Wednesday, October 24, 2018 [Tweets] [Favorites]

iPhone XR Reviews

Juli Clover:

The iPhone XR will be available for pre-order at 12:01 a.m. Pacific Time on October 19, and ahead of when pre-orders go live, the first iPhone XR reviews have been published on YouTube.

Apple appears to have provided several YouTubers and media sites with iPhone XR review units, with a list of some of the available review videos embedded below.

John Gruber:

Weird thing about iPhone XR — no first-party cases from Apple (yet?). Only cases they’re promoting with pre-orders are from Otterbox, of all places.

Ryan Jones:

And cases on Day 1 are critical. No one that wants a case waits - gotta have it.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Unlike with the iPhone 5c at its launch, I feel like the iPhone XR is the star of this year’s lineup. It’ll be interesting to see how it fares; carriers here instantly went out of stock for preorders, but that happens every year so can’t glean anything from that

Chris Velazco (via MacRumors):

To add to the curiosity of it all, the R doesn’t mean much either. Phil Schiller, gingerly gripping a cup of coffee across from me, said the letters Apple uses never stand for something specific. But then his voice softened a little as he started to tell me about what the letters mean to him.

“I love cars and things that go fast, and R and S are both letters used to denote sport cars that are really extra special,” he said with a smile.

[…]

Devices like the iPhone X, iPhone XS and basically every nice Android phone this year have screens that run at resolutions at or much higher than 1080p. (If you’re not much of a phone person, this basically means they’re very crisp.) The iPhone XR’s screen isn’t as high-res as those screens, and some people are upset about that. A handful of reports also suggested that the complexities of building these specific kinds of LCD displays on a large scale are why Apple is releasing the iPhone XR a month after its two more-premium XS models.

At least with respect to the first point, Schiller believes this is a case of what’s on paper not doing justice to reality. “I think the only way to judge a display is to look at it,” he told me, adding that Apple calls these screens “retina displays” because your eye can’t discern individual pixels unless you press your face up right against the glass. “If you can’t see the pixels, at some point the numbers don’t mean anything. They’re fairly arbitrary.” And when asked if the screen was to blame for the XR’s staggered release, he simply said, “This is when it’s ready.”

Joe Rossignol:

iPhone XR pre-order demand in the first three days of the device’s availability was “better than that” of the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus during the same period last year, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

John Gruber:

The iPhone XR is everything Apple says it is, and it’s the new iPhone most people should buy. I’ve been using one as my primary phone for the last week, and it’s a lovely, exciting device. Even some of the things I thought were compromises don’t feel like compromises at all in practice. Overall, yes, the XS and XS Max are better devices, but in a few regards the XR is actually better.

[…]

By using the camera with the faster lens and bigger sensor, Portrait Mode on the iPhone XR works significantly better than on the XS in very low light scenarios.

[…]

With plenty of light, Portrait Mode is much better on the XS than the XR, simply because the XS telephoto lens is a much more appropriate focal length for portraits.

[…]

But LCD has advantages — most noticeably energy consumption. Apple goes out of its way to disguise this in its iPhone tech spec comparisons, but the iPhone XR has the longest battery life of any iPhone ever made. The primary reason is that the XS and XS Max’s OLED displays use more power.

[…]

To my eyes, the biggest difference between the XR and XS displays is the slightly larger bezel around the XR display — not the displays themselves.

[…]

The XR is also less dense — about 9 percent less dense than the XS and 7.5 percent less dense than the XS Max. There could be internal components that contribute to this, but the obvious explanation is that aluminum weighs less than stainless steel. I think this lower density works in the XR’s favor — it feels better, weight-wise.

[…]

The XR uses some lesser quality glass on the back. Still supposedly scratch and crack resistant, but not as durable as the glass on the front.

Benjamin Mayo:

Anandtech says the 8 LCD is more efficient at showing black, too.

Joachim Bondo:

Another advantage X🅁 has over X🅂 is that it looks better on the back. The circular lens is simply more attractive than the tall double-lens housing.

Ben Bajarin:

The Xr feels more premium than all its high-end Android competitors which bodes well for Apple.

No company has experimented more with material science/metals than Apple to get to where they are today.

John Gruber:

IMO the 128 GB iPhone XR is by far the best value in the entire iPhone lineup. Apple could have easily only offered 64 and 256 GB.

Hedwig Guerra:

The lineup makes more sense when you factor in all models (Delta between 64 GB and 256 GB is consistent at $150, Delta between 32 GB and 128 GB is $100).

Matt Birchler:

The greatest trick Apple ever pulled was raising the entry price of their lineup $150 and getting people to call it “affordable.”

I think the new phones are great, but $649 used to be premium device territory and $800 was “OMG THAT’S A CRAZY PHONE” territory.

Joe Rossignol:

Haptic Touch is simply a marketing name for a long press combined with haptic feedback from the Taptic Engine. The feature is a substitute for 3D Touch, which Apple wasn’t able to include on the iPhone XR in order to achieve a nearly edge-to-edge LCD screen, a remarkable engineering feat.

Nick Heer:

But there is one thing eating at me with this new iPhone lineup: the starting price for a current model year iPhone is now $50 more than last year, and $100 more than two years’ prior. It’s as though they’ve dropped the entry-level model and are starting at what was previously Plus model pricing. In Canada, the difference is even more pronounced — for the first time, you cannot get a current model year iPhone for under $1,000. The iPhone XR might be the least-expensive iPhone Apple launched this year, but it is by no means a budget device.

[…]

There are two ways of looking at this: Apple has made more affordable the iPhone X design and features, and Apple has dramatically increased the base price of an iPhone.

See also: Nilay Patel, Matthew Panzarino, Rene Ritchie, and Lauren Goode, and roundups from Apple, John Voorhees, and Tim Hardwick.

Update (2018-10-25): Jason Snell (tweet):

My lock screen image is the picture of an astronaut taken from the surface of the moon, so there’s a lot of dynamic range. When you look at that image on an iPhone XS, the blackness of space is absolute. On the XR, it’s more of a… space gray?

Still, when you’re not comparing the phones directly side by side, it’s a lot less noticeable.

[…]

Finally, there’s no 3D Touch. This is an underutilized part of iOS, and has been since the beginning. But Apple has converted many of the 3D Touch gestures on iOS into new press-and-hold “Haptic Touch” equivalents. Not everything has made the move—some press-and-hold gestures already have meaning, so they can’t be remapped for Haptic Touch—but a bunch of them have. (In the end I’m not sure 3D Touch is going to be anything but a footnote. But if you’re a 3D Touch fan, the iPhone XR might not be your best choice.)

Rene Ritchie:

With all previous Portraits Mode, from iPhone 7 Plus to iPhone XS and XS Max, you were shooting with the effectively 52mm telephoto lens. With iPhone XR, you’re shooting with the effectively 26mm wide angle lens. Switching from one to the other is like swapping glass on a traditional camera.

That’s especially true because, instead of just slapping on a custom gaussian or disc blur over the background and calling it a day, which is what Apple used to do and, I think, pretty much every other camera phone maker still does, this year Apple examined a bunch of high-end cameras and lenses and created a virtual model for both the iPhone XS and iPhone XR.

That means, it ingests the scene with computer vision, makes sense of everything it sees, and then renders the bokeh, including lights, overlapping lights, and the kind of distortions real glass physics produces in the real world.

And, when you slide the new Depth Control back and forth between f/1.4 and f.16, it re-calculates and re-renders the virtual lens model.

The result is the same kind of character and, yeah, personality you get with real-world lenses. And that means shooting with iPhone XS vs. iPhone XR gives you photos with different character and, yeah, personality.

Update (2018-10-26): Uluroo:

This chart shows the pricing and storage tiers of each new iPhone model, along with the price per gigabyte.

[…]

The iPhone XR should not be seen as the cheaper alternative to the iPhones XS and XS Max; they should be seen as a more luxurious alternative to the XR.

Update (2018-10-29): Benjamin Mayo:

The XR doesn’t let you long-press on a lock screen notification to view the rich content + action buttons. iPad doesn’t have 3D Touch, but it lets you access it with a long press. The XR makes you swipe the notification to the side and then tap the View button.

Mike Rundle:

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but this morning I returned my XR to Apple because of this specific reason. I use this functionality all day long and assumed Apple made it work on the XR. I got the Max instead. Super lame.

Chris Welch:

For the first time in years, a new iPhone has hit the market without any first-party Apple cases for the company to sell alongside it. The lack of such an obvious accessory is odd. Apple has made no public comment on why it hasn’t prepped its usual silicone and leather case options for the XR’s launch.

Mark Gurman:

Especially since they announced a clear case in their press release

Update (2018-10-31): Rui Carmo:

I went into a store to try out the XR thinking there was a 70% chance of walking out with one, and was shocked at how large, heavy and unwieldy it actually is compared to my iPhone 6, even with its aluminum and glass body.

Pics don’t do it justice, nor does Apple’s comparison page—I can’t hold it comfortably to take a call single-handed, never mind using it for anything more complex, since it is much larger, thicker and heavier than the 6/8 form factor.

Update (2018-11-01): John Gruber:

To my knowledge, iPhone XR is the only LCD phone ever made, by anyone, with no chin or forehead. With the display controller underneath the display, the Lightning port had to be pushed down. It is absolutely a compromise, but well worth it for the overall look of the device. Everyone would notice if the XR had a chin; almost no one is going to notice the Lightning port is top-aligned rather than centered with the screws and speakers.

Ken Segall:

It’s been disappointing to see Apple struggle with iPhone naming for so many years. With XS, XS Max and XR, we now have a family of iPhone names Gil Amelio would be proud of.

[…]

I foolishly cling to the idealistic notion that a company’s values really do determine its long-term success. So I find it unsettling when Phil Schiller innocently tosses out the comment that the letters in an iPhone name have no meaning.

What he’s doing is casually tossing aside one of the values that has always set Apple apart.

Jason Snell:

The iPhone XS models are better phones than the iPhone XR in pretty much every way (except color). But are they better enough to matter for most people? I doubt it.

Juli Clover:

In our latest YouTube video, we compared the cameras of the iPhone XR and the iPhone XS Max to see how much of a difference you’re really going to see with the single lens camera vs. the dual-lens camera.

Update (2018-11-05): Adam Clark Estes:

Remember how tech bloggers seemed so jazzed about the iPhone XR because it was like the very expensive iPhone XS but incredibly cheaper? It looks like the public is not as jazzed. Nikkei Asian Review reports that Apple has canceled a production boost for the iPhone XR, which is apparently not selling as well as the company had originally anticipated. The iPhone 8, however, is selling better than expected. Maybe people like the Home button!

I recently tried several iPhone XRs and was impressed. It feels much better in the hand than an iPhone 6–8 and, I think, better than an iPhone X. I don’t know whether it was just the display models in the store that I was in, but the colors with the gray aluminum sides seemed much more grippy than the ones with colored (black or red) sides. The two main issues for me:

9 Comments

Rene Ritchie’s piece is great. As someone who’s very interested in the particulars of the camera part of the phones, the info he share on the differences is very useful. Some trade offs in both directions for the XS and the XR.

Glad to hear the over smoothing is being addressed. I really hope they adjust their smart HDR output too. Some of the sample images I’ve seen look bad.

I also hadn’t realized the limitationss of Google’s portrait mode. No live preview is a huge drawback! That said, I’m blown away by the early samples of their night mode feature. They’re besting Apple in some areas when it comes to photography.

$800 isn't an affordable phone. I'm glad Matt Birchler called out the media, even if he too hems and haws, making excuses for why it's still not that much money. No. It is a huge sum of money for most people. I have five people on my family plan (6 total lines), you want me to spend $4000 to outfit them with phones? My entire phone service bill for 2 years is less than the cost of those "inexpensive" phones. $3384 vs $4000 ($4800 if I bought an XR for my extra sixth line).

I continue to grow less interested in consumer technology as each year passes.

One interesting thing about the XR reviews is that since they are so focused on the hardware (screen and camera) that you start to wonder whether you should not get a Google Pixel 3 instead of a XR.

I dunno. The Pixel 3's camera seems really nice. But other than that the hardware strikes me as worse than the iPhone. Slower, worse screen, no face ID, rear-mounted fingerprint reader, etc etc.

> rear-mounted fingerprint reader

I switched from a phone with a front-mounted fingerprint reader to a phone with rear-mounted one, and overall, I prefer it. Unlocking my old phone now feels odd, since it's really not a natural place to put my thumb when I pick up the phone, whereas the rear-mounted one just feels natural. The downside is that it's harder to unlock when it's sitting on a desk (doesn't matter to me, I never unlock the phone when it's just flat on a desk), or when it's in a landscape stand (e.g. for watching YouTube). Overall, I prefer the rear-mounted sensor.

Rui Carmo’s comment echo’s my wife’s reaction on first using her XR “Wow, it's big!”. She needed to replace a failing 6, so it was pretty much essential to buy a replacement, but its amazing how much bigger these phones are. I'm very happy with my SE, and hope Apple will make a replacement small phone before I need to upgrade it!

[…] phone, but it is more slippery and less comfortable to hold without case than the iPhone XS or XR or, of course, the […]

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