Yes, Apple now has a super-huge iPhone Xs Max and a flashy iPhone Xs. But this year Cupertino has also introduced a big iPhone for those who prefer to keep their smartphone purchases under a grand. It's called the iPhone Xr, and while it may not be as flashy as its newly announced cousins, it might wind up the most popular.
The iPhone Xr keeps the same form factor—hello, notch—that last year's iPhone X introduced, but bulks the display up to a 6.1-inch diagonal. But while the screen size exceeds that of the iPhone 8 Plus, losing the home button means it fits in a smaller form factor. It's the middle child, size-wise, of the 2018 iPhone family. The Xs will keep last year's the 5.8-inch screen size, and the Xs Max offers an aggressive 6.5-inch display. But the Xr's most notable feature for many will be its price: Apple will offer it starting at $749, a good $250 less than the Xs entry point.
That (relative) affordability comes from skipping out on a few, but not all, of the upgrades found in this year's more expensive models. Where the Xs and Xs Max have glossy OLED displays, the Xr sticks with LCD. Apple calls the display tech "Liquid Retina," with 326 pixels per inch—1.4 million pixels in all. That lags the more densely packed iPhone Xs and Xs Max, but should still look smooth to the naked eye. It also supports the True Tone technology that Apple introduced in 2016, which is a fancy way of saying it has solid color accuracy, bright whites, and inky blacks. And it supports tap-to-wake, for when you want your knuckles to do the talking.
The iPhone Xr opts for a single camera, rather than dual lenses, but at least you're still getting the same 12-megapixel sensor as the top-tier iPhone models. It also benefits from all of the software-based improvements that Apple introduced this year, including the ability to adjust depth of field after the photo has been taken. Apple appears not to have skimped on the front-facing camera technology; it has the same True Depth system, which means the iPhone Xr supports Face ID.
As for the case, it's made of "7000 series aerospace grade aluminum" rather than stainless steel. But what it lacks in polish it makes up for in liveliness: The iPhone Xr comes in white, black, blue, coral, yellow, and red. You can get it in 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB storage sizes; there's no 512GB option here, like you'll find on the Xs and Xs Max.
But otherwise, you're not really missing out on much. Perhaps most importantly, the iPhone Xr comes with the same A12 Bionic chip that graces its more expensive cousins, meaning you get the same computational might. And despite the smaller physical form, it can squeak out up to 90 minutes more battery life than the iPhone 8 Plus.
The iPhone Xr still isn't anywhere near as cheap as the slate of high-quality, affordable Android phones that have flooded the market in recent years, particularly from Chinese manufacturers like OnePlus and Huawei. But it's more helpful to compare, well, Apples to Apples. Sticking with iOS still isn't cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but you the iPhone Xr at least maintains a price floor that feels something close to reasonable.
One last quick note: Media reports have indicated that the Xr might be in limited supply at launch. At the very least, the availability has been pushed back; it goes on sale on October 19, and will ship a week later, in unknown quantity. So if you've got your eye on a iPhone that's not too big, not too small, comes in a rainbow of colors and won't cost four figures—at least, the base model won't—you might want to order soon.
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