Apple iPhone XR review: The iPhone that most people may buy

Aabhas Sharma | Gadgets Now | Updated: Oct 26, 2018, 03:13PM IST
Apple iPhone XR review: The iPhone that most people may buy
Critic Rating4/5
User Rating5/5
Sometimes to get a perspective of the present and what relevance it may have on the future, one has to unlock the doors of the past. So, let’s do that and turn back the calendar to September of 2013. Donald Trump was still hosting The Apprentice, OnePlus One meant two and not a smartphone while Sachin Tendulkar was somehow still playing Test cricket for India. It was also the same time when Apple launched its “unapologetically plastic” phone called the iPhone 5C. It had funky colours like pink, blue, green, yellow and white and the launch ad even had the tagline “plastic perfected.”

A year later when the iPhone 5C was contentiously declared a flop – strictly by Apple’s high standards only because compared to other brands it still sold a handsome number of units – it was Ken Segall who made a valid point on his blog. Segall, the man behind a lot of Apple’s ad campaigns, wrote that “Steve Jobs was right. Apple is a company that doesn’t do ‘cheap’.

So earlier this year when it was unofficially confirmed that Apple will launch a ‘cheap’ – again by Apple’s standards only – iPhone this year, the two words which popped up in the head were “5C”. Having used the iPhone XR for more than a week we can safely say that those two words never ever crossed our minds. How does Apple’s most ‘affordable’ – not cheap – offering fare as a smartphone? Read our review to find out:

iPhone XR Design

The iPhone XR is a peculiarly designed iPhone in terms of the size. It’s bigger than the iPhone X and XS (which have a 5.8-inch screen) and smaller than the iPhone XS Max (with a 6.5-inch screen). With a 6.1-inch screen, the iPhone XR looks like a sturdy and robust looking smartphone. Apple has incorporated a glass back – slightly less durable than the iPhone XS – but still strong enough.

Surprisingly, even with bigger real estate on the screen the iPhone XR is a single-handed phone even for people who have smallish hands. It’s a great screen size to have as well for watching movies, videos and other multimedia content on their handheld devices.


The iPhone XR does have a premium look and feel for a phone that doesn’t follow the order of the day – glass and steel build -- but not compared to the iPhone XS. What works in the iPhone XR’s favour are the colours. In simply white or just black (no offence to Google’s colour schemes), this won’t be the case but the unique aspect of the design are the vivid colours that Apple has introduced with the iPhone XR. For five years, rose gold has been the only ‘bold’ addition to the iPhone line up. The iPhone XR ventures into the bold and beautiful category with Yellow, Coral, Blue, Product RED and White. The review unit we received was what white in colour – slightly blandish compared to the others – but it is still a different white what we have seen in the iPhone X.

A glass back generally means that you’re getting a fingerprint magnet. However, that’s not the case with the iPhone XR. It’s not as if it’s smudge-free but it collects lesser than most other phones that sport a glass back.

The iPhone XR retains the design aesthetics of Apple in other aspects. Except that unlike the iPhone XS – which is a stainless steel frame – the iPhone XR has an aluminum frame. What it does is that it gives the iPhone XR a thicker look and feel compared to the iPhone XS. The iPhone XR with its vibrant colours is an instant head-turner though unlike the iPhone XS, it won’t be winning any design awards.

iPhone XR Display

When it comes to most other smartphones, the display is never really the biggest talking point. That, however, isn’t the case with iPhone XR as it has something called a “Liquid Retina” LCD display. In other words, it’s your regular LCD display that comes added with dollops of of Apple-ness.

First things first, let’s not compare the display of the iPhone XR with the other new Apple phone, the iPhone XS. Why? Because it’s comparing Apples with, well, better quality Apples. Also, do keep in mind that unlike us reviewers, not many people have the option to keep the iPhone XS and iPhone XR next to each other and keep nitpicking in the display.


As a standalone LCD display, Apple knocks it out of the park with the iPhone XR’s display. To the naked eye, no one will turn around and say that “oh, look Apple has compromised.”

The display of the iPhone XR works absolutely fine. At times, while watching a movie or a TV show, it was hard to believe that this was an LCD display. The viewing angles are great and the display is extremely vibrant. The images are crisp, the blacks are deep enough and overall it offers an accomplished display experience.

Now let’s get into the specifics and ‘compromises’ that Apple has made in the display of iPhone XR. The iPhone XR display offers a display resolution of 1792x828 pixels. Now, on paper this is deceptively low than most other smartphones have to offer and considerably lower than that of the iPhone XS. Yet, as we mentioned there are no irksome points with the iPhone XR’s display.


But then are the bezels. Oh yes, there are bezels in a phone that commands a premium. Now Apple validates the use of bezels in an era of almost bezel-less phones by explaining that the bezel is home to the LCD backlight. While the LCD backlight gave rise to the bezels, it has knocked off the chin which is perhaps uglier than the bezels. But that depends on what bothers you more, the chin or bezels or in same both. Take the Pixel 3 for example, it has bezels AND the chin but in an OLED display. So, the display despite having two ‘issues’ looks really vibrant as it’s not a LCD screen but an OLED. The lack of chin is certainly a plus but the bezels do bother you. Whatever be the rationale Apple gives, it’s still something that does look odd on a premium iPhone.

The other compromise is that there’s no 3D Touch in the iPhone XR. Instead what you get is something called Haptic Touch. Truth is that 3D Touch as a feature is something we never took a fancy to, so the lack of it wasn’t an issue at all. When it comes to Haptics, Apple certainly does it much better than most brands in the market. To explain in it layman terms, with 3D Touch all you had to do was hard press the screen to fire up certain apps or access the menu. With Haptic Touch, you need to long press the screen to get ‘feedback. For example, with 3D Touch if you press the Clock, it will give you the option to set the alarm or start the stopwatch. With Haptic Touch, you don’t get those options but get a vibration feedback.

Moving on to another compromise, the iPhone XR doesn’t support HDR or Dolby Digital in video playback. If you want the perfect display then Apple’s message is: please go ahead and spend Rs 25,000 on the iPhone XS and get all that you’re looking for.

The display isn’t a deal breaker but yes, it’s one aspect where the iPhone XR makes a few compromises. If you’re absolutely finicky about the display then you will find quite a few things missing in the iPhone XR. However, if you just want a bright, vibrant and absolutely competent display, then you’ll find that the iPhone XR offers a very good display. As for us, the bezels were a bit of a downer but barring that we don’t see display being the obstacle for the majority of the phone buyers.

iPhone XR Performance

While design and display are important factors in judging any smartphone, the most critical aspect remains the performance. A fancy display and a sleek design are worth zilch if you have a phone that is an underperformer. Apple might have cut corners in other aspects but when it comes to performance, the iPhone XR stands shoulder to shoulder with the iPhone XS series of phones.

The iPhone XR runs the same A12 Bionic processor that is found in the ‘premium’ range of iPhones. What this means is that you get a phone for Rs 25,000 less which performs as well as the expensive sibling. This, in our opinion, is the strongest point of the iPhone XR and Apple has been extremely smart in not cutting corners when it comes to performance. Most smartphone buyers are – or should be -- swayed by how good a processor is which powers the smartphone. The iPhone XR in that sense boasts of the best processor in the market.


What we expect the iPhone XR is to be the phone for those who want to switch from Android to iOS. Or for those who are still lugging around their iPhone 6S or iPhone 7/8. For both these set of buyers, there’s a world of a difference in the computing power. Compared to the most powerful Android processor – Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 -- in the market, the processor on the iPhone XR is radically faster. It’s faster than that the A11 chip found at the heart of the iPhone X as well. Although as we had mentioned in the iPhone XS Max review, those users perhaps won’t notice a drastic difference in performance.

Gaming is a breeze on the iPhone XR and even continuous playing doesn’t warm up the device at all. For day-to-day work, the iPhone XR’s efficiency can be tested to the limit and it comes out on top of almost everything.

What helps boosting the performance of the iPhone XR is the neural engine which is seen in the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max as well. The neural engine performs actions faster than the iPhone X as well. Rest assured, the A12 Bionic processor coupled with the neural engine delivers performance that will leave one and all impressed. Even Apple’s harshest critics would’ve to agree that this year the Cupertino-based company has really upped the ante.

iPhone XR Camera

So now that we didn’t mention compromises anywhere in the performance, we are back with the C word (not the 5C). There are two ways to judge the camera performance of the iPhone XR: as a standalone camera and the other is to compare it with the other iPhones.

Let’s talk about the comparisons first. Truth be told, the iPhone XR isn’t a match to the iPhone XS. It’s still a very good camera but just not as good as the iPhone XS or the iPhone X. Why? To begin with there’s just a single rear camera. Nothing wrong with that, we hear you say and you’ve a point. We will get to that in a while. When Apple unveiled the iPhone XR to the world for the first time on September 12, it highlighted that the most-talked about feature of the iPhone XS camera – the Portrait mode -- will be part of the ‘affordable’ option.


Apple wasn’t misleading with that claim but it did leave out a few vital details. For starters, the Portrait Mode is literally the portrait mode in the iPhone XR. You can only click people’s photos in the Portrait Mode. As soon as you move the camera to an object, the message “No Person Detected” flashes in the camera app. True, you can still adjust the depth of the field effect like in the iPhone XS but only on people. That’s not all. Unlike the iPhone XS or even the iPhone X – which have six modes -- there are only three modes available in the iPhone XR. You only get Natural Light, Studio Light and Contour Light options in the Portrait Mode of the iPhone XR.

Again, it’s not a deal breaker as we have never been fans of the Studio Mono mode to begin with. While we are at it, even the Contour Light mode isn’t very Apple-like thing to feature in a camera as it does add an artificial touch to the images.

When you compare the images of the iPhone XR with those clicked on the iPhone XS, there’s a difference in the image quality. However, it’s not that stark and not for a minute you get a feeling that this is an inferior camera.


Since there’s no second lens in the iPhone XR, the ability to zoomed out images is missing. Though we have noticed that there are hardly any zoomed images that we ended up clicking, so it didn’t matter too much.

As a standalone camera, the iPhone XR camera clicks very good, detailed images. Barring the Portrait mode images, the camera is pretty much identical to that we saw in the iPhone XS and XS Max. Low-light photography is quite impressive in the iPhone XR. When it comes to video capabilities, the iPhone XR is really good and offers all that you get in the more expensive smartphones.

The selfie camera remains the same as the iPhone XS so once again you get a very good camera for those images that need to be posted on Instagram with the choicest of hashtags.

On the whole, the iPhone XR packs in a camera that over the years we have come to associate with iPhones. It’s extremely capable and will rarely disappoint you. That is unless you start comparing the Portrait mode with that of the Google Pixel still remains the benchmark. Don’t do that and you havean impressive camera in your hands.

iPhone XR Battery

This is an area where the iPhone XR is certainly better than the more premium iPhones. For starters, the iPhone XR charges much faster than the iPhone XS and XS Max. It’s not as if Apple has suddenly grown a generous bone and is shipping a fast charger with the iPhone XR, you still get the regular charger still charges relatively quicker than the other iPhones. The battery also outlasts the ones found in the iPhone XS and XS Max.


One can easily use the iPhone XR for a day without reaching out for the charger. This is after using the iPhone XR extensively throughout the day. It’s something that we can’t say about the iPhone XS for sure. No complaints at all about the battery, except our bugbear with Apple for not giving a fast charger out-of-the-box.

iPhone XR Verdict

The Apple ecosystem is divided in two worlds: either you absolutely love it or you continue to find issues with it to the point of swearing not to enter it any cost, or at such high costs. In Apple’s so-called perfect ecosystem, the iPhone XR is an oddity for many reasons. For starters, it’s affordable yet remains expensive than most other smartphones available in the market. It blends the fastest processor with a ‘compromised’ display and design and yet manages to impress you suitably.


The iPhone XR is aimed at first-time iPhone buyers and those who want to shift from Android to iPhone. Not many people using the iPhone X would switch to the iPhone XR, despite it having a better processor, mainly because once you’re used to an OLED display, it’s tough to go back to LCD. Not to forget for hardcore photography buffs, camera could also be a deal breaker.


However, if you’re an Android user and want to cross to the other side, the iPhone XR is an alluring idea. You get a processor that no Android phone can match, you get an accomplished – albeit LCD – display and a camera that delivers an overall impressive performance.


The iPhone XR will not be remembered for its looks – perhaps its colours -- or camera but it has all the makings of a game-changer. People will flock to buy it as it is a potent cocktail of everything one looks for in a smartphone. Add to it the utterly ridiculous but brilliantly cultivated idea of this being a ‘cheap’ iPhone.


Apple is betting on that set of customers who have ‘always wanted an iPhone’ and those who haven’t changed their iPhones in a couple of years. Add those two and you are looking at a phone that could may as well be the best-seller for Apple. That’s why this is an oddity of a phone: despite making compromises Apple could laugh all the way to the bank riding on a less-fancier but a very good iPhone.

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R krish

Rated Apple iPhone XR as Excellent

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Nimeshjpatil Patil

5.0 Rated as Excellent.

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