iPhone XR Review Roundup: Skip All Other iPhones

Planning to get an iPhone XR? The reviews are in from around the tech world, and the overall verdict is this is the iPhone to get.

You could get the more expensive iPhone XS, if you want to take portrait shots of your dog and enjoy an OLED screen. But you’ll spend another $250 over the $749 iPhone XR and you’ll miss out on the extra battery life that reviewers saw when they tested the iPhone XR. And Apple’s less expensive phone has other charms as well.

Here’s what reviewers liked — and didn’t like — about Apple’s $749 iPhone XR.

iPhone XR Review Scorecard

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Tom’s Guide4.5/5
The Verge8/10
Wall Street JournalN/A

Tom’s Guide (4.5/5)

Our editor Mark Spoonauer may be a self-described phone snob, but he was satisfied with how the “low end” $749 iPhone XR delivered the goods, declaring it the best iPhone for the money, with “fast performance, great cameras, and longer battery life than other flagship phone in a colorful and affordable package.”

The Good

“If you think most iPhones look too conservative, the iPhone XR will change your mind. Apple achieved a look that's fun yet elegant via a seven-layer color process. “

MORE: 6 Reasons You Should Skip the iPhone XS for iPhone XR

“If you're worried that the single-lens iPhone XR won't capture photos that are as good as those from the dual-lens iPhone XS and XS Max, you can stop worrying now.”

“The A12 Bionic processor in the iPhone XR is just as fast as those in the iPhone XS and XS Max, which means you're getting a phone that beats the best Android flagships for hundreds of dollars less.”

The Bad

“What you don't get on the iPhone XR's screen are the perfect blacks and ultrawide viewing angles that OLED displays offer. I noticed the difference when I put the iPhone XR and iPhone XS side by side with an aquarium screen saver. The OLED panel is just more vibrant, and blacks can look more gray on an LCD.”

“For now, the back camera can snap Portraits only of people, and if you try something else, the iPhone will tell you that it's waiting for a person to enter the frame.”

iPhone XR

CNET (8.8/10)

After his week-long experience with the iPhone XR, Scott Stein at CNET has no problem strongly recommending the new model for anyone who wants a great iPhone for under a grand, saying that “this [and not the iPhone XS] is the one you are looking for.” He’s glad he waited to buy one instead of the XS, in fact.

The Good

“If you're looking for a great iPhone that costs well under a grand, dive right in.”

From left to right: iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR (Credit: Apple)

(Image credit: From left to right: iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR (Credit: Apple))

“The XR isn't iPhone XS size, or XS Max size. It's right in the middle, and that middle size feels much more comfortable to hold than the wider XS Max.”

The Bad

“I still wish Apple had introduced an even less expensive phone. At $749 to start, no one would call this phone cheap.”

“[The iPhone XR] doesn't have the rear telephoto lens. That impacts photos two ways: no 2x optical zoom or extra levels of digital zoom; and no telephoto-enhanced Portrait-mode photos."

The Verge (8/10)

Better than good enough,” is Nilay Patel’s verdict at The Verge. He finds the XR to be a perfectly capable iPhone, with the LCD panel the only factor that might steer you to the more expensive OLED-based iPhone XS. If that doesn’t matter to you, stick with the XR as you’re unlikely to care about the compromises.

The Good

“Anyone coming to [the iPhone XR] from any iPhone, save the iPhone X, will not notice a huge discrepancy in resolution. I suspect most people will find it totally acceptable.”

“[The iPhone XR’s camera is] a significant update from previous iPhone cameras, and, like the XS, it makes the iPhone X look downright bad."

The Bad

“The iPhone XR LCD definitely shifts a little pink and drops brightness quickly when you look at it off-axis, which often leads to a bit of a shimmery effect when you move the phone around.”

“[The iPhone XR’s] Haptic Touch does not have equivalents to everything 3D Touch can do, however. I missed previewing links in Safari and Twitter quite a bit.”

Wall Street Journal (Not Rated)

Writer Joanna Stern is angry because Apple has included the “same stupid five-watt charger” as always, but that doesn’t stop her love affair with the iPhone XR. According to her, “you don’t have to spend $1,000 for the best iPhone,” recommending it over the iPhone XS unless you want to do portraits of dogs and ponies.

The Good

“Thanks to its lower-resolution screen and big battery, the XR has the longest battery life of any iPhone I’ve tested in recent memory.”

“The XR’s bright color options (it comes in six different hues) make it seem like it belongs in a candy store, but the red version I’ve been testing is one of the coolest-looking Apple products I’ve used in years.”

The Bad

“Instead of using the two cameras, Apple uses software tricks [with the iPhone XR] to try to distinguish the main subject from the background. It worked OK, but in some cases it looked fake and blurred the wrong thing. And it doesn’t work on animals.”

“No professional-looking shots of dogs, cats or farm animals. As crazy as it seems, this is actually a deal breaker for me, as I snap tons of photos of my son and dog together.”

TechRadar (4.5/5)

Writing for TechRadar, Gareth Beavis declares the iPhone XR to be Apple’s first iPhone with a decent battery life. Beavis also believes that this is the most impressive of all the iPhones announced this year, adding that “what you’re saving by going for this model far outweighs what you’re losing.

The Good

“Apple has offered terrible battery life for years, incrementally improving it to be ‘just good enough’, and the iPhone XR is the first iPhone we haven’t had a real worry about day to day – and that alone could elevate it to the heights of being the greatest iPhone ever created.”

“The overall screen quality, as ever with an iPhone, is excellent, and the new 6.1-inch Liquid Retina LCD technology does a good job of delivering sharp lines and punchy colors.”

The Bad

“We didn’t realise how much we used [3D Touch] before – and it’s irritating to not have something that feels like a real button to open the camera – but it doesn’t take long to get used to the alternative… it just feels a bit less premium.”

“If you’re any kind of seasoned iPhone user, you probably won’t be that impressed by the iPhone XR’s camera. That’s not to say it’s not decent – it’s powerful at times, and often just takes a good snap without much work – but it doesn't really improve the iPhone’s camera story that much.”

Wired (8/10)

Lauren Goode says that you will have a hard time spotting the differences between the XR and XS, except for the colors, the LCD screen and the great battery life. So if you don’t feel like spending $1,000 instead of $750, you know what to do.

The Good

“Most people—those who don't spend their lives comparing specs and staring at bezels on multiple models of new smartphones each fall—are going to be very happy with this phone if they buy it. Especially if those people are upgrading from an older iPhone, which I believe will be the case for a lot of people buying the iPhone XR.”

“You'll have a great smartphone camera [with the iPhone XR]. Your phone's battery might last a whole weekend, the way mine did, and you probably won't miss the OLED display, since you won't be looking at the two different displays side-by-side every day like I've been.”

The Bad

“The glass on the back on the iPhone XR is not as strong as the glass on the back of the iPhone XS. … Hours after this review was published, the case-free iPhone XR was accidentally dropped on a concrete floor from about 3 feet up. The back is now shattered.”

“Instead of 3D Touch, the iPhone XR has something called Haptic Touch. This is annoying because the name swap makes it seem like the iPhone XR has something equivalent, and the reality is that this is not like 3D Touch.”

Photo Credits: Tom's Guide

Jesus Diaz

Jesus Diaz founded the new Sploid for Gawker Media after seven years working at Gizmodo, where he helmed the lost-in-a-bar iPhone 4 story and wrote old angry man rants, among other things. He's a creative director, screenwriter, and producer at The Magic Sauce, and currently writes for Fast Company and Tom's Guide.