I consider myself a tech-dinosaur. I'm just not that tech savvy. And while I enjoy looking at shiny new phones, my firm belief that—if it ain't broke, don't fix it—stops me from actually buying a new phone; thus, further perpetuating my tech-dinosaur status. (Okay I'll admit, the price tag is also a barrier; I'm low SES okay.)
So when I was passed the new iPhone XR to review, I was excited. Apple released three new phones at this year's Keynote in Cupertino, and the iPhone XR definitely caught my eye. But how does it measure up to my good ol' iPhone 6S? Well, I gave it a test drive and here are the results.
iPhone 6S: Life as I knew it
I purchased my iPhone 6S in August 2016 and, although it has served me well, I now carry around two portable power banks on a daily basis because my battery health is virtually non-existent. Death. Not to mention super cumbersome.
I like listening to music on-the-go. And up until last year, I also carried an iPod classic with me everywhere I went, pumping out 128 GB worth of songs as a playlist for my life—yes, I'm practically Ansel Elgort in the movie Baby Driver—until my iPod eventually ran out of juice too and died. For good.
iPhone XR: First impressions
This edge-to-edge iPhone XR is sleek AF. There are six colours in total—black, white, blue, yellow, coral and (PRODUCT)RED—but I'm keen on the all-black version. Super stealth, especially with the aluminium side band on the iPhone XR cast in a deep ebony hue to match the black fortified glass used for the back and front of the phone.
Second thought: where's the home button? How do I unlock the phone without the home button? Jumping from a very traditionally designed iPhone with the 'chin and forehead' to the X-series, is a giant, drastic change and it does take a bit of getting used to. But when I finally set up Face ID and unlocked the iPhone XR with my face (with my face!), it felt like I was living in year 3000.
My iPhone 6S is a petite 138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1mm compared to the iPhone XR's 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3mm. Did you know that the iPhone XR has the second largest screen size in the new line-up of iPhones? It is bigger than the iPhone XS (yes, it's not the same size) but, of course, smaller than the iPhone XS Max.
Holding the new iPhone doesn't feel awkward in any way and I didn't encounter any hand cramps after repeated use. I mean, no one wants to get carpal tunnel syndrome like Kim Kardashian—am I right? And in terms of weight, my old iPhone 6S was 143 grams versus the iPhone XR's 194 grams—but negligible given the bigger size.
My old iPhone 6S had a modest screen resolution of 4.7″ Retina HD Display compared to an impressive 6.1″ Liquid Retina HD display—touted as the most advanced LCD in a smartphone—on the iPhone XR.
Truth talk: The edge-to-edge screen on the XR makes the visual experience better. Granted. However, I don't see any significant jump from a Retina HD display to a Liquid Retina HD. Pictures and videos are sharper, but I wasn't fully blown away.
As mentioned, the new iPhone XR is crafted with an all-screen glass front with aluminium side bands. My 6S? The same 7000 series aerospace-grade aluminium and glass front screen as well. Sounds rather similar right? But upon closer inspection, the XR has rounded aluminium edges compared to the chamfered edges on the 6S (so it feels better in the hand) and the glass on the XR is fortified—making it the strongest glass used on any smartphone yet. The real clincher? The glass back on the iPhone XR allows for wireless charging.
When it comes to what's running this baby, the iPhone XR is packed with the latest tech. It is powered by the A12 Bionic chip with a next-generation neural engine (the smartest and most powerful chip in a smartphone to date) compared to the iPhone 6S' A9 Chip. What does this mean IRL? The processing speed of XR is light years faster than my 6S, making general app usage a freaking breeze.
There are also new updates such as water resistance—with a rating of IP67—allowing you to submerge the iPhone XR to a depth of one metre for up to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, if I had dropped my iPhone 6S into the pool, it would have been all over red rover.
The audio jack has been removed since iPhone 7 and that, to me, was one of the reasons why I hesitated to upgrade my phone. Personally, music should be listened to on wired headphones, anything else is just an abomination. I had to purchase an audio jack adaptor to use my old earphones, which frankly, is just another additional cost that could have been saved.
Camera and photography
Get this: both the iPhone 6S and iPhone XR have a main 12-megapixel camera with digital zoom of up to five times. Yes, I'm surprised that there isn't a major camera difference between the iPhone XR and my 3-year-old iPhone 6S model too. But, as we all know, it's not what you have but how you use it. Case in point: photographer Scott Woodard won this year's iPhone Photography Awards with pictures taken on his iPhone 6S.
However, the camera on the iPhone XR is a wide-angle lens camera (ƒ/1.8 aperture) that takes advanced Portrait mode and Portrait Lighting photos—bringing Smart HDR across all photos—and offers Depth Control for portrait shots. That is, users can now adjust the depth of field for that bokeh effect; both in real-time preview and post-capture to create striking portraits.
I'm not a selfie-taking person so I was satisfied with the iPhone 6S 5-megapixel camera. (Hey, grainy photos make for good moody profile photos.) But if you're a selfie addict, then you'll love the iPhone XR's TrueDepth 7-megapixel front camera that allows you to take great pictures with depth of field (thanks to the dot projector and other cool gadgets that make TrueDepth facial recognition possible).
My iPhone 6S requires about two full charges to get through a work day—hence the need to carry around two portable power banks daily. Savage. On the other hand, the iPhone XR lasts up to 1.5 hours longer than the iPhone 8 Plus, boasts talk time of up to 25 hours, and Internet use of up to 15 hours. So needless to say, this was a massive win. But the true test is to measure the battery life of the iPhone XR in a year or two; so let's not compare a baby's boundless energy with that of a geriatric.
The iPhone XR is better than the iPhone 6S. Period. However, what surprised me was just how similar the phones really are. I was expecting a night and day contrast, but if you delve in deep to the specifications, it's basically the same phone in better packaging plus a few hardware updates.
That said, if you're in my shoes and considering whether to upgrade your 3-year-old iPhone 6S model to a new phone, then the iPhone XR is a good option. But if you love your photography, I would actually recommend levelling up to the iPhone XS that boast dual cameras; albeit at a slightly higher price point.
In summary, the iPhone XR is ideal for someone wanting the benefits of the X-series, without requiring the sophisticated dual camera set up or price tag of the iPhone XS or XS Max. After all, you pay for what you get.
The iPhone XR is available in 64GB, 128GB and 256GB models and comes in six colour variations—black, white, blue, yellow, coral and (PRODUCT)RED. Starting at $1,229, the iPhone XR is available at the Apple Orchard store from 26 October 2018.