iPhone XR review: Great camera, better battery life than XS Max, exceptional performance
The XR is probably the iPhone that most people need.
Although showcased at the same launch event, the new iPhone XR was a bit delayed compared to the XS and XS Max. Apple chose to launch three new iPhones this year and they share a lot of things apart from just the appearance. We’ve already reviewed the XS and XS Max and they represent the very best that Apple has to offer: the best performance, fantastic OLED displays, spectacular cameras and the most premium materials. But they’re also really expensive, especially in India.
Apple thinks there are enough people out there who still want to buy a ‘latest’ iPhone and are willing to compromise on a few features to get it at a lower price. And the price for the new XR is also one of the biggest dilemmas you will face as a prospective buyer. We’ll talk more about this in our conclusion, but first, more about the XR.
The Third New iPhone
The ‘R’ doesn’t really stand for anything but the X (ten) in the name tells you that this is an evolution of last year’s iPhone X. We’re now firmly in notch territory and have bid a permanent goodbye to the home button and Touch ID (fingerprint scanner). With XR, you’re getting the very latest Apple A12X Bionic chip, premium metal-glass sandwich design, a 6.1-inch Liquid Retina (LCD) display, wireless charging, Face ID and a single primary camera.
iPhone XR vs XS & XS Max
There are some cutbacks for sure. We think the most obvious differences are the screen and the camera. In order to get the price down, Apple has opted for LCD instead of OLED. This change also means that 3D Touch is missing. The primary camera is a single unit that uses machine learning and AI to give you portrait mode. Because there’s no secondary rear camera, you only get three portrait lighting effects (natural, studio, contour). Then, there is a difference in materials used: XS has a shiny stainless steel frame that looks very premium while the XR has an aluminium frame. Finally, there are some more subtle differences: XR is IP67 rated instead of IP68 and XR has 3GB RAM while XS has 4GB (though Apple doesn’t officially mention the RAM).
Liquid Retina Vs OLED
This is going to be a popular subject of debate so we thought it’s best to put forward our viewpoint. First up, unquestionably, OLED is better than Liquid Retina (Apple’s name for their highly optimized, colour corrected LCD screen). Put XR side-byside with XS and you’ll notice that the bezels on the XS/XS Max are thinner and that it displays darker blacks and more vibrant colour. The XR display is 1792 x 828 pixels — significantly short of full HD (you could call it 828p). However, for an LCD, this display is phenomenal. The bezels are the same thickness all the way around (which is highly unusual for an LCD). It has True Tone (to auto adjust colour temperature to your surroundings), 120hz touch sensing (a smoother response), high contrast ratio, wide P3 colour gamut and really high brightness (625nits). In short, the display looks great.
You would think the single camera in the XR is a step down but it actually matches the XS for the most part. In terms of quality, sharpness, colours, low light and dynamic range, the XR delivers fantastic results. Next, you can get it some fun colours. In particular, the yellow, coral, blue and Product Red look amazing because the aluminium frame is colour matched to the back glass. Performance from the A12X is mind blowing. This also means you get a great experience with augmented reality (AR) apps, smooth 4K 60fps video, fast video editing and a great gaming experience. The stereo speakers can get really loud and provide good separation between leftright channels. It can also record sound in stereo. Since the Face ID system and front camera is exactly the same as XS, you get the fun Animoji and Memoji features. Finally, battery life is a nice surprise, lasting significantly longer than even the larger XS Max and many other flagships like the Note 9 and Pixel 3.
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Where the XR Slips Up
If you take a magnifying glass to the display, you will be able to make out individual pixels. The primary issue is not that these pixels are visible, but that they’re visible in a phone that costs this much. Phones that cost as less as Rs 10k have 1080p displays so to have a lower resolution in a flagship phone is a bummer. Portrait mode doesn’t work on objects (it’s only tuned for human subjects). If you switch to portrait and point it at something, it just gives you a cryptic ‘no person detected’ message. Plus you’ll lose out on things that only a dual camera system can do, like 2x optical telephoto and 3D photos on Facebook.
And to Conclude
The XR is probably all the iPhone that most people need. It has a great camera, better battery life than even the XS Max, performance that beats most other phones. But the starting price of Rs 77k is a dilemma. Last year’s iPhone X can be yours for under Rs 70k (factoring in deals/cashbacks). It still has more performance than you’ll need, a great dual camera system, smaller size, more premium build, Face ID, OLED screen and 3D touch. You can’t go wrong with it. Google’s latest Pixel 3 (Rs 71k) and 3XL (Rs 83k) have better cameras. Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (Rs 68k) offers a more premium feel, beautiful OLED screen and more features. But if you must have an iPhone with the latest features without spending as much as the XS/XS Max, XR is shockingly good.