Confirming rumors that have persisted since January, Apple today officially announced the iPhone XR — a sub-flagship iPhone loosely based upon the iPhone X, but with a larger, lower-end screen and a rainbow of color options.
Most obviously, Apple has downgraded the phone’s materials somewhat. Rather than the stainless steel frame found in the iPhone X, the iPhone XR has a 7000-series aluminum core. It also includes an internally painted glass back, and 1-meter water resistance, which is half the depth of the new flagship model iPhone XS. However, six different colors will be available — black, white, red, yellow, coral, and blue — versus the iPhone XS’s three.
As a compromise between last year’s iPhone 8 and iPhone X, the iPhone XR abandons Apple’s classic Home button and Touch ID sensor in favor of a larger, notched screen with Face ID user authentication, but it leaves behind some of the flagship model’s higher-end features to achieve a lower price point. For instance, there’s only a single-lensed rear camera, the screen is LCD rather than OLED, and 3D Touch has been removed from the display. A new feature called Haptic Touch has been added as a replacement, likely without multiple layers of pressure sensitivity.
The iPhone XR name is a first for Apple, seemingly an effort to capitalize on the cachet of the flagship iPhone X brand rather than relegating the new device to “iPhone 9” status, or using the “c” designation debuted with the “cheaper” iPhone 5c. That said, spec drops suggest that the iPhone XR is designed to avoid drawing too many users away from Apple’s higher-end iPhone XS models, which were introduced earlier today.
Visually, the iPhone XR strongly resembles the iPhone X from the front and the iPhone 8 from the back, but actually possesses a larger screen than both models: 6.1 inches on the diagonal, versus the 4.7-inch iPhone 8 and 5.8-inch iPhone X. Despite the physically bigger screen size, the new Liquid Retina display uses an updated version of LCD technology that only approaches the newer OLED Super Retina screen, adding TrueTone support and 120Hz refreshing, while offering a 1,400:1 contrast ratio rather than the X and Xs screens’ 1,000,000:1 ratio.
Internally, the iPhone XR is going to be fast, including the new A12 Bionic chip. While Apple historically does not confirm RAM differences between iPhone models, the XR is believed to have only 3GB of RAM compared with the upcoming iPhone XS models, which are each expected to be bumped to 4GB of RAM. In practice, those differences won’t matter as much to users right now as they’ll appear in benchmarks.
The 7-megapixel front camera will benefit from the same improvements as the XS, and the single rear camera will be the same as the wide-angle camera on the iPhone XS, minus the second telephoto lens. It will be able to simulate portrait mode photos using software, rather than hardware.
Battery life for the iPhone XR is promised to be 90 minutes more than the iPhone 8 Plus — another soft measure of improvement. By comparison, the iPhone X promised “up to 21 hours” of talk time, 12 hours of internet use, and 13 hours of wireless video playback time, with the ability to recharge 50 percent of its battery in 30 minutes.
Like the iPhone XS, the XR will feature a dual SIM ability, Bluetooth 5.0, and protection from liquid and dust. Storage capacities have also improved a little. While the iPhone X was available in 64GB and 256GB models, the iPhone XR comes in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB capacities. The XS will be able to withstand greater depths of water submersion, and offer faster LTE capabilities.
The iPhone XR is expected to hit stores internationally on October 26. Preorders will begin on October 19 with a starting price of $749.