It may be the least sensational of Apple’s three new iPhones for 2018 when you scrutinize the specs, but the iPhone XR (pronounced “ten-R”) is absolutely the most interesting — and that has nothing to do with its comparatively cheaper price.
The iPhone XR starts at $749, £749 and AU$1,229 for the 64GB version.
The iPhone XR has a larger screen than the iPhone XS and the same A12 Bionic processor as the iPhone XS Max (which costs hundreds more). Although there’s only one 12-megapixel camera on the XR’s glass backing, some software work with iOS 12 means you don’t sacrifice portrait mode shots.
Best yet, the aluminum-and-glass iPhone XR shows its colorful personality, coming in blue, yellow, coral and red (through Project Red), in addition to buttoned-up white and black.
In other words, Apple isn’t treating the iPhone XR as some shabby relation. While there are some compromises compared to the iPhone XS — which showed during our brief hands-on time with the phone — the XR’s strong core hardware specs and more everyday price signal the sea change in Apple’s strategy.
This is the new iPhone for “regular folks” who don’t see their iPhone as a status symbol or sweat details like a stainless steel body or 512GB of storage for photos and videos.
Where the iPhone XR cuts back from the iPhone XS
Screen technology: The 6.1-inch screen is just fine on its own, but it has a much lower screen resolution than either iPhone XS and uses an LCD display instead of OLED. Side by side, the iPhone XR screen looks duller and less pin-sharp. But remember, Apple used LCD screens up until last year’s iPhone X, so longtime fans shouldn’t feel the need to rebel.
Single rear camera lens instead of two: This is a big one. A single 12-megapixel camera resides on the back. It has the same upgraded technology as the iPhone XS phones, and you can take Bokeh portrait shots with the help of software. You can’t zoom in as much, though, and you have fewer portrait lighting effects.
Storage options: You have storage options of 64GB, 128GB and 256GB. People storing albums upon albums of home movies will prefer the 512GB option that the iPhone XS and XS Max offer.
Aluminum vs. steel: Stainless steel sides hug the pricier iPhones, but the iPhone XR is made with an aluminum frame, like many other phones on the market.
3D Touch: There’s no more 3D Touch, which means you won’t press in to launch apps or see widgets. However, you can still launch the camera app and flashlight from the lock screen and feel some haptic vibration when you do.
Later sale date: While the iPhone XS devices go on sale Sept. 21 (preorders start Sept. 14), you won’t be able to buy the iPhone XR until Oct. 26 (preorders start Oct. 19).
Where the iPhone XR seems to have the advantage
Battery life: We can’t say for sure until we test all three new iPhones, but the iPhone XR might have longer battery life than the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. Apple gave us cryptic guidance like “it lasts 90 minutes longer than the iPhone 8 Plus”. Since that phone lasted longer than the iPhone X in CNET’s looping video tests(in airplane mode), we at least have an inkling that the XR could outlast Apple’s more expensive iPhones.
Colorful identity: If you want your iPhone XS to be any color than gold, silver or black-grey, you’ll have to buy a case. With the iPhone XR, which comes in yellow, coral, blue and red as well as black and white, the color is already baked into the phone (but you’ll probably want a clear case for your glass-backed phone anyway).
Price (duh): The iPhone XR isn’t cheap, but it’s not a $1,000 phone, either. If you want a 2018 iPhone (and not the iPhone 8, 8 Plus or iPhone 7), you can keep a little more money in the bank.