This is the one you're looking for. I'm glad I did. Yes, there are compromises : The screen and the camera take small steps back from the XS models, along with a few other feature nips and tucks. Using the XR after living with the XS, the only feature I truly missed was the rear camera's telephoto lens.
But the iPhone XR actually makes a few improvements on its more expensive siblings. Its screen is bigger than the XS' 6. I still wish Apple had introduced an even less expensive phone. The rear single camera is wide-angle, the same as the XS' wide-angle lens. Smart HDR shots and everyday photos look the same. The real difference is that this phone doesn't have the rear telephoto lens. That impacts photos two ways: no 2x optical zoom or extra levels of digital zoom; and no telephoto-enhanced Portrait-mode photos.
The XR can take Portrait photos, too, but the results are different. Not having 2x optical zoom bothered me more than I thought it would. I rely on that 2x for framing close-up shots, I found.
It also makes a difference for zooming in on far-off objects. My 5x zoom on the Flatiron building looked far crisper with the XS than it did with the XR's purely digital zoom. That's not to say that Portrait mode is missing from the XR altogether. Apple has taken a page from Google's book and delivered portrait mode effects with a single lens via software. The effects really do work, but they're different than how the XS takes its portraits. The wide-angle portrait mode's simulated bokeh blur is more subtle than with the iPhone X and XS. The photos also look farther away from the subject, requiring you to get closer, as there's no digital zoom in Portrait mode.
iPhone XR review: This iPhone might be the best Apple has ever made
For example, in the shots above, I photographed my colleague Marrian Zhou from the same distance, but she appears "farther" away in the XR shot. Below, I got closer with the XR to compensate for the focal length difference. Faces end up looking a little more distorted than the better composed, more flattering telephoto Portrait mode on the X and XS, although faces on XR shots can sometimes look more detailed in low light than the telephoto versions.
While the effects can be a little more subtle than on the iPhone XS, I've never had them fail when taking a photo of a person. And, once I got the hang of its limitations, it ended up producing some really nice results. Portrait Mode, when it first debuted in beta on the iPhone 7 Plus , seemed a bit artificial at times. A year later, it's producing much better results with just a single lens. The image above shows before and after the bokeh effect is added. You can see where the strands of flyaway hair get blurred into the background. A future software update will allow previews of the depth effect before shooting.
Apple's AI demands the presence of a person. If it doesn't "see" a person, it won't engage portrait mode at all. I tried with people, mannequins, photos, people-like sculptures, animals and things like fruit and flowers. Occasionally, the camera's portrait mode was tricked by a wig-wearing mannequin head or a sculpture of a face, or a wall poster that featured actors' faces, adding a bokeh blur effect. I couldn't get it to recognize adorable dogs at a dog park, though, while the Pixel 3 did just fine.
The Google Pixel 3 has a single rear camera lens, too, but Google performs more computational photography tricks with that phone, enabling crisper digital zoom and a portrait mode that works on anything, including pets. That's the missing part of the iPhone XR's portrait mode. Sure, the XR takes great shots otherwise, but pet portraits?
Not this year. One odd camera note: Occasionally, I saw bits of blue lens flare when shooting at night near bright lights, something that also happened occasionally on the iPhone XS. Note that the Pixel 3 camera is better for still photos -- even before the impressive Night Sight feature was activated -- but the XR is better for video. I admire Apple's plus-size iPhones, but I've never enjoyed holding them. The width hurts my hand. They're not one-hand-friendly. That's what made the iPhone X great: It shrunk that big screen down into a smaller case.
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It's right in the middle, and that middle size feels much more comfortable to hold than the wider XS Max. It feels more one-hand-able than the Plus and Max phones , just by shrinking a tiny bit. At first glance, the 6. It has a notch at the top, curved corners and a tall But put the phones side by side, and you'll see differences.
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The bezels around the display are a little bigger, lending to a slightly less "to the edge" feel. Yes, the actual screen technology is different, too. But it doesn't always seem as vibrant to the eye. Side by side, the XR looks a little dimmer, whites not quite as white, and black levels obviously not the super black of OLED.
If you're directly comparing, you'll see the OLED's superiority, but in everyday use, I barely noticed. It's among the first iPhones to have both wireless charging and fast charging, and the camera has improved. Its dual-lens camera doesn't have OIS in the telephoto lens a feature saved for the X , but it's still a great way to snap a photo at long distances.
It won't turn nearly as many heads with its bezel-heavy design, but the iPhone 8 Plus is the iPhone built for big hands and slightly smaller wallets than the new iPhone X. Read our in-depth iPhone 8 Plus review. The iPhone XR is a great upgrade for the average consumer who doesn't want to pay for the most expensive iPhone money a lot of money can buy.
This is Apple's 'cheap' iPhone, at least when it comes to recently launched handsets. It's also the best iPhone of the new trio for battery life. Yet it shares the same internal specs: Apple's fast A12 Bionic chipset and a 12MP dual-lens camera with a single lens on back. You don't get the dual-lens camera like you do on a higher-tier iPhone, so you miss out on telephoto shots. But Smart HDR is the real perk to taking great photos, and that's here. It's cheaper, it's more colorful and it has a big 6.
That's enough for most people, especially those who aren't insistent on an impressive OLED screen. Read our in-depth iPhone XR review.
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Despite the iPhone SE's small size and relatively modest price tag, it's still an upper mid-range phone. It has the same boxy yet premium design as the metal-clad iPhone 5S and the same powerful Apple A9 chipset and rear camera as the iPhone 6S. It lacks the 3D Touch features and higher-resolution front-facing camera of the iPhone 6S and beyond. The screen is also less impressive all round, thanks in large part to a lower contrast ratio.
But it compares well to many mid-range handsets. It's also the most powerful 4-inch iPhone you can get, so for fans of compact form factors this is an obvious choice. But the best bit is its price, as it's one of the cheapest iPhones you'll find on the market and it's something of a bargain by Apple standards. Read the iPhone SE review. It's Apple's biggest and best iPhone — if your hands and wallets are large enough. It has an expansive 6. It's the perfect phone if you want a giant screen. Behind that huge screen is an improved dual-lens 12MP camera.
Apple outfitted it with Smart HDR and increased the sensor size to capture larger pixels. Don't let that static 12MP number fool you. The iPhone XS Max like the XS has new depth-sensing capabilities for adjustable bokeh background blur during and after a shot. And, of course, Animoji returns with the iOS 12 benefit of having Memoji now. But if you're paying for it over the course of two years in a contract or through the Apple Upgrade Program , it's not that much more month-to-month.
iPhone XR makes the right trade-offs for a cheaper price
Read our in-depth iPhone XS Max review. Believe it or not, the iPhone XS is Apple's best 'small' phone. It has a 5.