REVIEW: Apple iPhone XR

REVIEW: Apple iPhone XR
The iPhone XR is finally here - especially for those who want to spend less yet love to have that Apple badge in their hands.

Dubai - The 8's back, X's front and iOS 12 inside: how's that for a combination?

By Alvin R. Cabral

Published: Tue 23 Oct 2018, 11:46 PM

Last updated: Wed 28 Nov 2018, 5:33 PM

Even when I was still in California hot on the heels of the launch of the iPhone XS and XS Max last month, the whispers had already started: the iPhone XR is one to watch out for.
While it doesn't have the full strengths of its more-heralded co-stars this year, an argument has been made for why it would do good, maybe even better: given the costs of the XS and XS Max, the XR may well be the go-to Apple device for those balking at spending quite a lot. (It is too early to underestimate things, though: remember, the iPhone X eventually became Apple's best-seller in their previous season.)
And as we've said before, we could safely say that the XR is the successor to the iPhone 8 (we have no idea if a '9' will still ever come up), which is why we're stacking them up:

I said this was an XR-versus-8 affair. So why, oh why, did I slip in the iPhone XS? Simple: to show you that the XR shares a number of key traits with Apple's present flagship.
While Apple indeed eliminated a lot of top-end features, they were great enough to slap in the A12 Bionic chip into the XR, giving it flagship-level processing. I'm going to save myself time and give you a screenshot to explain what this is, based on my full review of the XS and XS Max last month:

Pretty much sums it up.
Time to point out some standout things here. First, it's a great idea that Apple included a 128GB storage option, which is, as many have pointed out, the ideal capacity in this day and age where people seem to be trigger-happy with taking photos and videos, as well as downloading apps that are storage-hungry. Before, 16GB and 32GB options were okay - if you did nothing but call and text on your smartphone; more content and increased dependence on it have far outsized low storage capacities. I'm not a social media person, yet the average storage I've been using on my device over the recent years has been anywhere between 70-80GB; only once have I breached 100GB. Arguably, the 128GB XR will be a huge seller for this reason.
Meanwhile, there's no OLED on the XR; instead, it comes with what Apple calls Liquid Retina, or, as they again put it, 'the most advanced LCD in the industry', which is the reason the display is crisp and smooth. You'll also see that it has a 6.1-inch screen; the XR is now Apple's second-largest smartphone after the 6.5-inch XS Max, and far outdoes the rest of the field, given its all-screen design because, again, it has more digital real estate in a more compact package:

XR vs 8 Plus

XR vs X
And for comparison's sake, here's the 2018 iPhone line-up side-by-side:

Thank you, Apple Insider, for saving me time.
Physically, I can sum it up like this: the XR is a hybrid of the 8 and X, having the former's rear and the latter's front. And this apparently means the end of the line of the home button, along with it Touch ID - unless Apple is planning on incorporating an on-screen fingerprint sensor, which is widely expected in the near future. This is, unless they are planning to release an 'iPhone 9', or the really long-rumoured second-generation iPhone SE.
Now, for what could be the most interesting part for a lot of you out there: the camera. The XR comes with a 12MP single-lens system, you may have seen up there that there's a new addition to its arsenal: Portrait mode. However, you may have also noticed that there was an asterisk (*) next to it. We'll get into that in a little while.
In the meantime, here are some sample shots I took with the XR. And since I don't have an iPhone 8 - plus also because the XR and 8 have similar camera specs - I decided to stack it up against an iPhone XS Max.

Trick or treat's comin'!
Mmmm... the famed impaled Pinoy treats.

Children, eat your vegetables.
Honestly, do you see any substantial difference?
At first glance, shots from the XR and XS Max are essentially the same, given that both have a 12MP sensor and, most importantly, Smart HDR. Again, from my XS and XS Max review:

Here are some night shots:

Here's a shot of the moon, from my eighth-floor balcony (as always), at 5x zoom - this is the XR's max:
I suddenly miss those werewolves in video games.
Of course, Portrait mode is back, along with all of its lighting tricks and the adjust-it-after-you've-taken-a-shot Depth Control bokeh effect:

Which leads us to that asterisk there on top. While Portrait mode is available on both the main and front cameras, only the latter has all the effects - natural, studio, contour, stage light and stage light mono - while the former only has the first three:

The reason? Pretty simple: since the main camera is only a single-lens system, it doesn't have another lens to perform the stage light effect.

Sorry, you won't get these with the front camera.
As for its battery, our standard one-hour YouTube-at-full-brightness test sapped 15 per cent of juice from the XR, compared to the 10 per cent of both the XS and XS Max. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to perform this test on the iPhone 8 last year, but I am a bit surprised with the results; the XR has a 2942mAh battery, significantly up from the 8's 1821mAh, but also bigger than the XS' 2658mAh. Upon repeating the same test for a couple of times, I got better results: 11 and 12 per cent. Well, that's basically at par with its more heralded buddies.
However, the XR did live up to its billing that it lasts up to 1.5 hours longer than the 8; I had no issues getting to the day-and-a-half mark - even more with limited activity. Save for the XS and XS Max, the battery on the iPhone XR is the best from Apple, successfully balancing out power and performance without having to make you worry about getting juice sapped out sooner rather than later. It's also capable of wireless charging, compatible with Qi-powered devices.
And yeah, since the XR runs on iOS 12, you'll get all the new stuff you've seen on the XS and XS Max, including Screen Time, eSIM, Animoji additions, Memoji and that new way of closing recent apps that I truly adore, among many others. Here's a link to that review again for your convenience, plus more on iOS 12's capabilities.
Given all its features and price point, the iPhone XR is a well-rounded machine. However, there are a lot of lower-priced smartphones out there that have been able to incorporated a dual-lens camera on them. The bigger screen is also a welcome addition, plus most especially the 128GB storage option.
Let's keep this plain and simple: if you don't care about top-end stuff and looks yet want to have the Apple badge in your hands but not at a premium, then the iPhone XR is for you.
GOODIES - TrueDepth camera up front, bigger screen, more affordable, 128GB capacity
BADDIES - Only a single-lens main camera, thicker design

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