Apple iPhone XS vs. XS Max vs. XR: what’s the difference?

Three new iPhones debuted this week - here’s what sets them apart

iPhone XR
The iPhone XR is Apple’s most colourful option of the trio
(Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Apple finally took the covers off its new line-up of smartphones on Wednesday, revealing three new handsets for customers to choose between.

There had been much speculation about the new iPhones ahead of the product keynote, at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California. As predicted, two of the devices - the XS and XS Max - replace last year’s iPhone X at the top of the range, while the iPhone XR is the company’s all-new entry-level model.

Potential buyers won’t have to wait too long, with pre-orders for the £999 XS and £1,049 XS Plus open from today and deliveries expected from 21 September. The XR launch follows next month, with pre-orders kicking off on 19 October and the handsets arriving in stores on 26 October.

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In the meantime, the big question is which iPhone to choose. Here’s what sets the trio apart:


Apple has carried over the 5.8in OLED display from last year’s iPhone X to the new XS. This display includes the small indent, or “notch”, at the top of the screen that houses the smartphone’s front-facing camera and sensors - a feature that got a mixed response from users when it first appeared last year.

While the basic screen technology is the same on both the XS and its predecessor, Apple has upgraded the new model with HDR10 features, which bolster contrast ratios for more realistic lighting effects, Forbes reports. The company has also added Dolby Vision, which enhances HDR effects on supported games and movies.

The range-topping XS Max uses the same OLED panel as the XS, but its size has been upped to 6.5in - making it the largest iPhone ever.

The iPhone XR, meanwhile, has different display technology to its siblings.

Rather than an OLED panel, the budget handset features a more conventional 6.1in LCD version, like that found on every iPhone prior to last year’s X.

The XR’s resolution of 1792 x 828 is also slightly lower than that on the XS and XS Max, at 2436 x 1125 and 2688 x 1242 pixels respectively, The Verge reports.

And the cheaper choice does away with the XS’s HDR10 support and the 3D Touch feature - where users can firmly press down on the screen for different app options.

Specs and performance

Beneath the iPhone XS’s sleek casing sits Apple’s new A12 processing chip, which offers a 50% improvement in performance over last year’s A11 unit, says Trusted Reviews.

The new module comprises a six-core CPU (computer processing unit) and a four-core GPU (graphics processing unit), the tech site adds. This means the device uses a dedicated processor for gaming and graphics, while the remaining functions are handled by the CPU, improving overall performance.

Buyers get the same chip in the XS Max, and it’s also available on the entry-level XR.

The dual-lens cameras on the XS and XS Max have been upgraded from that on the X, too. The most notable new feature is an option that allows users to adjust the depth of field of an image after it has been taken.

This feature is not available on the single-lens camera found on the XR. That said, the budget smartphone does get the same 7 megapixel front-facing camera as the XS and XS Max.

Price and colours

Ultimately, the most significant difference between the three smartphones is probably their price tags.

An entry-level XR with 64GB of storage will set buyers back £749. That rises to £799 for the 128GB option, and £899 for the 256GB model.

The XR is also available in a choice of six colours: blue, black, yellow, white, red or coral.

The iPhone XS, meanwhile, starts at £999 for the 64GB version. Add another £150 into the budget to get a 256GB model, while 512GB versions start at £1,349.

And you can expect to pay at least £1,049 for the largest iPhone of them all, the XS Max. This comes in 64GB form as standard, 256GB at £1,249, and 512GB for £1,499.

Both the XS and XS Max are available in three different colours: space grey, silver and rose gold.

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