There’s been much hype surrounding Apple’s latest release, the iPhone XR, which reportedly gives both the iPhone XS and the XS Max a run for their money.
At £749, it certainly isn’t a bargain, but it’s a damn sight more affordable than the £999 XS and £1,099 XS Max. So, is it actually worth your cash or 36 months of your life in the form of a new phone contract?
As explained in our preview piece back in September, the XR offers many of the same features found in the XS. The reason it’s some £250 cheaper is because of its LCD screen, single rear camera and the phone’s frame is made of steel instead of aluminium – to name a few things.
If you’re wondering what the R stands for, you may be disappointed to learn it doesn’t actually mean anything official. Phil Schiller, Apple’s marketing boss, told Engagdet, the meaning was much more personal: “I love cars and things that go fast, and R and S are both letters used to denote sport cars that are really extra special.”
HuffPost UK weren’t given access to the iPhone to review it, but here are a selection of reviews discussing some of the most talked about elements of the new phone from those lucky enough to get their hands on one before its highly-anticipated release.
While the screen might appear to be the same, the XR’s 6.1-inch display is LCD, not OLED as with the XS and XS Max. The reason for this comes down to cost: OLED panels are far better quality, but expensive; the LCD display, by contrast, offers a decent screen for cheaper.
For Nilay Patel at The Verge, the screen is visibly worse, but only if you know what you’re looking for: “It doesn’t have the deep black levels or infinite contrast of the iPhone XS, it doesn’t support HDR or Dolby Vision video playback, and, in general, you can always see the border between the bezel and the edge of the display, even with a dark background. Even with Apple’s True Tone color calibration turned on, it’s always a little warmer than my XS.”
But for The New York Times’s Brian X. Chen, most of us won’t notice the screen differences: “The XR is perfectly adequate and has few downsides. Its 6.1-inch screen, which is based on LCD, an older display technology, looks ever so slightly inferior to the OLED screens on the XS phones — but you would need to be a movie buff to notice the difference.”
Let’s be honest, the camera – namely portrait mode – one of the main draws of the newer iPhones.
But it’s with the camera that the XR really deviates from Apple’s two flagship phones, according to HuffPost UK’s preview. The XR has the same 12-megapixel wide-angle camera found in the XS and XS Max. But the XR only has a single-camera system on the back, meaning when it comes to portrait mode it relies on machine learning to create the shot – unlike the XS and XS Max which use a telephoto lens.
Engagdet’s Chris Velazco was impressed with the single camera: “You’ll find a lot of detail and some excellent colors in the resulting stills, and it’s been surprisingly handy in low-light thanks to its f/1.8 aperture and sensor with deeper tranches between those pixels. Apple’s Smart HDR kicks in to improve dynamic range pretty often, too, which is often really helpful for preventing parts of some photos from being blown out entirely.”
Mashable’s Raymond Wong put portrait mode through some vigorous testing, concluding that the XR’s performance is “not bad at all”. “Portrait mode also works with the front 7-megapixel (f/1.8) camera. It works as well as on the iPhone XS/XS Max and better than on the iPhone X.” He notes that portrait mode on the rear camera doesn’t have Studio Light and Studio Light Mono effects, while the front facing camera has the same lighting options.
Tech Crunch’s Matthew Panzarino marvelled at the phones performance: “Given that it has the same exact A12 Bionic processor, but the iPhone XR performs almost identically to the iPhone XS in tests. Even though it features 3GB of RAM to the iPhone XS’ 4GB, the overall situation here is that you’re getting a phone that is damn near identical as far as speed and capability.”
Rihannon William’s from the i newspaper was impressed that the phone lasted 15-16 hours: “Battery life is an incredibly important aspect when considering buying a smartphone these days, and the iPhone XR pleasantly surprised me with how efficient it was.”
CNN’s Samantha Murphy Kelly said size matters: “Size is a key difference. The XR screen comes in at 6.1 inches — just between the XS, which measures 5.8 inches, and the 6.5-inch XS Max. It’s big enough that if you have smaller hands, you’ll need to stretch your thumb far over the screen to tap open apps.”
The general consensus seems to be that, while the iPhone XR isn’t as high spec as the XS and XS Max, it’s a great, cheaper alternative phone – and probably all most people need.
Buy yours from Apple here.