With the iPhone XR, Apple broadens its ‘best’

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“If we’re going to push the upper boundaries with XS and XS Max to make something the best, how do we make something that’s more affordable for a larger audience? To make the overall iPhone audience even larger? What choices can we make and still make it a phone that people can hold and say, ‘I have the best too’?”

Those were the questions Apple grappled with while developing the XR, according to Schiller. The company’s answers came in many parts, some more straightforward than others.

The XR was meant to provide the best performance possible, so the company packed one of its new A12 Bionic chipsets inside. This is the same sliver of silicon that powers the iPhone XS and XS Max, and when I reviewed those earlier this year, I said the level of power the chipset provided made those phones all but future proof. To offer the same kind of performance for significantly less money than its flagship phones is a new — and surprising — move for Apple, but one that makes the XR a tantalizing option for upgraders and newcomers alike.

iPhones are among the most widely used cameras in the world, so Apple transplanted the iPhone XS’ excellent 12-megapixel wide-angle camera into the XR’s body and augmented it with a dose of machine learning for better dynamic range and portrait shots. Since there’s no room for a fingerprint sensor up front anymore, there’s a Face ID sensor array at the top of the device. And you guessed it: That’s the same Face ID setup as on the XS and XS Max, another way the lines among all of these phones gets a bit fuzzy. In fact, it might be easier to run through some of the notable features the XR doesn’t share with its siblings: There’s no second telephoto camera and no pressure-sensitive 3D Touch technology in the screen.

Before any of that, though, you’ll notice the iPhone XR’s new body. It’s a little bigger in dimension than the iPhone XS, and you won’t find any stainless steel here — just glass, aerospace-grade aluminum and a lot of color. The colors on offer — black, white, blue, yellow, coral and red — are beautiful, but the XR’s physical dimensions themselves are a little unusual. Plenty of people have told me the 5.8-inch screen on the XS can feel a little small, and the XS Max’s 6.5-inch whopper of a display is overkill for people with smaller hands. With the XR, though, Schiller said the team hit the sweet spot and made “the one size of iPhone XR that can appeal to the widest number of people.” It seems a little odd, then, that Apple wouldn’t try to produce a premium smartphone this size; alas, maybe next year.

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