With the new iPhone XR, Apple is brining some of the iPhone X's most loved features, from its full-screen design to Face ID and Portrait Mode-equipped cameras, down to an easier-to-stomach price.
No, at $749, the iPhone XR doesn't constitute a budget phone, but it is markedly less expensive than the $999 iPhone XS and $1,099 XS Max, which are available now. Despite the price difference, the XR bears many familiarities to those devices. And that means there are plenty of compelling reasons why you might be wise to skip Apple's most expensive handsets and wait for the still super-capable iPhone XR, which will hit stores on Oct. 26.
This is the primary reason anyone on the fence about what iPhone to buy would spring for the iPhone XR. At $749, the 6.1-inch model is $250 less expensive than the iPhone XS, and $350 less expensive than the iPhone XS Max. For that price you do lose some amenities, like the more premium phone's OLED displays and dual cameras on the rear. However, owners still get what is likely to be the world's fastest mobile processor when released, Apple's A12 Bionic chip, as well as tons of other great features.
Furthermore, as Apple was so eager to point out during its keynote, the iPhone XR's screen is significantly larger than that of the now-obsolete 5.5-inch iPhone 8 Plus (as well as the 5.8-inch iPhone XS), even though it costs just $50 more than the 8 Plus does now.
Yes, the iPhone XR has a notch — something detractors of 2018's favorite phone design trend will surely lament. But the presence of the notch denotes another premium feature Apple's lavished on the more budget-friendly iPhone XS. Face ID is no longer exclusive to the company's $1,000 flagships, as the True Depth camera system has made its way to the iPhone XR.
If you're unfamiliar with Face ID, the technology uses sophisticated 3D recognition to allow you to unlock your phone or make purchases simply by looking at it. Face ID is still leagues beyond any of the markedly less secure 2D solutions in the Android space, that can be duped with ordinary photographs. Just be prepared to lose the Touch ID fingerprint sensor and home button.
The iPhone 7 Plus heralded the era of bokeh, and opting for the cheaper, smaller iPhone used to mean you'd miss out. Thankfully, the iPhone XR doesn't force you to take boring shots of your friends, because Apple has managed a method for delivering Portrait Mode that doesn't require a second lens to work. Google took a similar tack with the Pixel 2, and some Android phone makers have followed suit.
The only downside to the iPhone XR's implementation is that because it doesn't have a telephoto lens, you won't get the same kind of super-zoomed perspective that is typically preferred for professional portraits. However, users will still be able to manipulate the bokeh effect after taking the shot — a new software feature present in all three of this year's batch of handsets. And thanks to the True Depth front-facing camera, the iPhone XR can capture Portrait Mode selfies as well.
The A11 Bionic in the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and iPhone X was a fine processor — in fact, it still exceeds the performance of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 chip, found in the Galaxy S9, Note 9 and OnePlus 6. If Apple wanted to, it easily could have gotten away with powering the iPhone XR with that familiar, proven silicon, rather than fitting it with the new 7-nanometer A12 Bionic.
With A12 power at the center, you really can't call the iPhone XR any less of a flagship handset than Cupertino's most expensive wares, at least where performance is concerned. We expect the iPhone XR to be blazing fast, owing to Apple's claims that it can conduct machine learning tasks in real time. The fact that users are guaranteed the same speedy experience in the cheaper model (excusing any massive discrepancy in RAM that we haven't heard about yet) makes skipping the iPhone XS and saving your money a much easier call.
To call any of the new iPhones truly bezel-free is misleading. There are still very clearly borders around the screen on each of these models, but they're consistent around every side — so long as you ignore the notch up top, of course.
While the iPhone XR's bezels are a bit chunkier than those on the iPhone XS, they're still pretty slim and consistent. The result is a phone that evokes the overall theme of the iPhone XS, even though it's not quite as trimmed down. If you appreciated the design of the iPhone X last year but couldn't justify shelling out a cool grand — and I couldn't blame you — now you'll be able to snag the look for less. In that way, you could consider the iPhone XR to be the Nordstrom Rack of Apple's range.
Apple seems to think the more money you spend on a smartphone, the more boring your taste is. That's the only reason I can surmise why the company would restrict the iPhone XS and XS Max to the same old stodgy gray, silver and gold schemes, while the iPhone XR gets an explosion of colors ranging from coral orange to yellow and light blue. Apple has even rolled out a selection of new Beats earbuds to match those pleasing hues.
The iPhone XR will be offered in a total of six colors when it launches Oct. 26, notably including a Product Red version that Apple typically unveils months following the initial release. That's more than any previous iPhone, including the charming iPhone 5c. And if you'd still like a more understated look — honestly, we won't judge — black and white are available as well.