What Apple’s New iPhone Release means for us
June 1, 2021
4 min read
It’s that time of the year again where Apple fanboys and girls gather to hear just exactly that “one more thing” is this time around. Apple just launched three new iPhones and a new smartwatch. The new set of phones is priced between $799 and $1449, continuing the tradition of being costly smartphones in the market. If you’re looking at buying one of these gadgets then you ought to be aware of the specifications and differences.
Here’s everything you need to know.
Displays – Bigger, But Not Better
Perhaps the most surprising difference between the iPhone XS and iPhone XR is it’s the latter which has the bigger display. That said, everything else about the iPhone XR’s screen is inferior:
- iPhone XS – 5.8-inch OLED, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, True Tone, 2436 x 1125 pixels (458 ppi), 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, 82.9% screen-to-body ratio,
- iPhone XR – 6.1-inch LCD, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, True Tone, 1792 x 828 pixels (326 ppi), 1,400:1 contrast ratio, 79.0% screen-to-body ratio
As you’ll see above, the big compromises with the iPhone XR are its downgrade from OLED to LCD and a substantially lower native resolution. In fact, the iPhone XR can’t even display Full HD 1080p content – that’s surprising for a 6.1-inch device.
In addition to this, the iPhone XR is not Dolby Vision / HDR10 compliant and it lacks the pressure sensitive 3D Touch technology which has been a part of the iPhone range since the iPhone 6S.
LCD displays may not match OLED in terms of contrast ratio and black levels, but they are more than good enough for the vast majority of users. The lower 326 ppi (identical to the iPhone 8) is still 3x higher than a 40-inch 4K television (110 ppi), and you’ll still get the same 19.5:9 aspect ratio as the iPhone XS, the same True Tone colour accuracy and “120Hz touch sensing” for a faster response to touch input.
Design – Similar, But Downgraded
At first glance, aside from their physical sizes, the iPhone XS and iPhone XR look identical. But they aren’t.
- iPhone XS – 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7 mm (5.65 x 2.79 x 0.30 in) and 177g (6.24 oz)
- iPhone XR – 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3 mm (5.94 x 2.98 x 0.33 in) and 194 g (6.84 oz)
While the iPhone XR has roughly a 5% larger display than the iPhone XS, it is 10% heavier and slightly thicker. The primary reason for this is the LCD display, which is not as flexible as OLED so it cannot fit as seamlessly into the chassis (look for the larger bezels on all sides of the iPhone XR display).
The iPhone XS also has a stainless steel chassis which has a slightly more premium feel than the 7000 Series aluminum of the iPhone XR (used in the iPhone 8 and older) and you get IP68 water resistance from the iPhone XS and IP67 water resistance on the iPhone XR.
Both get 25% louder external speakers (which also add stereo left and right channels), and dual sim support courtesy of a physical nano sim and internal eSIM so owners can run work and home or home and travel sims in a single device. No iPhone has offered this before.
Performance – Rocket Sleds
Remarkably, the iPhone XR runs the same cutting-edge chipset as the iPhone XR:
iPhone XS, iPhone XR – Apple A12 ‘Bionic’ chipset: Six-Core CPU, Four-Core GPU, M12 motion coprocessor
The difference is the iPhone XS comes with 4GB of RAM while the iPhone XR has 3GB. This will provide a slight improvement in multitasking, as more apps can be held in memory without needing to reload. But primarily the extra RAM is needed for the iPhone XS’s dual camera and no-one thinks last year’s iPhone X (3GB) is slow.
As for what the Apple A12 (‘Bionic’ is just marketing nonsense) brings to the table, you’ll get 50% leaps in graphics performance and power efficiency when idle, as well as a 15% boost in peak CPU performance. The increases are welcome, but Apple is so far ahead of the pack here (the 2017 iPhone X is faster than every 2018 Android phone), they are hardly needed.
Battery Life And Charging – Cheaper Lasts Longer
For those of you on the fence about the iPhone XR’s LCD display, here’s where it delivers considerable upsides: the lower resolution is far less demanding and the larger size means Apple has more space to fit a bigger battery.
- iPhone XS – 2,658 mAh
- iPhone XR – 2,942 mAh
The consequences of this are perhaps the biggest deal maker for the iPhone XR. It can outlast the iPhone XS in most areas by as much as 25%, and even the flagship iPhone XS Max.
Both the iPhone XS and iPhone XR support the same fast wired charging as the iPhone X (a 50% charge in 30 minutes from flat), but Apple has again declined to include a fast charger in the box. This is bad enough with the iPhone XR, but not to include one with the iPhone XS (while charging $75 for the necessary charger and compatible cable) is daylight robbery.
Storage And Price – XR Marks The Spot
Here is where the iPhone XR seals the deal:
- iPhone XS – 64GB ($999), 256GB ($1,149), 512GB ($1,349)
- iPhone XR – 64GB ($749), 128GB ($799), 256GB ($899)
While the $750 starting price makes headlines, the clear sweet spot is the 128GB iPhone XR for just $50 more and $200 less than a 64GB iPhone XS. 128GB is also a great storage option as the iPhone XS range appears to provide too little (64GB) then too much (256GB) for the average user.
Needless to say, some will be drawn to the monstrous 512GB iPhone XS, but being able to buy a 256GB iPhone XR with 4x the storage capacity of the 64GB iPhone XS for $100 less is hard to resist.
At the end of the day, with iPhone sales easily outstripping every other brand, it seems the biggest threat to sales of the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max (details here) is Apple’s own iPhone XR.
While Apple has chipped away at almost every part of the iPhone XS’s feature set to produce the XR, the reality is everything that’s lost is expendable. For some, there will be an essential feature missing (OLED display, dual camera, bezel size) that forces them to pay more for the iPhone XS, but for most buyers the iPhone XR is a well-priced phone with all the fat removed.
The iPhone XR is also a more practical phone, thanks to its significantly longer battery life, and a more eye-catching one, thanks to its wide array of colors. Those determined (or able) to live on the cutting edge can opt for the iPhone XS series but for everyone else, the iPhone XR is the model to buy. It’s the most interesting iPhone Apple has made in years
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