Apple iPhone XR vs Samsung Galaxy S9 full review

Among the new line-up of Apple smartphones unveiled recently was a lower cost alternative to the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. Featuring many of the same components, the iPhone XR is around the same price as Samsung’s excellent Galaxy S9. We compare the two to see what £750 buys you these days.

Price and availability

The new iPhone XR was made available to pre-order from Apple on 19 October, with a release date of 26 October.

There selection of colours available is bigger than usual, including (Product) Red, Yellow, White, Coral, Black, and Blue. These all come in three storage capacities, which cost as follows;

  • 64GB - £749/$749
  • 128GB - £799/$799
  • 256GB - £899/$899

iphone xr v galaxy s9

Samsung launched the Galaxy S9 in March 2018 and it’s available now on pretty much every carrier.

The device comes in three colours – Midnight Black, Lilac Purple, and Coral Blue – all of which are available in a 64GB storage capacity, costing £739/$619.99. Storage can be expanded via the microSD slot which supports cards up to 400GB in size.

If you want display closer to the dimensions of the iPhone XR, then the Galaxy S9+ is also available in the same colour options but with larger storage capacities. The 128GB model is priced at £869/$789.99 or there’s the 256GB model for £929/$859.99.

The Galaxy S9 and S9+ can be bought directly from Samsung, or you can check out our Best Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ deals page for the current offers.

Design and build

The iPhone XR shares many of the design cues introduced in the iPhone X. These include the almost bezel-free screen, replete with a notch that houses the Face ID cameras and removes the need for a Home button and fingerprint scanner.

iphone xr v samsung galaxy s9

An aluminium frame skirts the glass, adorned with the range of colours mentioned above, and a glass back makes wireless charging possible. The solitary rear camera is a departure from the dual-lenses found on the more expensive models, and the XR sits between the iPhone XS and XS Max in terms of size and weight. 

Model Dimensions Weight
iPhone XR 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3mm 194g
Galaxy S9 147.7 x 68.7 x 8.5mm 163g
Galaxy S9+ 158.1 x 73.8 x 8.5mm 189g
iPhone XS  143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7mm 177g
iPhone XS Max 157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7mm 208g

Samsung’s Galaxy S9 is a svelte creation, being shorter, thinner, and lighter than the iPhone XR. Again, the front panel is mainly free from anything that would interrupt the expanse of glass. Only thin bars at the top and bottom blot the landscape, while the curved Infinity display makes the side-bezels practically non-existent.

iphone xr v samsung galaxy s9

The metal chassis is home to the usual compliment of buttons and speakers, plus there’s a standard headphone jack. Glory be!

Wireless charging is present, as is a fingerprint sensor that sits neatly beneath the single rear camera unit. Both devices are waterproof, but the S9’s IP68 rating bests the less impressive IP67 attained by the iPhone.

Features and specs

Here is a breakdown of the main specifications for both devices:

Specifications iPhone XR Samsung Galaxy S9
iOS iOS 12 Android 8.1 Oreo
Colours White, Black, Coral, Yellow, Blue, (Product) Red Midnight Black, Lavender Purple, Ocean Blue
Display 6.1in LCD, 1792x828, 326ppi 5.8in Quad HD+ (2960x1440) 18.5:9 SuperAMOLED Infinity Display
Processor A12 Bionic Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 or Samsung Exynos 9810
Storage 64GB/128/256GB 64GB
microSD No Yes (up to 400GB)
Rear camera 12mp, f/1.8, OIS 12Mp, f/1.5-2.4, OIS
Front camera 7Mp, f/2.2 8Mp f/1.7 
Video recording 2160p at 24/30/60fps 4K (3840 x 2160)@60fps, 1080p slo-mo @240fps, 720p slo-mo @960fps
Wireless charging Yes Yes
Waterproofing IP67 IP68
Ports Lightning USB-C, 3.5mm headphone
Dimensions 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3mm 147.7 x 68.7 x 8.5mm
Weight 194g 163g
Price £749/$749, £799/$799, £899/$899 £739/$619.99

Apple’s new A12 Bionic processor is at the heart of the XR, just as it is on the iPhone XS and XS Max, bringing with it improvements in both speed and energy efficiency over the previous A11 Bionic, which was already a thoroughbred.

Samsung employs two different processors, dependent on where you are in the world. North American customers will find the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 in their devices, while Europeans are bestowed with Samsung’s own Exynos 9810. Both are premium chips, and deliver consistently fast performance.

iphone xr v samsung galaxy s9

The large 6.1in display is an LCD panel rather than the OLED ones found on the XS and XS Max. While Apple always does a good job with these displays, the XR doesn’t quite match the vibrancy of the Super AMOLED Quad HD+ panel in the Galaxy S9.

Cameras remain one of the most important features on a modern smartphone, and the 12Mp dual-aperture lens on the S9 is excellent. Mechanically able to switch between two f-stops, means that the f/1.5 setting can be used to capture impressive low-light images, then changed to the f/2.4 for brighter scenes.

iphone xr v samsung galaxy s9

The S9 can also capture slo-motion video at an incredible 960fps in 720p mode, or 240fps at 1080p.

Apple is always confident in its cameras, and although the iPhone XR doesn’t boast similar trickery to the S9, the new A12 Bionic chip and slightly larger sensor are being touted as the reason for a software breakthrough in smartphone photography.

The iPhone XR has Smart HDR, which shoots 9 exposures almost simultaneously, then applies local tone mapping and several other clever tricks that help images look their best. We’ve yet to fully put it through its paces, but we’ve high hopes for the photos and videos from this device. Keep an eye out for our in-depth review to see how it fares.

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Samsung Galaxy S9: Specs

  • Android 8.0 Oreo
  • 5.8in Quad HD+ (2960x1440) 18.5:9 SuperAMOLED Infinity Display
  • Exynos 9810 octa-core processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB internal storage
  • microSD card slot (up to 400GB)
  • 12Mp rear-facing camera with OIS and f/1.5
  • 8Mp front camera
  • Pressure sensitive home button
  • Fingerprint scanner (rear mounted)
  • Heart rate monitor
  • 11ac dual-band Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX
  • GPS
  • NFC
  • 4G LTE Cat 16
  • Headphone jack
  • USB-C
  • 3000mAh non-removable battery
  • Wireless charging
  • IP68 dust & waterproof rating
  • 69x148x8.5mm
  • 163g

Apple iPhone XR: Specs

  • iOS 12
  • 6.1in LCD, 1792x828, 326ppi
  • A12 Bionic processor
  • 64/256/256GB storage
  • 12MP camera, f/1.8, OIS
  • 7MP front-facing camera, f/2.2
  • 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi
  • Nano SIM with dual eSIM compatibility
  • Haptic Touch
  • IP67
  • GPS
  • NFC
  • 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3 mm
  • 194g