For the second year in a row, Apple has announced three new iPhones at once. And with confusing names like iPhone XR, it’s only getting more difficult to figure out which one might be the best device for you. And the jargon doesn’t end there. A12 Bionic? Liquid Retina Display? Neural Engine? How is anyone supposed to make sense of it all?
Settling on the right iPhone isn’t as daunting as you might think. Ignore the confusing names and just focus on the one or two things that are most important to you, whether that’s a giant screen, a dependable camera, or colors that match your own style.
I’m not going to weigh in on whether you should or shouldn’t upgrade from whatever phone you own now, and it’s up to you to decide how much money is sensible to spend on a phone. You can spend half the cash and still get a decent product. But between these three, I’ll help you land on the right choice. First, let’s examine the (many) things that the three new iPhones have in common.
THE IPHONE XS, XS MAX, AND XR SHARE A LOT OF THE SAME FEATURES
Remember the iPhone 5C? It was a cheaper iPhone that had very colorful designs, so it makes for an easy comparison to the XR. But it also had year-old specs compared to the 5S that was introduced alongside it. This time around, Apple is putting the same core hardware into every one of its 2018 iPhones. There are differences when it comes to screen size, battery capacity, and camera, but the similarities cover a lot:
The processor: all three new iPhones share Apple’s latest A12 Bionic processor, a 7nm chip that, according to the company, represents a breakthrough in mobile computational power. Its two performance cores (which handle intensive tasks) are “up to 15 percent faster” than the iPhone X, while the four efficiency cores (responsible for powering your everyday app usage) are “up to 50 percent more efficient.” The GPU is up to 50 percent faster. It’s not like modern iPhones struggle with running iOS games, but this silicon opens new possibilities for software to come. Each new iPhone also contains Apple’s updated, eight-core Neural Engine for handling AI tasks, which can handle 5 trillion operations per second. The bottom line is that all three phones should offer the same extremely fast performance when using your apps day to day.
The main camera: the XR might lack a telephoto / zoom lens, but it has the exact same 12-megapixel f/1.8 primary camera as the XS and XS Max. Apple says that on each of the three models, the camera uses an all-new sensor (with larger pixels) and it’s capable of Smart HDR, which produces photos with “far greater dynamic range” and less noise in low light. The new camera is also better at freezing motion shots, according to Apple. Like last year, all of the new iPhones can shoot 4K video at 60 fps and 1080p slo-mo at 240 fps.
Front-facing TrueDepth camera: the camera system used for selfies, Face ID, Animoji, and Memoji is the same across all three new iPhones. It’s a 7-megapixel f/2.2 sensor
True Tone, wide-color displays: Though they use different display technology, the iPhone XS and XR each include Apple’s True Tone tech, which adjusts the display’s temperature to match the ambient lighting around you. They’re also capable of showing a wide P3 color gamut.
A quicker Face ID system: yes, the home button is gone for good from Apple’s 2018 iPhones, but the company has sped up Face ID this year by adding a faster secure enclave and smarter face-scanning algorithms.
Faster wireless charging: Apple says all of its 2018 models support faster Qi charging than the iPhone X was capable of, but it’s not providing any clear numbers on what the difference is.
Dual-SIM support: the new iPhones are all capable of supporting two phone lines by including both eSIM and one physical nanoSIM card in the phone. This will make international travel or juggling work / personal lines a lot easier.
Stereo audio recording: it somehow took Apple until the year 2018 to give iPhones the ability to record stereo audio But hey, at least it finally happened. The iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR each have four microphones built in to capture stereo sound when you’re shooting video.
Better stereo speakers: while we’re on the subject, Apple claims that the new iPhones all have improved stereo speakers with a wider audio presentation.
They all come with a slow 5W charger and lack a headphone adapter: Apple continues to bundle a sluggish charger with its most expensive mobile phones. And the company is no longer including its $9 headphone dongle in the box.