The iPhone XR is the best iPhone for the money for most buyers. You get nearly identical performance, excellent software, most of the iPhone XS features, wireless charging, Face ID and a good camera for $250 less than the cheapest iPhone XS. You can score deals as low as $449 when you trade in an iPhone as part of your upgrade.
You have to give up on the beautiful OLED display that the iPhone XS has, but the iPhone XR display is good enough for most people. One feature I miss is the second camera on the back of the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max that allows for an optical zoom and better portrait mode, but ultimately it isn’t a deal breaker. The iPhone XR is made of aluminum that can scratch a little easier, but you get more color choices and with a case on it’s a non-issue.
Is the iPhone XR a Good iPhone?
The iPhone XR is the best iPhone for the price, and for many users it is going to be more than enough iPhone. Ultimately it does feel like Apple overpriced the iPhone XR by $50. This feels like a better value for $699, and thankfully you can still find some deals out there that drop the price with and without a trade.
I’ve tested the iPhone XR for a month on Verizon. I’ve put this phone through the paces at home and on the road. When I went to CES and the Detroit Auto Show, the iPhone XR was my primary video camera for the trip. Almost all the footage was shot on the iPhone XR with a DJI Osmo gimbal and a Rode microphone. Perhaps the best example is the Brydge iPad Pro keyboard hands on, which I shot on the iPhone XR, Airdropped to the iPad Pro, edited with LumaFusion and then uploaded to YouTube with my iPhone as a hotspot.
While I missed being able to zoom in at times, the XR does a great job of recording 4K video and taking photos. It also handled all my gaming, social media and communication needs easily.
My personal phone is the iPhone XS Max, and I never noticed any slowdown in performance when switching to the iPhone XR. The size is still very nice and it is still manageable to hold. I’m still glad I went with the iPhone XS Max for the OLED display and the optical zoom, but for most users the iPhone XR is going to do more than enough.
Ultimately most people will want to go with the $799 version to get 128GB of storage. That does push the price up well above budget levels. I recommend looking for a deal on the iPhone XR or trading in your old phone to your carrier or to Gazelle to help cut into that price. Verizon, who lent us the iPhone XR for testing, offers a Buy One Get $750 off another when you buy the new iPhone or $100+ with select trade ins. One of those needs to be a new smartphone line to get the savings.
iPhone XR Camera
The camera is the most used app on my smartphone. I love using it to take pictures of our two Toy poodles and of all my little cousins. I also use it to take photos for gadget and car reviews.
Apple uses the same sensor in the iPhone XR and iPhone XS camera, which means the iPhone XR takes great looking photos even in low light and in areas where there is some bright light shining in that could otherwise ruin a shot.
You still get portrait mode on the iPhone XR, which is one of my favorite modes to shoot in when taking pictures of family and pets. It makes the photos pop and with the editing options really makes the photos stand out on social media or when printed. The big catch is that the iPhone XR uses software to do the portrait mode photos. This means you cannot do portrait mode photos of objects or pets — just people. It also means a different look than the iPhone XS portrait mode where you are farther from your subject. It still works and produces nice photos, but it’s not as good as the iPhone XS or Pixel 3 XL, and it’s not great for pet photos. You get portrait mode on the front facing camera as well.
The only other real difference between the iPhone XS and XR cameras is the lack of an optical zoom. The iPhone XS and XS Max let you zoom in with the second lens without losing any quality. The iPhone XR does not have a second lens, so the only way to get closer without losing quality is to physically move closer. You can digitally zoom, but then you start to lose some of the overall quality of the photo.
At the end of the day, the iPhone XR camera can do 90% of what I need to use it for work and almost everything I need in a smartphone camera. Don’t worry about missing out in this area if you opt for the iPhone XR, unless you know that you need optical zoom or love taking portrait mode photos of pets and objects.
iPhone XR Screen
The iPhone XR features a 6.1 inch LCD screen. This isn’t as good as the OLED display on the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, and it’s missing out on the 3D Touch feature that you may or may not be used to using.
While I like the OLED display on the iPhone XS Max, and appreciate the added size it offers, the iPhone XR display is still very good. Most users looking at the devices side by side are not going to notice a major difference and if you are looking at the iPhone XR on its own, you will be hard pressed to feel like you chose a major downgrade.
Photos, videos and games still look great on the iPhone XR and the 6.1-inch display is noticeably larger than the iPhone XS display. That makes it a nice choice for users that want to bump up the font size on iOS to make text easier to read.
I do miss 3D Touch, as I use this daily for shortcuts and for previewing links and photos. Apple does support haptic touch, which slightly vibrates the iPhone XR when you do a firm press. That is a nice option, but I still miss 3D Touch. It’s not clear what Apple plans to do with 3D touch and not a lot of users know 3D Touch is even an option, so decide if it is important to you, and if it is $250 important.
iPhone XR Design
I’m a big fan of the larger iPhone models, but they are too big for many users. If you’re looking for the Goldilocks of iPhones, the iPhone XR may be just right for you. It’s definitely bigger than the iPhone XS and it has a bigger screen than the iPhone 8 Plus, but it’s actually smaller than the iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone XS Max. For many users it’s just right and the size works out even better when you don’t need to touch a home button.
Apple sticks Face ID in the iPhone XR so you unlock with a look and not a fingerprint. With no home button the phone is easier to hold and use even with a big screen. Instead of pressing a button, you swipe and use gestures to control the phone. This takes a week or so to adapt to if you’ve been using an iPhone with a home button for years and then it becomes second nature.
You get way more color options than on any current iPhone with Red, Yellow, White, Coral, Blue and Black options. The back is made of glass like the iPhone XS. The overall style is very similar, to the iPhone XS and XS Max. Instead of a steel band running around the edges, the XR uses aluminum that matches the color of the phone.
Like the other current iPhone models the only port is a lightning jack, so you will need to switch headphones, go wireless or buy a dongle if you prefer to plug-in other headphones.
iPhone XR Battery Life
The iPhone XR battery life is solid. Even with heavy use it often lasted a full day with some room to spare. That’s great news for power users, and many users will get through most normal days without worrying about the battery life.
The iPhone XR can fast charge when you use a capable charger and a USB C to Lightning cable, which lets you plug in and get 50% battery power in 30 minutes of charging. It also supports wireless charging, which is my favorite way to do day to day charging on the iPhone.