iPhone XR: A Premium iPhone without the Premium Price Tag

The Good

  • Fastest processor that can be had in a phone
  • Very long battery life
  • Great 6.1” LCD display
  • Superb speakers
  • Great Value


The Bad

  • Single rear camera; no 2x optical zoom
  • Portrait mode only works with people
  • Bigger Bezels


Remember the good old days when iPhone’s were designated by numbers and pluses? The most recent iteration of the iPhone lineup includes the iPhone X, the iPhone XS and the iPhone XR. In a rare marketing misstep by Apple, it’s not obvious from the names where each falls in the feature hierarchy. However, if you look at the price tags, it’s obvious the top choice for us is the iPhone XR.

The iPhone X was released back on November 3, 2017, and represented the first major redesign to the iPhone in several years. It featured advanced front-facing cameras and sensors, introduced FaceID, a gorgeous OLED end-to-end screen (and the notch), an updated Portrait mode, wireless charging and a handful of software improvements.

The iPhone XS (coming in two varieties: XS has a 5.8” display, the XS Max has a 6.5” display) is the premium successor to the iPhone X, and features an updated dual rear-camera, a faster processor, dual-SIM support and USB-C fast charging. However, in our view, the XS’s entry level pricing of $999 is too much for it’s incrementally better features when compared to the much more attractively priced iPhone XR (starting at $749).

The iPhone XR does make some compromises, but the only real premium feature missing is the telephoto lens, found only on the X and XS. And in a weird twist, the XR actually provides some improvements to the XS. For example, the XR comes with a 6.1” screen, where the standard XS measures in at 5.8”. The XR also has three tiers of memory to suit your needs: 64GB ($749), 128 GB ($799) or 256 GB ($899). The XR can also be had in a variety of fun colors, if grey, black and white aren’t your thing.

iphone xr camera - apple
Credit: apple.com


The XR’s front-facing TrueDepth camera and sensor is exactly the same as the ones found on the XS. The rear camera is the same wide-angle camera that is on the XS. The only thing that is missing from the XR’s assortment of cameras is the telephoto lens. This affects photos taken with the XR in two ways. First, there is no 2x optical zoom. This will affect pictures taken from far away, and will increase how much moving you’ll need to do to get that perfect shot. Second, there is no telephoto-enhanced Portrait-mode photos. The XR can still take Portrait photos, but the bokeh blur will be more subtle than if taken with the X or XS.

You can adjust the amount of blur affect in your photos after they’ve been taken (just like on the X and XS). However, the XR’s Portrait mode only works on people. Apple has limited the SW to enable Portrait Mode only when there is a face in the frame. Occasionally, you can trick the SW, but if you if you plan on taking Portrait shots of your pet, the XR isn’t right for you.

iphone xr size comparison - mashable
iPhone X vs iPhone XR (middle) vs iPhone XS


The XR’s physical dimensions place it in the middle of the X and XS. At 150.9mm tall, 75.7mm wide, and 8.33mm thick, it’s not quite as thin as the X, but is smaller than the XS. The XR is much more one-hand friendly than the iPhone 8 Plus or the XS Max. The aluminum edges encompass a glass front and back, which gives the XR a nice balanced feeling in the hand.

iphone xr usa today
Credit: USA Today


The Liquid Retina LCD screen on the XR is very good, but place it next to the X or XS, and you will notice a difference. The OLED displays on the X and XS do provide deeper blacks and more vivid colors, but aside from a direct side-by-side comparison, you won’t be disappointed with the XR’s display. The bezels are a little thicker on the XR, and the notch is there as well.

The XR has the exact same brightness levels as the X and XR (625 nits), and in real-world usage, the display is better than the iPhone 8 and is on par with recent iPads. The resolution is a little lower than the XS’s SuperRetina display, but at 326 ppi and a 1,729 x 828 resolution, you won’t notice a difference.



The XR features a pair of great front-facing speakers. They delivered clean sound without any distortion.


3D Touch

Another feature missing from the XR is 3D touch. In its place, Apple has added a vibrating haptic-feedback feature that mimics 3D Touch pretty well.



The XR uses the same A12 Bionic processor as the XS. This new processer improves speed in everyday use and adds a substantial boost to the graphics processing.


Battery Life

One of the most impressive features of the XR is its batter life. Apple promises an hour more of video playback on the XR as compared to the XS, and over two hours of additional web surfing time. In our real world tests , the XR played a looped video for over 19.5 hours. The XS played the same loop for only 13.5 hours.

In everyday use, the XR performed like a champ. Putting it through moderate to heavy usage, taking and editing lots of photos, watching videos, streaming music, web browsing and email, it never needed a mid-day charge. Anyone who needs to be away from a charger for long periods of time should seriously consider the XR.


Other Features

The XR comes in a variety of colors, including blue, coral, red and yellow. While some may consider these a little childish, the colors are bright, and provide a fun alternative to the standard silver, grey, white and black we’re all accustomed to.

The XR is rated IP 67, which means its water and dust resistant. While we don’t recommend swimming with the XR, it can last up to 30 minutes in up to 1 meter of water. This certainly comes in handy if your iPhone takes an unexpected dive into the water.

The XR works with Qi-supported wireless chargers. The XR also features fast-charging via USB-C to Lighting adapter,  but you’ll need to pick up a 12-watt charging block as the XR only comes with a 5-watt block.

The XR has the same dual SIM capability as the XS. The XR has a physical nano SIM card slot, and gives you the option to activate a second eSIM. If you use the two SIMs, you can make and receive calls and send and receive messages from both phone numbers.



The iPhone XR is the iPhone for everyone who’s not a phone snob. It keeps all of the key features most people care about, and does it at discounted price when compared to the X and XS. Do we wish the bezels were thinner and it had the OLED display? Sure, but in their place, we get amazing battery life and the exact same A12 processor as in the XS.

The only real let down is the missing telephoto lens. Don’t get us wrong, the XR’s single shooter is very good, and we think only a small handful of iPhone photographers would really miss the second camera lens.

Overall, the iPhone XR is a great value, and its the iPhone we’d choose in early 2019.


Leave a Reply