Apple iPhone XR
FINALLY, AN iPHONE WITH A DECENT BATTERY.
APPLE HAS MANAGED a marketing masterstroke with the iPhone XR: not only has it delayed the launch of the third of its trio of 2018 iPhones, thus creating some mystery around it, it’s also managed to make this seem like this year’s ‘cheap’ iPhone.
Yes, it’s cheaper compared to the recently-launched iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, but we’re talking AU$1229 compared with AU$1,629, which is hardly budget. To the average price-conscious, brand-neutral buyer this is a long way from a ‘cheap iPhone’.
To the Apple fan who wants to stick with the brand though, the iPhone XR offers a much cheaper way to get a 2018 model without having to pay the sky-high prices of the XS duo, without sacrificing that much in terms of features – and with a cheeky little bonus for good measure.
Well, Apple has either pulled a marketing masterstroke or screwed itself by launching late – as the XR is one of the best iPhones we’ve ever tested.
Compared to the iPhone XS, the iPhone XR is downgraded in a number of ways to hit that lower price point.
That said, there are a number of key features that are the same: iOS 12 is the operating system that runs things, and it’s backed up by the wildly-powerful A12 Bionic chipset inside.
The notch contains all the same front-facing cameras and sensors as the iPhone XS, and the dual speakers still face the same way when pumping out sound.
To the untrained eye, or someone not holding the iPhone XR and XS side by side, it might even be hard to instantly tell the two apart – but there are a number of key differences that we need to dig into.
ONLY A SINGLE CAMERA
Arguably the most impressive thing about the iPhone XS is the camera, as it’s the only thing that feels significantly upgraded over the iPhone X. While the iPhone XR offers the same ‘standard’ lens as the XS, it lacks the telephoto second sensor, so has to do some fancy tricks with software to compensate.
This means you won’t be able to zoom in as far with the XR, as the telephoto lens offers (relatively) lossless photography at two times zoom, while portrait mode, where the background is blurred out, isn’t as effective.
APPLE IS NEVER ONE TO SHY AWAY FROM SOME MARKETING HYPERBOLE, AND THE IPHONE XR COMES WITH A ‘NEW’ TYPE OF LCD, A SCREEN THAT’S BEEN DESIGNED TO ALLOW IT TO MAKE THIS CURVED, ‘ALL-SCREEN’ DISPLAY.
You can still take a portrait shot and have the background attractively blurred to keep the focus on the subject, but unlike with the iPhone XS, you can’t take pictures of objects and animals in the same way.
This is due to the fact the software can’t identify those subjects as easily from the single sensor, where the additional hardware on the more expensive XS is able to draw on more info.
THE LIQUID RETINA SCREEN
Apple is never one to shy away from some marketing hyperbole, and the iPhone XR comes with a ‘new’ type of LCD, a screen that’s been designed to allow it to make this curved, ‘all-screen’ display.
The effect is much like the LCD screens Apple has made before, to be honest, as they’ve always been colorful and sharp, but with the new ‘Liquid Retina’ display things are supposed to closer to the high-end OLED screen.
The quality of the screen is one of the key differences you’ll want to consider if you’re thinking about going for the less-costly iPhone.
NO 3D TOUCH
There’s one way to know if you use a feature on an iPhone, and that’s to take it away, and see if you miss it. Anyone coming from a later-series Apple handset will have had access to 3D Touch, where pressing the screen harder opens menus or activates different features in apps.
This feature has been removed for the iPhone XR, presumably to save money – instead you have to do a ‘long press’ to do the same thing. So if you ever accessed shortcuts by pushing harder on an app, or opened the torch with a harder prod on the lock screen… well, that’s gone.
We didn’t realise how much we used that feature before – and it’s irritating to not have something that feels like a real button to open the camera – but it doesn’t take long to get used to the alternative… it just feels a bit less premium.
The iPhone XR is also a thicker design, with chunkier bezels around the side of the phone – hold it side by side with an iPhone XS and you’ll feel it’s clearly the cheaper model, with a thicker feel in the hand.
However, looking at it and handling it in isolation you’ll just feel that it’s a smooth, rounded design that apes the popular form of the iPhone 7 or iPhone 8 – basically, the iPhone XR is the all-screen version of those handsets, bringing a screen the size of those on the iPhone 7 Plus or 8 Plus in a form factor that’s more akin to the smaller models.
Apple believes you’ll be able to get 90 minutes more battery life out of the iPhone XR than the 8 Plus, which is a big jump in real terms.
Well we’d say it’s even better: the iPhone XR finally achieves the holy grail of all-day battery life in an iPhone.
Apple has offered terrible battery life for years, incrementally improving it to be ‘just good enough’, and the iPhone XR is the first iPhone we haven’t had a real worry about day to day – and that alone could elevate it to the heights of being the greatest iPhone ever created.
According to Geekbench, the iPhone XR is equally as capable as the iPhone XS in terms of daily, easier tasks, but struggles a little with the heavier stuff – which is something we noted and could be part of the issue above.
That performance could well be due to the fact we’ve got 3GB of RAM inside this handset, rather than the 4GB in the iPhone XS – so if you’re after a handset with real power you might want to think about upgrading to the iPhone XS.
When it comes to the media experience on the iPhone, it’s never been easy to fault it (even if you really wanted to). The speakers not being louder isn’t that much of an issue, as people don’t always want to hear what you’re watching or listening to, and while the headphone jack issue is a real one, there are ways around it.
Siri still doesn’t get us all the time – especially when we’re driving and we want to play a certain playlist. There are only so many times you can ask for the same thing in an everclearer voice before you never want to ask again – and that drops to just the one time if you’ve got friends around laughing at you.
The iPhone XR is one of the best handsets Apple has ever made, and that’s mainly down to the excellent battery life.
The rest of the phone doesn’t really add much to the iPhone family in terms of pure specification or novelty, but it does offer a more budget route into getting a handset launched this year.
With a range of colors on offer, this is the more budget- and fashion-conscious iPhone buyer’s handset of choice; if you’re ensconced in the Apple way of things then you’ll find a lot to enjoy on the iPhone XR.