Why The iPhone XR Is So Good (First Impressions)

It’s iPhone XR launch day and you know what? I’ve noticed a pattern among early reviewers: everyone thinks the XR is full of compromises until they use it… then it feels nearly perfect. 95% of the XS features for 75% of the cost.

Before we get started let me help you adjust your thinking about the XR: it’s not a dumbed down version of the XS; the XS is like an upgraded, more luxurious, less colorful version of the XR. 

LCD Screen

The LCD screen has been controversial in some circles (for “not even being 1080p”) but it shouldn’t be controversial at all and here’s why: it looks sharp at the distance I normally hold my phone. You might only perceive a difference between the XS or Max and the XR when looking side by side. 

True, there’s no HDR, the black levels aren’t as deep and the screen doesn’t look quite as good at an angle…  BUT: having an LCD screen instead of an OLED gives you much better battery life. In fact: the XR has the longest battery life of any iPhone ever (which I’m going to like a lot). 

The screen’s bright enough for outdoor use, I love the tap to wake being available on an LCD and I miss 3D Touch more than I thought I would.

The bezel obviously is bigger than on the XS or Max but I think I’ll stop noticing it after awhile just like the notch and still the screen is larger than the XS so it’s not really a problem. 

Cameras

The XR has a single wide angle rear camera which is the same as the XS: there’s just no telephoto lens. And there are ways that that’s a good thing like getting better low light shots with the wide angle lens.

On the downside, you’ll have to zoom with your feet (meaning walk closer to your subject) and the rear portrait mode only works on people’s faces so goodbye portrait shots of my coffee cups for social media. I will miss you. 

The XR can do Portrait Lighting but only has 3 options vs 5 on the XS and honestly, I never use those anyways, so. Fine. 

I love the video capabilities of the camera: shooting in 4K/60 and recording stereo audio is awesome and while I don’t use Animoji’s or Memoji’s all that much, they’re here. 

Size

If you think the XS Max is too big or the XS is too small, you’ll like the XR because it’s right in the middle. I’ve been used to the XS Max now for awhile and this feels more usable one handed and I like that. 

It’s also great that there’s split view app support.

Build

This is the first time since 2013 that we’ve had so many iPhone color options and I really love these colors: I wish I could somehow em them all (but I will say the Product Red feels a little less special since it’s been available so often). 

I also like that these colors do a better job at hiding fingerprints than the XS or Max colors but most people will use a case and in that case I’m also excited Apple’s making their own clear case so the colors aren’t hidden. 

I like that the XR is lighter than the XS thanks to the aluminum vs stainless steel build but the slightly off-center Lightning port strikes me as un-Apple-like and it bugs me in the back of my brain. 

Performance

I can already tell you I have no performance complaints. It’s the same A12 Bionic chip as the XS and Max and things like gaming, AR don’t even challenge it. 

There’s 1GB less RAM than the XS: doesn’t matter. The screen’s pushing less pixels. Don’t even worry about it. 

Storage

The base storage tier is 64GB. I wish it was 128 but get this: it’s only $50 to upgrade to 128 whereas on the XS there is no 128 option… you have to jump to 256 for $150 extra (so this is a great deal). 

No headphone dongle included

There’s no headphone jack adapter dongle in the box. I wouldn’t care except that’s how I listen to music in the car still… so wish it was there. Otherwise all my headphones are wireless so it’s perfect. 

Speakers

I haven’t tested the speakers yet but they’re supposed to have the wider stereo sound a be a little quieter than the Max. That’s fine… I’m not worried about it. 

Price

Here’s the thing: if you get the XR instead of the XS you save $250. If I were you, I might use that to do some upgrading: get the chargers, adapters, cables and case you want with the savings. 

Conclusion

If you’re coming from the iPhone 6, 7 even 8 eras then this is going to be an amazing upgrade. Apart from the review unit, I preordered a blue XR for myself which I’m mainly going to be using for video work and I’ll keep my XS Max as my daily.

BUT: if I wasn’t a reviewer and if I didn’t make videos for a living I could definitely be happy with the XR as my one phone. More than happy. 

On the other hand, if you made me choose one or the other I’d go with the XS Max because I like to have the best of the best. 


Chris "Macintosh"Comment