iPhone XS or iPhone XR? Here's Your Cheat Sheet

Update, Oct. 26: Apple's iPhone XR is available to buy now. Check out our full review of the iPhone XR and see the best iPhone XR deals to get the lowest price.

The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are two of the best phones we've ever reviewed, but starting at $999 and $1,099, respectively, they cost a pretty penny.

Now on sale, the iPhone XR has most of the same new features as the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, and it starts at just $749. That's $250 to $350 less. So should you get the XR or splurge on one of Apple's highest-end flagships?

Here's your cheat sheet.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 iPhone XRiPhone XSiPhone XS Max
Starting Price$749$999$1,099
ProcessorA12 BionicA12 BionicA12 Bionic
Screen6.1-inch LCD (1,792 x 828 Pixels)5.8-inch OLED (2436 x 1125 pixels)6.5-inch OLED (2688 x 1242 pixels)
Storage64GB, 128GB, 256GB64GB, 256GB, 512GB64GB, 256GB, 512GB
Face IDYesYesYes
Rear CameraSingle 12MP (ƒ/1.8)Dual 12MP wide (ƒ/1.8) and telephoto (ƒ/2.4)Dual 12MP wide (ƒ/1.8) and telephoto (ƒ/2.4)
Zoom5x digital2x optical2x optical
Front Camera7MP, ƒ/2.27MP, ƒ/2.27MP, ƒ/2.2
Gigabit LTE NoYesYes
Battery Life tested11:289:41 (tested)10:38 (tested)
Metal frameAluminumStainless steelStainless steel
ColorsBlack, White, Red, Yellow, Blue and CoralGold, Silver, Space GrayGold, Silver, Space Gray
Weight6.8 ounces6.2 ounces7.3 ounces
Size5.9 x 3.0 x 0.3 inches5.7 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches6.2 x 3.1 x 0.3 inches

Reasons to Buy the iPhone XR

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It's cheaper and you can get more storage: The iPhone XR starts at $749, while the iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Max will cost you $999 and $1,099, respectively. That's a big delta when you consider everything you get for your money.

Also, think about the storage. For $799, you can get an iPhone XR with 128GB of storage or step up to 256GB for $899. That's still $100 less than the iPhone XS with a measly 64GB of storage.

Bigger screen than iPhone XS: The iPhone XS has a fairly roomy 5.8-inch OLED display, but the iPhone XR steps that up to a 6.1-inch LCD, which gives you more real estate for watching movies, enjoying photos, typing and more.

Same fast A12 Bionic power: Based on our testing of the iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Max, the A12 Bionic processor is the fastest chip ever put in a phone. And you'll get the same performance on the iPhone XR, because it has the same brain. Plus, you'll enjoy seamless performance in a growing number of AR apps for iOS.

MORE: Best Reason to Upgrade to iPhone XS? The LTE Speeds

Same great camera quality: The iPhone XR makes due with only a single rear lens, compared with two for the iPhone XS and the XS Max. And yet the iPhone XR offers the same new camera sensor with bigger and deeper pixels, which really boosted low-light performance in our tests.

You also get features like Smart HDR and Depth Control. The former brings out more highlights in your images, especially in the shadows. And Depth Control lets you tweak the bokeh (blur effect) on you portraits on the fly.

More colors than iPhone XS: With the iPhone XS, your color choices are limited to just three: Silver, Space Gray and Gold. But Apple opens that up to six options on the iPhone XR, including White, Black, Blue, Yellow, Coral and Red.

MORE: iPhone in Red, Blue or Something Else? An Expert Explains How to Choose

Face ID on board: Yes, there's a bit of a learning curve not having a Home button, but the front TrueDepth Camera on the iPhone XR comes in handy for unlocking the handset. You just stare at the phone and swipe up to log on. It also means you don't have to worry about being locked out of your phone because you have messy fingers.

Longest battery life: In our testing, which involves continuous web surfing over LTE, the iPhone XS Max lasted 10 hours and 38 minutes and the iPhone XS lasted just 9:40. The iPhone XR endured for a better 11 hours and 26 minutes. So if you want the longest-lasting iPhone, the XR is it.

Reasons to pay more for iPhone XS or XS Max

OLED displays beat LCD: Apple invented a new Liquid Retina display for the iPhone XR that allows it to reach the edges, and it looks pretty colorful in person. However, it doesn't offer the same perfect black levels and ultrawide viewing angles that an OLED screen does, which is found on the iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Max.

Plus, the iPhone XR has a lower-res display (1,792 x 828) than the iPhone XS (2,436 x 1,125) and the XS Max (2688 x 1242).

Faster gigabit LTE: Apple is reserving the fastest 4G speeds for the iPhone XS and the XS Max, as only the latter two handsets will support gigabit LTE. The iPhone XR supports only LTE Advanced, which is a step below gigabit LTE. That means you should see slower download and upload speeds from the iPhone XR than the iPhone XS and the XS Max.

However, based on our iPhone XR review, we found that the iPhone XR's download speeds were comparable to the iPhone XS Max on T-Mobile's network. Only the upload speeds were slower.

2x optical zoom: While it's great that the iPhone XS can shoot Portrait photos with bokeh via its single rear camera, you don't get the 2x optical zoom offered by the iPhone XS and the XS Max. This allows you to get closer to your subjects and can make a big difference for more serious photographers.

Portraits limited to people: The iPhone XR can take portraits of people with a bokeh effect but not of objects. There has to be a human in the frame.

3D Touch: The iPhone XR ditches 3D Touch, which delivers haptic feedback and enables all sorts of shortcuts. However, Apple's newer Haptic Touch tech on the iPhone XR adds the most important feature that 3D Touch provided, a cursor you can control via the keyboard. So this is not a big bummer at all.

You can also long press on the lock screen to activate the camera and flashlight.

Narrower bezels, more premium design: This may be a minor nitpick, but I noticed during my hands-on time with the iPhone XR that the bezel around the screen isn't as narrow as it is on the iPhone XS and XS Max. When you add that to the aluminum edges (the XS series uses polished stainless steel), the XR has a slightly less premium vibe.

Bottom Line

The iPhone XR is a great value. For a more affordable $750, you get the same key features as Apple's super-premium flagships — camera, processor, Face ID — for less dough. And you get more colors to choose from.

But I don't think the XR is a no-brainer choice, not when you consider the superior display quality OLED offers and that only the iPhone XS and XS Max offer a 2x optical zoom for the rear camera.

Having reviewed the iPhone XS and the XS Max, I think the Max is better between those two because it offers longer battery life and a bigger display. But the appeal of the iPhone XR is undeniable, especially given its longer battery life.

Credit: Tom's Guide

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.