It was expected to be the “affordable” iPhone. Until its price was announced. For, while at Rs 76,900, the iPhone XR was indeed the least expensive of the new range of iPhones (the iPhone XS and XS Max were the others), it still was very much on the premium side when it came to pricing – the Galaxy Note 9 started at a lower price.
It is not as if it looks like a “cheaper” avatar of the iPhone, though. Unlike the iPhone 5c, which took flak for its plastic-y look, the XR stays in the premium zone when it comes to appearance. It has got glass in the front and back, with the glass on the back said to be tougher than the one on the iPhone X, if not quite as strong as the one on the iPhone XS and XS Max. In terms of overall design, the XR does not stray too far from the iPhone XS and XS Max, with the same glass front and back and curved sides, although in its case, the frame between the glass is an aluminum one rather than one of steel. The presence of glass on the back does make the device very smudge and scratch prone (and remarkably, there are no cases available for it at the of writing, even from Apple), but it also adds a touch of class to it, a la the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. We have the black model but have seen other variants and take it from us, they look lively, without sacrificing their premium component in any way.
The phone feels good in the hand too. In terms of size, it falls right between the iPhone XS and XS Max – with a length of 150.9 mm and width of 75.9 mm, although at 8.3 mm, it is the thickest of the three devices. At 194 grams, it is also on the heavier side, but the weight seems very well distributed. We would say that this is the best we have seen an unconventionally colored iPhone look – we have a soft corner for the blue and the red, though! The iPhone XR might cost the least of all the new iPhones, but it does not sacrifice looks at the altar of the price.
What it does give up is in terms of display – yes, the notch is the same as in the other iPhones but this time it is in a display that is a 6.1 inch LCD one, as compared to the AMOLED displays seen on the others. The display also has a resolution that is on the lower side – 1792 x 828, giving it a pixel density of 326 PPI, which is good enough to qualify for the “retina display” appellation, but is well below the 458 PPI seen on the other iPhones. The difference in displays is obvious but that is not to say that the XR’s display looks bad – in our limited experience, it seemed to hold its own comfortably, even in bright sunlight. Mind you, it comes minus the 3D Touch that is seen on the other iPhones. The other notable compromise comes in the camera department – the XR sports only a single rear camera as compared to the dual cameras on the XS and XS Max.
That said, there is plenty of XS goodness in here too – like those devices, the XR is powered by the new A12 “Bionic chip with the next-generation neural engine,” which means it should exhibit something like the amazing turn of speed that its cousins do. And even if it comes with a single camera on the back, that single sensor is the wide-angle main sensor found on the XS and XS Max. There is support for portrait mode, although the stage lighting options are not available for the rear camera. The phone’s selfie camera, however, is pretty much the same as its counterparts on the XS and XS Max, Portrait Lighting options, Face unlock and all. Another step down is the fact that when it comes to dust and water resistance, the XR has an IP67 rating as compared to the IP68 on its XS counterparts.
But for all the ground it concedes, the XR also has a feature that will endear it to many – its battery life. Apple says that the XR offers one and a half hours more battery than the 8 Plus, but its official specs page shows that it offers more Internet use and video playback time than both the XS and XS Max, and based on some of the initial comments we have been hearing, the XR might indeed be having the best battery life of any iPhone so far. Given how much flak Apple has taken in that department, that would be something. And oh yes, there is support for wireless charging in there too.
It has the looks, most of the specs, a lot of battery and well, the price too. At Rs 76,900, the iPhone XR might be the most affordable of the new lot of iPhones, but it still is expensive enough to face competition that is similar them – the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and the Pixel 3 devices. In fact, there are some who would even consider the older iPhone X as competition, thanks to a few price cuts being offered by some retailers. Just how well it fares against them and where it stands in its own family hierarchy will be revealed in our detailed review. Stay tuned.