iPhone XR first look: The iPhone most people should buy in 2018?
Finally hitting shelves a month after the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, the iPhone XR is a cheaper alternative to Apple’s flagship devices. I say ‘cheaper’, but at £749/$749 this is far from the budget iPhone many were expecting before launch.
Instead, it takes the formula set by the iPhone XS (and the iPhone X) and tweaks it slightly to fit the lower price. There’s only one camera on the back, for instance; the stainless steel rim has been swapped out for aluminium like the iPhone 8 and LCD replaces OLED as the tech used in the screen.
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iPhone XR release date – When’s it out?
The iPhone XR is available now from Apple directly and networks like EE, O2 and Three. Check out our best iPhone XR deals for more information.
iPhone XR price – How much does the iPhone XR cost?
The iPhone XR starts at £749/$749 for the 64GB model. £799/$799 for the 128GB version and £899/$899 for the top-end 256GB model. Each of the available colours – coral, blue, yellow, black, white, (PRODUCT) RED – can be picked up in all sizes and cost the same price.
iPhone XR – Display
The feature most people have been concerned about with the iPhone XR is the screen. Not so much because of the switch back to LCD rather than OLED, but for the seemingly meagre 1792 x 828 resolution. This gives the same 326ppi as the iPhone 6, iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 but far from the 1080p resolution of the Plus range of iPhones.
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Apple is calling this a Liquid Retina display and after using it for an extended period, honestly, I think it’s fine. If you’re coming from an iPhone 7 or 8 you’ll feel right at home and if you have an iPhone X then you’re probably not going to be thinking about getting the XR.
LCD lacks the punchy colours, perfect blacks and support for Dolby Vision/HDR10 OLED possesses on the iPhone XS. But in normal use, colours are still pleasant and you can’t spot individual pixels unless you really go searching for them. To my eyes, the screen is a little more yellow than the OLED on my iPhone XS Max, however that might just be the True Tone (Apple’s software tweak that’ll makes colours softer on your eyes in certain environments) tech doing a bit too much work.
Impressively, Apple has managed to ensure the curves in the corners of the screen and around the protruding notch are perfectly uniform – without any stray pixels or wonky edges. Look at any competing Android phones with LCDs and curved corners and you’ll notice ugly jagged edges.
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I handed the iPhone XR to a couple of people (people who have pretty much solely used iPhones for the past few years) and none of them noticed the drop in resolution when compared to an iPhone XS. What they did notice, however, was the thicker bezel running around the screen. As LCD requires a physical backlight (OLEDs are individually lit pixels), Apple needed more room to fit the screen in and this is a result. Having coloured sides also makes the black bezel stand out more prominently.
iPhone XR – Camera
The other notable difference between the iPhone XS and iPhone XR is the camera. Whereas the iPhone XS has both a wide-angle and telephoto 12-megapixel camera array on the back, the XR limits that to just the wide-angle camera.
It retains a 12-megapixel sensor with an f/1.8 lens, OIS and Smart HDR for reliably excellent photos. It’s exactly the same spec-wise as the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, and the photos I have shot so far seem almost indistinguishable from those of its pricier siblings.
Losing that secondary telephoto sensor does mean you can’t losslessly zoom to get closer to a subject without sacrificing quality, and it also limits how well portrait mode works. Portrait mode remains on the iPhone XR, but where the dual-sensor iPhones would build a depth-map to more accurately differentiate between the background and subject, the XR does it all via software. The effect still seems good from my couple of test shots, but I will need more time to see how it compares to the Pixel 3, Huawei Mate 20 Pro and other iPhones.
Interestingly, the portrait mode here only works with human faces. If you’re shooting animals you’ll be met with a ‘no face detected’ message.
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There’s an 8-megapixel camera on the front and support for 4K (24fps, 30fps and 60fps), slow-mo and 1080p video recording.
iPhone XR – Design
Where I think the iPhone XR beats the XS is in design. It’s not as ‘classy’ feeling, but the aluminium band is less slippery than the stainless steel and the 6.1-inch screen size feels like a nice compromise. There’s glass on both the front and back and it holds an IP67 rating, meaning it can be submerged in a variety of liquids for up to 30 minutes.
I do find it odd that even though Apple is positioning this as the default iPhone pick, it isn’t offering a smaller version. I know lots of people who still find the iPhone 8 too big and long for something more pocketable – the iPhone XR certainly isn’t that.
Just being able to pick this phone up in a variety of colours makes it that bit more interesting. There’s a pinky-orange Coral, vivid red (part of Bono’s Product Red line) and a couple of more pastel-like shades of blue and yellow. Plus there’s white and black if you want something a bit more conservative. The range of colours is great and there isn’t one that stands out as looking ugly. They’re all coloured well and each reacts a bit differently when light hits the glass back.
iPhone XR – Performance and Battery life
Powering the iPhone XR is the A12 Bionic Soc, 3GB RAM (down from 4GB on the XS, but the same as the X) and performance should be as impressive as it was on the iPhone XS. The XR does miss out on the faster gigabit LTE, but it keeps dual-sim functionality. It also benefits from the faster Face ID system.
Apple claims battery life is improved over the iPhone 8 Plus and wireless Qi charging remains. Stay tuned for the full review for an in-depth look at the XR’s battery endurance.
The iPhone XR looks to be a great mixture of features plucked from the iPhone XS and the removal of stuff the majority of people won’t miss. At £749 it’s not cheap, but it is a lot cheaper both SIM-free and on contract than the iPhone XS and Android phones like the Google Pixel 3.
This is going to be the iPhone most people gravitate to in 2018 and 2019 and I don’t think they’re going to be disappointed.
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