It was only last month we saw the release of the latest iPhones, the XS and XS Max, so it may seem a little unusual to see another launch so soon.
But this Friday’s launch of the iPhone XR is meant for “the rest of us,” meaning those people who want a new iPhone but can’t or won’t pony up the Dh4,229 needed to get those phones.
Please don’t read this and think the XR is the “cheap” iPhone. It has a starting price of Dh3,179, which still makes it more expensive than many smartphones on the market, but it is still just half the price of the fully-loaded XS Max, which is currently sitting as the market’s heavyweight at Dh6,129.
The good news is that despite the much lower price, the XR still comes with almost all of the features that you will find on the latest iPhones. It has the same A12 Bionic chip set, which means it processes just as fast as its cousins. It will also support the eSim when that technology rolls out later this year, and it has all the features that you’ve heard about with iOS12.
Those of you who can do math will be asking: all that and half the price — what’s the catch? Glad you asked.
The biggest impact on the XR’s price is its liquid LCD, Retina-display screen. In simpler terms, it has lower resolution and lower contrast. The resolution isn’t bad, but it’s simply not the high-contrast OLED screen that comes with the other iPhones. Yes, the difference in clarity is obvious, but it’s not something anyone is likely to cry over.
For anyone who wants to see the numbers, the XR’s resolution is 1792-by-828 at 326 ppi (pixels per inch) with a contrast ratio of 1400:1. For comparison, the screen on the XS is 2436-by-1125 at 458 ppi and the XS Max comes in at 2688-by-1242 pixel resolution at 458 ppi. Both have contrast ratios of 1,000,000:1.
This means the XR’s screen resolution is more or less on par with that of the iPhone 8.
And speaking of screen size, the XR’s 6.1-inch screen fits right in the middle of last month’s releases. The XS has a 5.8-inch screen while the XS Max has a 6.5-inch. One final note on the screen, the XR does not have 3D touch, which was where you could push down on the screen and a menu would pop open. You’ll have to upgrade to the XS to get that feature back.
Well, the XR has only a single 12-megapixel camera lens on the back, unlike the other two new iPhones, which have two. The loss of the lens means the camera has a lower ability to read depth in your images, which means you won’t have all the fancy editing options you have with the other iPhone XS. You’ll still be able to blur the background of your portraits, but you’ll have fewer lighting features (no stage light or stage light mono). The XR retains these features on the front-facing camera thanks to the TrueDepth camera, AKA the sensors located in the “Notch,” so you can still go nuts editing your selfies.
Other key differences: the new iPhone is available in six colours instead of three, and the glass on the back is supposedly tougher than the original iPhone X. Don’t think that doesn’t mean anything. I’ve discovered from experience that it’s just as easy to shatter a glass back as it is a glass front.
A couple of other small differences: the band around the outside is aluminium instead of stainless steel, and while Apple would not give us a battery comparison between the three, it would say that you can get about 90 minutes more out of the XR than you could the original iPhone X.
The bottom line on this phone is that while it might not have all the bells and whistles of its elite XS cousins, it doesn’t leave too much behind on the way to a more affordable price. If you’re still using last year’s iPhone X, you might want to think twice about an upgrade to the XR, but if you’re using anything else and can’t justify the higher costs of an XS series, you’ll probably still be very happy with this iPhone.
The iPhone XR goes on sale in the UAE on Friday.
One last thing...
While this isn’t entirely XR specific, Apple seems to have picked this launch for two very practical and long-awaited updates.
First is Apple’s Augmented Reality (AR) feature called Quick Look. I’ve been waiting to see someone develop an augmented reality app that really shows the world what the technology is capable of, and this might be it. It is certainly the first relevant AR feature available for consumers that I’ve seen. With Quick Look, consumers looking to purchase something, such as furniture or bicycles, online will be able to project their potential purchases using the iPhone. You’ll also be able to zoom in and out on the object to see the details as well as how it fits in your home. You can check out our video to see us use this features on a bicycle that is currently available at an online store.
The only bit of bad news is that this feature so far only works with the Safari web browser. Sorry, Chrome users.
Second is an update of sorts to Siri, in an app called Shortcuts. It’s basically an app that lets you build and import macros that you can use with Siri and some more popular apps. With it, you can simplify the process of some common tasks such as browsing top news or creating Gifs. It’s not exactly earth-shattering, but it should make using Siri a little easier.