As you all know, Apple’s newest premium iPhones have been out for weeks now. Did you get out and drop a pretty penny for the latest thousand-dollar-and-beyond iPhones? Or are you waiting for something that’s a bit more reasonably priced?
Fortunately, the expensive iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max will be joined by their less expensive sibling, the iPhone XR, very soon.
If you’re looking to get your hands on this shiny new gadget early, open your wallet (ever so slightly), Apple will finally make the iPhone XR available for preorder on Friday, Oct. 19.
But what exactly is the difference between the iPhone XR and the pricier iPhone XS models? Is this more budget-friendly iPhone worth the money? Or should you go the distance and shell out more for the premium models? Let’s find out.
Since edge-to-edge screens and Face ID are the biggest innovations on Apple’s flagship phones in years, the iPhone XR will also share the same thin bezel design and the upper notch that the iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Max have.
Although the XR appears to have larger bezels around the screen compared to the XS, the difference is not that significant. The thicker bezels also have their own benefits. It may mean better screen protection against drops and since the XR has an LED screen (more on that later), the black borders can improve its perceived contrast.
Physically, the XR is the largest of the current crop of iPhones at 6.2 by 3 inches, mainly because of its wider bezels. (The iPhone XS is 5.7 by 2.79 inches while the iPhone XS Max is 5.7 by 2.8 inches.)
Another difference is the build material. Apple stuck with steel and glass on the iPhone XS models but went with aluminum on the XR to cut down on production costs. To make up for it, the XR will come in six different colors: black, white, red, yellow, coral, and blue.
The biggest difference between the XS models and the XR is the display, more precisely, the display technology used.
Instead of having an OLED screen like its more expensive counterparts, the XR will sport a cheaper LCD display instead. And despite its larger physical size, the XR actually has a smaller screen than the XS Max.
The XR has a 6.1-inch LCD display Apple calls the “Liquid Display.” It also a lower 1,792 x 828 resolution compared to the XS’s 5.8-inch 2,436 x 1,125 and the XS Max’s 6.5-inch 2,688 x 1,242 panels. This means the XR’s display won’t look as sharp as the premium iPhone XS models.
In fact, even the older iPhone 8 Plus’ 5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 Retina Display has a higher pixel density and is sharper than the XR’s. But don’t worry, unless you put these iPhones side by side, the difference should be negligible in everyday use.
Fun fact: OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diodes) is a relatively newer and better display technology. Since the pixels in OLED displays emit their own light, they don’t require backlighting like LCD screens. This allows for thinner screens, crisper blacks, higher brightness, more vivid colors, less power consumption and faster refresh rates. The downside? OLED displays are still expensive.
Another defining characteristic of the iPhone X and the XS models is the vertical dual-camera array composed of a wide angle and a telephoto lens. This allows for the beautiful bokeh and depth of field effects in Portrait Mode.
The iPhone XR, on the other hand, only has a single rear 12 MP wide-angle camera lens, but with software, it can also replicate those fancy Portrait Mode effects.
And like the XS models, the XR will also support adjustable Bokeh depth-of-field post-processing edit capabilities.
Features and specs
Now, the good part. Although Apple made display, camera, and design concessions to make the iPhone XR more affordable, it actually gets almost every other feature that’s available on the XS models.
For one, it is the cheapest way to get Apple’s new Face ID technology. Face ID is Apple’s biometric security system of choice moving forward and it’s worth getting the XR for that alone.
The XR will likewise get Qi wireless charging capabilities and IP67 water and dust resistance. Although this is a notch below the XS models’ IP68 rating, this is enough to protect it from water splashes, short dips and rain.
Processor-wise, the XR is also powered by Apple’s new 7-nanometer A12 Bionic chip, the same chip that runs the XS models. I’m glad Apple decided to use this chip on the XR instead of the iPhone X’s older A11 bionic processor. According to Apple, this chip is crazy powerful with a 6-core CPU, 4-core GPU, a Neural Engine and two performance CPU cores. The A12’s CPU runs 15 percent faster than A11, and the GPU runs 50 percent faster.
With its efficient processor and lower resolution display, expect the iPhone XR to have the best battery life on an iPhone ever. There are no real-world tests available yet, but Apple claims that the XR will last an hour and a half longer than the iPhone 8 Plus, the current king of iPhone battery longevity.
Storage wise, the iPhone XR will offer 64 GB, 128 GB, and 256 GB variants. (Sorry, no 512 GB option like with the XS models.)
So is it worth it?
The iPhone XR starts at $749 and ramps up to $1,149 for the 256 GB version. Compared to the iPhone XS models’ outrageous prices, the iPhone XR is definitely worth it, especially if you’re already knee-deep in Apple’s ecosystem and you’re looking to upgrade your aging iPhone 7 or iPhone 8 this year.
For that price, you’re future-proofed with Face ID, you get Apple’s latest A12 processor and potentially the best battery life on an iPhone yet.
It may have a lower resolution LCD display and a cheaper aluminum body, but these concessions will be hardly noticeable for average users who will use the XR as their daily driver.
However, keep in mind that there are Android smartphones that have comparable and better specs than the iPhone XR at the same and even cheaper price points. It’s all about software experience and the ecosystem, of course, and you can’t accurately compare apples to oranges with their pricing. Like I said, if you’re not tied into the Apple experience and ecosystem, Android phones can give you comparable specs at better price points.
And finally, if you’re looking for even cheaper iPhones and you don’t mind not having Face ID, the iPhone 7 ($499) and iPhone 8 ($599) are now cheaper than ever. However, Face ID will definitely future-proof your investment and the iPhone XR is worth trading up for if you have the extra $150 to spare.
How to preorder the iPhone XR
As usual, to preorder the iPhone XR and be among the first to get it on the day it ships (October 26), you’ll have to stay up late (or wake up early) and watch Apple.com (or your carrier’s website) like a hawk on Friday, October 19 at 12:01 AM PST.
I’m expecting that the demand for the iPhone XR will be extremely high (definitely higher than the XS and XS Max) because of its price point and the earlier you put your pre-order in, the better your chances of getting your iPhone XR within the first week of release or so.
You can also apply for Apple’s iPhone Upgrade program now and get preapproved to purchase the XR. This can help you sneak in your order faster amidst the crazy virtual queues for the iPhone XR come Oct. 19. As always, the early bird gets the early (Apple) worm.
Are the new iPhones worth the money? Tap or click below to listen to the latest Consumer Tech Update for Kim’s opinion.