I’ve spent extensive time with the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR — here’s which phone I’d recommend buying

There are some major differences between Apple's current iPhones.

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There are some major differences between Apple’s current iPhones.
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YouTube/MKBHD

“Which iPhone should I buy? iPhone XS or iPhone XR?”

That’s the question I’ve gotten more than any other question this year.

Each iPhone has its benefits. The iPhone XR has superior battery life, and comes in more colors than the other phones. It’s also $250 cheaper to start. The iPhone XS, though, has a way better display and comes in two different sizes, including a large “Max” version.

I’ve spent a lot of time with all three iPhones. Here’s how they stack up, and why I think the iPhone XR is the best phone for most people.


The iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max are all powered by the same chip — Apple’s A12 Bionic — so you won’t notice a difference in speed or performance.

There are some major differences between Apple's current iPhones.

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YouTube/MKBHD

All three phones also run iOS 12, the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system for iPhones and iPads, out of the box.

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Apple

They all support wireless charging.

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Hollis Johnson

The iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR have the same front-facing camera for selfies and Face ID.

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Apple/YouTube

Their rear cameras are nearly identical, too, even though the iPhone XR has one fewer lens than the iPhone XS and XS Max.

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YouTube/sakitech

They all have similar designs. They look like the iPhone X from 2017, with its edge-to-edge display and “notch” cutout for Face ID.

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Hollis Johnson

They all support two SIM cards (one physical Nano SIM card and one electronic SIM card, unless you live in China), which lets you connect to multiple carriers and networks.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

But that’s where the similarities end.

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YouTube/sakitech

The 6.1-inch iPhone XR has a slightly bigger screen than the 5.8-inch iPhone XS.

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YouTube/sakitech

Neither phone compares to the massive screen on the 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max, though.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

The screens for the iPhone XS and XS Max feature OLED technology. They have two of the best smartphone displays ever made.

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The iPhone XS, left, and the iPhone XS Max.
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Getty

The iPhone XR has an LCD screen, which is still good, but it doesn’t compare to the gorgeous colors, contrast, and brightness of the OLED screens on the iPhone XS and XS Max.

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YouTube/MKBHD

The iPhone XR also has a slightly thicker bezel, or border around its display, compared to the iPhone XS.

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YouTube/sakitech

The iPhone XS gets about 13 hours of battery life. The iPhone XS Max gets about 14 hours of life.

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Edgar Su/Reuters

The iPhone XR has the best battery life, though: It gets about 16 hours on a single charge — about 15% more juice compared to the iPhone XS and XS Max.

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Yves Herman/Reuters

The iPhone XS and XS Max support up to 512 GB of internal storage. The iPhone XR only supports up to 256 GB of storage.

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Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Both phones will survive just fine in the rain, but the iPhone XS is slightly more water resistant than the iPhone XR.

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YouTube/sakitech

The iPhone XS and XS Max support 3D Touch, where you can push into the screen to get more menu options. The iPhone XR does not support 3D Touch, but it has a similar feature where touching and holding the display can make more menu options appear.

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YouTube/sakitech

The iPhone XS and XS Max support 2X optical zooming, meaning you can zoom in without losing any quality.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Since the iPhone XR has only one rear-camera lens, it can’t perform optical zooming.

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YouTube/MKBHD

The iPhone XS and XS Max come in just three colors: silver, black, and gold.

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Apple

The iPhone XR comes in six colors: white, black, blue, yellow, coral, and red.

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Apple

The iPhone XS Max is the most expensive phone. It starts at $1,099 for 64 GB. The 512 GB model costs $1,449.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

The iPhone XS is also expensive. It starts at $999 for the 64 GB model. The 512 GB model costs $1,349.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

The iPhone XR is more affordable than the iPhone XS models. It starts at $749 for 64 GB. The 256 GB model costs $899.

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YouTube/MKBHD

I personally prefer the iPhone XS, but the iPhone XR is going to be the best iPhone for most people.

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YouTube/sakitech

While the iPhone XS has a better display, most people won’t notice a big difference between that and the LCD in the iPhone XR. The screen looks vibrant and sharp, even though it’s not OLED.

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Getty Images

The iPhone XR also has superior battery life — and that makes a huge difference. Getting three extra hours compared to the iPhone XS is notable.


The iPhone XR may not have the same camera system, or screen, or 3D Touch, but it’s identical to the iPhone XS phones where it counts: It’s powered by the same brains (the A12 Bionic), and runs on the same operating system (iOS 12).

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YouTube/MKBHD

The biggest factor, though, is price. You can save $250 to start by going with the iPhone XR compared to the iPhone XS. And since you’re getting the same basic experience as the iPhone XS, that’s good savings.

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YouTube/MKBHD

I personally love the iPhone XS — it’s the best form factor for my hands, and I love the OLED screen — but I can’t deny that the iPhone XR is the best phone for most people, and a clear winner when you look at all the criteria.

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YouTube/MKBHD