iPhone XR review: Power, price and colourful design makes this a very tempting upgrade

Apple iPhone XR review

Apple iPhone XR review (Image: UK)

PHONE XR REVIEW • From £749

  • FOR – Stunning design at a cheaper price • A12 Bionic processor offers supreme power. • Wireless charging • Edge-to-edge display • Six colourful options to choose from
  • AGAINST – Larger bezel around the screen • Camera’s Portrait Mode has its limitations • LCD screen simply not as good as OLED • No fast charger or headphone dongle in the box

There’s now a way to own an all-screen smartphone on a much smaller budget.

The new iPhone XR arrives in stores later this week with it featuring the stunning style of the iPhone Xs without the shock of a £1,000 price tag.

For less of your money, you not only get an edge-to-edge display but a colourful new design, super fast processor and a single rear camera that features the ability to add DSLR-style depth of field to your photos.

So is this now the ultimate iPhone for those wanting big specs and pure value for money?

Express.co.uk has been putting the iPhone XR through its paces and here’s our full review.

DESIGN AND DISPLAY

Apple is bringing some colour back to its iPhones and that’s sure to be a hugely popular design decision.

Unlike the flagship Xs and Xs Max – which are only available in Gold, Space Grey and Silver – the XR arrives in six brilliantly bright colours including red, yellow and blue.

These glossy tones all look fabulous and bring some added fun back to the iPhone brand.

Although this smartphone is a little cheaper than the Xs, Apple has kept a premium feel with the XR covered in a durable water-resistant glass case and a colour-matched aluminium band which runs around the sides of the phone.

These subtle touches bring plenty of appeal and there’s no question that this is a stylish and very desirable device to have tucked in your pocket.

Along with its fresh new look, another thing we really like is the XR’s overall size.

With it featuring a 6.1-inch display, this phone sits perfectly between the 5.8-inch Xs and 6.5-inch Xs Max.

Apple iPhone XR review

The iPhone XR has a premium feel with an all-glass and metal body (Image: EXPRESS NEWPAPERS)

In fact, it offers the perfect balance between screen dimensions and usability with plenty of room to view content without the device being too big for your pocket.

Our overall impressions of this latest Apple smartphone are good but there is something that you shouldn’t ignore.

One big difference between the XR and its more expensive Xs sibling is its LCD screen.

Apple is confident that this new Liquid Retina technology can deliver a top-class experience and there’s certainly nothing wrong with this non-OLED panel.

When you first set eyes on this screen you’ll be struck by just how bright and colourful it really is.

Content looks crisp, sharp and its new backlight design packs plenty of punch .

Apple iPhone XR review

The XR sits perfectly between the iPhone Xs and Xs Max (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

However, if one of your friends pulls the new iPhone Xs from their pocket you may wish you’d spent the extra money.

With Apple’s flagship featuring OLED technology, it offers a superior experience with richer blacks, brighter whites and more detail packed into the image.

Watching a 4K HDR YouTube video really highlights why OLED is the future and you won’t find this technology on the XR.

To say there’s anything wrong with the LCD screen would be wrong and would be doing this display a huge injustice.

But, if you want the ultimate visual experience you are better off spending more and buying the Xs.

One final thing to be aware of is that the black bezel around the screen is slightly bigger on the XR.

It’s a minute difference but is strangely noticeable and worth taking a look at before you decide if this is the phone for you.

Apple iPhone XR review

The XR includes a 6.1-inch LCD display (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPER)

Apple iPhone XR

The XR comes in six colours including red, blue and yellow (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

CAMERA

There’s a radical new single lens camera system on the XR and it offers a very accomplished experience.

The 12-megapixel wide-angle lens comes packed with plenty of technology to help produce sublime images every time you hit the shutter button.

There’s full optical image stabilisation to help your shots stay wobble-free, a faster sensor and a feature called Smart HDR which takes a number of images at once and picks the best parts of each for the ultimate end result.

Smart HDR means you can put the XR in some tricky situations, such as shooting into direct sunlight, and still end up with a decent photo.

Despite the XR only featuring that single rear lens, it is still capable of adding DSLR-style depth of field to your images.

Not only does this Portrait Mode work incredibly well on the phone but you can even edit the amount of bokeh background blur after the photo has been taken.

Apple iPhone XR review

A single rear camera sits on the back of the XR (Image: EXPRESS)

Apple iPhone XR review

iPhone XR camera samples (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Apple iPhone XR review

The single camera allows depth effect to be added to you images (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPER)

Apple iPhone XR

iPhone XR camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

We’ve been really impressed by this feature but it’s worth noting that, unlike the Xs, it only works with people.

This means you can’t apply the same effect to pictures of your pets or anything that doesn’t include a human face.

This is quite a big drawback of what is otherwise a very good rear camera.

If it’s video you are after then the XR is capable of filming in full 4K and it uses its four built-in mics to add stereo sound to your footage.

For those all-important selfies, you’ll find a 7-megapixel TrueDepth camera on the front of the phone which has a neat party trick.

Like the rear camera, this clever front-facing snapper can also add depth of field to those photos of your face.

Apple iPhone XR review

Selfies also get Portrait Mode and the bokeh blur can be changed after the image is shot (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPER)

Apple iPhone XR review

(Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Portrait Lighting is also available on the front camera using a precise depth map to separate the subject from the background for stunning studio-quality selfies.

Other favourite features that continue to make an appearance on the XR include Slow-Mo, Time-lapse and Panorama.

With all these features packed into the XR, this phone offers a very good photographic experience.

It may not have all the pro settings of the Xs but, considering its lower price, it’s hard to be too critical of a camera that will produce some stunning snaps for your family album.

Apple iPhone XR review

It’s worth noting that unlike the Xs, the XR can only add depth when it spots a human face (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Apple iPhone XR review

If no person is detected Portrait Mode doesn’t work (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

SPEED, FACE ID AND BATTERY

The iPhone XR may land in your pocket at a smaller cost than the flagship Xs but that doesn’t mean it can’t keep pace with the competition.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Tucked under the glass and metal body is Apple’s turbocharged A12 Bionic processor which is currently one of the fastest chips on the market.

A recent speed test proved just how fast these new brains are, beating all of its Android rivals by a hefty margin.

The A12 Bionic features a 7-nanometer chip that delivers huge performance in a more efficient design.

This means everything you ask of the XR is performed with minimal effort and this device is an out-and-out joy to use.

Apps open in the blink of an eye and scrolling through websites or playing the latest blockbuster games has never felt so smooth.

Apple iPhone XR review

Face ID features on the phone which unlocks the screen with a simple glance at it (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Another notable difference between the new A12 and older A11 processors is how fast the Face ID facial recognition now is.

As we mentioned earlier, the XR has an all-screen design which means the famous home button has been banished to the history books.

Instead of unlocking with a fingerprint, users simply look at the phone to gain instant access.

This feature first arrived on last year’s iPhone X.

That device was certainly no slouch when it came to Face ID but the XR takes this to a new level with the unlock symbol appearing almost instantaneously.

There’s also another useful feature of the A12 as it’s able to power this device whilst using up to 50 percent less energy.

This means that you’ll easily get a full day’s usage on a single charge.

Apple iPhone XR review

(Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

We are still thoroughly testing the XR’s battery life and will update this article over time but initial impressions are good with our first few days of real-life usage ending with over 30 per cent still left in the tank.

If things do run low the iPhone XR can be fast charged by 50 percent in just 30 minutes.

It’s worth noting that Apple still doesn’t supply this powerful plug in the box which is highly annoying.

If you own a new MacBook charger you can use this to get a power boost but otherwise, you’ll need a trip to an Apple Store to buy the £49 charger.

If plugging your phone into refill sounds so last year, you’ll be pleased to know that the XR can be charged wirelessly.

Again you’ll need to splash out on a Qi charging dock to get this wire-free feature but it’s definitely worth the investment.

Apple iPhone XR review

The XR is missing a headphone port (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

EXTRAS

There’s plenty of nice added bonuses on the iPhone XR including some superb stereo speakers which belt out sound with plenty of volume and decent levels of bass.

These speakers also offer a wider sound which certainly brings a more immersive experience to this portable device.

Along with the improved audio, there’s also the ability to now add a dual SIM to the iPhone which allows you to have two numbers on the same device.

This double SIM option will arrive, via a software update, later this year so we’ve not been able to test its functionality but it should certainly be a useful addition when it arrives in the coming months.

Like its predecessor, the XR can also produce some fun interactive Animojis via the front-facing TrueDepth camera and there’s now the addition of Memojis in iOS 12 which offer some added entertainment.

Apple iPhone XR review

Animojis can be sent from the TrueDepth front camera (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Memojis can be created easily on the phone with hundreds of ways to customise them until the on-screen character looks just like you.

Finally, there’s the great news for anyone whose phone is always out of memory as you can buy the XR with a generous 256GB of internal storage.

It’s worth noting that, unlike many Android devices, this memory is not expandable so make sure you pick the right iPhone for your needs.

As a reminder, the XR comes with either 64GB, 128GB or 256GB of storage.

DON’T FORGET – There’s no headphone port on the iPhone XR and Apple has stopped shipping a dongle in the box so you’ll need to buy one of these £7 accessories if you have some wired cans.

Apple iPhone XR review

Animojis are fun way of messaging that was only available on the more expensive flagships (Image: APPLE)

PRICE

One of the best parts of the iPhone XR is its relatively low price.

Although £749 isn’t exactly cheap this is the first time Apple has released an all-screen iPhone for the same cost as its bezel-filled cousins.

The current iPhone Xs starts from £999 which makes this new device seem like a bit of a bargain.

Buying the XR on a monthly plan will set you back around £34 when paying a £199 upfront fee.

Apple iPhone XR review

Apple iPhone XR review (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

VERDICT

The iPhone XR is set to be a hugely popular addition to Apple’s smartphone family and it deserves plenty of praise.

This new device is beautifully made with its bright colours bringing a refreshing change to the standard Space Grey and Silver.

The modern design means you get a huge 6.1-inch screen in a phone that’s physically smaller in your pocket.

And the all-glass finish brings a quality feel to the hand and tucked under this durable case is that incredible new processor.

By including the new A12 Bionic chip, Apple has made this device fast, powerful and a total delight to use.

The single rear camera also performs well enough and there’s plenty of nice extras including Face ID, wireless charging and the ability to send those fun Animojis.

At £749 Apple has created a hugely tempting option but there are some niggles that you won’t find on the more expensive Xs.

Despite the new LCD screen appearing bright and clear it simply can’t match the latest OLED technology.

There’s also that slightly thicker bezel that runs around the Liquid Retina display which does cheapen the appearance.

It’s also worth remembering that the front and rear camera can add some nice depth of field to photos of your face but this effect won’t work on anything else.

If these issues don’t concern you then you’re in for a treat as the XR is a seriously good phone.

It’s fast, feature-packed and that more affordable price makes it a very attractive upgrade.


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