One month with the Apple iPhone XR: Long battery life, solid camera, and fun colors

After a month of use with the least expensive new iPhone, it is clear to me that it's likely the best new iPhone for most people, including me. It has grown on me over the month and I've been buying accessories to support its use over the long term.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

My Apple iPhone XR arrived on 26 October through the T-Mobile Jump On Demand program, see my full review, and after a few days I figured I would keep it for the required 30 days and jump to the iPhone XS since I loved the iPhone X form factor. It turns out that the iPhone XR may be the perfect iOS device for me and I have no plans to visit T-Mobile to switch it out.

The iPhone XS Max did not impress me and was returned after a week of use. That device was too big and did not offer anything over the smaller iPhone X/XS. The iPhone XR turns out to compromise in a couple of areas, while also excelling in a couple. I've enjoyed it so much over the past month that it jumped up a few notches in my 10 best smartphones rankings last week.

Also: Apple iPhone XR: Three features I love, and one I hate


Given that the iPhone XR is $250 and $350 less than the iPhone XS and XS Max, respectively, there are bound to be areas where it lags behind these two devices. These areas include:

  • Display technology and resolution: The iPhone XS and XS Max have OLED screens with high resolution 458 ppi. The iPhone XR uses Super LCD with 326 ppi and slightly larger bezels around the display.
  • Cellular reception: The iPhone XS and XS Max have Gigabit-class LTE with 4x4 MIMO while the iPhone XR has LTE Advanced with 2x2 MIMO. Testing shows that the iPhone XR has less reliable signal in areas with weak cellular coverage.
  • 3D Touch: The iPhone XR does not support 3D Touch, but has some limited support for haptic touch and hold functionality. This haptic support is expanding to more apps in the future though.
  • Dust/water resistance: The iPhone XS and XS Max have an IP68 rating while the iPhone XR has an IP67 rating. This likely means nothing to the masses and given that Apple doesn't cover water damage in its warranty it is kind of a moot point anyway.
  • Second rear camera: The main rear and front cameras are the same on all three new iPhones, but the iPhone XR doesn't have a rear telephoto lens. You can always buy the new Moment Tele 58mm lens and get an enhanced telephoto experience for a price less than the increased cost of the iPhone XS or XS Max.

iPhone XR review: in pictures


We may not have expected to see that the iPhone XR actually beats the iPhone XS and XS Max in a few areas, but if these are important to you then you may want to choose the XR as well.

  • Price: The base model iPhone XR is $250 less than the base model iPhone XS and $350 less than the iPhone XS Max. Over a 24 months payment plan, that's $10.42 to $14.58 per month less for the iPhone XR.
  • Battery life: You may have expected the larger iPhone XS Max to be the battery life champion, but the lower resolution smaller display appears to give the iPhone XR the lead in battery life of these three new iPhones. For example, for internet use Apple rates the iPhone XS Max at 13 hours, the XS at 12 hours, and the iPhone XR at 15 hours.
  • Mid-level storage option: All three new iPhones start with 64GB of internal storage, but that feels just a bit too low. While the XS and XS Max jump up to 256GB for $150 more, the iPhone XR is available with 128GB of storage for just $50 more. The 128GB is the best value and gives you a storage capacity likely to satisfy the needs of the masses.
  • Colors: The iPhone XS and XS Max are available in silver, space gray, and gold. The iPhone XR is available in white, black, blue, yellow, coral, and Product RED. It's great to see such a large selection of colors and it is still possible the XS and XS Max may appear in Product RED at a later date, which is typical for Apple.

Also: Apple iPhone XR review: Lower cost comes with camera, reception compromises

For me personally, the enhancements outweigh the compromises and the iPhone XR is my favorite of the three new iPhones launched in late 2018. I bought the coral one since I am a fan of the color orange and am pleased with my selection. I've considered switching on T-Mobile to the yellow model as I also like that color, but haven't made that choice yet.

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The primary reasons I like the iPhone XR best is the longer battery life, lower price, and 128GB storage option.

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