons

×

"Display size to phone weight" ratio explained

This indeed is a "display size to phone weight" ratio, but because every phone ended up somewhere between 0.0272 and 0.0421, I've amplified (adapted) those values so they would fit in a 0-10 scale. As of now, the best smartphone is the Samsung Galaxy A40, with 140g. (4.94 oz) for a 5.9 inch display. It got a score of 9.92. While the worse device is the iPhone 8 Plus, which weighs 202 g. (7.13 oz) and has a 5.5-inch display. It ended up with a score of 0.75.

Please, be aware that this score is subject to change if and when a new smartphone comes along that ends up being outside of this scale.

×

"Battery to device size" ratio explained

This score should give you an idea about the energy footprint of the devices you're considering. It reflects not only the hardware and the energy that it requires but also the amount of energy that the battery can deliver.

The major spenders on any device should be the display and the SoC. But everything from a notification led to its modems need to be optimized, or else, the OEM should simply include a bigger battery as a compensation. Unfortunately, it isn't always possible due to size limitations. But in the end, if a particular OEM can do a good job and give you excellent battery life on a small device, so should everyone else. That's why I've added a "battery to device size" ratio. But since the real scale went from 119 (for the Galaxy S10e, Snapdragon variant) and up to 164 (for the iPhone 7 Plus), I've decided to convert them so they would fit in a 0-10 scale, being 0 the worst device, (the iPhone 7 Plus) and 10 the one every OEM should look up to.

As an example, Apple did an excellent job on the iPhone 7. It has a score of 8. Despite having a small capacity, the hardware is well optimized, and it still gives you decent battery life considering its size. The iPhone 7 Plus, on the other hand, with those bezels shrinking its display size, clearly could've been the #1 in our top 10 list of best battery devices if Apple simply filled all that empty space with a bigger battery.

As a side note: I haven't included the dept of the devices in this formula because even if a device ended up being 1mm/0.03 inches thicker, it wouldn't matter that much to those who really value battery life.

Please, be aware that this score is subject to change if and when a new smartphone comes along that ends up being outside of this scale.

×

Rivals

As of now, these are the rivals that were considered for each of them. They may change every time its prices are updated.

These are the lowest prices found on Amazon, eBay, BestBuy, and Walmart.


 Apple iPhone XR 
  • ApplerivaliPhone 8
    $370
  • OnePlusrival7
    $388
  • HuaweirivalP30 Lite
    $280
  • XiaomirivalMi 9T Pro
    $385
  • ApplerivaliPhone 8 Plus
    $390
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy M30s
    $300
  • ApplerivaliPhone XS
    $410
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 10
    $398
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S9
    $305
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S10+ SD
    $359
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20+ EX
    $329
  • OnePlusrival7T
    $329
  • HuaweirivalP30
    $400
  • RealmerivalXT
    $290
  • GooglerivalPixel 4
    $386
  • OnePlusrival6T
    $300
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S9 Plus
    $305
  • XiaomirivalMi 9
    $400
  • HuaweirivalMate 20
    $285
  • XiaomirivalMi 9 Lite
    $317
  • ApplerivaliPhone SE 2
    $380
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S10 Lite
    $299
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy A51
    $280
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy A71
    $400
  • OnePlusrivalNord
    $410
  • GooglerivalPixel 4a
    $350
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 FE
    $359
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 FE 5G
    $359
  • OpporivalFind X2 Neo
    $398
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy M51
    $396
  • OnePlusrivalNord N10
    $299
  • XiaomirivalMi 10T Lite
    $325
  • XiaomirivalMi 10 Lite
    $399
  • XiaomirivalMi 11 Lite
    $349
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy A52
    $380
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy A42
    $299
  • XiaomirivalRedmi Note 10 Pro Max
    $292
  • XiaomirivalMi 9t Pro
    $385

 Apple iPhone XS Max 
  • ApplerivaliPhone 12
    $689
  • SonyrivalXperia 1
    $688
  • SonyrivalXperia 5
    $649
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 10+
    $565
  • ApplerivaliPhone X
    $579
  • ApplerivaliPhone 11
    $575
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 9
    $598
  • ApplerivaliPhone 11 Pro
    $684
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S10 Plus
    $689
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S10+ EX
    $689
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 EX
    $697
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 SD
    $535
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20+ SD
    $535
  • HuaweirivalP30 Pro
    $599
  • GooglerivalPixel 4 XL
    $780
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20
    $697
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 Plus
    $600
  • HuaweirivalP40
    $666
  • XiaomirivalMi 10 Pro
    $600
  • GooglerivalPixel 5
    $580
  • ApplerivaliPhone 12 Mini
    $739
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S21
    $729
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S21 Plus
    $600
  • OnePlusrival8T
    $549
  • XiaomirivalMi 10
    $529
  • OpporivalReno4 Pro
    $594
  • SonyrivalXperia 1 II
    $650
  • XiaomirivalMi 11
    $698
  • OnePlusrival9
    $551
  • OpporivalFind X3 Lite
    $554
×

Formula deviation

Since the guys at DxoMark don't review every camera out there, I've come up with a formula based on the ones that they do rate, so I could get an equivalent score for the ones they don't review. After testing it against these cameras, I got the deviation between that and their DxO score.

Device: DxOScore Deviation
Samsung Galaxy A50: 88 -1
Apple iPhone XR: 104 1
Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro: 108 -7
Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro: 87 1
Sony Xperia 1: 99 -1
Sony Xperia 5: 101 1
Samsung Galaxy Note 8: 100 0
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus: 126 2
Apple iPhone 8 Plus: 96 -3
Xiaomi Pocophone F1: 92 -1
Apple iPhone 7 Plus: 90 -1
Apple iPhone X: 101 3
Apple iPhone 11: 112 -1
Samsung Galaxy Note 8: 100 0
Samsung Galaxy Note 9: 107 1
Apple iPhone XS Max: 110 -2
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max: 124 1
Samsung Galaxy S10: 124 2
Apple iPhone XS: 110 -1
Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus: 120 -2
OnePlus 7 Pro: 122 0
OnePlus 7T Pro: 122 0
Huawei P30 Pro: 125 -1
Google Pixel 4: 117 0
Google Pixel 3: 103 0
Google Pixel 2: 100 0
Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus: 127 -2
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra: 132 2
OnePlus 6: 100 0
OnePlus 6T: 101 1
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus: 105 -1
Huawei Mate 20 Pro: 120 0
Xiaomi Mi 9: 115 0
Huawei Mate 30 Pro: 132 0
Huawei P40 Pro: 140 -1
Apple iPhone SE 2: 101 0
OnePlus 8 Pro: 126 0
Xiaomi Mi 8: 105 1
Samsung Galaxy A71: 89 1
Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro: 134 0

As you can see, most cameras sit between 1 and -1, while a few of them go up to 2 or -2. That means it's reasonable to assume other similar cameras that they don't review to, in the worst-case scenario, be anywhere from -2 to 2 points from the score that the formula gets.

For example: Given that the Pixel 4 got 117 points and that the Pixel 4 XL share the same year and camera specs, it's reasonable to expect a score of 117 too. But in reality, if they do review that camera, it may end up anywhere between 115 and 119.

Be aware that at DxO, they give a score based on their opinion, not based on any formula. That's why I think there's an odd difference of 6 points between the iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone X. In theory, they should have the same camera.

I'm guessing that the Mi 9T Pro got a deviation of 7 points because they tested its Chinese variant (the K20 Pro).

Update: They just changed their protocol to include preview image evaluation and trustability. I'm keeping the old table (for now) for reference purposes, and I'll be adding a new one as soon as they review at least a couple of new mclass-range cameras.

You can expect the same (or a bit bigger) deviation for high-end cameras, but anything with a score below 100-110 should be taken with a grain of salt.

This is valid for all cameras tested with the previous protocol. For those that they dclassn't test, the deviation may be up to twice as much.

×

About GeekBench 5

This is just a quick note to let you know that, if, by any chance, the smartphone you're looking for isn't on the GeekBench site yet, you can check on GsmArena.com, as they also usually test smartphones with that benchmark tool.



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