Apple iPhone XR review better than good enough

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Hey, this is the iPhone XR. It’s Apple’s new mainstream iPhone which starts at $750. Excuse me, are you already typing? Are you already leaving a comment about display resolution and pricing and OLEDs versus LCD, can you just stop? We can do that later. We’ll have a great time down there. For now, just hang out a second and ask yourself, how much do you really, really care about the display on a phone?

I know a lot of people have questions about the 10 R size, this weird, not huge and not small 6.1 inches and I’ll get to that. But I’m telling you the deciding factor between the 10 S and the 10 R is the screen. If you could put a dollar amount on how much you care about the screen, would that dollar amount be $250? Because that is exactly how much you need to care in order to buy an iPhone 10 S instead of the 10 R. Let me explain and then you can all do your thing. Okay, so last month I reviewed the iPhone 10 S and 10 S max, which are Apple’s new flagship phones.

They have new A-12 processors, edge to edge OLED displays, Apple’s latest camera system that does smart HDR, it’s essentially everything Apple can fit into a phone. And the iPhone 10 R is basically the iPhone 10S with a slightly worse display. That’s it, that’s the whole thing. It’s got the same A-12 bionic processor, the same main camera with smart HDR, the same iOS 12, but instead of that edge to edge OLED, there’s a 6.1 inch liquid retina LCD.

And the display is fine. It’s lower resolution and pixel density than OLEDs in new flagship phones like the 10 S and the Galaxy S nine and Pixel three, but if you’re upgrading from a previous LCD iPhone it’s going to look really familiar. I do think it’s a little worse than previous LCD iPhones when you look at it off axis. It shifts a tiny bit pink and the brightness drops quickly, which means it can sometimes look a little shimmery, but honestly you have to be a huge display nerd to really notice that. What you will definitely notice is the larger bezel around the entire display and Apple’s notch.

The notch is the same deal as the iPhone 10 and 10 S. It houses a face ID system in the front facing camera, but the thicker bezel is there because Apple had to fit the backlight for the LCD panel somewhere. Don’t get me wrong, that bezel looks gigantic and especially silly next to the 10 S but the backlight engineering is actually really clever. You don’t see a lot of LCD phones with perfectly rounded corners and no chins out there and Apple did a bunch of crazy Apple stuff here. One of the major differences between LCD and OLED screens is how they produce light. OLED pixels are their own light source and you can turn them on and off individually. You can’t do that with an LCD because there’s just one backlight for the entire display.

So you can round off LCD corners by shutting off the pixels but it’s super tough to get it perfect because the backlight will still shine through. But check out the 10 R. We literally put it under a microscope so you can see this. See how some of those pixels look smaller? That’s because Apple built little apertures for the pixels around the corners to mask some of the light coming through on top of anti-aliasing the curving software. It looks great. Is any of this necessary? No, but it’s super cool and it’s super Apple. All of that screen re-engineering means that Apple had to take out 3D touch.

Instead there’s something called the haptic touch which is a fancy way of saying long press with haptic feedback. Now there’s only two places I ever used 3D touch on my other iPhones and I didn’t really miss it here. I used it to scroll around a text field which works with a long press on the space bar and turning on the camera and flashlight from the lock screen, which you can do by just holding on those buttons. Apple has the best haptic feedback in the industry and all of it sort of feels very convincing. I did miss previewing links in Twitter and Safari, but Apple tells me haptic touch will come to more and more places in the iOS over time. Hopefully that gets added back in. Overall, I’ve always been a fan of how accurate and balanced Apple’s LCDs are compared to the OLEDs in most Android phones and the 10 R is definitely another Apple LCD.

If you’re coming from an iPhone six, seven, eight, it’s going to look very familiar. But after spending a year with the iPhone 10, I gotta tell you it’s not as good as Apple’s OLEDs. It doesn’t have the deep black levels or infinite contrast to the iPhone 10 S. It doesn’t support HDR or Dolby Vision video playback. And in general that backlight means you can always see the border between the bezel and the edge of the display even when you have a dark background.

The display does have true tone but it’s always a little warmer than my 10 S. Again, I think you have to go really looking for some of this stuff and if it bothers you you can just spend more money on a better screen, which I am definitely going to do. Okay, so that’s the display, what about the rest? (upbeat music) Size-wise, the 10 R sits right between the old iPhone six, seven, eight size phones and the bigger plus models. Now, I have pretty big hands so this feels like a nice size compromise but if you’ve been using one of the smaller phones, the 10 R is definitely going to feel bigger. And it’s a taller screen and a narrower body than the old Plus phones.

I would definitely recommend going to the store and holding this thing before you buy it because it’s a totally new size of iPhone and it’s different from anything you might be familiar with. If you’re a small phone person you’re basically going to be stuck with last year’s iPhone eight or paying more for an iPhone 10 S. I kind of hope Apple fixes that next year and does small and large in both models of phone. There’s a glass back and aluminum border that comes in a bunch of colors.

I love how mean our black review unit looks, but I got to see the other colors and they’re really nice. I like the blue and the coral the best but the project red is striking and I know people are excited about the yellow. Just keep in mind that while the screen on the 10 R is made of the same glass on the 10 S that Apple says is the most durable ever, the 10 R’s back is not the same glass. It’s the glass used on last year’s iPhone 10, and the back of my iPhone 10 shattered even though I keep it in the case all the time. So, you know, be careful out there.

The phone supports wireless charging with the same redesigned coil for faster charging as the 10 S, and it has IP67 water resistance, which is a little worse than the IP68 of the 10 S, but it’s fine for the occasional splash. We’ve also got Apple’s new wide stereo speakers which are much louder than before but not quite as loud as the 10 S Max. Around the back there’s the single wide angle camera, which is bascially the same as the iPhone 10 S wide angle.

This is our third shot at reviewing Apple’s new smart HDR camera system after the iPhone 10 S review and the Pixel three review and we wanted to do something a little bit different. So Verge video producer Maria Abdulkof and I ran around Brooklyn and took a bunch of photos that look a lot like what you’d see every day on Instagram using the Pixel three and the iPhone 10 R.

And while I think Apple’s smart HDR still isn’t quite as good as the Pixel three, I think I finally understand what Apple’s trying to do. It flattens highlights and lifts shadows so aggressively that everything looks evenly lit, and that can sometimes reduce detail and make photos look a little bit artificial. Here’s a good example of the iPhone doing better than the Pixel shooting out over the waterfront. These photos both look really good and even quite similar at a glance, but the iPhone is a little bit warmer and all the shadows by the fountain and in the skyline have been lifted, resulting in a less contrasty image with more detail. The Pixel three is more dramatic, but the iPhone 10 R is more even. But Apple’s smart HDR doesn’t always get it right.

This photo of Maria against a bright backlight would be challenging for any camera and you can see how the iPhone 10 R brought down the highlights in the background, lifted the shadows on Maria’s face and warmed everything up while the Pixel exposed Maria correctly and let the background highlights blow out way more naturally. The Pixel also captured more detail on Maria’s face. I much prefer the Pixel here. It’s the same thing with selfies. The iPhone brought up the shadows so much that it made the black jacket turn gray. It almost looks like we shot this photo with a film flash and there’s far less detail in Maria’s face.

Again, I really prefer the contrasty look of the Pixel three photo. There was a bunch of controversy around the front camera on the iPhone 10 S which people claim was smoothing out and beautifying skin, but Apple tells me that was all a bug and that iOS 12.1 will improve selfies on the 10 R and 10 S by picking a sharper base frame instead of a blurrier long exposure. I don’t have iOS 12.1 yet so we’ll just have to see how it works out. Okay, here’s a really hard one.

Low light with a weird lighting in a bar. I think most people would prefer the iPhone here, but it also doesn’t actually look like reality. The iPhone found Maria’s face, exposed it correctly with the right skin tone and then flattened all the highlights and lifted all the shadows to make the scene look even. Again, it almost looks like we brought lights to the bar and lit the photo. The Pixel three on the other hand does a much better job of capturing the strange red light in this room even if the photo is a lot darker and weirder. Now, do you want a photo that’s more accurate to reality or more pleasant to look at?

I cannot tell you, it’s a really subjective decision. The 10 R only has a single lens in the back and I’m just going to come out and say that I don’t miss having the second lens from the 10 S at all. I never really took zoomed photos in 10 S and the 10 R’s single lens portrait mode is actually really good. In fact, I prefer the 10 R’s portrait mode to the 10 S because shooting using the brighter wide angle lens means it works better in low light and takes more interesting photos. Check out this photo we took on the riverfront where I was able to capture the sign in the background.

It just wasn’t possible to get this shot in portrait mode on the 10 S or the Pixel three which crops in for portrait mode. In a low light, the 10 R is obviously better than the 10 S. This photo in a bar looks like a grainy, dark mess using the 10 S’ telephoto compared to the 10 R, which did a halfway reasonable job. The 10 R’s portrait mode also has Apple’s nice falloff blur, which looks more like a real boca than sort of the bad cut out blur you see from the Pixel three. Now I don’t really use portrait mode on any of these cameras.

I don’t think any of it looks terrific or perfectly cut out, but the 10 R’s portrait mode is kind of the most flexible and useful of the bunch. After three rounds of testing Apple’s smart HDR, I’m beginning to understand what it can and can’t do. I’m starting to get better photos out of it. It can definitely take photos no camera has ever really taken before. But it still crushes detail and produces artificial looking images way more often than I would like. While the Pixel three just produces winners consistently. As always, I can’t possibly tell you what to like better. But I know that I prefer the consistency and naturalness of the Pixel three over the 10 R. And this is all just the first stages of computational photography.

I would expect the competition between Apple and Google to be fierce over time. But right now, I would pick the Pixel three. The iPhone 10 R has the same video capture as the iPhone 10 S. It can shoot 4K 60. When you shoot in 24 it adds frames to create greater dynamic range, and it records stereo audio. If you want to record video on your smartphone, you should get an iPhone. (upbeat music) In terms of performance, the 10 R was essentially identical to the 10 S as I used it day to day and it even had basically the same benchmark number in some quick tests.

It has slightly less RAM than the 10 S, it’s three gigs instead of four, but it’s pushing half as many pixels and honestly I think the RAM spec matters way less on iOS than it does on Android phones. Apple’s chips are so far ahead of the industry that it’s clear the A-12 bionic has tons of headroom to spare. The 10 R’s gonna feel fast for at least a few years. The 10 R also has a larger battery than the 10 and the 10 S and it ran for about 13 hours with my everyday use of browsing and email and Slack and apps.

There’s about six hours of screen on time. That’s slightly more than the 10 S and even more than the eight plus from last year. The only major performance difference between the 10 R and 10 S is LTE. The 10 S supports the faster gigabit LTE speeds and the 10 R does not. I don’t live in a city with gigabit LTE, but maybe you do and it’s something to be aware of. So there’s a lot of iPhone 6 S’s out in the world, more than you think, and I think a lot of people are going to upgrade to the 10 R from the 6 S. So I have to mention there is no headphone jack, which I think will prompt another round of annoyance, and there are also basically no accessories for the 10 R yet. Apple doesn’t even have its own 10 R cases ready, which is a little strange. And there have never been official battery cases for any iPhone 10, which is a shame. There’s also no third party headphone adapters.

There’s just a bunch of stuff missing. So if you’re upgrading right away, it’s worth noting that the accessory ecosystem is a little thin right now, but I would expect that to get a lot bigger fast. (upbeat music) And one thing is clear about the iPhone 10 R, it’s that Apple is going to sell tons of these. They are huge upgrades from the iPhone six, seven, eight generation with Apple’s latest processors and cameras, a big screen and a updated design and a competitive opening price of $750. And honestly when we first started making this video, it felt like the big question would be what is the 10 R missing compared to the 10 S. But now that I’ve used this thing for a while, it’s flipped in my mind.

The real question for iPhone buyers is whether spending $250 more on the 10 S, is it really worth it over the 10 R, because the 10 R offers almost everything you would want in a 2018 phone minus an OLED display. I would pay that extra money in a heartbeat because I am really, really picky about screens. But I think most people aren’t. I think most people can find way better ways to spend $250 than infinite black levels and 60% wider dynamic range in photos. For all of those people, the iPhone 10 R is a no brainer. The real question is whether you, yeah you, think the better screen on the 10 S is worth $250.

Now you can leave a comment. Hey everybody, thank you so much for watching. We talked a lot about the iPhone 10 S and the Pixel three in this review. Those reviews in full are up on the channel, go check them out, subscribe if you haven’t. If you like the wallpaper we use as much as I do, check out the link in the description. It’s right there, all our wallpapers are there, they’re great, thanks so much.

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