The iPhone XR is one of the best handsets Apple has ever made, and that’s mainly down to the excellent battery life.
The rest of the phone doesn’t really add much to the iPhone family in terms of pure specification or novelty, but it does offer a more budget route into getting a handset launched this year.
There are some compromises here, which we’ve discussed, and some may irk more than others – in our case there's long-pressing where previously one could push the screen a bit harder, because the 3D Touch technology has been omitted – and that's something we’re surprised we wanted back, given we didn’t think we used it that much before.
The portrait mode on the camera becoming more software than hardware is something that needs to be thought about long and hard – if you’re just after a decent enough snapper in the iPhone world, this handset will do that for you, but you can get something much more effective on the iPhone XS range.
The lack of an HDR screen isn’t something we could really muster up any feelings about, as we had to study images closely to see any real differences in quality. The lack of an OLED screen is something that’s noticeable when placing the XR and XS handsets side by side – but most people won’t actually do that.
If you do, the thicker bezel around the edge, as well as the chunkier feel in the hand, will become apparent, but if you’re holding the iPhone XR in your local phone emporium and you don’t compare it to the iPhone XS, you really won’t feel like it’s that chunky.
Should I buy it?
If you’re looking for confirmation that you’re not going to lose out massively by going for the cheaper iPhone, we can confirm that you’ll be fine. Yes, you won’t be able to stretch the handset to the absolute limits of iPhone performance, but for most that won’t be an issue.
If you want the very best camera though, and you really crave the 'wow' factor that comes with an awesome portrait mode snap, then this might not be enough phone for you.
Equally, if luxury, and the very best-looking iPhone, are what you need, again you should probably upgrade to the XS range.
Who's it for?
The person that will enjoy the iPhone XR is someone who's due an upgrade or is struggling along with an iPhone 6S or iPhone 7, and wants to future-proof themselves a little.
The camera will be an upgrade, the battery life a welcome salve and the overall design a step forward. We’re never sold on the claims of the glass being ever-stronger – until a truly smash-proof phone appears we’re not bothered – but it’s good to see that Apple is trying to tackle what's a real issue for many users by making the front of the phone a little hardier.
With a range of colors on offer, this is the more budget- and fashion-conscious iPhone buyer’s handset of choice; if you’re ensconced in the Apple way of things then you’ll find a lot to enjoy on the iPhone XR.
Not convinced this is the phone for you? Try one of these instead:
The obvious next step up from the iPhone XR is the XS – or the XS Max if you’re after a bigger screen.
The cost is higher, certainly (in fact, it's a third more than this phone), but it does bring a premium feel and the much-talked-about enhanced camera. It's one for the ‘hard’ iPhone fan who only wants the best, and doesn’t like to balance cost with performance.
Then again, if you're someone who's really budget-conscious, the iPhone 7 is still a pretty charming handset.
It was the first iPhone to lose the headphone jack (yeah, thought we should mention that one…) but it is less than two thirds the price of the iPhone XR. It doesn’t have many of the XR's features (although 3D Touch is in the mix), so this is truly one for those who want to save the most cash while entering the iPhone sphere.
If you want to be a little more future-proofed, the iPhone 8 is stronger, longer lasting, and comes in a nattier color than the iPhone 7.
Shape-wise it’s identical to the 7, so don’t expect much evolution there – but if you’re reading this review as someone who doesn’t want to spend too much on an iPhone you won’t find too much of a performance disadvantage, and you’ll even get a decent portrait mode if you plump for the 8 Plus.
Samsung Galaxy S9
A little left-field as an option, given that few people switch across – but those we know who have jumped to the S9 from an older iPhone have managed it surprisingly easily.
The cost is a touch lower now than the iPhone XR, the camera better and the screen technology a lovely, fancy OLED mix. It’s not the most impressive Samsung in years, but if you’ve never experienced one before you could well be blown away, if you don’t mind the idea of trying something different.
First reviewed October 2018