Apple's 2018 iPhones make it harder to decide. By Alvin Soon

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Apple's 2018 iPhones make it harder to decide. By Alvin Soon

iphone XS & XS Max

My Reading Room

iphone XR

Two years ago, deciding which iPhone to get was easy. Did you like the smaller one, which was also more affordable, or did you prefer the bigger one, which was more expensive?

This year though, things get a little more confusing. The smallest new iPhone, the iPhone XS, actually costs more than the mid-sized iPhone, the iPhone XR. The XR is the most affordable new iPhone, but its larger size might put small hands off. The iPhone XS Max is for those who always liked the iPhone ‘Plus’ model. But it comes with a massive price tag that might upset buyers.


The easiest way to make this decision is the price: if budget is an issue, the iPhone XR is the most affordable new iPhone. The iPhone XR has almost everything the iPhones XS and XS Max have; it enjoys the same new A12 Bionic chip with next-generation Neural Engine. It also switches Touch ID for Face ID.

Compared to the previous most affordable iPhone, the iPhone 8, the XR has a larger edge-to-edge 6.1-inch display. Unlike the iPhones XS and XS Max that have OLED screens, the XR has an LCD screen. The screen has a lower contrast ratio, at 1,400:1 instead of OLED’s 1 million:1. But it’s also a wide color display (P3) with True Tone. There’s no 3D Touch but most people likely won’t miss it.

And the iPhone XR comes with the same, new and bigger 12MP sensor and wide-angle camera as the iPhone XS and XS Max. You don’t get the second telephoto camera, but Apple is including software-based Portrait Mode in the iPhone XR.

One major difference is that the iPhone XR comes in six finishes instead of three for the XS models. You can pick from white, black, blue, yellow, coral, and (Product)Red colorways. The XR also, curiously, has the longest battery life of any iPhone. It’s rated for five hours more talk time than the XS, two hours more internet use and one hour more video playback than the XS Max.

Users who’ve always used the smaller iPhone will have to get used to the XR’s larger size though. Compared to the iPhone 8, the XR is 12.5mm taller, 8.4 wider, 1mm deeper, and 46g heavier. It’s also costlier, the 64GB model costs $81 more at $1,148, a new 128GB model costs $1,299, and the 256GB model costs $ 81 more at $1,469.

If these prices are hard to swallow, you might have to contend with the older iPhones 8 and 7, which Apple is still selling at reduced prices.


This year’s iPhone XS costs roughly the same as last year’s at the same storage point, but there is a new 512GB model at $2,199. If you must get the smallest new iPhone, the XS is the one you’re looking at. But if you’re coming from a regular iPhone 8, know that the XS is still bigger than those models.

Compared to the XR, you get a smaller 5.8-inch display, but this screen is OLED with higher contrast and deeper blacks.

Previously, in the iPhone with iPhone Plus generations, the Plus always had the slightly better camera. But the iPhone XS and XS Max have the same new dual-camera system, so it really comes down to the size you prefer.


If you’ve always enjoyed the larger iPhone Plus, you’ll love the iPhone XS Max. It’s about the same size and weight as the last Plus, but with a huge 6.5-inch screen in comparison to the Plus’ 5.5-inch. It’s a gorgeous OLED too.

The only requirement is that you have deep pockets – both to carry the phone and to pay for it. The iPhone XS Max starts at a whopping $1,799 for the entry 64GB model, $2,039 for 256GB, and $2,349 for 512GB. To put these prices into perspective, Apple’s most affordable 13-inch MacBook Pro (128GB, without Touch Bar), costs $1,898. These are not just the most advanced iPhones that Apple has ever sold, they are the most expensive too.


A key look at the new iPhones’ key specs

My Reading Room
My Reading Room