A Day With the iPhone XR: Unboxing and First Impressions

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The iPhone XR is set to launch on Friday, October 26, and ahead of its release date, we were able to get our hands on a review unit from Apple.

We spent the day with the iPhone XR in New York City, checking out its feature set and doing a quick comparison with the higher-priced iPhone XS for all of our readers who are thinking of picking up Apple's most affordable flagship smartphone later this week.


The iPhone XR in our video is the black version, which looks fantastic with the glass body and matching aluminum frame, but it's worth noting the XR comes in several colors that are a bit more fun: white, yellow, coral, blue, and PRODUCT(RED).

Apple's iPhone XS features a higher-end sturdier stainless steel frame instead of the lower-cost aluminum frame in the XR, but the XR doesn't feel cheap. It's a premium device, just like the iPhone 8 and other older aluminum iPhones.


Size wise, at 6.1-inches, the iPhone XR is a little bit bigger than the iPhone XS (5.8 inches) and a little bit smaller than the iPhone XS Max (6.5 inches), which makes it the perfect size for those who want a middle ground between the two XS options.

iPhone XR in the center

Like the iPhone XS, the iPhone XR features an edge-to-edge display with no Home button so there's plenty of screen real estate, but the bezels at the sides, top, and bottom are noticeably thicker, which is one downside.

The iPhone XR uses the exact same TrueDepth camera system with Face ID that's in the iPhone XS, which means there's still a notch at the top. Overall, though, the visible display is much larger than what you get with the iPhone 8 and it's almost the same as the XS and XS Max.

iPhone XR on left, iPhone XS Max on right

One of the most notable differences between the XR and the XS is the XR's "Liquid Retina" LCD display compared the OLED display of the XS. If you have both phones side by side, you're going to notice the lower 1792 x 828 resolution, but on its own, the XR's display is perfectly adequate. Basically, it looks totally fine for an LCD display, and, in fact, better than previous Apple LCDs.

There is no 3D Touch in the iPhone XR due to the technicalities associated with implementing an edge-to-edge LCD display, and Apple has replaced it with a Haptic Touch feature. Haptic Touch provides haptic feedback when long pressing on buttons like the camera or the flashlight, but it is in no way as fleshed out as 3D Touch and can't be used in as many places.

For frequent 3D Touch users, there's good news -- Apple plans to make Haptic Touch work with more gestures in the future.

At the back of the XR, there's a single-lens camera which is available in lieu of the dual-lens camera system in the iPhone XS. It features a single wide-angle camera lens, but it can still do much of what the dual-lens camera in the XS can do thanks to some software magic.

The iPhone XR's camera works with Smart HDR, Portrait Mode, and Depth Control, but there are some differences to be aware of. With Portrait Mode, some of the low light photos can look even better than with the iPhone XR because it's using the larger f/1.8 aperture wide-angle lens to capture the image instead of the smaller f/2.4 telephoto lens like the iPhone XS, which lets in more light.


That means Portrait Mode photos in lower lighting on the XR are potentially going to look better than those on the XS, but there's one major caveat - you can only take Portrait Mode photos of people on the XR.

Because there's no multiple camera system to use to calculate depth between the background and foreground for blurring purposes, Apple uses a person's face to determine what to blur and what to keep sharp. That means no rear-facing iPhone XR Portrait Mode images of pets, flowers, food, etc. You'll also get fewer Portrait Lighting options.

Smart HDR is similar between the two cameras, though the feature is a bit more hit or miss when it comes to the handling of highlights and complex lighting situations.


As for the front-facing camera, since it's exactly the same as the camera in the iPhone XS, you can do all of the same things and you have full access to Memoji and Animoji.

Inside, the iPhone XR is using the same A12 Bionic chip as the iPhone XS, which means it's just as fast. And since that chip isn't driving an OLED display, the XR gets way more battery life. In fact, the iPhone XR has the highest battery life of any of the three new flagship iPhones, XS Max included. One thing to note, though: the iPhone XR has 3GB RAM, while the XS has 4GB for the OLED display.

There are a few other differences to be aware of between the XS and the XR: the XR has a slower LTE Advanced connection instead of a Gigabit LTE connection like the iPhone XS, it has an IP67 water resistance rating instead of IP68, and it maxes out at 256GB of storage.

All in all, the LCD display, the aluminum frame, Haptic Touch, and the single-lens camera are the major differentiators between the two devices, and we don't feel like the iPhone XR's shortcomings are going to be a big deal for most consumers.


With the super fast A12 chip, Face ID, edge-to-edge display, glass body for wireless charging, the color options, the lower price tag, the XR is a great smartphone that's going to be an ideal choice for many people.

The question isn't whether the iPhone XR is as good as the iPhone XS -- it's whether the iPhone XS's OLED display and camera features are worth the extra $250 over the XR. Pricing on the iPhone XR, by the way, starts at $749, while the XS is priced starting at $999 and the XS Max is priced starting at $1,099.

Do you have an iPhone XR coming on Friday? Why did you choose it over the XS? Let us know in the comments.

We're going to have in-depth iPhone XR coverage coming next week, including a deep dive into the iPhone XR camera compared to the iPhone XS camera, so make sure to stay tuned to MacRumors for more.

Article Link: A Day With the iPhone XR: Unboxing and First Impressions
 

tromboneaholic

Suspended
Jun 9, 2004
3,706
3,024
Clearwater, FL
This phone seems like a great value. I always prefer the top of the line model, but I can see this being the smart choice for a lot of people. Apple did well here.
Me and my wife bought iPhone X last year. If we were both in the market for a new phone this year, it would be hard to ignore the $500 we would save on two of these phones over 2 XS.
 

NIKKG

macrumors 6502
Feb 23, 2012
340
1,002
Is it just me or have phones, tablets, and computers are just plain boring nowadays. I just don't care to get the latest stuff anymore. Seems like every year there is less of a reason to upgrade. Same goes for my friends. I take it the market is fully saturated and this whole tech bubble is ready to pop.
 

robertpolson

macrumors regular
Feb 24, 2011
146
106
Is it just me or have phones, tablets, and computers are just plain boring nowadays. I just don't care to get the latest stuff anymore. Seems like every year there is less of a reason to upgrade. Same goes for my friends. I take it the market is fully saturated and this whole tech bubble is ready to pop.
Yeah. I also stopped upgrading my friends every year a while ago.
 

hipnetic

macrumors 65816
Oct 5, 2010
1,168
474
Is it just me or have phones, tablets, and computers are just plain boring nowadays. I just don't care to get the latest stuff anymore. Seems like every year there is less of a reason to upgrade. Same goes for my friends. I take it the market is fully saturated and this whole tech bubble is ready to pop.
I feel the same. I was an early adopter of smartphones, including at least a couple before I got my first Handspring Treo. The jump to the first iPhone was a pretty big advancement in technology and usability. Ever year of iPhone upgrades has felt less and less exciting. Early on, I upgraded every year. Then, every other year. This year I bought the XS but the last new iPhone I got was a 6s. Then, I actually *downgraded* to an SE (because my daughter dropped her iPhone and cracked the screen, so I gave her my 6s, but also because I missed the smaller size of the SE).

If not for the significantly better camera, me wanting a little larger screen (than the SE) for looking at my photos, and just being bored wanting to finally upgrade to something newer, I would have probably been happy enough living with my SE.

But it would be great to see a game-changing come-out-of-nowhere company come into the market and offer a brand new smartphone with a brand new OS/UI. That would be fun.
 

tridley68

macrumors 6502a
Aug 28, 2014
986
1,019
This phone seems like a great value. I always prefer the top of the line model, but I can see this being the smart choice for a lot of people. Apple did well here.
Top of the line model was my choice as well
 

vince22

macrumors 6502
Oct 12, 2013
332
221
its no brainer for me, my family still uses iphone 6, getting iPhone XR for $500 each after $250 credit trade in with Tmobile its a deal for me, i could care less with 5.8" to 6.5" OLED display, I rather stay home and watch 4k HDR movies with my LG OLED 65C7 all day instead.
 

kl4d4

macrumors newbie
Oct 19, 2018
15
11
Not sure which way to go Yellow, Coral, Blue, Red,White..... I went to an Apple store today and they didn't have any Xr's to pick up yet sadly 2 days before launch..... Worst was saw a guy buying a fully loaded MBA ahead of the rumored refresh!
 

OldSchoolMacGuy

Suspended
Jul 10, 2008
4,197
9,049
Is it just me or have phones, tablets, and computers are just plain boring nowadays. I just don't care to get the latest stuff anymore. Seems like every year there is less of a reason to upgrade. Same goes for my friends. I take it the market is fully saturated and this whole tech bubble is ready to pop.
You're always going to see that with any mature market product. TV's, cars, houses, etc don't see huge leaps, they see incremental ones. The new 2019 Ferrari an iteration and incremental one on top of the 2018, rather than a giant step forward. That's normal.

It's more about coming to understand that. Once you do, it's not a disappointment at all. You realize that now it's more about making smaller changes that add up to larger improvements in our daily use. If those advantages add up enough to justify it, you may want to upgrade. I know they make it well worth it to me each year (the added productivity pays for itself quickly). If they don't, don't upgrade as frequently. You won't feel as left behind and save yourself some money. Nothing wrong with going either way.
 

Mr. Dee

macrumors 68030
Dec 4, 2003
2,573
3,873
Jamaica
Was playing with portrait mode on my iPhone X (2017) and its a really nice feature. Unfortunately though, it highlights like blemishes just as it does beautiful skin. Make sure you have Photoshop Express on standby.
 

Simmias

macrumors member
May 22, 2010
77
141
The XR doesn’t appeal at all to me. I have a XS and it feels like a tank in my hand. I miss the smaller size and weight of my 6/7 and my 4S before that. The XR is even bigger - frankly it looks enormous - and the thick bezel looks doofy next to the XS. The promise of a bezel-less phone was the best of both worlds - a big screen in a small body - but these things are just too damn hefty. I would much prefer a 5” screen in a pocketable, one-handable body.
 

Baymowe335

macrumors 603
Oct 6, 2017
6,430
11,997
The XR doesn’t appeal at all to me. I have a XS and it feels like a tank in my hand. I miss the smaller size and weight of my 6/7 and my 4S before that. The XR is even bigger - frankly it looks enormous - and the thick bezel looks doofy next to the XS. The promise of a bezel-less phone was the best of both worlds - a big screen in a small body - but these things are just too damn hefty. I would much prefer a 5” screen in a pocketable, one-handable body.
Most of the market wants large screens, so you’re in the minority. If the market wanted smaller screens, Apple would build them.

They still might but it’s clear people want larger screens.
 

Tozovac

macrumors 68000
Jun 12, 2014
1,825
1,752
Is it just me or have phones, tablets, and computers are just plain boring nowadays. I just don't care to get the latest stuff anymore. Seems like every year there is less of a reason to upgrade. Same goes for my friends. I take it the market is fully saturated and this whole tech bubble is ready to pop.
Curious, what are you looking for in a tablet or phone, or computer to do ?

If your iPhone __, iPad __, or MacBook___ were to remain powerful enough against new operating systems for 6+ years, and if it were to stay in good shape, wouldn't that be a really good thing? You wouldn't be happier than all get out, for saving a good bit of $$?

I may be sounding pushy here because I feel it's a certain type of "don't recognize a good thing when you have it" that leads to crap like iOS 7 back in 2013.
 
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mac1984user

macrumors 6502a
Dec 10, 2009
805
357
United Kingdom
Because there's no multiple camera system to use to calculate depth between the background and foreground for blurring purposes, Apple uses a person's face to determine what to blur and what to keep sharp. That means no rear-facing iPhone XR Portrait Mode images of pets, flowers, food, etc. You'll also get fewer Portrait Lighting options.
O flip, I haven't thought of this before!
Yeah, this really disappoints me. I’ve got a blue XR arriving Friday and it was only subsequent to preordering that I started hearing about the limitations of portrait mode on the XR. I take an inordinate amount of photos of our cats and had been enjoying the prospect of using portrait mode for this (I’m coming from an iPhone 6). It’s a shame not to have it for anything other than humans. Who takes photos of humans, anyway? So boring, so deficient in fur and whiskers...so inferior... Oh, sorry, that was the toxoplasma gondii talking again.

Anyway, the lack of that feature is not enough to justify the added expense of the XS for me. I want more storage than 64GB, which would put a XS well over £1,000. I simply can’t justify that cost on a phone. It’s not quite as essential to productivity as a dedicated computer. Maybe one day...
 
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Simmias

macrumors member
May 22, 2010
77
141
Most of the market wants large screens, so you’re in the minority. If the market wanted smaller screens, Apple would build them.

They still might but it’s clear people want larger screens.
You are correct. I admit that I’m in the minority and that Apple is just responding to the overwhelming demand for big phones, especially in markets like Asia where the phone is the primary computer. I’m atypical in that I use my iPad and Mac at home and only use my phone when I’m out and about. I don't need an all-in-one phablet, just a portable device that's easy to slip in my pocket and use one handed. Still, I’m not the only one who feels this way...
 
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