Unlike the earlier iPhones, the new range from the stable of Cupertino, US-based technology giant Apple is a mixed bag of premium and relatively affordable devices. While the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max fall in the former type, the iPhone XR is one of the latter. The two of the premium type are nearly identical but with different screen sizes, and the iPhone XR is of an altogether different breed.
Carrying a starting price tag of Rs 76,900, the iPhone XR has traded off the OLED screen and dual-camera module which its premium siblings have for a LCD retina display and a single camera lens. Though there are several minor differences between the iPhone XR and the iPhone XS-series smartphones, the camera and the screen are the most prominent differentiators.
True, the iPhone XR looks like a trimmed-down version of the iPhone XS-series phone. But it has its own strengths, and it might be unfair to call it less capable. It is important to highlight that the phone is powered by the same processor and features the same face ID hardware. So, the performance and user experience are just as good.
Before getting into the details, let’s take a look at the key specifications of the iPhone XR:
Display: 6.1-inch liquid retina, 1792 x 828 pixels (326 ppi)
Design: Glass on the front and back, Aluminium frame
Processor: A12 Bionic
Storage: 64GB, 128GB and 256GB
Rear camera: 12MP wide-angle lens of f/1.8 aperture, Optical image stabilisation
Front camera: 7MP lens of f/2.2 aperture
Colour variants: Black, White, Blue, Yellow, Coral, (PRODUCT)RED
Box content: iPhone XR with iOS 12, EarPods with Lightning Connector, Lightning to USB Cable, USB Power Adapter, Documentation
Design and display
The iPhone XR has body made of glass, but of a slightly inferior quality when compared with the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. The glass panel used on the front is resistant to scratches, but the back is not as sturdy. Sandwiched between the glass panels on the front and back in the iPhone XR is an aluminium frame. The iPhone XS and XS Max come with a steel chassis. The matte-designed aluminium frame might not look as premium as a steel frame, but it is more resistant to scratches and provides better grip.
On the front, the phone has a 6.1-inch LCD retina screen that is bright and vivid — probably one of the best LCD panels seen in smartphones. However, being a lower-resolution panel, it does not look as sharp and has a lower contrast than OLED panels. The panel supports the True Tone technology, which automatically adjusts screen tone based on ambient light conditions. However, it lacks the HDR10 and Dolby Vision support that the iPhone XS-series phones possess. But given that the volume of content supporting HDR10 or Dolby Vision is still limited, the absence of these screen-enhancement technologies might not offend anyone.
What, however, should count as a downside is the lack of 3D Touch, a feature that recognises pressure on the touch screen to enable additional control in apps and settings. This feature has been replaced by haptic feedback, which does not recognise pressure. Therefore, the iPhone XR touch screen does not support additional pressure-based commands.
The iPhone XR has a 12-megapixel single camera unit of an f/1.8 aperture on the back and a 7MP unit on the front for selfies. The primary camera module is an exact replica of the primary sensor unit used in the dual-camera module of the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. The iPhone XR does not have a telephoto lens for enhanced bokeh effect and 2x zoom capabilities, but it leverages machine learning algorithms to create blur effects in portrait shots, and these look neat with proper segmentation between the object and background.
But it should be noted that the portrait mode recognises only human faces, so you cannot use it for, say, your pets. Another feature omission from the portrait mode is the different lighting set-up. Thought the XR supports three lighting conditions — natural, studio and contour — it does not have stage light and stage light mono, which require a secondary camera. On the brighter side, the iPhone XR captures more objects in a frame of portrait shots as it relies on a wide-angle camera.
The iPhone XR also supports the smart HDR mode, which enhances the output, rendering shadows, highlights, bright areas and underexposed areas perfectly. It also has a manual depth-control feature that lets you adjust depth after a frame is captured. Like the XS-series, it also captures stereo audio in video recordings and has loud and crystal-clear stereo speakers.
This is one area where the iPhone XR has made no compromise; it is as robust as the iPhone XS-series. Powered by the A12 Bionic processor and booting iOS 12 out of the box, the XR does not leave anything that it cannot handle — from day-to-day tasks like internet browsing and multimedia streaming to graphic-intensive gaming titles like PUBG and Asphalt 9: Legends. It works smooth all across and shows no signs of weakness. It also supports all iOS 12 operating system goodies, such as Animoji, Memoji and augmented reality-based features. Overall, in terms of performance, the iPhone XR is a real powerhouse that does not feel any less than its premium counterparts.
Priced at Rs 76,900 for the base model with 64GB internal storage, the iPhone XR is around Rs 22,000 less expensive than the iPhone XS. Yet, it has all the traits of a premium smartphone. It looks, performs and feels as good as the latter. It comes in six colours, all of which look equally dazzling and give more choices to the user. Though the phone does not have some of the premium features, it is for the consumer to decide whether those are worth Rs 22,000.