Apple’s will announce its latest (or whatever they’ll be called) on , which we weeks before the company sent out official invitations on Thursday. But just because new iPhones are coming in two weeks, that doesn’t mean existing iPhones are obsolete. Starting at $749, £749 and AU$1,229, the iPhone XR is one of the few options you have if you want a big-screen iPhone, but don’t want to pay upward of $1,000 for an or . Its key features include Apple’s advanced , wireless charging and a camera that’s on par with the iPhone XS — without an extravagant price tag.
But 2017’s iPhone 8 Plus, which starts $50 less than the XR at $699, £699 and AU$1,149, is also a fantastic phone. It sports a classic iPhone design, complete with the familiar physical home button. Indeed, despite being an older model, the phone has many of the same advantages as the iPhone XR. (You can save $100 more too if you consider a refurbished model for $599.)
To help decide which phone is right for you, I dive into the two phones‘ designs, cameras, hardware features and price to see what phone fits what needs the best.
Note that these products are independently chosen by our editors, based on hands-on testing. CNET may get a share of the revenue from the sale of products from the links.
With its screen notch, animated emojis and face unlock, the iPhone XR is a continuous iteration of Apple’s upcoming iPhones. Considering how fast the phone industry moves, the iPhone XR ensures that you’ll be more acclimated to future technology than with the iPhone 8 Plus at just $50 more. It’s also a great phone in and of itself. Clocking in the longest battery life for all three of the latest iPhones, the iPhone XR lasted a fantastic 19 hours and 53 minutes. It also has an excellent big screen in a comfortable body, fast performance and wireless charging, as well as a camera that’s mostly as good as the iPhone XS. And if you can wait until September, anticipate a price drop once Apple unveils the next iPhone 11.
Apple knocked off $100, £100 and AU$80 from the launch price of the iPhone 8 Plus, which means that the phone is now $50, £50 and AU$80 cheaper than the iPhone XR. But is going with the 8 Plus and saving an extra $50 worth a shorter battery life, a less advanced processor and camera, and no dual-SIM capabilities? My short answer is no, but that may not be true for everyone. The 8 Plus has a physical home button, and while that may just be delaying the inevitable, we understand that it’s a user-friendly and familiar feature to have. You’ll also get a second 12-megapixel rear camera. With the upcoming iPhone 11 around the corner, you do have to keep one thing in mind — Apple could either drop the price of the 8 Plus even lower or discontinue it altogether.
How we tested
Design: iPhone XR’s vibrant colors or iPhone 8 Plus’ home button?
Of the two phones, the iPhone XR has a bigger 6.1-inch display. Despite this however, the XR’s slimmer bezels mean that the physical footprint of the phone is actually smaller than the iPhone 8 Plus, and it’s lighter as well.
The iPhone XR also comes in six colors, including a vibrant red, blue, yellow and coral on top of the standard black and white. The iPhone 8 Plus, on the other hand, only comes in three color variants: white, black and gold.
But even if it lacks extra color options, the iPhone 8 Plus has a few design advantages. Its smaller 5.5-inch display is actually sharper than the iPhone XR: It has a higher resolution and more pixels per inch (for the exact specs, check out the spec chart below). And unlike the iPhone XR, there’s no notch on the iPhone 8 Plus, and it retains a classic home button, which doubles as a fingerprint scanner.
Whether or not the iPhone 8 Plus’ home button is considered an advantage is up to your personal preference, though. The button is familiar, and lets you easily tap to return home and double-tap to call up recent apps. Without the home key, the iPhone XRfor navigation instead. This may take some time to learn, but it’s easy to adapt to after a while.
Camera: Face ID vs. dual rear cameras
The iPhone XR has a front-facing camera that can sense depth and map your face. Because of this, you can unlock your phone or authorize saved passwords with Face ID instead of a fingerprint and you can make animated emojis that mirror your facial movements.
Unlike other iPhone X-series phones, the XR doesn’t have a secondary telephoto rear lens as well. That means there’s no 2x optical zoom (it uses a digital zoom instead) and Portrait photos are rendered through software; not enhanced with the telephoto lens.
Though I expected the 8 Plus to take better photos given its dual-camera setup, photos taken with the XR looked sharper and more vibrant. That doesn’t mean the 8 Plus is a slouch, but I can noticeably see details in the XR that the 8 Plus managed to smudge out a bit.
And even though it renders its Portrait photos with a single lens, the effect looks just as good, if not better on the XR than it does on the 8 Plus. On the XR, the fallout between the fore- and background is smooth, skin tones are more realistic and the blur effect looks natural.
Zooming 2x on a scene with the XR also worked just as well as the 8 Plus’ telephoto zoom. Objects clear and small details, like the lines of tree bark or individual leaves that fell on the ground, had finer lines and focus.
Also note that while both phones have studio lighting effects for the rear camera(s), the 8 Plus doesn’t have it for its front-facing camera.
Performance: The iPhone XR’s processor and battery are better
My day-to-day handling of both iPhones didn’t show any discernible differences in speed, and when it came to daily tasks like launching apps and firing up the camera, both phones appeared to perform as swiftly as the other.
But the iPhone XR is indeed faster on paper, thanks to its more advanced A12 processor (the iPhone 8 Plus has last year’s A11 chipset). Check out the benchmarks below:
Clocking an average of 19 hours and 53 minutes in our lab tests for continuous video playback on Airplane mode, the iPhone XR had the best battery life of this year’s iPhones. In comparison, the iPhone 8 Plus lasted 13 hours and 45 minutes. This discrepancy is likely due to a bump in battery capacity for the XR. Though Apple does not confirm these specs, the iPhone XR has a larger 2,942mAh battery compared to the iPhone 8 Plus’ 2,675mAh battery.
Other things to consider: Capacity, dual-SIM and 3D Touch
Capacity: The iPhone 8 Plus comes in two memory capacities, 64GB and 256GB. Meanwhile, the iPhone XR has a third memory option of 128GB. This is commonly considered to be the “sweet spot” as far as storage goes. While 64GB may not be enough to hold all your photos and 4K videos, 256GB may be too extravagant. So it’s important to note that the iPhone XR has an option of something in between.
Dual-sim capabilities: New to iPhones this year is dual-sim capabilities. That means you can manage two different phone numbers on the same iPhone XR, using a nano-SIM and e-SIM. For more information,.
3D Touch: The iPhone 8 Plus’ screen is pressure-sensitive, and has a feature called 3D Touch. By tapping a tad harder with your finger, you can preview links, apps and messages before opening them. Aside from a few things that you can long-press (like the camera and flashlight shortcuts), the iPhone XR does not have this feature for the most part.
iPhone XR vs. iPhone 8 Plus specs
|iPhone XR||iPhone 8 Plus|
|Display size, resolution||6.1-inch LCD Retina Display; 1,792×828 pixels||5.5-inch; 1,920×1,080 pixels|
|Pixel density||326ppi||401 ppi|
|Dimensions (Inches)||5.9×3.0x0.33 in||6.24×3.07×0.30 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||150.9×75.7×8.3 mm||158.4×78.1×7.5 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||6.8oz; 194g||7.13 oz; 202 g|
|Mobile software||iOS 12||iOS 11|
|Camera||Single 12-megapixel||Dual 12-megapixel|
|Front-facing camera||7-megapixel with Face ID||7-megapixel|
|Processor||Apple A12 Bionic||Apple A11 Bionic|
|Storage||64GB, 128GB, 256GB||64GB, 256GB|
|Battery||2,942mAh (Apple doesn’t confirm this)||2,675mAh (Apple doesn’t confirm this)|
|Fingerprint sensor||None (Face ID)||Home button (Touch ID)|
|Special features||Water resistant (IP67); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging; Face ID; Memoji||Water resistant (IP67); wireless charging|
|Price off-contract (USD)||$749 (64GB), $799 (128GB), $899 (256GB)||$699 (64GB), $849 (256GB)|
|Price (GBP)||£749 (64GB), £799 (128GB), £899 (256GB)||£699 (64GB), £849 (256GB)|
|Price (AUD)||AU$1,229 (64GB), AU$1,299 (128GB), AU$1,479 (256GB)||AU$1,149 (64GB), AU$1,399 (256GB)|
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