So here we are now with Apple’s iPhone XR, join us as we give Apple’s latest iPhone a whirl just for you.
In a nutshell, just to whet your appetite for this review, the XR is Apple’s least expensive iPhone, but it’s got a couple of pretty compelling strong points, even vis-a-vis its higher-priced and higher-specced XS and XS Max brethren. We think these points may even convince some of you potential XS and XS Max buyers to pick up an XR instead.
If that isn’t convincing enough to make you read this review, we don’t know what might be! Stick around to see what we mean!
‘Thoughtful’ specs, great performance
Let’s start out with the XR’s thoughtfully chosen spec package, because we’re certain you’re wondering what sort of corners Apple’s had to cut in order to make this latest iPhone the relatively great value it is. You’ll be delighted to hear that Apple did trim a few features to do so – but what’s left is hardly chopped liver at all, not one bit.
For starters, the XR’s screen is LCD instead of OLED like its pricier brethren have – a 6.1-inch ‘Liquid Retina’ Multi-Touch True Tone display with Apple’s IPS technology to help it display consistent color from any and all angles – and which is seemingly less sharp, having a resolution of 1792 x 828 (resulting in the same 326ppi as the iPhone 8, but seemingly far from 1080p). Additionally, LCD can’t quite match the vibrant colors and deep blacks that OLED is known for.
Those are just the numbers, though, because nearly everyone who uses this phone won’t even notice this disparity – trust us, we didn’t – and when we put our test XR beside an XS Max, we found that 1) the difference IS discernible, but only if you really look for it, and 2) it’s hardly a deal-breaker due to its strong points.
Well, what are these points? Okay, if you’re as big on design as we are, you’ll be wowed by the fact that Apple really went the extra mile to design the XR as well as possible. Screen-wise, it curves around the corners, include those of its front-facing camera notch, with nary a stray pixel or iffy edge – the corners match the corners of the phone itself, which is a really hard thing to achieve with an LCD display. Sure, the phone itself has a somewhat thicker bezel than its pricier brethren, but again in practice this is only a minor irritation at worst.
But enough about the screen. Now let’s pay a little attention to the camera, which is another strategically important area and which in XR application is a single-lens setup versus the double-lens setups of the more expensive Apple models. That being said it still is a really high-end single-lenser – 12MP, wide-angle, f1.8 aperture with optical image stabilization, dual-tone LED flash, and phase-detection autofocus, among other powerful features. The front-facing TrueDepth snapper, for its part, is a 7MP affair with an f2.2 aperture and can capture great (or at least interesting) selfies via its Portrait Mode, Portrait Lighting, and Retina Flash features, and enables Apple’s Face ID tech just as any modern iPhone should.
You might think that the XR’s video- and picture-taking capabilities might suffer in comparison to other phones because of this. Quite the contrary. The XR snaps images and video that are among the best of any single-lens phone we’ve tested thus far – and, truth be told, are even better than some taken by some multi-lens devices. Its camera is very fast and is able to snap excellent photos running the gamut from nearly all key scenarios, indoors and outdoors, in good light and even in bad light, resulting in very usable images that for the most part wowed us.
Powering all this is a processor set that’s in nearly all respects the equal of that in the XS and XS Max – Apple’s A12 Bionic system on a chip running 3GB of RAM, and the latest version of iOS, iOS 12. It’s the same chipset the pricier units boast, but the difference is that they have a third more RAM than the XR does, 4GB versus 3GB.
Trust us though when we tell you that you won’t notice the difference, because this nicely designed phone makes perfectly optimal use of the RAM Apple’s seen fit to give it. In no circumstance did we ever experience slowdowns, crashes, or restarts no matter how hard we pushed this phone. At the end of our test period, during which we flogged it as hard as we possibly could, this phone was as slick as it was at the outset, which is truly impressive.
So in terms of specs, the XR does give away a couple of things to the XS and XS Max – but as you can see, we’ve found that in a very big way it’s no less than a compelling choice unto itself.
But hold on! In the area of color choice, the XR might just have its higher-echelon brethren beat. XR buyers can revel in some relatively brighter and more striking color choices than the XS lineup can muster – including Yellow, White, a very nice Coral (our favorite by far), Black, Blue, and the head-turning Product Red – something of a far cry from the XS and XS Max’s relatively sedate Silver, Gold, and Space Gray.
In terms of capacity, the XR can be had in the same 64GB and 256GB options as the XS and XS Max – but Apple also does offer a 128GB option which is completely absent in the pricier phones. That being said, the latter two also come with a range-topping 512GB option which is twice that of the XR’s 256GB.
The bottom line
What more can we say? The iPhone XR is an excellent deal for those of you guys who want to stay within the Apple ecosystem. Sure, a couple of its key specs don’t quite match up to those of the iPhones XS and XS Max, but Apple’s kicked out the chocks to ensure that the XR is a compelling a buy in its own right. Well worth considering!