iPhone XS Reviews: Everyone Recommends Waiting For iPhone XR


Ahead of the retail launch on Friday, the first hand-picked reviewers have published their thoughts on the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max handsets. Launched within a hail of buzzwords and a laser-like focus on a single strategy, Apple’s new smartphones have drawn praise for the camera, but the overall impression is to hold on and see what the iPhone XR delivers.

The iPhone XR’s release date is October 26 and you can’t pre-order the phone until October 19. But it’s still the 2018 iPhone that I think most of you should pay the closest attention to before buying a new smartphone this year.

I’ve already reviewed the iPhone XS and XS Max, the other two new iPhones this year. In fact, here are my early reviews of each of them:

iPhone XS review

iPhone XS Max review

Apple has debuted a phablet version of the ‘X’ family, as well as updating last year’s launch model. The ‘S’ designation for an intermediate update has been used, while ‘Plus’ has been replaced by ‘Max’, presumably to appeal to the Chinese market, which also loves a gold-colored handset. You can probably guess what color model was sent to the majority of reviewers…

Today’s reviews have been for the iPhone XS and XS Max models. When you look at the spec sheets, there is a fundamental change in the physical relationship between the two options compared to previous years.

The upcoming Phone XR’s better price-for-performance promise could be the best option of all.

All of which means that if you want to upgrade to a new iPhone from your iPhone X, you’ll probably be well-served with the iPhone XR when it finally ships on October 26 if you don’t want to go whole hog with the XS. You’ll lose the lovely OLED screen, of course, but you’ll get a lot of boosts in the process.

For that matter, you won’t even have to feel all that guilty about upgrading from the iPhone X, as its starter 64GB model starts at $250 less than the $999 starting price of the iPhone X. And there are plenty of other reasons:

Where the XR and XS look evenly matched

The iPhone XR isn’t a handset using “last year’s technology” — the bulk of the key chip and camera specs appear to be identical to the step-up iPhone XS models.

A12 Bionic processor: Maybe they’ll benchmark differently, but right now it seems like the XR, XS and XS Max will all have the same processor inside, much as the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X did last year. Read iPhone XS’ industry-first A12 chip gives Apple big advantage over rivals for more info.

Wide angle camera/sensor: The best improvements on the XS cameras had to do with a camera sensor that allows more light, an ISP that’s faster, and smart HDR that handles extreme contrasts a lot better and reduces blur. We’ll see, but it sounds good.

Face ID: The same Face ID front-facing TrueDepth camera looks like it’s on the XR, and should be similarly fast.

Early iPhone XR advantages over the XS

The iPhone XR is effectively the “entry-level” new iPhone, but it actually surpasses its step-up model in some key ways.

Bigger screen: First off, the 6.1-inch LCD display is actually larger than the 5.8-inch display on the iPhone X (and the new iPhone XS). Phil Schiller called it the “Liquid Retina” display, and it earns that cool moniker with a 1792×828 resolution and 326 pixels per inch and Apple’s True Tone technology.

That’s down considerably from the 2436×1125 resolution and 458 ppi offered on the iPhone X, of course, but Schiller put that in more appealing terms: It’s a bigger display than the iPhone 8 Plus in a smaller design.

Battery life: On the stage today, Apple claimed that the iPhone XR can deliver more than an hour and a half of battery life than the iPhone 8 Plus.

That’s big, as the iPhone 8 Plus was the model you wanted to get last year if you wanted battery life above all else, as it could deliver around 14 hours compared to the 12 you could usually get with the iPhone X.

By that estimate, you should be able to get anywhere from 15 to 16 hours of battery life from the iPhone XR. Not bad. In my case, that might even be enough to convince me to leave my power bank home on normal days.

More colors: Apple really hasn’t bothered with too many color variations since the iPhone 5c, but it’s changing its stance a bit with the iPhone XR.
Rather than the usual options of space gray, gold, and silver, the new iPhone XR will be available in black, white, blue, coral, yellow, and even a Product (Red) option at launch. Normally, we have to wait several months for a version of the latter to appear.
The price: $749 to start isn’t cheap, but the price range, maxing at $899 for 256GB, is far more reasonable and matches where the iPhone 8 used to be.

iPhone XR, XS, XS Max specs

iPhone XS iPhone XS Max iPhone XR
Display size, resolution 5.8-inch Super Retina OLED; 2,436×1,125 pixels 6.5-inch Super Retina OLED; 2,688×1,242 pixels 6.1-inch LCD Retina Display; 1,792×828 pixels
Pixel density 458 ppi 458 ppi 326 ppi
Dimensions (inches) 5.7×2.8×0.3 in. 6.2×3.0x.3 in. 5.9×3.0x0.33 in.
Dimensions (millimeters) 143.6×70.9×7.7mm 157.5×77.4×7.7mm 150.9×75.7×8.3mm
Weight (ounces, grams) 6.24 oz.; 177g 7.3 oz.; 208g 6.8 oz.; 194g
Mobile software iOS 12 iOS 12 iOS 12
Camera Dual 12-megapixel Dual 12-megapixel Single 12-megapixel
Front-facing camera 7-megapixel with Face ID 7-megapixel with Face ID 7-megapixel with Face ID
Video capture 4K 4K 4K
Processor Apple A12 Bionic Apple A12 Bionic Apple A12 Bionic
Storage 64GB, 256GB, 512GB 64GB, 256GB, 512GB 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
Expandable storage None None None
Battery N/A, but Apple claims it will last 30 min. longer than iPhone X N/A, but Apple claims it will last 90 min. longer than iPhone X N/A, but Apple claims it will last 90 min. longer than iPhone 8 Plus
Fingerprint sensor None (Face ID) None (Face ID) None (Face ID)
Connector Lightning Lightning Lightning
Headphone jack No No No
Special features Water-resistant (IP68); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and eSIM); wireless charging; Face ID, Animoji Water-resistant (IP68); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and eSIM); wireless charging; Face ID, Animoji Water-resistant: IP67, dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and eSIM); wireless charging; Face ID, Animoji
Price off-contract (USD) $999 (64GB), $1,149 (256GB), $1,349 (512GB) $1,099 (64GB), $1,249 (256GB), $1,449 (512GB) $749 (64GB), $799 (128GB), $899 (256GB)
Price (GBP) £999 (64GB), £1,149 (256GB), £1,349 (512GB) $1,099 (64GB), $1,249 (256GB), $1,449 (512GB) £749 (64GB), £799 (128GB), £899 (256GB)
Price (AUD) AU$1,629 (64GB), AU$1,879 (256GB), AU$2,199 (512GB) AU$1,799 (64GB), AU$2,049 (256GB), AU$2,369 (512GB) AU$1,229 (64GB), AU$1,299 (128GB), AU$1,479 (256GB)