For most people, the idea of blowing upwards of a grand on a telephone should be met with equal parts ridicule and contempt.
And yet, smartphones have breezed over this economic line in the sand with nary a backwards glance.
Apple is more to blame than most for making these things just so damn desirable.
Thankfully, the iPhone XR attempts to offer the key aspects of the iPhone XS and XS Max (£999 and £1099 respectively) at something of a more palatable price.
Let’s get something straight, though: with a £749 starting price this is not budget. If you want to save maximum pennies, look to the OnePlus 6T or the Honor 8X.
The Product RED version of the iPhone XR is available right away (Image: Apple)Despite this, the iPhone XR has got a lot to offer. The LCD screen sits between the 5.8-inch XS and 6.5-inch XS Max at 6.1-inches and Apple has given it the same all-screen notched design as its two flagships. It’s also got the same A12 Bionic chip but only 3GB of RAM compared to 4GB in the more expensive phones.
After spending a few days using the XR, I’m left feeling like it’s a bit of a masterstroke from Apple. For the die-hard users, the XS will still be the desirable option. But for the vast majority, the iPhone XR offers everything they could need. And saves them £250 to boot.
You can see the larger bezel around the display (Image: Jeff Parsons)
The glass back is the same as the iPhone 8 Plus and will allow wireless charging (Image: Jeff Parsons)Even though the screen is an LCD screen, it’s still gorgeous to look at. There have been a few rumblings around that the bezels are more noticeable around the edges of the screen. That’s true – they do look thicker than the iPhone XS. That’s because Apple has to put a backlight under the display to light the pixels. On an OLED screen, each pixel is its own source of light – which means you can pack them right up to the edge of the phone’s housing.
Apple has given the iPhone XR a 1,792 x 828 resolution which has also drawn the ire of techies. In practice, it looks fine when you’re scanning websites or watching video. If I’m honest, it would be nice to have had at least a 1080p resolution, given how much you’re paying for this phone. Android devices that are considerably cheaper can still muster a 1080p display.
But really, is having a slightly better screen worth paying an extra £250 for the iPhone XS? I’d suggest not, although that decision is up to you.
The back of the iPhone XR is glass for that all-important wireless charging but it’s also where you get the much-needed splash of colour. If you’re looking at the XR, don’t go for the black or white – this is the first time we’ve had coloured iPhones since the 5C. I’m particularly drawn to the orange (which Apple calls ‘coral’) and the Product(Red) variants.
Something to bear in mind is that Apple isn’t making cases for the iPhone XR yet. So you’ll have to find some third-party options that are up to the job if you want to avoid nicking the beautiful glass back.
There’s still a notch and there’s still no headphone jackUsing the iPhone XR day-to-day, you won’t find any indication this is a ‘cheaper’ phone than the big guns in Apple’s stable. Loading apps and navigating through menus was fast and fluid – although because there’s no Home button you need to get used to the gesture controls in iOS 12.
Games and other graphically intensive apps fired up quickly and didn’t stutter, even though there’s less RAM in this device than the XS.
The only difference you might notice is the XR doesn’t feature 3D Touch. Instead there’s Haptic Touch which is a bit more limited and only works in certain sections, like the Control Center. Mind you, Apple does say that it’s coming to more areas of iOS in the future. It’s basically like a long-press with a buzz of haptic feedback.
Where the XR does excel is in battery life. It’ll go for longer than the XS or the XS Max because, for example, the screen doesn’t consume as much juice. It’s true that you still won’t clear 48 hours with this as your primary device, but it does mean you get to the end of the day with a healthy amount of battery power left. Using it as my primary device, I got through 16 hours of usage before I had to charge it.
The single lens camera drops the telephoto lens but is otherwise the same as the XS (Image: Jeff Parsons)The iPhone XR has shaved off some of the camera functionality of the XS because Apple has removed the secondary 2x telephoto lens. You still get the main 12-megapixel wide-angle camera that still takes some brilliant pictures.
You can only really start to tell the difference when you begin trying to zoom.
It’s worth pointing out as well that you can still use Portrait mode on the XR. Traditionally this required two lenses to work, but Apple has used software to fill in the gaps. This does translate to a slightly less impressive portrait picture than the iPhone XS. You can tell the difference when you line them up side-by-side.
Mind you, the front-facing TrueDepth camera is unchanged from the XS so you can get some really good selfies with this phone.
I still think that the Pixel 3 edges out the iPhone XR when it comes to mobile photography, but this is definitely a massive step up from an iPhone 7 or below.
The camera does a good job of picking out the detail, but it’s also got a warmer texture than the Pixel phones. It tends to lift some of the shadows to even out the image – giving you a more rounded picture.
Should you buy it?
The iPhone XR is available in a choice of six colours (Image: Apple)If you’re an iPhone user that’s looking to upgrade from the iPhone 6S or below, then I think the iPhone XR is a pretty compelling choice.
It comes down to how much you really want the OLED screen that Apple uses in the iPhone X and XS. Do deep, inky blacks and a thinner bezel – along with 3D touch – really matter that much to you? Do they matter enough to pay £250 for?
What I can say is that you don’t need to feel that you are in any way missing out by opting for the iPhone XR over the iPhone XS. The sizing may take a little while to get used to, but the overall performance is second-to-none. And you also get better battery life with this phone, so there’s that.
The storage space comes in a choice of either 64GB, 128GB or 256GB with the prices corresponding at £749, £799 or £899.
The iPhone XR doesn’t reinvent anything, but it does provide a better option for those who want to upgrade or swap to an iPhone but can’t stomach the price of the XS or the XS Max.
And I can’t say enough how nice it is to have more than just black, white or occasionally red to choose from when it comes to a phone. Colour me impressed.
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