iPhone Xs vs. iPhone X – Full Comparison of All Models

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Last Updated: Dec 25, 2019

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On 9/12 Apple announced its 2018 iPhone lineup, including the iPhone Xs, iPhone Xs Max, and iPhone Xr. If you are planning on buying a new iPhone or upgrading an existing one, this article will help you to make an informed purchase decision by comparing the iPhone Xs vs. iPhone X and other models.

For those of you who are thinking about upgrading an iPhone 8, 8 Plus or iPhone X, I have included those phones in my comparison as well. If you already know what iPhone you want and haven’t decided on a case yet, check out my review of the best iPhone X cases. All of them will fit the iPhone Xs, and most vendors will offer similar cases for the iPhone Xs Max and iPhone Xr.

New iPhone Models in a Nutshell

iPhone Xs and iPhone Xr
iPhone Xs and iPhone Xr

If you would like to receive a PDF copy of the tables in this review, you can request a download link by submitting your email address using the form below.

iPhone Xs iPhone Xs Max iPhone Xr iPhone X iPhone 8 iPhone 8 Plus
Storage Space 64/256/512 GB 64/256/512 GB 64/128/256 GB 64/128/256 GB 64/256 GB 64/256 GB
Weight 6.24 ounces (177 grams) 7.34 ounces (208 grams) 6.84 ounces (194 grams) 6.14 ounces (174 grams) 5.22 ounces (148 grams) 7.13 ounces (202 grams)
Height 5.65 inches (143.6 mm) 6.20 inches (157.5 mm) 5.94 inches (150.9 mm) 5.65 inches (143.6 mm) 5.45 inches (138.4 mm) 6.24 inches (158.4 mm)
Width 2.79 inches (70.9 mm) 3.05 inches (77.4 mm) 2.98 inches (75.7 mm) 2.79 inches (70.9 mm) 2.65 inches (67.3 mm) 3.07 inches (78.1 mm)
Depth 0.30 inch (7.7 mm) 0.30 inch (7.7 mm) 0.33 inch (8.3 mm) 0.30 inch (7.7 mm) 0.29 inch (7.3 mm) 0.30 inch (7.5 mm)
Face ID
Wi-Fi 802.11ac Wi‑Fi with 2×2 MIMO 802.11ac Wi‑Fi with 2×2 MIMO 802.11ac Wi‑Fi with 2×2 MIMO 802.11ac Wi‑Fi with 2×2 MIMO 802.11ac Wi‑Fi with MIMO 802.11ac Wi‑Fi with MIMO
Bluetooth 5.0 5.0 5.0 5.0 5.0 5.0
Gigabit-class LTE
Touch ID
SIM Card Dual SIM Dual SIM Micro Micro Micro Micro
Colors Gold, Space Gray, Silver Gold, Space Gray, Silver Product Red, Yellow, White, Coral, Black, Blue Space Gray, Silver Gold, Space Gray, Silver Gold, Space Gray, Silver
Water-Resistance IP68 IP68 IP67 IP67 IP67 IP67
Price $999 (64GB)
$1,149 (256GB)
$1,349 (512GB)
$1,099 (64GB)
$1,249 (256GB)
$1,449 (512GB)
$749 (64GB)
$799 (128GB)
$899 (256GB)
N/A $599 (64GB)
$749 (256GB)
$699 (64GB)
$849 (256GB)

The new iPhone models Apple announced offer mostly minor updates compared to last year’s iPhone lineup. That’s at least true for the iPhone Xs. The iPhone Xr is a significant upgrade compared to the iPhone 8 or 8 Plus.

The primary areas were Apple made improvements to its phones include:

  • Performance
  • Image Processing (Photo/Video)
  • Water-resistance

What hasn’t changed dramatically, or at all are:

  • Battery life (except for the iPhone Xs Max and iPhone Xr)
  • Camera Hardware (Sensor, Lenses)
  • New features

Buy the new iPhone*

General Improvements

Before we discuss the improvements (or lack thereof) Apple has made in the areas of the display, the camera system, battery life, and performance, here are a few less essential enhancements that are worth mentioning.

Water Protection (Ingress Protection)

Both the new iPhone Xs and Xs Max are now better protected against ingress of water and dust by featuring an IP68 rating. That means you can submerge the new iPhone for 30 minutes at a depth of 2 meters in water without damaging it.

The previous models, as well as the iPhone Xr, offer an IP67 rating, which means you can submerge them for 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter.

Note that AppleCare doesn’t cover water damage, so if you damage your phone by taking it for a swim, Apple won’t cover it under warranty.

Face ID

iPhone Xs Face ID
iPhone Xs Face ID

Phil Schiller mentioned during the keynote that Face ID had gotten a faster too, thanks to the new A12 Bionic chip. Considering that Apple hasn’t provided any evidence, I assume the speed improvements are modest, at best. That’s a bummer because I feel that Face ID could be faster sometimes.

Storage

The iPhone Xs and Xs Max are now available with 512GB of storage space. I currently have 256 GB in my iPhone X and don’t need more, but I feel like Apple should have offered 128GB instead of 64GB in the entry model.

Wi-Fi and Cellular Data

iPhone XS vs. iPhone X SpeedSmart Test Results
iPhone XS vs. iPhone X SpeedSmart Test Results

Compared to the iPhone X, the new Xs and Xs Max don’t offer any improvements regarding Wi-Fi connectivity. But the iPhone Xr got an upgrade over the iPhone 8, and now supports 2×2 MIMO chains for better Wi-Fi connections.

Apple has also made improvements is in the area of LTE by equipping the iPhone Xs with support for Gigabit-class LTE with 4×4 MIMO and LAA. The good news is that both the iPhone Xs and Xr can take advantage of T-Mobile’s 600MHz extended range LTE. Early speed tests conducted with the SpeedSmart app show massive speed improvements, thanks to the upgraded cellular technology.

SIM Cards

The iPhone Xs and Xs Max support dual SIMs via one eSIM and one micro SIM, but support for eSIM won’t roll out in the US until later this year. In case you wonder, the iPhone uses the eSIM for your domestic carrier, and you can use the micro SIM to add a foreign SIM, for example, while traveling. To learn more about Apple’s implementation of dual-SIM support, check out this new support document.

Specifically for the Chinese market, Apple added support for two physical SIM cards in the iPhone Xs Max.

Colors

Some of the iPhone Xr color options
Some of the iPhone Xr color options

In addition to Space Gray and Silver, the iPhone Xs and Xs Max are now also available in Gold. Additionally, the iPhone Xr is available in Product Red, Yellow, White, Coral, Black, and Blue.

Display Technology

iPhone Xs iPhone Xs Max iPhone Xr iPhone X iPhone 8 iPhone 8 Plus
Type AMOLED AMOLED LCD AMOLED LCD LCD
Resolution 2436 x 1125 2688 x 1242 1792 x 828 2436 x 1125 1334 x 750 1920 x 1080
Pixels per Inch (PPI) 458 458 326 458 326 401
HDR HDR10 HDR10 HDR10
Size 5.8″ 6.5″ 6.1″ 5.8″ 4.7″ 5.5″
Contrast 1,000,000:1 1,000,000:1 1400:1 1,000,000:1 1400:1 1400:1
True Tone
Refresh Rate 60 Hz 60 Hz 60 Hz 60 Hz 60 Hz 60 Hz
Wide Color Gamut P3 P3 P3 P3 P3 P3
Brightness 625 cd/m2 625 cd/m2 625 cd/m2 625 cd/m2 625 cd/m2 625 cd/m2
3D Touch

The display technology used in the new iPhone models is pretty much the same as in previous years. Of course, Apple offers two new screen sizes this year with the iPhone Xs Max and iPhone Xr.

iPhone Xs vs. iPhone X

As far as I can tell, both phones have the same display regarding resolution, PPI and refresh rate. While Apple touted a 120 Hz refresh rate of the digitizer (for touch input), it does not mean that this year’s iPhone models feature a 120 Hz display refresh rate, as the iPad Pro has. All iPhone screens still refresh at 60 Hz. Considering that last year’s iPhone X offered 120 Hz support in its digitizer, I thought that announcing it as a new feature was a bit misleading.

iPhone Xr vs. iPhone 8

The display of the new iPhone Xr features a higher resolution, but only because the screen is physically larger. Technologically, it’s the same display, but the new iPhone Xr lacks 3D Touch. Instead, Apple has implemented haptic feedback, similar to what you can find the company’s trackpad. So technically, the display is a step backward if you are coming from an iPhone 8 or 8 Plus.

Camera System

iPhone Xs Camera Hardware is the same as in the iPhone X
iPhone Xs Camera Hardware is the same as in the iPhone X

Rear Camera

iPhone Xs iPhone Xs Max iPhone Xr iPhone X iPhone 8 iPhone 8 Plus
Resultion 12MP wide-angle and telephoto lens 12MP wide-angle and telephoto lens 12MP wide-angle lens 12MP wide-angle and telephoto lens 12MP wide-angle lens 12MP wide-angle and telephoto lens
Wide-angle ƒ/1.8 aperture ƒ/1.8 aperture ƒ/1.8 aperture ƒ/1.8 aperture ƒ/1.8 aperture ƒ/1.8 aperture
Telephoto ƒ/2.4 aperture ƒ/2.4 aperture ƒ/2.4 aperture ƒ/2.8 aperture
Optical Zoom 2x 2x 2x 2x
Portrait Mode
Portrait Mode with Advanced Bokeh
HDR
Smart HDR
4K Video Recording 24/30/60 fps 24/30/60 fps 24/30/60 fps 24/30/60 fps 24/30/60 fps 24/30/60 fps
Optical Image Stabilization
Slow-mo Video 1080p 120/240 fps 1080p 120/240 fps 1080p 120/240 fps 1080p 120/240 fps 1080p 120/240 fps 1080p 120/240 fps
Stereo Recording

Front Camera

iPhone Xs iPhone Xs Max iPhone Xr iPhone X iPhone 8 iPhone 8 Plus
Type TrueDepth TrueDepth TrueDepth TrueDepth FaceTime HD FaceTime HD
Resolution 7MP 7MP 7MP 7MP 7MP 7MP
Aperture ƒ/2.2 aperture ƒ/2.2 aperture ƒ/2.2 aperture ƒ/2.2 aperture ƒ/2.2 aperture ƒ/2.2 aperture
Portrait Mode
Portrait Mode with Advanced Bokeh
Animoji and Memoji
1080p Video Recording 30 or 60 fps 30 or 60 fps 30 or 60 fps 30 or 60 fps
Extended Dynamic Range 30 fps 30 fps 30 fps
Cinematic Video Stabilization 720p and 1080p 720p and 1080p 720p and 1080p

The camera system is arguably one of the most important selling points of the iPhone. That means, Apple usually offers significant upgrades to both hard- and software with every iPhone release.

This year, the hardware in the most expensive iPhone is pretty much the same as in last year’s iPhone X. In other words, Apple has only improved the image processing (the so-called ISP) while leaving the hardware untouched for the most part.

From a software and image processing perspective, Apple has made notable improvements in the areas of:

  • Portrait Mode, and
  • High Dynamic Range (HDR)

iPhone Xs vs. iPhone X

iPhone Xs Portrait Mode with Advanced Bokeh
iPhone Xs Portrait Mode with Advanced Bokeh

The only hardware upgrade, albeit a significant one, Apple offers with the new iPhone Xs, and Xs Max is a massively larger sensor behind the wide-angle lens. Daring Fireball’s John Gruber did the math and concluded that the new sensor behind the wide-angle lens in the iPhone Xs (Max) is 32% larger than in the iPhone X.

In the iPhone X, each pixel is 1.22µm small, whereas in the iPhone Xs each pixel is 1.4µm. Larger pixels results in better and sharper photos, especially in low-light conditions. As a result of both the larger sensor and pixels, the sensor in the new iPhone can gather 50% more light!

Apple has introduced Portrait Mode with the iPhone X, and the company made it even smarter with the iPhone Xs and Xs Plus. What that means is that the new iPhone is better at separating the areas in focus from the background and producing a more pleasant bokeh.

In photography, bokeh is the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens. Bokeh has been defined as “the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light.”

What’s a game changer this year is the ability to change the background blur (via an aperture slider) after you have taken the photo. That’s nothing short of incredible and will massively improve my photography. Even better, you can edit the bokeh on any other device running iOS 12 or macOS 10.14 Mojave.

John Gruber also discovered a cool XS-exclusive feature in Settings > Camera > Record Video.

If you’re shooting at 30 FPS — whether in 720p, 1080p, or 4K — you can enable “Auto Low Light FPS”, which will drop the frame rate to 24 FPS on the fly whenever the phone deems necessary to get better low light exposures. This can happen in the middle of recording. Start recording in a bright room and move to a dark one or turn down the lights, and the frame rate will change within the clip.

Additionally, Apple announced Smart HDR to provide even better exposure in challenging lighting conditions by allowing the ISP to process more data from the sensor.

HDR and Smart HDR

High Dynamic Range (HDR) works by automatically taking multiple pictures at different exposure levels and combining them into a single photo. By doing that, the camera can better expose for extremely bright and dark areas in the frame. Before the iPhone Xs, Apple already offered regular HDR and you often ended up with two photos for every shot taken: a non-HDR and an HDR version. That way you could choose which one you liked better.

With Smart HDR, iOS no longer keeps the non-HDR version because Apple is so confident that the HDR version is always better than the regular photo. For the most part, I think Apple is spot on. Just look at the comparison shots below. I took all four photos in bad lighting conditions and without any edits or filters applied.

iPhone X vs. iPhone Xs with Smart HDR
iPhone X (Left) with blown out details in the background vs. iPhone XS (right)

The only time when you might run into issues with Smart HDR is when you try to shoot fast-moving targets. For example, the shot below shows yours truly on the rowing machine during a CrossFit workout.

Smart HDR Ghosting with iPhone Xs
Smart HDR Ghosting with iPhone Xs

If you look closely at my left Latissimus Dorsi muscle, you’ll see what’s called “ghosting.” Those image artifacts expose where iOS had troubles stitching the various HDR frames together into a single image. The good news is you can turn Smart HDR off when shooting fast moving objects.

iPhone Xr vs. iPhone 8 (Plus)

iPhone Xr vs. iPhone 8 Plus
iPhone Xr vs. iPhone 8 Plus

What many customers will appreciate is that Apple gave the less expensive iPhone Xr the same camera system as you can find in the iPhone Xs. The only exception is the missing telephoto lens. What’s interesting is that the iPhone Xr supports Portrait Mode, despite having only a single lens.

The iPhone 8 didn’t support Portrait Mode, arguably because it didn’t have a telephoto lens. This year, even the iPhone Xr supports Portrait Mode with Advanced Bokeh. That tells us that Apple either intentionally disabled Portrait Mode on the iPhone 8 or they figured out how to do it with a single lens by leveraging the power of the A12 chip. Either way, that’s great news for consumers and iPhone photography in general.

Performance

Apple A12 Bionic Chip
Apple A12 Bionic Chip
iPhone Xs iPhone Xs Max iPhone Xr iPhone X iPhone 8 iPhone 8 Plus
Chip A12 Bionic A12 Bionic A12 Bionic A11 Bionic A11 Bionic A11 Bionic
Chip Technology 7 nm 7 nm 7 nm 10 nm 10 nm 10 nm
Transistors 5 Trillion 5 Trillion 5 Trillion 4.3 Trillion 4.3 Trillion 4.3 Trillion
Performance Cores 2 2 2 2 2 2
High-Efficiency Cores 4 4 4 4 4 4
GPU Cores 3 3 3 3 3 3
Neural Engine Cores 8 8 8 2 2 2
Neural Engine Operations per Second 5 trillion 5 trillion 5 trillion 600 billion 600 billion 600 billion
Memory 4GB 4GB 3GB 3GB 2GB 3GB

Apple is arguably the leading chip manufacturer worldwide, and every year, the company pushes the performance envelope. This year Apple introduced the A12 Bionic System-on-a-Chip (SOC), the successor of last year’s A11 Bionic chip.

While the new A12 chip features performance improvements across the board, Apple made the most significant advancements in the area of the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) and the Neuronal Engine. Below are the improvements in a nutshell, compared to the A11:

  • The CPU’s “performance cores” are up to 15% faster
  • The “efficiency cores” consume up to 50% less power
  • GPU is up to 50% faster
  • Core ML runs up to 9x faster on the new Neural Engine

Battery

iPhone X vs. iPhone XS Teardown
iPhone X vs. iPhone XS Teardown
iPhone Xs iPhone Xs Max iPhone Xr iPhone X iPhone 8 iPhone 8 Plus
Capacity 2,658 mAh 3,174 mAh 2,942 mAh 2716 mAh 1821 mAh 2691 mAh
Talk Time 20 hours 25 hours 25 hours 21 hours 14 hours 21 hours
Internet Use 12 hours 13 hours 15 hours 12 hours 12 hours 13 hours
Video Playback 14 hours 15 hours 16 hours 13 hours 13 hours 14 hours
Audio Playback 60 hours 65 hours 65 hours 60 hours 40 hours 60 hours
Fast-charge 50% in 30 Minutes 50% in 30 Minutes 50% in 30 Minutes 50% in 30 Minutes 50% in 30 Minutes 50% in 30 Minutes
Wireless Charging

The iPhone Xr offers the most impressive improvement in battery life, beating both the iPhone Xs Max and iPhone 8 Plus.

In the second place is the iPhone Xs Max, which further improves upon the already excellent battery life the iPhone 8 Plus had.

Apple also claims that the iPhone Xs offers a 30-minutes longer battery life compared to the iPhone X. But looking at the raw numbers, there is barely a difference and talk time is even an hour shorter. I was hoping for more of an improvement in that area, considering the more power efficient A12 chip.

Additionally, Apple announced that the new iPhone features improved wireless charging. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that the iPhone now supports 10W Qi charging. Apple has merely tightened the coil design to make it easier to properly align the phone on a wireless charging pad or stand.

Durability

The new iPhone features the most durable glass we have ever seen on an iPhone. To find out what that means in regards to scratch and impact resistance, check out this drop test video.

Features Apple Didn’t Announce

There are a few features that some users were hoping for, but Apple didn’t announce, including:

  • Faster Face ID
  • 120 Hz display
  • Improvements to the camera’s hardware
  • A more powerful charger – the iPhone still ships with a measly 5W charging brick.

Overall, I’d argue that the iPhone Xs is the least impressive upgrade in years.

Other iPhone Xs Reviews

Below are links to other reviews of the new iPhone Xs that you might enjoy reading:

iPhone Xs vs. iPhone X – Upgrade Recommendation

If you purchased an iPhone X last year, there is little incentive to buy an iPhone Xs, unless you prefer a larger screen size (iPhone Xs Max) or you are a photography buff.

If you currently own an iPhone 8, you can make a reasonable case for upgrading to any of the three new phones. In fact, if you’re in the market for a new phone; I’d strongly recommend considering the iPhone Xr. It’s $250 cheaper than the Xs and has almost all the features, except for:

  • An OLED screen
  • A telephoto lens
  • The stainless frame

What am I going to do? I ordered the iPhone Xs with 256 GB anyway to get the better chip and camera improvements. What about you? Are you considering buying any of the new iPhone models? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

4 thoughts on “iPhone Xs vs. iPhone X – Full Comparison of All Models”

  1. Hi Michael, we have upgraded last year to an iPhone 8+ and will stay with that looking forward to the new features coming up in 2019 ;-)
    Greetings from good old Germany … Hewlett

    Reply
    • Hey Hewlett!

      Good to hear from you and thanks for your feedback! Sticking with the 8+ is a reasonable decision. There just aren’t enough (killer) features in the new phones to warrant the upgrade.

      Reply

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