We won’t beat around the bush here. The iPhone XR completely backs up one of Apple’s big claims: that this phone offers the best battery life of any phone from the Cupertino brand.
We’re looking at an iPhone that can last for the whole day without causing battery anxiety. Of course, your mileage will vary with any phone, but we’re really impressed to see all the little tricks offered by the iPhone XS’ battery management (such as making the phone very power-efficient when you're using it as a car navigation system on GPS), but also just being able to go into a nice power-saving mode.
The only time we felt the immediate need to look for a charger was the morning after we accidentally left the iPhone XR off the charger overnight – and it was still chugging away just fine.
It’s hard to definitively state why the battery life is so much better on this phone than any other iPhone we’ve tested, as there aren’t that many changes that should make a difference.
The same A12 Bionic chipset runs at the heart of this handset that’s in the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. The XR is supported by only 3GB of RAM, compared to the 4GB in the XS pair, but that’s more significant in terms of general snappiness and heavy lifting in apps rather than having any obvious effect on battery life.
So, leaving that aside, it must be down to the fact that this phone is slightly larger and can hold a better battery pack inside, as well as the more efficient screen.
That LCD display seems to be the real success story here. It not only manages to offer an experience that’s not a million miles away from the high-end OLED displays Apple has brought to its more expensive phones, it's clearly more power-efficient.
An example: one day we took the phone off charge at 5:30am. After some light messaging in the morning we then left the phone in a bag until midday, and barely any charge had dropped, so the standby battery retention is pretty darn good.
However, after that followed a period of fairly intensive use, with the screen fired for nearly six hours of the day for assorted different web browsing, messaging, and scrolling through Twitter – it was the kind of day that would be talked about around the fire at Camp iPhone as a true horror story.
However, despite all that use, come 11pm we still had 22% battery left – that’s pretty impressive given that we were properly pushing the iPhone XR to its limits.
Another example: using the XR as a hotspot on the way to work while doing some Bluetooth streaming has been a recipe for battery disaster in the past, but here we were seeing a handset that didn’t even dip below 90%.
When you consider that we've had some handsets drop into the 60% range when performing the same set of tasks, that’s pretty impressive.
Over time, things have levelled out a little, but overall we're still feeling OK leaving the iPhone off charge overnight in an emergency, which isn't something we could say about previous models.
You’ve also got wireless charging on tap, which aside from the general convenience means that if you find the phone not charging because it's wet (the Lightning port can lock to avoid short-circuiting), you can still get some power in.
The only weird thing here is the score in our battery test, where we loop a 90-minute video at full brightness and see how much battery it consumes – the iPhone XR dropped a not-insignificant 20%, which is more than many other phones, including cheaper ones.
However, the handset also started to get rather warm during this test, so we’re going to have to try it again, as we were expecting less than 10% battery drop.