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Apple iPhone XR review – ticks all the boxes for design, quality and performance

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Apple’s iPhone XR ticks all the boxes in terms of design, quality and performance and manages to offer amazing camera quality through a single lens. And that comes down to the advantage Apple has over every other smartphone manufacturer – their own software working with their own hardware.

Apple’s latest product – the iPhone XR – might not be the company’s premium smartphone but it is still a high quality device that can hold its own against other flagship products.

The iPhone XR as most of the features you’ll find on the more expensive iPhone XS but in a more affordable price point.

DISPLAY

iPhone XR has the same all-screen design and the 6.1 inch display places it squarely between the iPhone XS (5.8-inch) and the iPhone XS Max (6.5-inch).

It has a Liquid Retina display which is what Apple is calling the most advanced and most colour accurate LCD screen on a phone.

It’s not OLED – the screen you’ll find on the iPhone XS – but it is still remarkably sharp and clear.

Even holding the iPhone XR next to the iPhone XS, we could barely tell the difference in terms of quality, brightness and colour.

Colours are rich and accurate thanks to the onboard systemwide colour management so what you see on the screen looks pure and natural.

The display is a good size and users will think just like Goldilocks and find it just right – not too big and not too small.

The iPhone XR sits between the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max

Interestingly, one thing missing with the iPhone XR is 3D Touch and we were caught out a few times after using it with the iPhone X on the iPhone XS.

Certainly not a dealbreaker by any means and we’re pretty sure many iPhone users who have 3D Touch either don’t use it or don’t know they even have it.

DESIGN

On the design side, Apple has once again delivered a thing of beauty.

It has an aerospace grade aluminium band that’s colour matched to one of six impressive new colours – black, blue, white, yellow, coral and (PRODUCT)RED.

For our review we had the black version, but we’ve seen the other colours and they’re all stunning.

The  back is made of glass which Apple says is more durable than the glass used on the iPhone X.

And each colour has a gloss and richness to it that you need to hold in your hand to fully appreciate.

The front glass over the display is also the most durable ever used in a smart phone and the results of a special industry-leading glass formulation to improve its strength and scratch resistance.

And the good news is the iPhone XR is also water resistant with an IP67 rating which means it can handle being up to a metre underwater for up to 30 minutes.

Apple also tested the resistance to everyday spills with coffee, tea, soft drink and beer so you’re pretty safe if your iPhone XR gets dunked.

PERFORMANCE

The iPhone XR is powered by the same A12 Bionic chip that was introduced with the iPhone XS which offers real-time machine learning to power the device quickly and efficiently.

It also does the heavy lifting when it comes to augmented reality and playing high-end games.

Also under the hood is the Neural Engine which really speeds things along no matter what you happen to be doing on the device.

The iPhone XR is really responsive and fast. Apps open super quick and switching between them to multitask is no effort at all.

FACE ID

There is no home button on the iPhone XR which means you can’t register a fingerprint. So your face is your security.

The device uses the same TrueDepth camera system as the iPhone XS to map your face with more than 30,000 points to make facial authentication truly secure.

Once you set this up (and it takes just seconds) you will be able to not only unlock your phone with your face but access apps and accounts using the same authentication instead of remembering a password.

You can also authorise an Apple Pay transaction with Face ID as well.

The 7-megapixel TrueDepth camera also comes in to play and analyses more than 50 different facial muscles and movements to animate Animoji creatures and your Memoji which is an animated cartoon version of yourself. These can all be shared as part of an iMessage.

CAMERA

The iPhone XR has a single lens camera system. But don’t for a second think the lack of additional lenses compromises the quality of your images.

The device has a 12-megapixel wide angle camera sensor (the same wide-angle sensor in the iPhone XS) which has larger pixels for improved colour accuracy.

It also has Smart HDR to bring out even more detail and quality in your photos.

The iPhone XR relies a little more on the software and advanced algorithms to produce some incredible pictures.

The images we took with the iPhone XR for our review were not far behind the quality you’d expect from the superior iPhone XS dual lens camera system.

Image captured with the iPhone XR

For a single lens shooter, it certainly punches way above its weight.

Even though it’s got a single lens, you can still capture some amazing portrait shots and going and adjust the level of background blur afterwards.

One funny quirk of the system is the fact that you can only take portrait shots of people.

Image captured with the iPhone XR

Without the second lens, the iPhone XR needs a human face to establish the foreground and create the layers of the background.

This is a major disappointment for us because we have taken more portrait shots of our two dalmatians then of any person we know.

Image captured with the iPhone XR

When we tried to line up one of our dogs for a portrait image, a notification appeared saying: no person detected.

We understand app developers are working on this issue right now.

iPhone XR can only do portrait shots of people – sorry no portrait shot for our dalmatian Logan

In low-light conditions, the iPhone XR also impressed.

If you’re shooting video, the iPhone XR can capture high-quality 4K video with stereo recording.

DUAL SIM

The iPhone is capable of supporting two SIMs – a physical SIM and an eSIM.

Australian customers are unable to activate the eSIM at the moment – our local telcos are expected to enable this service later this year so users can handle two numbers.

This would come in handy for who need a work and private number or anyone who wants to use a foreign SIM while they’re travelling while still have access to their Australian number on the iPhone XR.

BATTERY

Battery performance was on par with the iPhone XS and easily got us through more than 24 hours of usage.

That’s an entire day and into the next morning and this was with heavy all-day use.

WHAT’S MISSING

We’re not going to lose any sleep about not having 3D Touch but it would have been nice to include it.

We are not going to make a big deal about not having a dual lens camera. You have to keep in mind many of the customers who will be buying the iPhone XR will be coming from an older iPhone so to them all they are going to see is a huge jump in quality.

Of course, they can always pay the extra money for the iPhone XS if they want a dual-lens camera or explore other dual-camera and even triple camera Android smartphones that are about the same price or cheaper than the iPhone XR.

In the Phone XR’s defence, it’s obvious judging by the quality of the image that it’s not the number of lenses that count, it’s what you do with the lens you have.

PRICING

While the iPhone XR  is cheaper than the iPhone XS, it is still more expensive than other flagship devices from rival brands.

The iPhone XR is priced at $1,229 (64GB), $1299 (128GB) and $1,479 (256GB).

VERDICT

Apple’s iPhone XR ticks all the boxes in terms of design, quality and performance and manages to offer amazing camera quality through a single lens. And that comes down to the advantage Apple has over every other smartphone manufacturer – their own software working with their own hardware.