Apple has unveiled three new iPhones—the iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max—and while they boast the latest and greatest features, they’re not cheap. You can save money by buying an older iPhone 7 or 8, but will it do what you want? Let’s dive in to see which iPhone best meets your needs and budget.
Performance, Storage, and Price
The zippy A12 Bionic chip in the newest iPhones gives them 15% faster overall performance and 50% faster graphics than the A11 Bionic in the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. That said, all these models deliver sufficient performance for typical uses, but for computationally intense activities, such as immersive video games, you’ll want the fastest model you can afford.
How much storage you’ll need typically depends on how much media and how many apps you want to carry around. You can cut costs by opting for less storage, but that may require you to spend more time juggling videos, photos, and podcasts.
Because the newest models have hefty price tags, the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and XR do the best job of meeting the sweet spot between affordability and obsolescence.
Look & Feel
The size and weight of a smartphone matter, because it should be comfortable to hold and easy to tote around. The best way to assess what size and weight you’d prefer is to try it in person, and we have demo models in our store for you to test drive. Most models are available in a few metallic finishes, but the iPhone XR’s aluminum case comes in six colors.
It’s easy to identify an iPhone XR, XS, or XS Max, because their larger screens occupy nearly the entire front of the device, apart from a “notch” at the top. There is no Home button, and the notch houses the front-facing camera and sensors for the Face ID face-recognition system. Face ID replaces the Touch ID unlocking mechanism in the older phones.
Although the screens on all these iPhones are fabulous, the OLED screen on the XS and XS Max is even better than the XR’s LCD screen, with more pixels, more colors, and better contrast.
The iPhone 8 and newer have another screen feature, True Tone. It uses light sensors adjusts the color and brightness of the screen to match ambient light so images appear more natural.
All of Apple’s current iPhones have a 12-megapixel rear-facing camera and work well for everyday photos and videos.
The iPhone 7 Plus, 8 Plus, XS, and XS Max have two lenses on the back: a general-use f/1.8 lens, and a telephoto lens (f/2.8 in the 7 Plus and 8 Plus, f/2.4 in the XS and XS Max). They make possible two modes in the Camera app: Portrait mode blurs the background, and Portrait Lighting mode (in all these models except the 7 Plus) lets you change scene lighting. The iPhone XR also has these modes but creates the effects with software.
You’ll find seriously cool photography features on the iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max. Smart HDR, Apple’s newest HDR approach, aims to provide even better color, highlights, and shadows. Zero shutter lag eliminates the delay after you press the shutter button. And the pièce de résistance, Depth Control, lets you blur or sharpen the background of a photo after it’s been taken on one of these devices.
In normal operation, all these iPhones can easily power you through a day. If your usage tends to chew through your current iPhone’s battery life, give extra consideration to the iPhone XR, which bests the other models in each category where Apple supplies data: talk time, Internet, video, and audio. The iPhone 7 and 8 don’t have quite as good battery life, though most people won’t notice the difference.
Two additional power-related features are available in the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, XR, XS, and XS Max. Qi wireless charging enables you to charge your phone by laying it on a special charging mat, and a fast-charge feature puts more power into the battery faster, letting an iPhone reach a 50% charge in 30 minutes. These features require special charging accessories.
Still not sure about whether to spring for a high-end model? If your cellular carrier offers gigabit-class LTE, the iPhone XS and XS Max can take advantage of it for extremely fast cellular data connections. Plus, all three new iPhones sport a Dual SIM feature, which lets you have two phone numbers and two cell plans on the same iPhone—this could be helpful for those who currently carry a separate work phone, or for international travel.
We hope this article has helped you figure out which iPhone is right for you, based on features, size, and price, but if you’re still on the fence, come into the store to check out the different models in person and talk to our experts.