Which new iPhone is right for you? Our analysis reveals the winner

Can you tell which is which?
Can you tell which is which?
Image: AP Photo/Richard Drew
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Apple’s iPhone Xr goes on sale this Friday (Oct. 26), and reviews have already started to trickle in. Following the release of the iPhone Xs and Xs Max earlier this month, Apple’s smartphone lineup for the year is finally set.

But if you’re looking to upgrade to one of the new devices, it may be confusing to figure out which one is right for you. We’re here to help. Quartz broke down the three new phones by display size, battery life, and other features that users care about the most.

Display size

iPhone Xs Max: 6.5 inches
iPhone Xs: 5.8 inches
iPhone Xr: 6.1 inches

If you’re after as large a display as you can get, the iPhone Xs Max is the clear winner here. It features a massive, sharp Super AMOLED 6.5-inch screen that makes the phone one of the best Quartz has ever used. The iPhone Xr has the second-largest display at 6.1 inches, but it’s an LCD screen rather than the OLED ones found in the Xs Max and Xs, meaning the resolution is a fair bit lower. It’s the best option if you want something big, but don’t want to break the bank.

Battery life

iPhone Xs Max: 3,174 milliamp-hours (mAh)
iPhone Xs: 2,658 mAh
iPhone Xr: 2,942 mAh

In raw numbers, it’s not surprising that the iPhone Xs Max would have the largest battery capacity, given that it’s the biggest of the three phones, but it also has to power that massive display. According to Apple’s website, the Xs should last about 30 minutes longer than the iPhone X, and the Xs Max about 1.5 hours longer. On a single charge, the Xs phone should get around 20 hours of talk time, while the Xs Max will have 25 hours, according to Apple. In our tests of the Max, the phone can easily last through the day (and well into the next) on a single charge. Rather unhelpfully, Apple compares the iPhone Xr against the iPhone 8 Plus, saying it should last 1.5 hours longer than the old phone.

There’s no clear winner here as Apple doesn’t compare all the phones against the same thing, but all three phones do have rather sizable batteries, and given that the iPhone Xr isn’t powering a brighter AMOLED display, it might have a leg up over the other two devices.

All three phones feature the ability to charge with a wireless induction pad, and can fast charge (up to 50% battery in 30 minutes)—if you happen to own a Lightning-to-USB-C cable and USB-C charging brick.


iPhone Xs Max: Two 12-megapixel cameras
iPhone Xs: Two 12-megapixel cameras
iPhone Xr: One 12-megapixel camera

Both the Xs Max and Xs have effectively the same camera and can perform pretty much identically, using the second rear-facing camera to help the device perceive depth, allowing the phone to take some impressive portrait photos and zoom in on their subjects. The Xr has just one rear-facing camera, and uses software to try to recreate the portrait-mode shots that its more-expensive relatives take with hardware. According to early reviewers, the results can be decent, if you’re willing to sacrifice the ability to zoom in on photos.

All three phones can also shoot video in 4K HD at 60 frames per second and feature Apple’s FaceID face-scanning technology. This allows the phones to secure the devices just with scans of the user’s faces, and means all three can use Apple’s “Memoji” and “Animoji” features to turn themselves into little cartoons—if they’re so inclined.

Storage space

iPhone Xs Max: 64 GB / 256 GB / 512 GB options
iPhone Xs: 64 GB / 256 GB / 512 GB options
iPhone Xr: 64 GB / 128 GB / 256 GB options

There’s not much to separate the phones here, and you should be fine with any choice. If you take a ton of pictures or store music on your phone, your best option is to choose the middle-size phone in each case (it should be more than enough, unless your music collection is encyclopedic). If you shoot a ton of video, especially high-resolution footage, then the 512 GB option is going to be right for you.


iPhone Xs Max: 4 GB RAM
iPhone Xs: 4 GB RAM
iPhone Xr: 3 GB RAM

All three phones feature Apple’s latest A12 Bionic processor, and should be more than able to handle most daily tasks. If you play a lot of games on your phone, the faster Xs and Xs Max might be better options for you, but it’s unlikely that any of these phones will feel particularly slow any time soon.


iPhone Xs Max: Starts at $1,099 (up to $1,449)
iPhone Xs: Starts at $999 (up to $1,349)
iPhone Xr: Starts at $749 (up to $899)

This is where the iPhone Xr clearly stands out. Although it has a less sharp display and only one rear camera, Apple didn’t cut too many other corners with this device. Early reviews suggest that this will likely be the phone that many choose, because for the price, the differences between it and the iPhone Xs are relatively minimal. A couple years ago, the average price of an iPhone hovered between $650 and $700, far closer to the price of an iPhone Xr (the introduction of larger and more costly models has since jacked that price up), meaning it’s likely the price most customers are going to be most comfortable with. Also, the Xr comes in a range of bright colors, beyond the muted metallic tones its costlier cousins come in. (You can even buy a red one from launch day.)

Unless you want a massive display, or aren’t comfortable with the fact that the Xr is a little larger than the Xs, the Xr is probably the new iPhone for you. And most people likely won’t be able to tell the difference between the Xr, the Xs, or last year’s iPhone X when you’re holding it in your hand.