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He says, she says: Early impressions of the iPhone XR

I preordered the iPhone XR (in blue, of course) the day it came out in Australia, meaning I have now spent roughly three weeks with the device.

My wife, Rosana, who currently uses an iPhone 7 Plus, has also been trying out my phone to decide whether or not it’s worth upgrading to the XR. With two perspectives on the cheapest of Apple’s three new iPhones, we compared our impressions of the device’s key features.

Design

Apple iPhone XR

The iPhone XR is the cheapest of Apple’s latest iPhones. (Image: Apple)

Sam: This is the first iPhone I have owned with the ‘notch’ design. The notch is here to stay whether we like it or not – at least until Apple can figure out how to integrate the front-facing cameras and sensors behind the glass.

More apparent than the notch is the large bezel around the edge of the device. It wasn’t clear to me just how thick the bezel was until I held the device in my hand. They’re much larger than the ones found on the iPhone X and XS, most likely to accommodate the LCD display over the OLED display on the iPhone XS. It was noticeable at first, but after a week I forgot about it.

Rosana: This phone is thick and heavy. It feels chunkier than my iPhone 7 Plus which has a way larger screen.

Sam: No, it doesn’t, the XR is 6.1 inches while the 7 Plus is 5.5 inches.

Rosana: Well, it doesn’t look that way. The ergonomics of the iPhone XR will take some getting used to as well. I prefer the slimness and metal back of my 7 Plus – the XR feels fragile in comparison.

While the XR is slightly smaller than the 7 Plus in width and height (150.9mm x 75.7mm vs 158.2mm x 77.9mm), it is slightly thicker and heavier (8.3mm, 194 grams vs 7.3mm, 188 grams).

Camera

iPhone XR launch in Beijing

The iPhone XR camera is nothing short of amazing. (Image: Apple)

The iPhone XR features a single 12 megapixel rear facing camera that can apply blur (or bokeh) to a photo once it has been taken using some kind of software magic.

Rosana: The photos from this camera look amazing – nice and colourful. The studio lighting effects are okay, but I would just use Instagram filters instead. I never use portrait mode on my 7 Plus and I don’t think I would use it on the XR either.

Sam: Agreed. I went around showing all my friends how cool the new portrait ‘post-focus’ mode is, but I haven’t actually used it to take a proper photo. But the front-facing camera is a serious step up from my iPhone 7.

Performance

Rosana and Sam: New iPhones always feel fast and snappy, and it’s the same story with the iPhone XR. The true test of this device will be to see how it holds up over time.

Display

iPhone XR gaming onscreen

In comparison to the iPhone X and XS, the iPhone XR screen seems dull. (Image Credit: Apple)

The XR uses a traditional LCD display instead of opting for an OLED panel, which has divided users. OLED panels are known to deliver deeper blacks and more vivid colours than LCD displays.

Sam: Are my eyes playing tricks on me? Text looks less sharp on the XR than on the 7 Plus (which has a higher PPI – ‘pixels per inch’ ratio). After a week I stopped comparing the two and the XR’s screen is fine, but the colours are nowhere near as vivid as the X or XS.

Rosana: You are crazy, the screen looks fine. It may be slightly less sharp, but it’s fine.

Verdict

Rosana: I am sticking with my 7 Plus for now. Nothing the XR does is that much better than my phone. The camera is nice and I wish I had Memojis, but that’s not enough to upgrade.

Sam: Since I was coming from an iPhone 7, the XR has been a significant upgrade for me. My old phone is tiny by comparison! It took me a while to adjust to having a bigger phone, but it feels comfortable now. The extra battery life is excellent, too: I can get through a busy day and still have 30 to 40 per cent remaining. It would be great if the iPhone XR retailed for around the A$1,000 mark to differentiate further from the XS, but I’m certainly happy with my purchase.

About the author

Sam loves the biggest screens, the loudest speakers and pretty much anything else tech related.

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