The Apple iPhone XR is the third iPhone to be launched this year, after the iPhone XS and XS Max. The cheapest XR still costs $299 in China Price- with a similar design, features and much.

What do you give up for that lower price? The XR has a lower resolution LCD display with bigger bezels around it and it doesn’t support 3D Touch. It’s slightly thicker and heavier and it’s made of aluminum instead of stainless steel, and it only has one camera on the back.

But other than that it’s pretty similar to the XS. It’s got the same full-screen design with the same notch and TrueDepth camera and Face ID system, the same powerful A12 Bionic processor, and the single camera on the back is the same as the wide-angle 12-megapixel camera on the back of the XS and XS Max.

The XR is also available in a far wider selection of colors, six in total: Black, White, Coral, Yellow, Blue, and Red, making it the most colorful iPhone ever.

Apple iPhone XR

$345
Operating system
  • iOS 12
Processor
  • Apple A12 Bionic hexa-core
Built-in Memory
  • 3GB RAM
Display
  • 6.1-inch Liquid Retina / 1,792 x 828 pixels (326ppi) / LCD
Camera
  • Rear: 12-megapixel, (f/1.8, 28mm) with phase detection autofocus, OIS, and quad LED (dual-tone) flash
  • Front: 7-megapixel, f/2.2 FaceTime HD camera
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 4G LTE Cat 12 (600Mbps), dual-band, hotspot, Bluetooth v5.0, A2DP, LE, GPS, GLONASS, Lightning connector
Storage Type
  • 256GB internal storage
Battery
  • 2,942mAh
Dimensions
  • 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3 mm
Weight
  • 194g

Design

The core design of the XR is pretty much the same as the XS and XS Max. The frame isn’t as shiny because it’s matte aluminum instead of stainless steel, but the back is still glass and the front bezel is still black, no matter what color you get.

Our review model comes in this unique new color - Coral.

Our review model comes in this unique new color – Coral.

Speaking of colors, the XR is the most colorful iPhone Apple has ever released with six colors available at launch (for a closer look at each color, check out this gallery). On each, the aluminum frame is color-matched to the back of the phone, except for the white model, which has an unpainted silver aluminum finish.

I really like the black and white models, as the deep black and stark white remind me of the colors of older iPhones, before Space Gray and Silver replaced them. In my opinion, the iPhone 4 in either black or white is still one of the most beautiful phones ever designed.

If you’re considering one of the more colorful options, the Project Red model looks absolutely gorgeous with its deep, blood red color, while Coral is probably the most interesting, with its unique pink-orange hue.

Like the XS and XS Max, the XR has glass on both the front and rear. It’s worth noting that for the XS and XS Max, Apple claims that the glass on both the front and rear is the most durable ever used on a smartphone, whereas for the XR, Apple only claims that it has the most durable front glass, so clearly, the back glass isn’t quite as durable.

Size-wise, the XR sits right between the XS and XS Max. It’s actually a great size, and to me, the 6.1-inch display feels the best out of the three phones. The XR is slightly thicker than both the XS and XS Max, but it’s not that noticeable, and it doesn’t feel unwieldy.

On the back, there’s a single rear camera instead of the dual camera setup of the XS and XS Max. The camera bump is quite large, but this is something that’s become typical of all iPhones. A nice touch is that the ring surrounding the camera is the same color as the frame of the phone.

One other difference worth noting is that the extra antenna lines on the bottom and top of the iPhone XS and XS Max aren’t there on the XR. This is because the XS and XS Max both support 4G LTE up to Cat 16 (1024Mbps), while the XR only supports it up to Cat 12 (600Mbps), the same as last year’s iPhone X.

On the plus side, the missing antenna lines makes the bottom of the XR look a lot more symmetrical, with six holes on each side (although like the XS and XS Max, sound only comes out of the right ones). Having said that, the XR is not without its own quirk, as the Lightning port is lower and slightly out of alignment with the speaker grilles, presumably due to the LCD display taking up more space internally.

Finally, the XR is only IP67-rated for dust and water resistance. This means it’s not as water-resistant as the XS and XS Max and can only be submerged underwater up to a depth of 1m instead of 2m. I can’t imagine this actually being a deal breaker for anyone, but it’s something to take note of anyway.

Everything else is pretty much the same as it is on the XS and XS Max. The elongated power button is still on the right side, with the single SIM tray beneath it (like the XS, the XR is dual-SIM, but the second SIM is eSIM only), while the two volume buttons and silencer toggle remain on the left.

Overall, while the XR isn’t as nice or polished (literally) as the XS or XS Max, there’s nothing cheap-feeling or inferior about it, and it looks and feels just as premium as any other flagship smartphone out there.

Display

The iPhone XR has a 6.1-inch, IPS “Liquid Retina Display” with a 1,792 x 828 pixels resolution (326ppi). This is exactly the same pixel density as the iPhone 8, but less than the iPhone 8 Plus (401ppi), iPhone X, XS and XS Max (458ppi). 326ppi was perfectly acceptable on smaller 4.7-inch iPhones, but is a little low for a screen this big. Compared to the iPhone XS, there’s a slight but noticeable drop in clarity. You won’t really notice this in everyday usage (unless you routinely use a magnifying glass to inspect your screen), but a Full HD resolution equivalent display would have been nice.

The XR display also has noticeably thicker bezels around the screen compared to the XS and XS Max. This is presumably because of the extra backlight required for the LCD. Having said that, the bezels are still thinner than many other smartphones, including those with OLED displays.

The XR display also lacks Dolby Vision and HDR10 support, as well as Apple’s 3D Touch feature. I know not everyone uses 3D Touch, but if you’ve become accustomed to it, it’s quite annoying to use an iPhone without it.

Despite these drawbacks, the display itself is still remarkably good. It’s bright, going up to 700nits at maximum, which makes it easy to view even under bright sunlight, and the contrast is also surprisingly good for an LCD display. Colors are vivid without looking over-saturated, and as with Apple’s other iPhone displays, the display supports DCI-P3 wide color and Apple’s True Tone technology that adjusts the color temperature based on ambient lighting.

Audio

The XR has the same improved stereo speakers you’ll find on the XS and XS Max. These speakers are louder than last year, and also offer a wider stereo soundstage. Audio quality is excellent and there’s no distortion even with the speaker at max volume.

Like the XS and XS Max, the iPhone XR does not come supplied with a Lightning-to-3.5mm dongle. You still get the Lightning connector EarPods, but you’ll have to buy the dongle for $15 if you want to use your own headphones.

 

Software

    

The XR runs on iOS 12 and provides exactly the same UI experience as the XS and XS Max, except for the aforementioned lack of 3D Touch. One nice touch is that the default wallpaper is color-matched to the color of your phone. If you prefer something with a little more contrast, all of the other colors are also available in the wallpaper gallery.

I suspect for many people, the XR will be their first upgrade to an X-style iPhone, so I’ll give a quick rundown of what’s new compared to older iPhones like the iPhone 8.

The main difference between X-style iPhones and older iPhones with Home buttons is the new swipe-based navigation system. On any screen other than the home page you’ll see a white line called the Home Bar. If you swipe up from this line, you’ll go back to the home page. Swiping left or right along the line will switch between apps.

To open the Control Center, you need to swipe down from the area to the right of the notch. To open the Notifications pane you swipe down from the top left. To launch the app switcher you swipe up from the bottom of the screen and then long press the screen.

To activate Reachability mode, which pulls the top of the screen down to make one-handed usage easier, you have to swipe down on the bottom edge of the display.

While this all sounds quite complicated at first, it becomes second nature fairly quickly.

For a full rundown of everything else new in iOS 12, check out my iPhone XS and XS Max review.

Apple iPhone XR

$345

Face ID

If this is your first X-style iPhone, say goodbye to TouchID and hello to FaceID. FaceID on the XR is exactly the same as FaceID on the XS and XS Max, and uses the same TrueDepth camera found in the notch. You’ll use FaceID to unlock your phone, for Apple Pay, and whenever you use Apple’s Animojis.

FaceID this year is even faster and safer than last year and now unlocks the phone almost instantaneously and it still works just as fast in the dark too. Like the XS and XS Max, you can also add a second person to FaceID. You can do this by selecting the “Set Up an Alternative Appearance” option in the FaceID setup menu.

For an in-depth explanation of exactly how FaceID and the TrueDepth camera system work.

Benchmark Performance

The iPhone XR is powered by Apple’s A12 Bionic chip, which is the same processor found inside the XS and XS Max. However, the XR only has 3GB RAM compared to 4GB in the XS and XS Max.

The A12 is the first processor made on a 7nm process technology and packs a hexa-core CPU (two performance cores + four efficiency cores), a quad-core GPU, as well as a ‘next-generation’ octa-core neural engine (up from dual-core on the iPhone X) that handles all the machine learning and AI tasks.

Calling it the ‘smartest and most powerful chip ever in a smartphone’, Apple says the A12 Bionic’s neural engine can process 5 trillion operations per second, a huge leap compared to the A11 Bionic’s 600 billion. Apple also says the A12 Bionic enables apps to launch up to 30 percent faster.

Apple iPhone XR (256GB) Apple iPhone XS (256GB) Apple iPhone XS Max (256GB) Huawei Mate 20 Pro Google Pixel 3 XL (64GB) Samsung Galaxy Note9 (128GB) Oppo Find X (128GB)
Apple iPhone XR (256GB) Apple iPhone XS Max (256GB) Apple iPhone XS (256GB) Huawei Mate 20 Pro Google Pixel 3 XL (64GB) Samsung Galaxy Note9 (128GB) Oppo Find X (128GB)
China Wholesale Price $345
  • $405
  • $425
  • $369
  • $400
  • $350
  • $299
Operating system
  • iOS 12
  • iOS 12
  • iOS 12
  • Android 9.0 with EMUI 9.0
  • Android 9.0 Pie
  • Android 8.1 Oreo with Samsung Experience
  • Android 8.1 Oreo
Processor
  • Apple A12 Bionic hexa-core
  • Apple A12 Bionic hexa-core
  • Apple A12 Bionic hexa-core
  • Hisilicon Kirin 980 octa-core (2 x 2.6GHz Cortex-A76 & 2 x 1.92GHz Cortex-A76 & 4 x 1.8GHz Cortex-A55)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
  • Samsung Exynos 9810 octa-core (4×2.8 GHz Mongoose M3 & 4×1.7 GHz Cortex-A55)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 octa-core (4×2.8 GHz Kryo 385 Gold & 4×1.7 GHz Kryo 385 Silver)
Built-in Memory
  • 3GB RAM
  • 4GB RAM
  • 4GB RAM
  • 6GB RAM
  • 4GB RAM
  • 6GB RAM
  • 8GB RAM
Display
  • 6.1-inch Liquid Retina / 1,792 x 828 pixels (326ppi) / LCD
  • 5.8-inch Super Retina HD / 2,436 x 1,125 pixels (458ppi) / OLED
  • 6.5-inch Super Retina HD / 2,688 x 1,242 pixels (458ppi) / OLED
  • 6.39-inches 3,120 x 1,440 pixels (538 ppi) AMOLED 19.5:9 ratio
  • Always-On Display
  • 6.3-inch / 2,960 x 1,440 pixels (523 ppi) / flexible OLED Display
  • Always-On Display
  • 6.4-inch / 2,960 x 1,440 pixels (516 ppi) / 18.5:9 ratio / Super AMOLED Infinity Display
  • Always-On Display
  • 6.42-inch / 2,340 x 1,080 pixels (401 ppi) / 19.5:9 ratio / AMOLED Display
Camera
  • Rear: 12-megapixel, (f/1.8, 28mm) with phase detection autofocus, OIS, and quad LED (dual-tone) flash
  • Front: 7-megapixel, f/2.2 FaceTime HD camera
  • Rear: Dual 12-megapixel, (f/1.8, 28mm & f/2.4, 56mm) with phase detection autofocus, OIS, and quad LED (dual-tone) flash
  • Front: 7-megapixel, f/2.2 FaceTime HD camera
  • Rear: Dual 12-megapixel, (f/1.8, 28mm & f/2.4, 56mm) with phase detection autofocus, OIS, and quad LED (dual-tone) flash
  • Front: 7-megapixel, f/2.2 FaceTime HD camera
  • Rear: Triple 40-megapixel f/1.8 wide + 20-megapixel f/2.2 ultrawide + 8-megapixel f/2.4 telephoto, OIS, Leica optics, 3x optical zoom,5x hybrid zoom, phase detection and laser autofocus, dual-LED dual-tone flash
  • Front: 24-megapixel, f/2.0
  • Rear: 12.2-megapixel, f/1.8, OIS, phase detection & laser autofocus, dual-LED flash
  • Front: 8-megapixel, f/1.8; 8-megapixel wide-angle, f/2.2
  • Rear: Dual 12-megapixel, dual f/1.5 and 2.4, 26mm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS, LED flash and 12-megapixel f/2.4, 52mm telephoto, 2x optical zoom
  • Front: 8-megapixel, f/1.7
  • Rear: Dual 16-megapixel, f/2.0 + 20-megapixel, f/2.0
  • Front: 25-megapixel, f/2.0
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 4G LTE Cat 12 (600Mbps), dual-band, hotspot, Bluetooth v5.0, A2DP, LE, GPS, GLONASS, Lightning connector
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 4G+ LTE Cat 16 (up to 1024Mbps), dual-band, hotspot, Bluetooth v5.0, A2DP, LE, GPS, GLONASS, Lightning connector
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 4G+ LTE Cat 16 (up to 1024Mbps), dual-band, hotspot, Bluetooth v5.0, A2DP, LE, GPS, GLONASS, Lightning connector
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 4G+ LTE-A (3CA) Cat 21 (up to 1400Mbps), dual-band, hotspot, DLNA, Bluetooth v5, A2DP, LE, GPS, GLONASS, USB 3.1 Type-C
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 + 5GHz), 4G+ LTE Cat 15 (up to 800Mbps), Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, GLONASS, NFC
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 + 5GHz), 4G+ LTE Cat 18 (up to 1200Mbps), Bluetooth 5.0, VHT80, MIMO (2×2), GPS, GLONASS, NFC, Screen Mirroring
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 + 5GHz), 4G+ LTE Cat 16 (up to 1024Mbps), Bluetooth 5.0, VHT80, MIMO (2×2), GPS, GLONASS, NFC, Screen Mirroring
Storage Type
  • 256GB internal storage
  • 256GB internal storage
  • 256GB internal storage
  • 128GB internal storage
  • Huawei Nano Memory expansion (up to 256GB)
  • 64GB internal storage
  • 128GB internal storage
  • 512GB (MicroSD)
  • 128GB internal storage
Battery
  • 2,942mAh
  • 2,658mAh
  • 3,174mAh
  • 4,200mAh
  • 40W Huawei SuperCharge
  • 15W Huawei Wireless Quick Charge (Qi wireless charging)
  • Reverse wireless charging
  • 3,430mAh
  • Fast Charging
  • 4,000mAh
  • Samsung Adaptive Fast Charging
  • Wireless charging
  • 3,730mAh
  • VOOC Flash Charge
Dimensions
  • 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3 mm
  • 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7 mm
  • 157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7 mm
  • 157.8 x 72.3 x 8.6 mm
  • 158 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm
  • 161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8 mm
  • 156.7 x 74.2 x 9.4 mm
Weight
  • 194g
  • 177g
  • 208g
  • 189g
  • 184g
  • 201g
  • 186g

Apple iPhone XR

$345

SunSpider Javascript

SunSpider JavaScript measures the browsing performance of a device when processing JavaScript. It not only takes into consideration the underlying hardware performance, but also assesses how optimized a particular platform is in delivering a high-speed web browsing experience.

Apple has always performed really well on this benchmark due to how well optimized Safari is for Apple’s processors. That trend continues with the XR, which scored an exceptionally fast 120.6ms. No Android phone even comes close to 200ms on this benchmark. In terms of actual user experience, the web browsing experience on the XR is lightning fast, smooth and lag-free.

Antutu

AnTuTu is an all-in-one benchmark that tests CPU, GPU, memory, and storage. The CPU benchmark evaluates both integer and floating-point performance, the GPU tests assess 2D and 3D performance, the memory test measures available memory bandwidth and latency, and the storage tests gauge the read and write speeds of a device’s flash memory.

The A12 Bionic continues its domination on this benchmark, absolutely crushing the competition. The XR scored about the same as the XS and XS Max, and was about 30 percent better than last year’s iPhone X, and about 25 percent better than the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845-powered phones.

Geekbench CPU

Geekbench CPU is a cross-platform processor benchmark that tests both single-core and multi-core performance with workloads that simulate real-world usage. Geekbench 4 scores are calibrated against a baseline score of 4000 (which is the score of an Intel Core i7-6600U CPU processor).

The XR’s A12 Bionic was again impressive in this benchmark and was about 12 percent better than last year’s iPhone X in both the single-core and multi-core benchmarks.

3DMark Sling Shot

3DMark Sling Shot is an advanced 3D graphics benchmark that tests the full range of OpenGL ES 3.1 and ES 3.0 API features including multiple render targets, instanced rendering, uniform buffers and transform feedback. The test also includes impressive volumetric lighting and post-processing effects. We’re running this benchmark in Unlimited mode, which ignores screen resolutions.

The A12 Bionic isn’t limited to just processing power, its quad-core GPU packs a punch too, and all three iPhones are once again way ahead of the competition.

It’s worth noting that despite having 1GB less RAM, this didn’t seem to affect the XR’s performance, and it kept up with the XS and XS Max on every benchmark.

Imaging

The iPhone XR has a single 12-megapixel f/1.8 rear camera with optical image stabilization and Apple’s quad-LED two-tone flash. This is the same as the wide-angle camera found on the XS and XS Max. Image quality is identical to its siblings, with sharp images, lots of detail, well-controlled noise levels, good contrast and exposure, and natural color reproduction. Unlike many smartphone cameras there’s no lens distortion or softness towards the edges of the frame.

The XR’s artificially rendered bokeh looks quite realistic, and edge detection is fantastic, but the XS shot has a better composition and far more pleasing bokeh. If I get any closer with the XR there’s noticeable lens distortion, which means if you want a tighter composition your only option is to crop.

Even though both shots emulate an f/2.8 aperture, the XR also has noticeably less bokeh than the XS Max. This is because Apple simulates the XR’s bokeh based on what you would actually get out of a 26mm prime. While the realism is a nice touch, the creamier bokeh of the XS Max’s telephoto lens looks better.

One final thing worth noting is that Portrait mode on the XR only works when the camera can detect a face. Unlike the XS and XS Max, you can’t use Portrait mode to take artsy photos of objects or food, and you can’t even use Portrait mode to take a portrait shot of someone from behind.

Battery Life

Our standard battery test for mobile phones has the following parameters:

  • Looping a 720p video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter

The XR has a 2,942mAh battery, which is larger than the battery on the XS but smaller than the one in the XS Max. However, as most of the XS Max’s extra battery capacity goes into powering its massive 6.5-inch display, the XR actually has the best battery life out of the three new iPhones this year, despite using a less power efficient LCD display.

In our video looping benchmark, the XR lasted 13 hours and 34 minutes, just five minutes short of our current battery life champion, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro.

Like the XS and XS Max, the XR supports wireless charging through the Qi wireless charging standard. The phone also supports fast charging through USB Power Delivery, but not with the charger bundled with the phone.

To get fast charging, you’ll need to buy both a USB-C to Lightning cable, as well as a USB-C charger that supports USB Power Delivery such as the 30W power adapter that comes with the 12-inch MacBook, or the 61W or 87W adapter that comes with the MacBook Pro. More expenses, unfortunately.

Conclusion

Apple iPhone XR

$345

All the important features are the same:

  • The XR has the same software experience and unparalleled performance from the A12 Bionic processor.
  • It has the same front-facing camera, TrueDepth camera, and improved Face ID unlock system.
  • It has the same main rear camera, which is the camera you would use most of the time even if you had an XS or XS Max anyway.
  • You also get the same great stereo speakers, the same dual-SIM functionality, and the same wireless charging.
  • As an added bonus, the XR has a bigger display than the XS, and it has better battery life than both the XS and XS Max
  • Lastly, it’s available in a more interesting array of colors.

As for that missing 10%, the display isn’t as nice (although it’s still really good), and it’s missing 3D Touch. Portrait mode isn’t as good, and you won’t have a secondary lens for 2x optical zoom.

The rest of the differences, like the slightly worse water resistance, the lack of 4G LTE Cat 16 support (only a slower Cat 12 support), and the slightly thicker and heavier aluminum build, aren’t things that will affect your experience or enjoyment of the phone in any meaningful way.

For most people, these are all worthwhile tradeoffs to get a flagship iPhone at a much more reasonable price. If the cost of an iPhone XS or XS Max isn’t a problem for you, sure, get one of those, they’re both better phones, but for everyone else, the XR is a better buy.

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