The iPhone XR represents what may be a change of heart for Apple. In the past, buying Apple’s “budget” alternative to its flagship phone releases usually involved living with some sort of sacrifice in features or build quality, saddling them all with a “last year’s news” stamp of inferiority. That reached an extreme in 2017, as the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus looked wildly different than the iPhone X, with its fancy Face ID, notch, and tiny bezels.
With the iPhone XR, though, Apple is effectively letting users pick up the same phone as the flagship model with a savings of $250. It still supports wireless charging and Face ID. It’s got the same processor. It even looks much the same. The only real difference is the type of display that’s used and the absence of a rear telephoto lens. Are those deal-breakers? We’ve made this guide to help you decide.
What are the specs of the iPhone XR?
Size: 5.94 inches by 2.98 inches by 0.33 inches
Weight: 6.24 ounces
Display: 6.2-inch “Liquid Retina” LCD, 1792 x 828, 326 pixels per inch, DCI-P3 color gamut
Other display features: HDR, True Tone, 120Hz touch input
Waterproofing: IP67 (up to 30 minutes in 1 meter of water)
Battery capacity: 2,942mAh
Rear camera: 12MP wide-angle f/1.8 camera with OIS and 1.4 micron pixels
Front camera: Second-generation TrueDepth module with 7MP camera, f/2.2, up to 1080p recording at 60 fps
System-on-chip: Apple A12 Bionic
Pricing and storage: $749 (64GB), $799 (128GB), $899 (256GB)
Colors: White, Black, Blue, Yellow, Coral, (Product) Red
How does the iPhone XR compare to the iPhone XS?
We’ve already written a comprehensive discussion of the differences between the iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max, but for the sake of convenience, we’ll outline the important points here as well. We’ll also focus on the regular iPhone XS here as it’s the more likely alternative if you’re looking for something in the XR’s price range.
The iPhone XR starts at $749, while the iPhone XS starts at $999. Saving money is cool.
At 6.1 inches, iPhone XR has a technically larger display than the 5.8-inch iPhone XS.
We say “technically” because you’re also sacrificing resolution with the XR. The iPhone XR’s display only has a resolution of 1792×828 at 326 ppi, while the XS has a resolution of 2436×1125 at 458 ppi. That’s good enough to avoid seeing jagged edges, but the XS’s display is in a different class entirely.
That’s mainly because the iPhone XS has an OLED display while the iPhone XR has a “Liquid Retina” LCD display. With OLED displays, you get true blacks and more accurate coloring in general.
Both phones house Apple’s powerful new A12 Bionic chip, so you shouldn’t see much difference in app performance between the two.
If there is a difference, it’s likely due to the RAM, as the iPhone XR only has 3GB while the iPhone XS has 4GB.
At 6.84 ounces, the iPhone XR is ever so slightly heavier than the iPhone XS (which weighs 6.24 ounces). This is a tiny difference and one you’ll barely notice.
The iPhone XR comes in six different colors, while the iPhone XS is only available in three.
The iPhone XR’s battery should deliver around 15 hours of internet use, while the iPhone XS will deliver only around 12.
Am I making too many sacrifices with the iPhone XR’s camera?
It depends on what you want. The iPhone XS and the iPhone XR share the same primary rear and front cameras, but the iPhone XR lacks the second telephoto lens that you find on the XS.
You’ll notice these differences most when using Portrait Mode. As the iPhone XR doesn’t have a second lens, achieving similar effects to what iPhone XS users see with Portrait Mode requires some tricky parallax calculations with the autofocus. Partly as a result, Portrait Mode only works with shots of people on the iPhone XR rather than shots of, say, food or pets. Just to emphasize: The iPhone XR literally won’t trigger Portrait Mode’s depth effect unless it detects a human face.
This arrangement comes with some unexpected bonuses. For one, since machine learning is behind the iPhone XR’s depth effect, you won’t have to struggle to find the “sweet spot” to trigger the depth effect as you will with the iPhone XS and its separate lens. Even better, since it’s not forced to use the f/2.4 aperture found on the telephoto lens, the iPhone XR can apply the depth effect in dimmer lighting.
Am I missing out on much by sticking with an LCD display?
Have you ever owned a phone with an OLED display before? If you never have, there’s a good chance you’ll be fine with the LCD display. Apple’s so-called “Liquid Retina” screen on the iPhone XR is likely the best LCD display on the market right now, and Apple’s many previous Retina devices prove that you likely won’t disappointed with its quality.
But gosh, OLED displays are pretty. The ones on the iPhone XS an XS Max are even slightly brighter than the one on the iPhone XS, and they register colors and blacks in ways LCD displays struggle to match. That makes a big difference when viewing everything from digital books to movies, and when you’ve gotten used to one, it’s hard to go back.
OLED displays are also more power efficient than LCD displays as they don’t rely on a traditional backlight. Instead, each pixel produces light directly.
Can I use Animoji and Memoji with the iPhone XR?
Yes! The iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max all use the same front-facing TrueDepth sensor, so your experience with Face ID. Animoji, and Memoji should be identical on every device.
Leif is a San Francisco-based tech journalist. He's a big fan of fantasy RPGs, and you can find his previous work on IGN, Rolling Stone, VICE, PC Gamer, Playboy, Mac|Life, TechRadar, and numerous other publications.