Michael Grothaus

Apple’s phablets compared.

It used to be Apple just had one phablet–the iPhone Plus series. But this year Apple introduced two new iPhones to their phablet lineup. the first is the iPhone XS Max. This is the “Plus”-sized version of the iPhone X. But Apple also introduced a totally new iPhone called the iPhone XR.

The XR is a 6.1in display (compared to the XS Max’s 6.5in). It’s Apple's attempt at giving consumers a larger display at a cheaper price point. However, there are a TON of differences between these two phablets. Just what are those? We take a look to find out.

iPhone XS Max vs iPhone XR: Specs

Here are the specs for the iPhone XS Max:

  • Display: 6.5-inch OLED display with a 2688x1242-pixel resolution at 458ppi
  • Dimensions: 157.5mm x 77.4mm x 7.7mm
  • Weight: 208 grams
  • Storage: 64, 256, or 512GB
  • Processors: A12 Bionic
  • Front camera: 7 MP photos and 1080p HD video. 
  • Rear camera: Dual lens 12MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras, Dual optical image stabilisation, Optical zoom, 4K video
  • Battery: Up to 13.5 hours battery life mixed usage.
  • Other: Face ID, NFC, Wireless charging, 3D Touch, IP68 waterproof
  • Color options: Silver, Space Gray, and Gold

And here’s the specs for the iPhone XR:

  • Display: 6.1-inch LCD Liquid Retina display with a 2436x1125-pixel resolution at 458ppi
  • Dimensions: 150.9mm x 75.7mm x 8.3mm
  • Weight: 194 grams
  • Storage: 64, 128, or 256GB
  • Processors: A12 Bionic
  • Front camera: 7 MP photos and 1080p HD video. 
  • Rear camera: Single lens 12MP wide-angle camera, optical image stabilisation. 4K video.
  • Battery: Up to 13.5 hours battery life mixed usage.
  • Other: Face ID, NFC, Wireless charging; Splash, Water and Dust Resistant
  • Color options: Yellow, White, Coral, Black, Blue, and Product Red

iPhone XS Max vs iPhone XR: Display & Design

The immediate differences between the two phone are the display and design. The XS Max is made of stainless steel and glass, while the XR series is made of aluminum and glass. Obviously, stainless steel is the better material.

As for the display, both models differ in size. The iPhone XS Max has a 6.5in OLED display, while the iPhone XR features a 6.1in “Liquid Retina” LCD display. The “Liquid” moniker truthfully means nothing; it’s just how Apple brands the display on the XR.

In this respect, the XS Max wins hands down. OLED displays will give you much more vibrant colors and deeper blacks than LCD displays. Case in point the display in the XS Max has a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, while the display in the XR series has only a 1400:1 contrast ratio.

Another display point the XR lacks is 3D Touch. Again, Apple eliminated it here to keep the cost of the XR down.

Where the XR outperforms, so to speak the XS Max is in the color options available. The XS Max comes in the standard Silver, Space Gray, and Gold, while the XR comes in new refreshing colors: Yellow, White, Coral, Black, Blue, and Product Red.

iPhone XS Max vs iPhone XR: Camera

What interesting is Apple uses the exact same front-facing camera in both the XS Max and XR series. Both models feature the same 7MP TrueDepth camera system with Face ID. There is literally no difference between the XS Ma and XR when it comes to the front camera.

But things are radically different when it comes to the rear camera. The XS Max features a dual lens 12MP system with wide-angle and telephoto cameras, dual optical image stabilisation, 2x optical zoom, and 4K video recording.

On the other hand, the rear camera system on the XR is only a single-lens 12MP wide angle camera. It does feature optical image stabilisation and 4K video recording, as with the XS Max, but lacks the 2x optical zoom.

iPhone XS Max vs iPhone XR: CPU, Battery, and Storage

As far s the CPU is concerned, both models are identical. Both the A12 Bionic chipset. It’s a 7nm chip with 6 cores. The CPU is 15% faster and 40% more energy efficient than the previous A11. The GPU now has 4 cores and is 50% faster. Finally, the Neural engine now has 8 cores for machine learning and is almost 10 x faster. Apps launch 30% faster on the Max and Machine Learning runs nine times faster on 1/10th the energy. The A12 Bionic absolutely flies.

Battery life is also almost identical between the phones. Both the iPhone XS Max and the iPhone XR will get 13.5 hours of mixed usage off a single charge. And as for storage, the XS Max offers more: 64, 256, or 512GB compared to the XR’s 64, 128, or 256GB options.

iPhone XS Max vs iPhone XR: Cost & Verdict

Normally it’s easy to choose Apple’s costliest and most advanced device as the winner–that is, which one you should buy. But honestly, it’s not that clear-cut this year. If you don’t need a dual lens camera system (found in the XS Max), the XR might be the best choice.

Sure, the XR doesn’t have the OLED display, but it’s not like the LCD display is shoddy. It’ll look fine if that’s what you are used to looking at. Also, from a processing power perspective, the XR and XS Max are identical, making it harder to fork out that extra dough for the XS Max if you don’t need the better camera and the best (and biggest) display tech.

The iPhone XR will be available in late October and cost £749 (64GB), £799 (128GB), or £899 (256GB). The iPhone XS Max will be available on September 21 and cost £1099 (64GB), £1249 (256GB), or £1449 (512GB).