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iPhone Xs vs. iPhone Xs Max vs. iPhone Xr: Which New Apple Smartphone Is Right for You?

4 minute read

Apple on Wednesday dropped not one, not two, but three new versions of the iPhone, undoubtedly leaving some people wondering: Which iPhone is right for me?

Complicating matters are the difficult-to-parse naming conventions: There’s the iPhone Xs (pronounced “ten-ess”), the iPhone Xs Max, and the iPhone Xr (pronounced “ten are”). Unfortunately, those names don’t really offer any insights into which phone does what.

Confused? No sweat. Here’s a quick guide that can help you decide which iPhone, if any, is your best bet. Note that we haven’t had extended time to use the devices yet, so this is based purely on Apple’s advertised specs. Also remember that just because new iPhones exist doesn’t mean you need to upgrade right away — many older models will still receive Apple’s upcoming iOS 12 software upgrade, and if you’re happy with your device, you might as well save the money.

iPhone Xs

Summary: The iPhone Xs is Apple’s new flagship smartphone, meaning it’s the cream of the crop. It’s got a gorgeous 5.8-inch, edge-to-edge OLED display, a dual-lens camera system with both wide and telephoto optics, and Apple’s latest and greatest A12 Bionic processor. But the iPhone Xs isn’t cheap, starting at $999 and going as high as $1,349 for the version with a (kind of ridiculous) 512GB of onboard storage.

Reason to Buy: If having the best screen technology around and a top-of-the-line camera is important to you, go for the iPhone Xs. But you could also super-size your order by going with the…

iPhone Xs Max

Summary: The iPhone Xs Max is pretty much just an embiggened iPhone Xs, measuring up at a monstrous 6.5 inches. That kind of screen size, in combination with the OLED display, is going to make the iPhone Xs Max the perfect choice for people who use their iPhone to watch a lot of TV shows or movies, or do a ton of photography or videography. But just like getting the bigger popcorn at the movies, you’ll pay even more for the extra size: the iPhone Xs Max starts at an eye-popping $1,099 and goes all the way up to $1,449 for the 512GB version, a price point that rivals that of Apple’s high-end MacBook Pro laptops.

Reason to Buy: If you want the latest-and-greatest, but with a humongous screen. Again, this’ll be a phone that appeals to photo and video buffs. But it’s wise to get your hands on the iPhone Xs Max at an Apple Store or other location before committing to something this big and expensive — you might find that, thanks to the edge-to-edge display, the iPhone Xs is perfectly big enough.

iPhone Xr

Summary: At $749 and up, the iPhone Xr is by no means “cheap.” But it’s certainly the most affordable of Apple’s newest iPhone options. There are compromises, of course: Instead of the iPhone Xs’ OLED screen, you get a less impressive, but still perfectly capable, LCD display. The camera system, meanwhile, only uses a single lens, limiting its photographic capabilities. Interestingly, however, the iPhone Xr uses the same A12 Bionic processor found in the more expensive phones, so you’re not sacrificing anything in terms of under-the-hood specs. It’s also only available in a single 6.1 inch size, putting it between the iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max. But that’s a nice, middle-of-the-road size that most people will probably like — and the array of color options available make it an eye-catching choice.

Reason to Buy: Of the three, this is the iPhone I would recommend to most people. OLED screens are incredibly nice, but far from a necessity. The camera will be totally fine for everyday use. And the fact that it uses the same processor as the more expensive phones means you’re not sacrificing anything in terms of performance. Unless you’re the type of person who wants the top-of-the-line gear (or you want an utterly humongous display), the iPhone Xr is probably the right choice for you.

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