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iPhone XR Review: Sometimes Less is More

PHOTO: Colours of iPhone XR (Courtesy apple.com)

The iPhone XR comes in different colours, only has one rear camera, but is cheaper

Apple uses Liquid Retina Display over OLED, meaning battery life on the XR lasts longer

Single rear camera uses machine learning to create Bokeh effect in Portrait mode

CALGARY (CITYNEWS) –  Apple’s latest iPhone XR has many of the same features as the iPhone XS and its larger counterpart the iPhone XS Max. It boasts the same lightning-fast A12 Bionic processor and it shares the same camera sensor as the two other iPhones, which were just announced last month. And yet Apple’s iPhone XR costs less than the company’s other two flagship devices.

So what did Apple remove to bring the price down, and will you notice a difference? There certainly is a difference between the models, but it’s probably not as noticeable as you may think!

Here are five things that differentiate iPhone XR from the pack to help you determine if this is the iPhone for you.

READ MORE: Bigger, pricier iPhone 


Apple usually rolls out the standard metallic colours each year, while adding one or two new tones into the mix. This time around Apple is offering a flashier palette to choose from. Sure, there’s the traditional black and white, but if you really want to stand out, you may want to express yourself with a bolder colour, such as yellow, blue, coral, or (PRODUCT)RED.

I was surprised at just how nice the new flashier colours look, while still giving the phone an elegant look and feel. You may remember six years ago, Apple launched the iPhone 5C in a variety of fun shades. While those phones were made from polycarbonate, the iPhone XR is a completely different beast. It’s made from aluminum and glass and feels of high quality.

In fact, it’s the aluminum that really draws the eye. Apple has given the metal a matte coloured finish, to match the colour of the iPhone (with the exception of the white model which is silver). It looks so nice that you may be tempted to go without a case!


Apple has slowly been adopting OLED technology on its iPhones. The reason is simple. The picture quality is stunning, and the black levels simply can’t be matched. They are so inky black, that white text almost floats on the screen.

Yes, OLED is beautiful, but it’s also pricey. That could be why Apple decided to go with what it calls a Liquid Retina Display. Fancy name aside, it’s a 6.1-inch LCD screen.

I have been using the iPhone XR for the past week and when I first turned it on, I was ready to be disappointed by what I saw on the screen. After all, I have been using the iPhone X for the past year, and the iPhone XS Max for more than a month, both of which sport an OLED screen. In all honesty, I found it hard to tell the difference.

The screen is bright, the text is crisp, and the colours are vibrant. The only time where I could notice a difference was while looking at the iPhone XR was in the dark. That’s when you will notice the blacks aren’t quite as dark as an OLED. But they’re close! Very close.

Will the average user notice the difference? No, they more than likely will not. In fact, not having an OLED display actually benefits the iPhone XR in another way, which I will get to in a moment.


The iPhone XR has a single rear camera.

Both the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max use a dual camera system comprised of a 12MP wide-angle and telephoto lens. A quick glance at the rear of the iPhone XR and you’ll notice there is only one camera. One single 12MP camera. So what does this mean for photos?

Dual cameras come in handy when it comes to optical zoom and creating depth of field. Without a second lens, the iPhone XR relies on machine learning to recreate the effects you get from a dual camera system.

To be clear, there is no optical zoom on the iPhone XR. The zoom effect is created through software. Even the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max only have a 2X optical zoom. After that, it too relies on software. So, while you can get a slightly better zoom on the other two models, you’re really not missing out on much. Just move a little closer to your subject with the iPhone XR and you’ll snap the exact same photo as you would on the other two models

The iPhone XR uses machine learning to produce Bokeh effect in Portrait mode.

Portrait mode is where users may see the biggest difference, especially when using the Bokeh effect to blur the background of a photo. The iPhone XR’s software looks for a human face and then separates it from the background so it doesn’t become distorted. It works quite well, as long as you have a human face in the photo. Since the iPhone XR only knows to look for faces, you aren’t able to crush the background with an inanimate object in the foreground like a flower or tree. Users will get an error when you launch Portrait mode if a person is not present on the screen.

I did notice a few occasions where the algorithms were slightly off, and the iPhone XR missed a small section of the background which should have been blurred. For the most part that was rare, and most of the time it did work as intended.

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It’s interesting to note the iPhone XR’s battery life is actually better than both the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. The improved battery performance stems from the fact that the device uses an LCD screen as opposed to an OLED display.

Apple’s Liquid Retina Display has fewer pixels to power due to a lower resolution. Fewer pixels, in this case, means the phone doesn’t have to work as hard to light up the display, resulting in a longer lasting battery. See, the LCD actually becomes a benefit in this case!


And here’s the feature that will get most people excited. The iPhone XR costs less than the other two models released last month.

If you were to buy an iPhone XR outright with no contract, you will be looking at spending roughly $1,029 CAD. That’s a full $350 dollars less than the iPhone XS and $490 less than the iPhone XS Max. For many, money talks, and this right here may be enough to convince you that this is the right iPhone for you!

READ MORE: Is $1,100 too much for an iPhone? Get an older one for less


The biggest thing to consider is the iPhone XR has many of the same features as both the iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Max. As mentioned previously, they all share the same A12 Bionic processor, and the same camera image sensor for the camera, even the front-facing camera is exactly the same! Apple has simply swapped out a few parts in order to bring the price tag down and make it more affordable.

Unless you are a serious photographer who feels the need to blur all of your backgrounds, or you have the eye of an eagle that requires the highest contrast possible on a display, chances are you won’t even notice this subtle changes between the iPhone XR and the more expensive models.

When it comes down to best bang for your buck, it’s hard to beat Apple’s iPhone XR.

The iPhone XR is available for pre-order now and will be available in stores on October 26th.