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Apple iPhone XS vs XR in 2021: Which Apple Will You Pick?

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

The price of the iPhone XS isn't that much higher, but it's the best of the two.

The iPhone XR adds better battery life.

What else sets them apart?

The iPhone XS has an AMOLED display, a telephoto lens (+52 mm), and more RAM (4GB vs. 3GB). But the iPhone XR also brings a larger (+0.3") display.

Having said that, none of them truly stood out because they ended up with similar scores.

How much more will the iPhone XS cost me?

If you're not considering going for a carrier subscription, you're going to shell out an extra amount of about $18.

Is the iPhone XS still worth getting in 2021?

The iPhone XS is holding up pretty well in 2021, especially now that it's cheaper. Nevertheless, you should also check other phones like the iPhone 12 because it has better performance, better cameras, better battery life, more security updates, and faster charging.

Is the iPhone XR still worth buying in 2021?

For a phone introduced in 2018, the iPhone XR still has good performance and good cameras. It holds up pretty well in 2021, but note that (again) the iPhone 12 features better performance, better cameras, more security updates, faster charging, more RAM, and an AMOLED display.

Keep reading to learn more about what sets them apart, how they rival 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 XS, Apple iPhone XR

Photo by Daniel Korpai on Unsplash

CONTENTS

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Introduction

While Apple's iPhone XR hit stores in October 2018, Apple's iPhone XS went on sale one month sooner.

We've run down the specs, design, price, and much more in this guide to help you choose between the iPhone XS and the iPhone XR.

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 XS iPhone XR
Release Date 2018, September 2018, October 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?

About performance: Geekbench 5 scores the iPhone XS 5% ahead of its sibling in the multi-core ranking. In real-world usage, the difference between them isn't significant.

Performance*
vs.
Features iPhone XS iPhone XR
SoC Apple A12 Apple A12
Graphics Apple GPU Apple GPU
Geekbench 5 Score 2716
2575
-141
OS iOS 12 iOS 12
Tek-Score
6.5
6.3
-0.2

*Reference: 100: Apple iPhone 12.

Which Phone Has The Best Display?

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

The iPhone XS has the best screen, and the difference is considerable.

Do you despise big screens? Then, there aren't many devices to consider besides the iPhone XS. There are just not that many choices in its class.

The iPhone XR sets itself apart from most competitors at its price range: Its pixel density evens out at 22% below the rest.

About the iPhone XS, you should know that 81% of its rivals can play HDR content and have an Always-On display, and 94% have an AMOLED screen. At the same time, only 23% of them feature Gorilla Glass 6 or Victus.

Compared to the iPhone XR, just so you know, 88% of its rivals have an AMOLED screen. Yet, only 21% of them feature Gorilla Glass 6 or Victus.

Display Density (DPIs)*
vs.
Features iPhone XS iPhone XR
Size 5.8
6.1
0.3
Screen Type AMOLED LCD
Resolution (px) 1125x2436
828x1792
-1256724
Refresh Rate 60hz 60hz 0
Dots per Inch 462.63
323.61
-139.01
Always-On-Display No No
Notch Wedge Wedge
Peak Brightness 660 nits
660 nits
0
HDR HDR10 -
Sub Tek-Score
3.0
1.2
-1.8
Protection Corning toughened glass Corning toughened glass
Tek-Score
5.9
5.2
-0.6

*Reference: 100: Sony Xperia 1 II.

Which Phone Has The Best Cameras?

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

Looking at DXOMARK's ranking, one can conclude that the iPhone XS is approximately 32 points above its rivals at about this price tag. But you can pick either one.

About the iPhone XS: This camera came out of DXOMARK's labs with a score of 118. If you add its telephoto lens, it'll get 126** points. If you want to know more about it, click here.

PS: all of its rivals can record videos in 4K or more and have an ultra-wide-angle lens.

About the iPhone XR: On DXOMARK's reviewing article, they gave this shooter 112 points. By considering its digital zoom abilities, we'll get to the final score of 116** points. If you want to know more about every tidbit, check it here.

Last (but not least), just so you know, 97% of its rivals can record videos in 4 or 8K, and all have an ultra-wide-angle lens.

**This score still needs improvement, at least for phones with no zoom and up to 35 to 40MP. They just changed their protocol, and I only have few reviewed devices to deduce a compatible score.

Picture Quality*
vs.
Primary Camera iPhone XS iPhone XR
Megapixels 12
12
0
Aperture 1.8
1.8
0.0
Lens 26mm
26mm
0
Lens Type Wide-Angle Wide-Angle
Flash 1 4 3
HDR Yes Yes
OIS Yes Yes
Video 2160 2160 0
Score 126
116
-10

*Reference: 100: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra.

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

Who has the best frame?

The iPhone XS does win some points here, mainly for its weight and water resistance.

By doing some math, I found out that the iPhone XS is indeed small. About 12% smaller when compared to most similarly priced devices.

The iPhone XS weighs 177 g. (6.24 oz), while its sibling is 17 g. (0.67 oz) heavier. If you're looking for a lightweight device, the iPhone XS has a "weight to screen size" score of 4.2, and that's another way of saying it has an acceptable score for its screen size. The iPhone XR, however, has 3.3, which suggests it's considerably hefty.

The iPhone XS is rated IP68, which means it's water-resistant in up to 1 to 3 meters, while the iPhone XR got the IP67 rating, so it can safely go in up to 1 meter. But remember: it's for a maximum period of half an hour, and it's in standby mode only. So don't take photos underwater.

Looks*
vs.
Body iPhone XS iPhone XR
Size 143 x 70 x 7 mm
(5.04 x 2.47 x 0.25 in)
150 x 75 x 8 mm
(5.29 x 2.65 x 0.28 in)
19930
Weight 177 g. (6.24 oz)
194 g. (6.84 oz)
17
Build Front and back glass Front and back glass
Colors Space Gray, Gold, and Silver Black, Yellow, Red, White, Coral, and Blue
Screen To Body Ratio 82.53%
81.25%
-1.28
Disp.Size To Weight Score 4.2 3.3 -0.8
Looks 8.1/10
8.6/10
0.5
Waterproof IP68 IP67
Biometrics Face ID Face ID
Tek-Score
7.6
5.6
-2.0

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

Which has the best battery?

The iPhone XS does have a battery capacity of 2658 mAh versus the 2942 mAh of the iPhone XR. And as claimed by GSMArena, the latter is the one that stands out.

The iPhone XS's battery is well below the average in this price range. These results show that it lasts about 16% less.

Battery*
vs.
Features iPhone XS iPhone XR
Capacity (mAh) 2658 2942 284
1h Talk + 1h Web + 1h Video 74% left
78% left
4
1h Talk + 3h Web + 1h Video 54% left
62% left
8
1h Talk + 1h Web + 3h Video 56% left
64% left
8
Bat. To Phone Size Score 5.7 4.0 -1.6
Sub Tek-Score
6.1
6.8
0.7
Fast Charging 15w
15w
0
Wireless Charging 5w
5w
0
Tek-Score
5.5
6.0
0.5

*Reference: 90: Samsung Galaxy A31.

Which has more storage?

There isn't a winner here.

The iPhone XS has 64GB of internal storage and 4GB of RAM. You should know that at this price level, its rivals have more RAM and more storage. They're closer to 126Gb of storage and 7GB of RAM.

The iPhone XR, in its turn, has 64GB of storage and 3GB of RAM. Again, you'll get the majority of its rivals with more RAM and more storage. 6Gb of RAM and 109Gb of storage: that's the average, not the best you can find.

Most people should be OK with only 64 GB of internal storage. However, if you plan to store some movies or record tons of videos, you'll soon figure out that 64 GB is too short for you.

Storage*
vs.
Features iPhone XS iPhone XR
RAM (GB) 4GB
3GB
-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?

If you still don't know which to pick, you can skip this section.

You can connect them to LTE networks.

Connectivity
vs.
Features iPhone XS iPhone XR
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 are their recently updated prices:

Apple iPhone XS

Reference: $410

Apple iPhone XS

Apple iPhone XR

Reference: $392

Apple iPhone XR

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 XS iPhone XR VS
Amazon 1.52 ! 1.56 -
eBay 0.87 1.09 0.22
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 curious to know what their global score is? But first, let's see where its rivals are. They're at 6.3 (for the iPhone XS) and 6.0 (for the iPhone XR).

Verdict: Does any of them really stand out?

In a way, you can think of the XR as a cheaper version of the XS. That doesn't mean it isn't a likable iPhone. It's just an up-to-date iPhone stripped to its bare minimums.

If we put aside the bigger screen and the better battery life, one could say that considering you're not going to buy them at its release price, you should probably go for the XS.

Pros iPhone XS iPhone XR
#1 Performance Performance
#2 AMOLED Cameras
#3 Cameras Fast Charging
#4 Fast Charging Wireless Charging
#5 Wireless Charging Glass Protection
#6 Glass Protection
Cons iPhone XS iPhone XR
#1 Always-On-Display Screen Resolution
#2 Battery Life AMOLED
#3 MicroSD Slot Always-On-Display
#4 3.5mm Jack MicroSD Slot
#5 Price Weight
#6 3.5mm Jack
#7 Price
Relative Score*
vs.
Global Score iPhone XS iPhone XR
Gaming Score
5.7
3.8
-1.9
Tek-Score
5.64
5.37
-0.27
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.

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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 XS Related Comparisons


Apple iPhone XR 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 XS 
  • ApplerivaliPhone 8
    $370
  • ApplerivaliPhone XR
    $344
  • OnePlusrival7
    $388
  • XiaomirivalMi 9T Pro
    $385
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 8
    $419
  • ApplerivaliPhone 8 Plus
    $390
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S10e
    $428
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 10
    $398
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S10e EX
    $428
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S10+ SD
    $359
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20+ EX
    $329
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S10 EX
    $429
  • OnePlusrival7T
    $329
  • OnePlusrival7 Pro
    $429
  • HuaweirivalP30
    $400
  • GooglerivalPixel 4
    $386
  • HuaweirivalMate 20 Pro
    $436
  • XiaomirivalMi 9
    $400
  • ApplerivaliPhone SE 2
    $380
  • OnePlusrival8
    $480
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy A71
    $400
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy Note 10 Lite
    $425
  • OnePlusrivalNord
    $410
  • GooglerivalPixel 4a
    $350
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 FE
    $359
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 FE 4G
    $463
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy S20 FE 5G
    $359
  • OpporivalFind X2 Neo
    $398
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy M51
    $396
  • XiaomirivalMi 10T Pro
    $480
  • XiaomirivalMi 10 Lite
    $399
  • XiaomirivalMi 11 Lite
    $349
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy A52
    $380
  • SamsungrivalGalaxy A72
    $445
  • XiaomirivalMi 9t Pro
    $385

 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
×

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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