Apple’s 2018 iPhone XR still performs great in 2021


As the iPhone 13 takes its place as the iPhone everyone should buy, the question still arises: should I upgrade to the new iPhone, or should I keep my old one? To find out, I went back to a much older iPhone – the 2018 iPhone XR – for just over a week to see how well it would fare in 2021. When we looked at it, we got it. rented as the “budget” iPhone to buy. This device was loaned to me by the folks at Backmarket, so it’s a refurbishment without all the nicks and nicks you would get on an actively used phone.

A game changer with a legacy

The iPhone XR may be old now, but it’s an important iPhone that predated current iPhones like the iPhone 11, iPhone 12, and the newer iPhone 13. It’s a phone that would be considered less than the “real” iPhone, but an iPhone nonetheless. Apple has tried this kind of non-standard iPhone model before with the SE and iPhone 5C. In many ways, the iPhone XR kicked off the standardization of the Apple lineup, and it also became one of the best-selling iPhones in its day. After use, this is no surprise.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Hardware that lasts and software that works

The rounded corners, wide notch, and unique camera of the iPhone XR combine the aesthetics of the late 2010s iPhone with some of the older iPhone 6 style models. It’s a bit heavier than it should be, but the rounded corners mean it won’t dig into your fingers.

Inside there’s an A12 chip, the same 3GB of RAM found in the iPhone X, and a battery that lasts all day. It has a capacity of 2,942mAh at 100%, but with a used model you are probably going to see battery degradation. There’s only one 12-megapixel camera, so I had to stick with software for portrait mode and not even think about trippy wide-angle shots. The front camera is 7 megapixels, so it’s not the best either.

Most importantly, the iPhone XR worked. It was fast enough to complete all the tasks without me thinking “this is a 2018 phone”. The display, while poor on paper, was perfectly adequate and not at all offensive. I use a QHD display on my laptop and my cheapest Pixel has a Full HD OLED display, but I can understand why I still see so many XRs in London.

iPhone XR
iPhone XR Julian Chokkattu / Digital trends

What really stood out to me was the battery life. IPhones have been criticized for having poor battery life in the past, but the XR really has good battery life, even at 90% capacity. I thought this would be one of those things where a phone rented for good battery life would struggle outside the competitive context of the day, but even now it holds up. A glance at one of AnandTech’s intensive battery tests tells me that the iPhone XR should outperform the Galaxy S21 and S20 + in terms of battery life. Apple has clearly been working hard on nailing optimization.

When it comes to phones slowed down by updates, the iOS 15 update seems to have ignored this particular issue for the iPhone XR. This is a small update and nothing noteworthy other than a) it works and b) Focus modes require their own college degree to configure.

I’m not going to say it’s perfect because there are things about the XR that still bother me. The front camera is a bit meh for Facetime or Duo, the low-res screen holds it in, and the rear cameras could be better. The fact that these quibbles were the only things that stood out to me after using a phone for over three years is a testament to the thoughtfulness with which the iPhone XR was designed.

Is the iPhone XR still worth it in 2021?

I’m not sure what to expect from my one week experience. I use much newer phones like the Pixel 5 that support 5G, Full HD OLED displays, multiple cameras, and fast refresh rates, and the XR has none of that. Still, I wasn’t too bothered. The iPhone XR was a perfectly capable phone that always competed favorably with mid-range smartphones in the $ 400 market, especially when it came to camera performance and capabilities.

If you want to choose between the iPhone XR and a cheap Android phone, there are a few things you can consider. If you want recent updates, the XR wins. Performance? The XR will probably gain there too. On the other hand, hardware intricacies such as multi-camera systems on phones like the OnePlus Nord 2 add real flexibility that you can’t duplicate on this phone, nor the 5G connectivity that is found on many more affordable phones. modern.

And there is a lot to be gained from embracing the new iPhones. Not just in complicated features like deep merge, but also in boring and unobtrusive features that make the new phones perfect for everyday use. The iPhone XR has good battery life, while the iPhone 13 has incredible battery life. The iPhone XR has a decent single camera, while all currently available iPhone models have at least a dual camera setup (with the exception of the iPhone SE). And again, all screens are now OLED, and there is 5G support.

Wallet case for iPhone XR with image.
Julian Chokkattu / Digital trends

I’m not going to go out and say you should buy an iPhone XR now. If you already have an iPhone XR, XS, XS Max, or a slightly newer model and are wondering if you should upgrade, you’ll read our reviews carefully to see which parts of your experience you want to update and decide if you can stick to it longer. Remember, next year’s iPhone will always be better, and the longer the wait, the bigger the jump.

But if you’re tight on budget and can find the iPhone XR in stock somewhere (probably refurbished), you’ll be served with a phone that can still easily last for the next two to three years with a minimum of problems. There aren’t many phones that can say that these days, which makes the iPhone XR such an impressive device.

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