Sitting right in the middle in terms of size and right at the bottom when it comes to the price is Apple’s iPhone XR. But just because it is the cheapest iPhone you can buy from Apple’s 2018 roster, does not make it any less of a flagship.
It may lack some of the most premium features that are present on the XR’s more pricey cousins, but it can be argued this is the most bang-for-buck Apple you can buy today with some of the most useful features.
Design & Build: A mashup of the best
Apple has taken inspiration from some of the best devices in its product line-up in terms of design. From the back and sides the XR looks very akin to last year’s iPhone 8 and with a beautiful glass back, aluminum chassis, and single lens camera module. From the front though it stays true to the template that the iPhone X set last year.
As you would expect from Apple, the build quality is top notch (no pun intended), radiating a sense of premiumness that is quintessentially Apple. With the XR, Apple has brought to the table something that has been missing from other Apple products in recent years and that is the option to choose from multiple funky colours. The XR is available in a whopping six colour options and frankly speaking, it’s tough to choose a favorite.
Although the bezels on the XR are thicker than last year’s iPhone X and the latest XS and XS Max, it still does a better job than most bezel-less flagship phones this year that still sport an ungainly chin. The bezels on the XR are symmetrical on all four sides, perfectly framing the beautiful 6.1 inch screen.
Screen: Unfound worries
If you haven't been living under a rock for the past couple of months you probably know the drama surrounding this particular aspect of the XR. Yes, it’s not an OLED, and yes, a PPI lower than the 6S Plus, and yes it has a resolution of 1792x828, but using the device day-to-day does not make it feel, well, dated in any way whatsoever. The display on the XR is probably the best LCD display on the market today and the lack of performance and sharpness can only be felt when you place it next to the XS with the XS having slightly better sharpness and better blacks.
The XR has also done away with 3D touch and frankly we don’t really miss it much.
Media consumption on the XR is better than it has ever been on an LCD display with rich and vibrant colours with a pretty great dynamic range. Add to that the subtle changes that True Tone makes and you are left with a fantastic display that is thoroughly pleasurable to use.
Processor & performance: Flagship Grade
There is not much we can say about the latest A12 Bionic processor that hasn’t been said already. It's the same processor you would find on the iPhone XS and XS Max and boasts a computational prowess that is leagues above the A11 you find on the iPhone X. The A12 chip assures that the budget iPhone will be just as quick as its more premium counter parts and at this price, it’s almost a bargain. This gem of a processor blazes through iOS12 and its handy multi tasking features with absolutely no hiccups or lags at all.
Where the XR differs from the XS and XS Max is the RAM with the XR being fitted with 3 GB while the other iPhones from the 2018 lineup get 4 gigs. The slightly compromised RAM though does not really result in any noticeable drop in performance or multi-tasking capabilities and that’s down to the legendary optimisation prowess that Apple is known for. We were surprised and pleased that Apple decided to fit the latest processor in its budget device gives it a better bang for buck than any of this years iPhones.
Apart from the best processor Apple makes, the XR also features tremendous battery life.Apple's spec sheet claims that the XR lasts upto 1.5 hours longer that the iPhone 8 Plus and in our test we achieved similar numbers. We suspect the XR probably has the best battery life out of the 2018 lineup, even out lasting the XS Max
For Apple customers in markets like India, the iPhones all come with dual SIM functionality. But this time with a twist. You see, a traditional dual SIM phone has a slot for two Sim cards while the new iPhones only have a slot for one. How is it dual SIM then you ask? Well the other SIM is what is known as an E-SIM and it can't be removed or accesses physically in any way. It is to be noted that the E-SIM cannot be activated just yet, but it will be possible once Apple has pushed out an update that will allow you to activate it in the settings. We are not sure about the fate of your old physical SIM once you have transferred to the E-SIM, but rest assured, we here at Stuff India will keep you updated on the procedure of the transfer and the pros and cons of what come with it. So watch this space for more!
Camera: Some improvement needed
An area of controversy that the tech journalists the over the world over were extremely passionate about was the camera on the iPhone XR. Apple have gone with a single camera module rather than the dual-lens module on the higher end variants. Luckily however, the lone camera module on the XR is pretty much the same as the the one you would find on the XS and XS Max and for the most part they perform really well and there is no drop in quality while taking pictures. The lack of the second camera module though is particularly felt in portrait mode (yes it has a portrait mode) where the software is not quite up to the mark, but we suspect that will improve over time with future updates.
In most lighting conditions, the XR judges the exposure and colour really well, and it is only when you play around with with the options in portrait mode that you see some grain in the picture.
Comparing the front facing camera in the XR to the iPhone XS and XS Max in similar situations revealed that the shots taken on the XR has a slightly warmer tone and deep down we kind of prefer that look over the same shots taken on the XS.
For all the vloggers and content creators out there, the XR has the same video recording capabilities as the XS and XS Max minus the 2x optical zoom feature. All the other features like 4K video recording, Optical Image Stabilisation, Slow-motion and Timelapse are all carried down to the XR.
See what we mean when we said that the XR is every bit a flagship despite being the most affordable iPhone of 2018.
Verdict: Need an Apple
Historically, the budget iPhones of yesteryear (namely the iPhone C and iPhone SE) although decent devices, did not really feel flagship like iPhones really do. With the XR though things have changed. You get most of the bells and whistles from the higher end devices at a significant drop in cost. The most important features of an iPhone are present and work extremely well, like the A12 Bionic Processor, the Face ID wizardry and the quintessentially Apple build quality. There are compromises though and the internet has been set ablaze with rants and “depressions” regarding those features. Yes, the screen resolution is low, but most users are not going to notice the difference between a Full HD display and an HD one, especially at that size. And for the users who might notice, there is always the XS and XS Max to ease that fevered brow. The whole point of the XR is to target a particular set of buyers. The ones who are still using an iPhone 6 or 7 and want to upgrade but think the XS and XS Max are a bit out of their price range. For those users, the XR comes as a life saver, as it would be a massive upgrade for them at a much more reasonable cost. And that is the point of the XR. No reason to get “depressed” over it really.