Size: Big enough or too big?
I’ve been switching between the 5.8-inch iPhone XS and the 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max over the last month, so the 6.1-inch iPhone XR feels just right to me. It’s big enough to deliver the immersive experience smartphone buyers want these days for Netflix bingeing, Instagramming and gaming, but it’s not so big that it’s unwieldy.
iPhone XR (left) and iPhone 8 (right)The design will take some adjustment for those stepping up from a puny, 4.7-inch iPhone 7 but not those stepping up from an iPhone 7 Plus. That’s because Apple squeezed a bigger display into a design about the same size as the iPhone 7 Plus by banishing the Home button.
As you might expect, the iPhone XR’s size and weight (6.8 ounces, 5.9 x 3 x 0.3 inches) is in between that of the iPhone XS (6.2 ounces, 5.7 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches) and that of the XS Max (7.3 ounces, 6.2 x 3.1 x 0.3 inches). Google’s Pixel 3 XL (6.5 ounces, 6.2 x 3 x 0.3 inches), with its 6.3-inch screen, is a bit lighter but noticeably taller than the iPhone XR.
Display: Excellent for an LCD
The iPhone XR’s 6.1-inch Liquid Retina LCD is one of the brighter and more colorful smartphone displays out there. It’s just not OLED-great. On the plus side, the 1792 x 828-pixel screen delivered excellent detail when I watched the trailer for Aquaman, as I could make out every scale in his superhero uniform. (Yes, even though this panel is not technically full HD.) And the laser beams being shot at Amber Heard were an intense blue.
This LCD fared well in our lab tests as well. It registered an excellent 589 nits of brightness, and I had no trouble reading this screen in direct sunlight. That number blows away the Pixel 3 XL’s 362 nits. The iPhone XS (606 nits) and Galaxy Note 9 (604 nits) are even brighter, though.
The iPhone XR’s screen registered a good 123.4 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which is on par with the iPhone XS’s result (123 percent) but is behind showings from the Pixel 3 XL (170.2 percent) and Galaxy Note 9 (224 percent). The color accuracy is great, too, as the iPhone XR turned in a Delta-E score of 0.28 (0 is perfect). That beats results from the Pixel 3 XL (0.35) and Note 9 (0.34) and is comparable to the iPhone XS’ showing (0.25).
What you don’t get on the iPhone XR’s screen are the perfect blacks and ultrawide viewing angles that OLED displays offer. I noticed the difference when I put the iPhone XR and iPhone XS side by side with an aquarium screen saver. The OLED panel is just more vibrant, and blacks can look more gray on an LCD.
No 3D Touch an Issue?
The iPhone XR’s display doesn’t offer 3D Touch capability like the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max do, which means you can’t long-press on apps on the home screen to reveal shortcuts. But the XR does support what’s called Haptic Touch, which delivers haptic feedback and a lot of the same functionality.
So, instead of deep-pressing to launch the camera from the lock screen, you long-press with a soft touch. And instead of pressing hard anywhere on the keyboard to control the cursor while you’re typing, you just long-press gently on the space bar. This change took some getting used to for me after I’d been using 3D Touch-capable phones, but overall, I don’t think most iPhone owners will notice the difference between Haptic Touch and 3D Touch.