Tech Talk

iPhone X vs iPhone XR

Apr 27, 2020

Apple’s iPhone X was a massive change for the company after years of minor improvements between generations. It was unlike anything Apple had made before.

What they’ve made since, though, is a different story. Following the many changes in design and function introduced by the iPhone X, Apple returned to offering new phones with only minor differences from previous iteration. Yes, the X is markedly different from the iPhone 8 or earlier, but how does it hold up to later X models like the XR and XS?

The differences between the X and its successors are less obvious, but for some users, no less important. This article will review the differences between the iPhone X and iPhone XR.

Specs

This table highlights the difference in specification between the iPhone X and iPhone XR

iPhone X iPhone XR
Release date November 2017 October 2018
Screen size 5.8” 6.1”
Height & width 5.7” x 2.8” 5.9” x 3”
depth .30” .33”
weight 6.14 oz 6.84 oz
CPU A11 Bionic Chip with Neural Engine A12 Bionic Chip with 2nd generation Neural Engine
Display type OLED with Super Retina HD display LCD with Liquid Retina HD display
Pixel density 2436 x 1125 pixel resolution at 458ppi 1792 x 828 pixel resolution at 326ppi
Contrast & color 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio & HDR display 1400:1 contrast ratio, no HDR display
Front-facing camera 10x zoom; 2x optical zoom, 7MP 5x zoom & 7MP
Front-facing video 1080p HD video, 30fps 1080p HD, 30fps or 60fps
Back-facing camera Dual, 12MP Wide & Telephoto Singe 12MP Wide
Back-facing video 1080p HD video, 30 fps or 60 fps, 2x optical zoom; 6x digital zoom 1080p HD video, 30 or 60 fps, extended dynamic range for video up to 30 fps; 3x digital zoom
Portrait lighting (front & back) Natural, studio, contour, stage, stage mono Natural, studio, contour
Photo HDR (front & back) Auto HDR Smart HDR
Audio playback Stereo Wider stereo
Video playback High dynamic range with Dolby Vision & HDR10 content Supports Dolby Vision & HDR10 content
Battery power 2716mAh 2942mAh
Video playback (battery) Up to 13 hrs Up to 16 hrs
Audio playback (battery) Up to 60 hrs Up to 65 hrs
Internal storage 64GB or 256GB 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB
Touch 3D Touch Haptic Touch
SIM nano-SIM Dual SIM (nano SIM & eSIM)
Operating system at release iOS11 iOS 12
Body Glass & stainless steel Glass & aluminum
finish Silver & space gray Red, yellow, white, coral, black, blue
Price, at time of release $999+ $749+
Current price, new $899* $599*
Current price, pre-owned $439-494*, $407** $479-499*, $387**

*Best Buy

**UpTrade

As you can see, there are some differences between the iPhone X and the iPhone XR that may affect consumer preference and/or user experience. However, the two phones also have much in common. Below is a chart of the specifications shared by both phones.

Operating system iOS
Display Retina display with True Tone, wide color display (P3)
Display resolution 2436x1125
Brightness 625 nits max
Security Face ID
Water resistance Resistant up to a 1 meter depth for up to 30 minutes
Splash and dust resistant Rated IP67
Front-facing camera flash Retina flash
Back-facing camera flash True Tone flash with Slow Sync
Cameras True Depth for facial recognition
Video Optical image stabilization
Battery Built-in, rechargeable Lithium-ion
Charging Via USB, supports wireless charging & fast-charge capable
Audio Output No headphone jack; comes with EarPods with lightning connector
SIM Not compatible with existing micro-SIM cards
Sensors Accelerometer, Ambient Light Sensor, Proximity Sensor, Three-axis Gyro Sensor, Digital Compass, Barometer, Gyro Sensor
Data GSM/EDGE, UMTS/HSPA+
Carrier DC-HSDPA
Network LTE Advanced
WiFi 802.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO
Bluetooth Bluetooth 5.0
Other (cellular & wireless) Built-in GPS/GNSS, VoLTE, NFC with reader mode, Express Cards, WiFi calling
Connector Lightning

Overview

At the time of release, the most notable difference between Apple’s iPhone X and iPhone XR was the price. The XR was initially offered as the budget alternative to the iPhone X, the most expensive iPhone Apple had ever produced. The iPhone X was introduced at $999, and was holding steady 11 months later when the XR was released at $749. At $250 cheaper, the XR offered almost all the same services and amenities as the iPhone X and soon became a favorite of most reviewers. At the outset, the quality difference vs. price difference of the iPhone X and iPhone XR made the XR the clear winner--so much so that Apple eventually dropped the X from their lineup altogether.

Now, in the X generation, only the iPhone XR and iPhone XSs are available directly from Apple. However, the iPhone X can still be purchased new from some carriers and third-party retailers, and both phones are available refurbished or pre-owned (see the iPhone Xs and iPhone XRs available on UpTrade). Also, the price difference between the two phones has decreased, especially in the refurbished and pre-owned markets. This can make deciding between the two phones more complicated, which is why a greater understanding of their differences may be necessary.

Body

One important difference between the iPhone X and the iPhone XR is in the body of the two phones. The XR is slightly larger and heavier than the X. The XR is .2 inches taller and wider, and .03 inches thicker than the iPhone X. This also makes the iPhone XR heavier, coming in at 6.84 oz to the X’s 6.14 oz. Although larger is not always better, in this case, it does mean that there is a slight increase in the screen size between the X and XR. the XR’s screen size is .3” larger on the diagonal than the iPhone X’s.

The iPhone X introduced a new design from Apple that carried over to the XR. Both have edge-to-edge displays, with a notch across the top of the phones’ displays that house the front-facing camera. Neither phone has a home button or headphone jack.

The iPhone X is made of a glass front and back with a stainless steel band around the edge. Users have noted that the band has a tendency to scuff when the phone is carried without a case. The iPhone X is available in Silver and Space Grey. The silver is polished stainless steel, and the grey is tinted through vapor deposition; neither phone is colored or painted.

In contrast, the iPhone XR comes in an array of colors, harkening back to the old iPhone 5c. A step down from the X, the XR’s color variety is possible because it is made out of glass and aluminum, not stainless steel. There were less noticeable instances of scuffing with the XR, though some did complain about scratching the glass on the back. The XR also has a slightly more noticeable bevel around the display, making it slightly less streamlined than the iPhone X.

Display

The difference in display quality is one of the few clear ways in which the iPhone X outshines its successor, the iPhone XR. The iPhone X’s screen utilizes OLED technology, where the XR reverts to an LCD display. With the OLED, the iPhone X can display a wider array of colors with significantly brighter whites and blacker blacks than the XR’s LCD display. Additionally, the X has a Super Retina display that advances beyond traditional OLED displays, making the viewing experience even more vivid.

In contrast, because it uses LCD coloring, not OLED, the iPhone XR cannot utilize Apple’s Super Retina display. Instead, it uses a Liquid Retina Display, and is the only phone on the market to do so. Apple compensated for the lower LCD quality as best they could; they created a paper-like screen effect by relying on a higher density of pixels-per-inch than the average LCD screen. This helps with the smoothness of the images, but it cannot accommodate for the contrast loss of the back-lit LCD screen.

The iPhone X has a pixel resolution of 2436 x 1125, and the XR comes in lower at 1792 x 828. Though the X has a denser pixel resolution, pixels are not visible to the naked eye on either display. The more considerable difference is in the contrast. The X’s contrast ratio is 1,000,000:1, where the XR’s is a pale 1,400:1. This large variation, caused by the differences between OLED and LCD screens, results in a loss of vividness in the iPhone XR’s display, and users observe that blacks appear as dark grey with the XR.

Camera

The camera, as well as photo and video options, offer additional significant differences between the X and XR. However, unlike the display quality, there is no clearly superior device in this category. Instead, users’ individual desires will determine which phone is right for them. When it comes to photo and video, there are both hardware and software differences between the iPhone X and the iPhone XR.

Hardware: From the outset, one clear difference between the X and XR are the number of rear-facing camera lenses. The X has a dual--wide and telephoto--lens while the XR has only one rear, wide-angle lens. Both cameras are 12MP, however the X offers a 2x optical zoom on both front and rear cameras that the XR does not.

Despite not having a second telephoto lens, however, the iPhone XR does still offer portrait mode. Apple maintained this popular feature in the XR by using advanced bokeh and Depth Control. Because the photo depth is created digitally instead of between lenses, it is only possible to use portrait mode on pictures of people with the iPhone XR. In addition, the iPhone X offers five portrait lighting options (natural, studio, contour, stage, and stage mono), while the XR has only three (natural, studio, and contour).

Software: Although the iPhone XR’s lack of a dual lens has a negative effect on its photo and video capabilities, Apple made up for it by adding additional photo and video software features not available in the iPhone X. This includes higher frames per second (up to 60fps) when filming in 1080p, in addition to an extended dynamic range for video in 30fps, cinematic video stabilization, and stereo recording. It also uses Smart HDR technology, where the iPhone X relies on Auto HDR.

Performance

How well a phone performs, and how long it will last, are often of critical importance to consumers. There is less discrepancy between the iPhone X and the iPhone XR in this category; however, for the conscientious buyer, these small differences may have a major impact on preference.

In terms of operating systems and processing, both phones run on Apple’s iOS, and both have 3G of RAM. The iPhone X was released with iOS11 and the XR ran iOS12 at its launch. Both phones are now supported by Apple’s newest iOS13. Although both phones can currently update to the newest operating systems, the almost one year age difference between the two phones could have an impact for users down the line. Apple iPhones eventually age out of iOS updates (currently the oldest phone supported is the 1st generation iPhone SE launched in March 2016). This could mean that eventually the iPhone XR will still be updateable while the X will not. However, it is also possible that Apple re-tools their updating/aging-out system before this becomes an issue.

The iPhone XR runs on a slightly more powerful CPU than the iPhone X. The X has an A11 bionic chip with a neural engine, while the XR has an A12 bionic chip with a 2nd generation neural engine. For the average user, these differences currently have little effect on the processing speed or power of the phone, but the advancements of the XR could become more pronounced as the two phones age.

Neither phone has replaceable or additional memory slots. The iPhone X is available in 64G and 256G, while the XR offers an in-between step of 128G, in addition to the 64G and 256G options (the 256G does not appear to be available through Apple, though it can be purchased from 3rd-party retailers).

Finally, there’s the battery. Both phones are known for having relatively good battery power considering Apple’s reputation and the phones’ high levels of functioning that can pull a lot of power. They both use built-in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The iPhone X offers up to 13 hours of video playback or 60 hours of audio, while the XR does a little more with up to 16 hours of video or 65 hours of audio. This difference is not astronomical, but it can have an effect on the battery’s life span. The longer a phone can go between charges, the longer the health of a battery lasts. The additional hours afforded by the XR may have a significant impact on the battery’s long-term health. Additionally, some users complained of poor battery health within months of purchasing the iPhone X, though it was not a recognized problem across the board. Apple’s iOS13 update also included new battery-saving measures that can help lengthen the life and lifespan of either phone’s battery.

Ultimately, although the iPhone X and iPhone XR have much in common--and were designed to have much in common--there are differences between the two phones that could affect a buyers’ choice. At the time of the XR’s launch, its price point made it an obvious competitor, but over time, the other differences have become more important. For users looking for the very best in display aesthetics and photography, the X may be the phone to go with. However, if video, price, battery or processing power is more important, one might opt for the XR. Both phones, though beginning to age, offer exceptional features and hardware and are still competitors on the overall smartphone market. With this information, you will be able to choose which phone is right for you, though when choosing between an iPhone X and an iPhone XR, you also can’t go wrong.