The iPhone XR is the best iPhone of the year. Yes, the iPhone XS and XS Max have better screens and more versatile cameras, but neither of them looks as gorgeous as the XR in yellow, blue, or coral. The iPhone XR is also significantly more affordable and carries many of the best features from the flagships. It’s an unquestionably superb value at $750, especially if you’re still shopping around for an iPhone and the $1,000 price tag on the XS is bringing you down.
If you’re buying the iPhone XR — and you should — we can’t fathom the idea of going for the black or white colors. For the first time since the iPhone 5C, you’re getting rich, colorful choices from Apple — red, blue, yellow, and coral, on top of black and white. This is a phone you’ll want to flaunt, and we strongly encourage going for the yellow, blue, or coral colors. The Product(Red) color looks good too, but we’ve seen it many times already, so it doesn’t feel as special. The colors also mask any fingerprints that gather on the glass back.
The edges around the phone are aluminum — a step down from the stainless steel in the iPhone XS and XS Max — but the color here is more metallic, providing a nice, complementary two-tone look. The buttons are clicky, as usual.
The iPhone XR looks a lot like the iPhone 8 from the back with its single-camera lens, but flip it over and you get the full iPhone X treatment. There’s a notch, no home button, and an edge-to-edge screen for the most modern iOS experience you can get at this price. The differences between the XS are noticeable here, as the black bezels around the screen are thicker. Still, the bezels aren’t so large that they bulk up the device.
The XR has a large 6.1-inch LCD screen with 1,792 x 828 resolution. Apple calls it the Liquid Retina Display, and while the screen resolution may sound a little low, it looks sharp at the distance you typically hold your phone. Look closer and pixels will start to be visible. That said, it’s difficult to find much else wrong with the display. Black levels aren’t as deep as the OLEDs on the XS and XS Max, but they’re close. The screen is colorful, and it’s plenty bright enough to use outdoors. We think the screen will be good enough for most people, but it’s among the XR’s few shortcomings.
The iPhone XR does have the advantage of being the perfect size for people who find the XS too small and the XS Max too big. At 6.1 inches, it sits right in between the flagships (slightly smaller than Samsung’s Galaxy S9 Plus). It’s not as easy to use one-handed as the 5.8-inch iPhone XS, but we can still reach most parts of the screen. And it’s not as cumbersome as the 6.5-inch XS Max, which is undoubtedly a two-handed phone.
Face ID is the primary way you will unlock the phone, and it works just as fast as on the iPhone XS. At the $750 price range, it’s one of the few facial recognition tools you can use to log into secure apps. There’s not a lot of competition here on the Android side, though that may be starting to change.
The stereo speakers on the iPhone XR are loud and sound good, though the audio is not as dynamic or robust as the sound coming out of the speakers from the Razer Phone 2. You’ll be satisfied listening to them if you’re in a quiet room, but they will struggle outdoors if it’s noisy. There’s no headphone jack, and Apple has also decided not to include the 3.5mm headphone jack adapter in the box anymore.
The iPhone XR is powered by the same chipset inside its more expensive siblings, the A12 Bionic, though it comes with less RAM (3GB instead of 4GB). We’ve yet to see it run into performance issues. The processor makes iOS 12 fluid to operate and had no problem swiftly swapping through multiple apps.
In Geekbench 4, the iPhone XR rightly scores just under the iPhone XS and XS Max, but it’s faster than any Android smartphone we’ve tested to date. This phone can tackle almost anything you throw at it.
The iPhone XR has the same main camera on the back of the iPhone XS — a 12-megapixel lens with a f/1.8 aperture and optical image stabilization. It can shoot 4K 60 frames-per-second videos, can record stereo sound, packs Smart HDR, and for the first time, you can use Portrait Mode without the need for the secondary lens.
We’ve tested the improvements of the iPhone XS main camera over the iPhone X, and while they’re not radical, groundbreaking changes, Smart HDR does give the new camera the edge. That feature helps with high-contrast scenarios, minimizing blown out lights or skies and brightening up the foreground to make it visible. It works as advertised on the iPhone XR, producing excellent photos in extreme lighting conditions.
Like the more expensive iPhones or flagship Android devices, the camera app has nearly zero shutter lag. That helps capture detailed, well-exposed photographs that retain strong color. It holds its own in low-light scenarios too, though you need to make sure you stay still to prevent a blurry photo.
However, Portrait Mode only works on people, and that’s disappointing. On the iPhone XS, Portrait Mode can work on food, people, objects, pets, and almost anything. The XR camera, however, uses this mode partly with the help of artificial intelligence and neural nets. It’s trained on identifying a face, and that’s why it’s capable of outlining people so accurately. When you try to take a portrait photo of a dog or an object, the camera will say, “No person detected,” and it won’t even try.
The front-facing camera is the same TrueDepth camera system as the iPhone XS, so you’ll be able to take excellent Portrait Mode selfies here. It even worked with our dog. This 7-megapixel camera snaps great shots in standard mode, as well.
The iPhone XR’s battery won’t give you anxiety. It’s a 2,942mAh unit, and we frequently ended a work day with around 50 or 45 percent remaining by 6:45 p.m. That’s taking it off the charger around 7 a.m., and using the phone for browsing the web, taking pictures, streaming music, and playing games. On lighter days of use, we hit 35 percent by 9:42 p.m. This phone will easily get you through a full day, and it may be able to stick around for a few hours the following day if you forget to charge it.
The iPhone XR starts at $750, and it’s available now.
Apple offers a one-year limited warranty that protects the device from manufacturing defects. You can purchase AppleCare for additional protection.