iPhone XR: Not There Yet


The recently released Apple iPhone XR is the new budget iPhone on the block. How does it fare? Nilofer Khan finds out.

iPhone XR

Apple has become one of the most renowned brands, constantly striving to create the best phone cameras with a user-friendly interface. This year, along with ticking all the boxes in the design and camera department, Apple also decided to tick another box in the pricing segment by launching the iPhone XR—the first budget-friendly iPhone.

What’s Different This Time Around…
The device features a 12MP f/1.8 camera (there is no secondary telephoto lens) on the rear with O.I.S, and Quad-LED True Tone flash. The camera offers several modes such as the Photo Mode, the Portrait mode, Square, Panorama, and HDR. The Portrait mode has three light options—Natural Light, Studio Light, and Contour Light.

In the Photo mode, there is the live photo feature. You can edit your live photos as Loop, Bounce, and Long Exposure. Moreover, it is advisable to not manually set the exposure in the Live mode because the camera cannot calibirate the exposure for each frame, resulting in images with a washed-out effect.

For video recording, the phone offers Slow-mo and Time Lapse. Users can record 4K, FHD and 720p footage. there is also an Auto Low-Light FPS feature for recording 4K and 1080p videos shot at 30fps. What the mode does is drops the frame rate from 30fps to 24fps, to improve low light performance.

To test the Portrait mode, I shot two close-up portraits with the exact same compositions, on the iPhone 8 Plus, and the iPhone XR. This picture is shot on iPhone 8 Plus. Photograph/Nilofer Khan

Since the back camera of the iPhone XR employs a wide angle lens, unlike the iPhone 8 Plus that has a telephoto module, the subjects face looks quite long and disproportionate in the images shot with the iPhone XR. (This picture has been shot with the iPhone XR.) Photograph/Nilofer Khan

On the front, the iPhone XR has a 7MP f/2.2 camera, which features the Portrait mode, introduced for the first time for the front camera (also there in the iPhone X, XS, XS Max). Along with the three light options available for the back camera, the front camera also offers two additional options—Stage Light and Stage Light Mono. The camera lets you select the aperture settings. On the top of the screen, there is a f symbol, and on pressing it, you can select the aperture between f/1.4 to f/16. While making in-camera edits of an image shot in the Portrait mode, the phone allows you to change the Light options, as well as the aperture.

While comparing the cameras on all the three X iterations—the XS, XS Max, and the XR—they feature the same 12MP sensor at the back, and a 7MP sensor on the front. It features the latest A12 Bionic Next-generation Neural Engine chip. However, the iPhone XR does not have 2X optical zoom and 3D Touch. Unlike the other two models with Super Retina HD screens, the XR sports a 6.1-inch Liquid Retina HD display.

Able Performer
The overall performance of the camera is astounding, with no lag whatsoever. I was able to capture good low light images, and the colour reproduction was true to life. The XR has a good battery life as well. Fortunately, the Portrait mode does not smoothen the skin, and accurately blurs out the background. However, if you push the aperture below f/2.8, the subject looks like a cut-out. Also, the mode only works on human subjects.

The low light performance of the camera is astounding. It retains details and colours very well, and is quick to respond. This photograph was shot by happenstance. I didn’t want to draw attention, I pointed the phone in their direction, tapped on the screen once and it instantly set the exposure and the focus. Photograph/Nilofer Khan

To Buy or Not To Buy?
The 256GB model of the XR is priced at Rs. 91,900, making it the cheapest phone by Apple to feature a thicker design, as well as bezels. The lack of the secondary telephoto lens (like in the iPhone 8 Plus), does affect the image. But the XR allows you to adjust the depth of field for both the front and the back camera. At 326 PPI, the resolution of the screen is lower than the iPhone 8 Plus. So looking at the price of the XR and the 8 Plus—256GB at Rs. 91,100—there is barely any difference. Hence, investing in the 8 Plus seems like a better option, as it has better specs. However, if you’re looking to invest a little more, then the iPhone X (256GB priced at Rs. 1,08,930) offers much better specs.

SPECIFICATIONS 12MP f/1.8 camera, 7MP f/2.2 front camera, 6.1-inch Liquid Retina HD display, A12 Bionic chip, Face ID, 256GB internal memory, Rs. 91,900.
WHAT WE LIKE Colour reproduction, editing in the Portrait mode, Live feature
WHAT WE DISLIKE No manual camera control without third party apps, no telephoto module
WHY BUY IT Good image quality, camera responses quickly, incorporation of Portrait mode for the front camera
CAMERA FEATURES 12MP camera, and 7MP front camera 22/25
IMAGE QUALITY Good reproduction of details and colours, even in low light 27/30
VIDEO QUALITY 4K at 24/30/60fps, and Full HD videos at 30fps and 60fps 13/15
HANDLING Difficult to shoot with one hand—a little on the heavier side 12/15
SPEED & RESPONSIVENESS Quick to respond without any lag 13/15


Tags: Cellphone Review, Apple iPhone, December 2018, iPhone XR