Here's One Reason to Get the iPhone XS Over the iPhone XR

If you’re an iPhone shopper still stuck between choosing which model to get, a new report about data speeds on Apple’s smartphones could sway your decision.

Credit: Tom's Guide

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Wireless network testing firm OpenSignal says the iPhone XR turned in slower 4G speeds than the iPhone XS and XS Max in recent testing of iPhone download speeds that included most every Apple handset since the iPhone 5s. The new iPhone XS and XS Max performed the best, grabbing 21.7 Mbps from cell towers, but the iPhone XR showed signs of its mid-level hardware with a much slower 17.6 Mbps rate.

Though the XR has the same fast A12 Bionic processor and Intel data connection modem as the iPhone XS and XS Max, its less-capable 2x2 MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) antenna setup can’t perform at the same level as the gigabit-quality 4x4 MIMO antenna found in the XS and XS Max.

Credit: OpenSignal

(Image credit: OpenSignal)

The iPhone X (18.5 Mbps) from 2017 also beats the iPhone XR thanks to a 4x4 MIMO antenna system, though its older-generation modem kept it from reaching the same speeds as the iPhone XS and XS Max.

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

As expected, the aging iPhone 5s offered the slowest speeds of all the models OpenSignal tested, at 10.2 Mbps. And with the exception of the iPhone XR and the iPhone SE (the only other mid-level iPhone on test), Apple’s handsets performed better or the same year-over-year.

In case you’re curious, similar LTE performance testing last year by PCMag that included Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 and Google’s Pixel 2 showed that the two Android phones slightly bested Apple’s new iPhone XS Max in download speeds.

Even though all this mean that you can’t turn to the XR version of the iPhone right now if you want the fastest data speeds, that might not be the case next year. Rumor has it that Apple will be upgrading the 2019 iPhone XR to 4x4 MIMO for its LTE antennas in order to bring it on par, in terms of data-speeds, with the premium iPhones that will also be released at the same time.

Daniel Bean is a freelance writer with years of experience whose articles have appeared in Tom's Guide. He has previously worked for LinkedIn, Yahoo News, and the Observer, as well as TripleByte, Circa, Inverse, CBS, and ABC. Currently, he is full-time content lead for Mixpanel's blog, The Signal, writing about innovators and analytics.