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Hands-on review: Playing the long game with the iPhone XR

21 May 2019
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After using the iPhone XR for a few months, the device has won me over. Despite it not having dual rear cameras and an OLED display like the iPhone XS, the phone has amazing photo quality, Face ID with fast recognition, and the Iconic A12 Bionic Chip all at a very convenient price. 

Design

The iPhone XR brought some fun to the phone game with its design. The phone features an all screen 6.1-inch Liquid Retina Display design. It has aerospace-grade aluminium bands that match the colour of the finish. The phone is available in black, white, blue, yellow, coral, and (PRODUCT) red.  The red XR is a rare case of having a phone that’s ‘too pretty to be covered’ - and it’s not hard to see why.

The XR release claimed that the phone has the most durable front glass ever in a smartphone. I had my doubts as I have a long history of breaking screens - I even have drawers full of them. After 5 months and no screen protector, the phone’s screen is still intact. I call that a win. 

In addition to being pretty and durable, the phone is dust resistant and water resistant up to 1 metre deep and for 30 minutes long. For me this means that I don’t have to panic if I spill my drink on it, but I will never be brave enough to take it into actual water. 

Camera

The phone has a single camera on the top back corner - it’s a stark contrast in an era when every other device manufacturer is trying to be dominant by installing as many cameras as physically possible on a phone. 

The XR’s innovative camera still stands its ground. The 12MP wide-angle camera uses the same sensor that was used on the iPhone XS, but with deeper pixels that allow for better low-light photos. 

The phone’s camera is yet to fail me in any situation. Its night recognition does okay for what I expected out of it. The Smart HDR systems helps this camera a lot. It uses enhanced ISP, faster sensors and advanced algorithms to bring more shadows and highlight details to photos. 

The phone also has a very impressive portrait mode. It allows you to adjust many aspects of the photo after you shoot. I am most impressed with the depth control option that allows me to adjust aperture without affecting exposure, a feature that my very expensive camera would never allow.

The phone also has the capability to shoot 4K video as well as Stereo Recording. At first I thought do I really need a phone that shoots 4K? But picture this: you have a 4K TV in your living room, you have the 4K Apple TV and you want to share some videos of your family members or pets with everyone on the big screen.  In that moment, you will really feel the difference. It’s the phone’s ability to shoot high quality video that will be the divider between you just rewatching a video or reliving the experience. 

Front Camera

In 2019 “selfies”, “Face Time”, “Snaps”, and “Instagram stories” all require us to have a reliable front camera. We find ourselves using it way more than we would like to admit. The XR has a 7MP True Depth camera. The “True Depth” feature is the most important selling point for the front camera. It is what makes FaceID possible. The camera has sensors that read the geometry of your face and then compare it to the information stored on your phone’s chip. This allows you to unlock your phone.

The camera also has a really good “selfie” portrait mode. It allows you to blur backgrounds as the true depth aspect separates the subject from its background. The camera supports five lighting effects: Natural, Studio, Contour, Stage, and Stage Mono. 

The True Depth feature of the front camera is what makes Animojies and Memojies possible. Once I started sending videos of my Memoji I just couldn’t stop. It is also fun to use your Memoji in facetime. It’s a real time saver for the early morning call with the friend who is studying on the other side of the planet. 

A12 Bionic Chip

I think this is the most important advantage that the XR has. Forget the fancy cameras and the cool designs. The main problem with every phone on the market these days is the lag. I have reviewed many non-Apple phones and they all have one thing in common, they lag after being used for a couple of months. Not the XR!

The A12 Bionic Chip allows for an amazing performance. The chip features a six-core fusion architecture with two performance cores that are up to 15% faster than the CPU performance cores in the A11 Bionic Chip.

The phone performs well with whatever you throw its way. It takes hours of gaming, video streaming, AR gaming, visually demanding apps, video editing, and even all at the same time. If you are like me, then you barely ever forget to close apps after you use them which leaves you with 20 apps running in the background. The XR is somehow able to handle all of that. 

Battery

There isn’t much to say about the battery other than the fact that it is really good. With heavy use the battery carries me through the day with no problems. With light use, I was able to run battery for up to 72 hours. 

Conclusion

The iPhone XR stands a very strong ground with its features and price range. It is very affordable compared to other phones on the market and it does everything better. It might not have the best camera on the market, but it has an amazing one nonetheless. I personally chose higher performance over features like a 44MP camera that I won’t be able to use to its full extent because of the bad performance. 

I now use the XR as my personal phone and I think it is going to take a lot out of the next batch of phones that come out to change that.