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Everything You Need to Know About the New iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR

Apple just announced three forthcoming iPhone X models at its “Gather Round” event—as expected, all new iPhones use the X form factor introduced last year. Here’s the skinny.

iPhone XS: The X, Now With More S

Sporting the same form factor and size as last year’s iPhone X, the new XS looks nearly identical at first blush. It has the same overall footprint and 5.8-inch display size, and rocks the now oft-copied “notch” display.

Under the hood, however, things are a little different. The iPhone XS—pronounced “Ten Ess”—features Apple’s new A12 Bionic chip, which is the successor to the A11 Bionic that was found in the original X. There’s a lot of new tech in this chip, which we’ll dive into more over the next few days. But just know that this means increased performance over the already smooth and snappy X.

As in recent years, the camera is getting a heavy focus this year, with several significant improvements over the X. Like the X, the XS uses a dual camera design with two 12 MP cameras and improved, larger sensors. The A12 Bionic chip works with both the front and rear cameras to quickly and effectively process images, calculating everything from noise reduction to white balance on the fly. With the XS, it can also handle facial scanning and mapping to automatically apply red-eye reduction.

The A12 Bionic also allows for a new feature, called Smart HDR. In a nutshell, this will allow the camera to quickly, instantly, and intelligently apply HDR—all without you having to do a single thing. This will make for even more detailed photos than ever before.

Probably the most impressive feature of the XS camera, however, is on the fly depth of field tweaking after the picture has been taken. This is seriously one of the most impressive tech demos we’ve seen from a smartphone camera in a long time. While this kind of technology has been demoed before, it’s never been this fast, crisp, or slick. The real story here is the photo tech in a package this small with results this good looking.

The iPhone XS will be available in silver and space gray just like last year, but a new gold option is also available if you’re feeling ultra fancy. There’s also a new 512GB storage option for all the data hoarders out there that are feeling too constrained by 256GB. And for the first time ever, both iPhone XS models have dual SIM capabilities—one of which will use eSIM technology.

The pricing of the XS is another talking point, as the original X carried a hefty $999 price tag for the base model. The XS is… exactly the same, with a starting price of $999 for the 64GB model, the 256GB model coming in at $1,149, and the 512GB for a whopping $1,349.

iPhone XS Max: For When “Big” Isn’t Big Enough

Shortly after the iPhone X release last year, many users were already asking for an “iPhone X Plus”—a larger variant of the phone. While it would seem Apple is dropping the “Plus” moniker and opting for “Max” in its place, it looks like those wishes have been granted with the XS Max.

On the inside, this is the same phone as the XS—the same processor, RAM, and camera—but the outside tells a different story. They bumped the screen to 6.5-inches, which should be more than enough to satisfy those who long to have a big ol’ screen with a notch in their pocket. Despite the much larger display, the overall footprint of the phone is roughly the same as the iPhone 8 Plus.

Otherwise, the available colors are the same as the smaller XS. The XS Max will come in with an entry price of $1099 for the 64GB model, $1,249 for 256GB, and a cool $1,449 for the 512GB model. Oof.

iPhone XR: The iPhone 8 Replacement You’ve Been Waiting For

While the iPhone XS and XS Max were easily the stars of today’s show, the new iPhone XR brings a sleek design and a lot of bang for the buck to Apple’s “more affordable” market.

In terms of display size, the XR sits firmly in the center of the XS (5.8-inch) and XS Max (6.5-inch) with its 6.1-inch notched screen. The overall footprint of the phone still retains much of what makes the XS models so appealing, as its nearly edge-to-edge panel keeps the screen to body ratio quite low—despite having a larger screen, the XR is still smaller than last year’s 8 Plus.

Under the hood, this phone is very similar to the XS line. The XR is powered by the same A12 chip found in XS. The biggest difference is the camera—where the X had Apple’s flagship dual camera design, the XR sticks with just a single lens. It still gets similar depth control, portrait mode, and portrait lighting, however—it just does it all using machine learning instead of using two cameras.

As for other omissions on this handset, the XR also lacks 3D Touch, which has been replaced with something called Haptic Touch. It’s basically the same thing, just different.

The biggest appeal of the iPhone XR is the price—with a starting cost of just $749, it’s the most affordable device in Apple’s new lineup. Apple was able to keep the cost down by opting to use an LCD panel and a single camera design in the XR, versus the OLED panels and dual cameras in the XS and Max.

Much like the iPhone 5c of years ago, the XR will be available in a range of fun colors—including black, white, yellow, red, blue, and coral—as well as in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB, at $749, $799, and $899 respectively.

The iPhone XS and XS Max will be available for pre-order starting on September 14th and ship on September 21st. The XR will be available to order on October 19th and ship on the 26th.

Cameron Summerson Cameron Summerson
Cameron Summerson is Review Geek's former Editor in Cheif and first started writing for LifeSavvy Media in 2016. Cam's been covering technology for nearly a decade and has written over 4,000 articles and hundreds of product reviews in that time. He’s been published in print magazines and quoted as a smartphone expert in the New York Times. In 2021, Cam stepped away from Review Geek to join Esper as a managing Editor. Read Full Bio »