When Apple introduced the iPhone XR, many had expected it to be on the affordable side, given the fact that its specs were more than a notch below those of the XS and XS Max. Well, it certainly was priced considerably lesser than those two phones, but at Rs 76,900, was still definitely on the more expensive side (you can get a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 for about Rs 65,000 at the time of writing). Not only was this price much higher than what many had anticipated (the popular rumor consensus had placed it closer to Rs 50,000-60,000), but it also put a number of potential iPhone consumers in a quandary – whether to pay Rs 76,900 or invest in an iPhone X, the iPhone that pioneered the whole notch design phenomenon last year. Although the official price tag of the iPhone X (which some insist is going to be discontinued) seems much higher at Rs 91,900, it is available at a much lower price from a number of online retailers, and which was now available at a slightly higher (and in some cases, even lower) price, in spite of a much higher official price tag of Rs 91,900. For instance, at the time of writing, the iPhone X was retailing at Amazon India for Rs 74,999!
So, the iPhone X or the iPhone XR?
Well, we wish the answer was a simple one, but as in so many things in life, it is complex. For both phones have their pros and cons.
The case for the X: those cameras, that display, those looks…that price
Let us look at the iPhone X first. It may not have the colorful shades of the iPhone XR and its glass front and back are not as strong (a point many are ignoring), but on the flip side, it is smaller and lighter, and is, therefore, easier to use with one hand. And for those seeking “faux new iPhone” glory, well, it looks exactly like the iPhone XS – no one can tell the difference, because the two devices are startlingly similar to each other! What’s more, the X’s 5.8-inch display is a full HD and AMOLED one. That simply means more content on one screenful, and if you look closely, it does handle colors better than the iPhone XR, which has an HD LCD display. The display on the X also comes with 3D Touch, something the XR lacks.
Then there are the cameras – the X has dual cameras on the rear as compared to the single one on the XR. That means you get better bokeh and access to all the Portrait Lighting modes on the rear camera – you cannot get the 2x optical zoom or the stage lighting options on the XR’s rear cameras. But then, to be dreadfully honest, we did not see a huge difference in camera performance terms between the XR and X, barring those few modes. In normal light conditions, indeed, we felt the XR performed better than the X.
The case for the XR: that chip, those cameras, that battery…and those colors!
For many people, the XR’s lower resolution display and its single rear camera simply rule it out of contention. We, however, think that this is a classic case of numbers speaking louder than experience. The Liquid Retina Display of the iPhone XR is an excellent one and we loved watching videos and playing games on it – text was good too, although the XS was slightly sharper in this regard. And while the absence of 3D Touch seems massive on paper, the haptic feedback that takes its place suffices in most cases. Similarly, although the XR has a lower resolution display, we can see some people liking the sheer size of its 6.1-inch display as compared to the 5.8 one on the X – games are just that bit easier to play, and well, the sound seems better on the XR as well.
When it comes to the cameras, while you do miss out on telephoto (2X) and two of the stage lighting effects on the rear camera, the performance on a general level is exceptional. We even felt that in some scenarios, the XR beat the X – not really surprising when you consider that the device comes with newer sensors. However, for us, even if the XS does concede some ground on the camera and display front (and we do not think it is a lot), it recovers a lot in terms of performance as it runs on the A12 Bionic chip that is found on the XS and XS Max (the X runs on the older A11).
The result? It seems to be just a little more snappy than the X in general performance. And then there is the battery – whether it is due to some software tweak or just a large battery and lower resolution display, the XR is the first iPhone we have seen go past a day of normal use. And well, if the X is more compact, the XR has the colors and while the frame is aluminum as compared to steel, the glass front and back is stronger than the iPhone X! And as the XR is slightly newer than the X, it is also likely to receive updates for just that boot longer, barring any dramatic developments.
So, the iPhone X or XR?
Both cameras share a fair number of common features – Face Unlock, similar front-facing TrueDepth cameras, IP67 water resistance, support for wireless charging, and of course, iOS 12 running under the hood. And prices that are close to each other take us back to the question that started this article: which of the two to go for?
Well, truth be told, we would raise our hands in favor of the iPhone XR. The places where it lags behind the X (the display, the cameras) are not on deal-breaking levels but the places where it overtakes the X are significant – the processor and the battery. Honestly we had expected the difference in displays to be a killer factor but Apple’s engineering sorcery (we cannot call it anything else, really) has managed to nullify it to an extent, and well, as we said, the single camera on the XR is good enough to make one wonder if dual cameras are as necessary as many companies (including Apple itself) make them out to be.
So yes, if you have to choose between an iPhone XR or X, we would suggest going for the XR. It is faster, has a better battery, a stronger frame, very competitive cameras, and a good display and well, being newer, it is likely to last just that little bit longer.
I have the X, should I go for the XR?
A tough call, that.
If you want that zippy processor and better battery life, definitely. However, there is no doubt that the X’s more compact form factor will strike a chord with many people – the XR seems significantly larger in comparison. Those addicted to the dual cameras on the X (and the stage lighting effects and 2x optical zoom that come with it) will also – for a while at least – feel that the single snapper on the XR’s back is a downgrade. At the time of writing, there were no major applications or functions that really worked much better on the XR as compared to the X, although there is no doubting that the XR just FEELS much faster. Yes, the XR is likely to be a little more future proof at the time of writing, but we would not really blame anyone wanting to hang on to their X – that display and those cameras can seem (and we want to stress the word “seem”) major factors, especially if you have not used the ones on the XR.
So our advice to anyone with an iPhone X wondering whether to move to an iPhone XR is: walk into a store and see how the XR feels, take a few sample snaps with the camera, check out that display, see the colors and build. And then make up your mind. Yeah, it is THAT close. Too close to trusting to a spec sheet.
(Note: You can read our review of the iPhone X here and of the iPhone XR here)