Apple iPhone XR vs Huawei Mate 20 Lite: Which is best?

Apple's expensive "budget" model battles a phone half its price

The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max released earlier this autumn, but now there's one more new iPhone: the iPhone XR.

Apple's new iPhone 8 successor keeps the notch and edge-to-edge screen of the XS models, but sheds a few features and drops a couple of specs in search of a more palatable price point. It also comes in an array of colours, which is a nice perk that XS buyers miss out on.

Of course, a cheaper iPhone might still seem wildly expensive compared to some of the competition – like the Huawei Mate 20 Lite. Like the XR, it's the lower-end take on a noted flagship, with the proper Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro both packing much larger price tags. The Mate 20 Lite still packs plenty of gloss, but does so at about half the price of the iPhone XR.

Trying to decide between these as you next handset? Here's our recommendation, now that we've fully reviewed both phones.

Design: Notched beauties

The iPhone XR is mostly identical to the iPhone X design introduced last year. The bezels are a smidge thicker on this model and the phone is just a bit bulkier too; it also swaps in aluminium for the stainless steel and offers colour options like blue, coral, and (Product)RED.

But even amidst all of those tweaks, it's still the same kind of gorgeous, screen-driven silhouette that won us over last year, and maybe even better due to the punchy colour options.

And the Huawei Mate 20 Lite isn't far off, really. That's no surprise, since many Android phones have been copying the iPhone X aesthetic all year long. It has a notch at the top and a bit of a chin at the bottom, unlike the iPhone XR, and then on the back it's all glass. It doesn't pack quite the same punch as the iPhone XR, however.

Verdict: Apple iPhone XR

Screen: Clear disparities

Apple says its 6.1in Liquid Retina display is the best LCD ever put on a smartphone, but the measly 1792x828 resolution keeps the same 326ppi pixel density that underwhelmed on the iPhone 8… and has been Apple's entry-level iPhone standard for several years now. An upgrade is long overdue.

Meanwhile, the Mate 20 Lite goes with a 6.3in LCD panel at 1080p resolution (409ppi) – what should be the bare minimum for all but the cheapest of budget phones in 2018. It's hardly a mind-blowing panel, but it's very good for the money and delivers solid colour, contrast, and clarity.

Clarity aside, the iPhone XR's screen looks great - but you can't overlook the slight fuzziness there due to the low resolution. We give a slight edge to the Mate 20 Lite here.

Verdict: Huawei Mate 20 Lite

Camera: Single or double?

Unlike the iPhone XS models, Apple has stuck with just one camera on the back of the iPhone XR. The good news is that it's the same main camera from the pricier models, and that 12-megapixel camera is a stunner.

The new Smart HDR functionality captures several snaps at once and merges them to bring out more detail and dynamic range from your shots, plus it handles nighttime shooting admirably. The XS has the benefit of a second camera for cool Portrait mode tweaks, but even the single XR camera is one of the best around.

As for the Mate 20 Lite, you get two cameras on the back and they're capable but hardly mind-blowing. The 24MP main camera is backed up with a 2MP depth-sensing camera, and the resulting blurred-backdrop Portrait shots have some issues. Likewise, standard snaps can look overly processed with unnatural results, but the Mate 20 Lite does well enough for everyday shots.

Verdict: Apple iPhone XR

Performance: An obvious winner

The iPhone XR packs in the same A12 Bionic chip as the XS and XS Max, and it's a powerhouse. Even more capable than last year's field-leading A11 Bionic, the A12 is the fastest phone chip on the market today. It's a benchmark crusher.

On the other hand, the Huawei Mate 20 Lite opts for mid-range tech. Rather than use Huawei's new top chip, the Kirin 980, it uses the weaker Kirin 910 chip. That said, with 4GB RAM inside, we found everyday usage to be just fine. It's plenty powerful for most everyday tasks, but we did find slow moments during testing that stuck out like a sore thumb.

Verdict: Apple iPhone XR

Battery and perks: Battle of the batteries

Despite being the lowest-end model of the bunch, the iPhone XR actually boasts better battery life than either XS model. With a 2,942mAh battery pack, the iPhone XR is good for a strong day's usage, but not much more.

On the other hand, the Huawei Mate 20 Lite packs in a large 3,750mAh pack, which might be enough to see you into the following morning after a solid day of use. It's not the largest battery on the market right now, but it's a little bit better equipped than the iPhone.

When it comes to storage, the base model is 64GB on both, with a 256GB version available for the iPhone XR for extra cash. Meanwhile, the Mate 20 Lite lets you pack in a cheap microSD memory card instead, which is definitely preferable.

Verdict: Huawei Mate 20 Lite

Verdict: The iPhone, but...

These are two pretty different phones, and that's true with the hardware as much as perception. Both are trimmed down versions of higher-end handsets, but the iPhone XR remains a flagship after all of those snips. The Mate 20 Lite, on the other hand, is more mid-range in approach.

The iPhone XR is the better overall handset, in our view, packing a lot of power, a better camera, and more personality. But when you consider the massive price gulf between with, with the iPhone XR at £749 and Mate 20 Lite nearly half as much at £379, it might not be so hard to convince yourself to go with Huawei's phone.

That said, the Mate 20 Lite sits in a weird space in the Android market, where it's more expensive than comparable handsets (like the Honor Play and Moto G6 Plus) yet not as capable or alluring as slightly more expensive options (like the OnePlus 6T and Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro).

Verdict: Apple iPhone XR