According to research from OpenSignal, the iPhone XR is on average capable of downloading data on US cell networks at 17.6Mbps compared with 20.5Mbps on the iPhone XS and 21.7Mbps on the iPhone XS Max.
The iPhone XR is even slower than the 2017 iPhone X, which has average speeds of 18.5Mbps.
While the iPhone XR is slower than the more expensive models, it is still a lot faster than the iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, and iPhone SE, which all have download speeds of between 10Mbps to 12.8Mbps on 4G mobile networks. For users who do care about mobile speeds on their phones, this issue may be one reason to upgrade.
OpenSignal identifies three main groups of iPhone models by download speeds. The iPhone XS and XS Max are 26 percent faster than the middle group, which includes the iPhone 6s, iPhone 7, iPhone 8, iPhone X, and iPhone XR. The top new phones are also a whopping 83 percent faster than the slowest group.
The reason for the speed difference is that older model iPhones include earlier 4G technologies that don't support newer techniques deployed by major carriers Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint.
Apple switched up release strategies a bit in 2018 with the two high end $1,000+ models released initially, followed by one priced $250 to $350 less. The iPhone XR arrives in six color options and honestly it may be the best option for the masses.
It's easy to focus on Apple's high-end iPhone, but as the market contracts, and buyers increasingly become price sensitive, this is an end of the market that Apple needs to focus on. But currently doesn't.