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Apple iPhone XR review: The iPhone for everyone else

By James Lu - 18 Dec 2018
Prices:

Overview & Design

Note: This article was first published on 27th November 2018.

 

Overview

The Apple iPhone XR is the third iPhone to be launched this year, after the iPhone XS and XS Max. The XR can be seen as Apple's 'budget' model - although I use that word hesitantly as the cheapest XR still costs S$1,229 - with a similar design, features and much of the same experience as the iPhone XS, but at a starting price that's S$420 cheaper.

What do you give up for that lower price? The XR has a lower resolution LCD display with bigger bezels around it and it doesn't support 3D Touch. It's slightly thicker and heavier and it's made of aluminum instead of stainless steel, and it only has one camera on the back.

But other than that it's pretty similar to the XS. It's got the same full-screen design with the same notch and TrueDepth camera and Face ID system, the same powerful A12 Bionic processor, and the single camera on the back is the same as the wide-angle 12-megapixel camera on the back of the XS and XS Max. 

The XR is also available in a far wider selection of colors, six in total: Black, White, Coral, Yellow, Blue, and Red, making it the most colorful iPhone ever.

  Apple iPhone XR (256GB)
  Apple iPhone XR (256GB)
Launch SRP
  • From S$1469
Latest Price
  • From S$1160
Operating system
  • iOS 12
Processor
  • Apple A12 Bionic hexa-core
Built-in Memory
  • 3GB RAM
Display
  • 6.1-inch Liquid Retina / 1,792 x 828 pixels (326ppi) / LCD
Camera
  • Rear: 12-megapixel, (f/1.8, 28mm) with phase detection autofocus, OIS, and quad LED (dual-tone) flash
  • Front: 7-megapixel, f/2.2 FaceTime HD camera
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 4G LTE Cat 12 (600Mbps), dual-band, hotspot, Bluetooth v5.0, A2DP, LE, GPS, GLONASS, Lightning connector
Storage Type
  • 256GB internal storage
Battery
  • 2,942mAh
Dimensions
  • 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3 mm
Weight
  • 194g

Design

The core design of the XR is pretty much the same as the XS and XS Max. The frame isn't as shiny because it's matte aluminum instead of stainless steel, but the back is still glass and the front bezel is still black, no matter what color you get.

Our review model comes in this unique new color - Coral.

Speaking of colors, the XR is the most colorful iPhone Apple has ever released with six colors available at launch (for a closer look at each color, check out this gallery). On each, the aluminum frame is color-matched to the back of the phone, except for the white model, which has an unpainted silver aluminum finish.

I really like the black and white models, as the deep black and stark white remind me of the colors of older iPhones, before Space Gray and Silver replaced them. In my opinion, the iPhone 4 in either black or white is still one of the most beautiful phones ever designed.

If you're considering one of the more colorful options, the Project Red model looks absolutely gorgeous with its deep, blood red color, while Coral is probably the most interesting, with its unique pink-orange hue.

Like the XS and XS Max, the XR has glass on both the front and rear. It's worth noting that for the XS and XS Max, Apple claims that the glass on both the front and rear is the most durable ever used on a smartphone, whereas for the XR, Apple only claims that it has the most durable front glass, so clearly, the back glass isn't quite as durable.

Size-wise, the XR sits right between the XS and XS Max. It's actually a great size, and to me, the 6.1-inch display feels the best out of the three phones. The XR is slightly thicker than both the XS and XS Max, but it's not that noticeable, and it doesn't feel unwieldy.

On the back, there's a single rear camera instead of the dual camera setup of the XS and XS Max. The camera bump is quite large, but this is something that's become typical of all iPhones. A nice touch is that the ring surrounding the camera is the same color as the frame of the phone.

One other difference worth noting is that the extra antenna lines on the bottom and top of the iPhone XS and XS Max aren't there on the XR. This is because the XS and XS Max both support 4G LTE up to Cat 16 (1024Mbps), while the XR only supports it up to Cat 12 (600Mbps), the same as last year's iPhone X.

On the plus side, the missing antenna lines makes the bottom of the XR look a lot more symmetrical, with six holes on each side (although like the XS and XS Max, sound only comes out of the right ones). Having said that, the XR is not without its own quirk, as the Lightning port is lower and slightly out of alignment with the speaker grilles, presumably due to the LCD display taking up more space internally.

Finally, the XR is only IP67-rated for dust and water resistance. This means it's not as water-resistant as the XS and XS Max and can only be submerged underwater up to a depth of 1m instead of 2m. I can't imagine this actually being a deal breaker for anyone, but it's something to take note of anyway.

Everything else is pretty much the same as it is on the XS and XS Max. The elongated power button is still on the right side, with the single SIM tray beneath it (like the XS, the XR is dual-SIM, but the second SIM is eSIM only), while the two volume buttons and silencer toggle remain on the left.

Overall, while the XR isn't as nice or polished (literally) as the XS or XS Max, there's nothing cheap-feeling or inferior about it, and it looks and feels just as premium as any other flagship smartphone out there.

8.5
  • Design 8.5
  • Features 8
  • User-Friendliness 8
  • Performance 9.5
  • Value 8
The Good
Does 90% of what an iPhone XS does at 75% of the price
Six colors to choose from
Great benchmark performance
Best battery life out of all three 2018 iPhones
Loud stereo speakers
Great rear camera
The Bad
Thicker display bezels than the XS/XS Max
No 3D Touch
No HDR10/Dolby Vision support
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