The iPhone XR marked a new moment at Apple when was first introduced in 2018. Because with the XR model, the company introduced a cheaper alternative to the iPhones of the time. Three years later, the price of the device has fallen sharply and with so many available alternatives today we were wondering if it is still worth buying an iPhone XR in 2021?
The iPhone XR was first announced in September 2018 and it launched in the US with a recommended retail price of US$749. As of now, you can get the iPhone XR for $499.
Occasionally, Apple also sells refurbished iPhone XRs for as low as $469.
Some of the iPhone XR's highlights include the modern-looking design, sporting a notch on the front display that houses Apple's facial recognition sensor known as Face ID, among others. Powering the iPhone XR is the still-capable A12 Bionic processor, which is now two generations behind the iPhone 12's SoC, which is the most current Apple processor for their smartphones.
Compared to the other available models on the market today for both Android and iOS platforms, the iPhone XR has a couple of major distinctions. The first would be the camera module, while the second is the display.
The XR comes with a single 12-megapixel shooter at the back that sports a wide-angle lens. At the time of its launch, it quickly set the benchmark in smartphone camera performance. DxOMark's ranking for the iPhone XR (last updated in 2019) gave it a score of 101. Personally, I used the Google Pixel 3 (it scored 102 in DxOMark) which also featured only a single camera until October 2020. I still believe that it is a great camera, perhaps not as versatile in terms of visual creativity, but still very good for everyday circumstances.
Regarding the display, the iPhone XR features a Liquid Retina display and sports HD resolution (1,792 x 828 pixels). That is a rather low bar by today's standards, especially for such an expensively priced handset. However, such resolution count is considered to be rather common among mid-range Android handsets.
In addition, the iPhone XR was released with iOS 12 right out of the box, and has received all of the latest operating system updates until today - including iOS 14. You can expect the device to receive yet another two new versions of Apple's mobile operating system. This translates to at least two more years' worth of relevance, where you are assured of enjoying the latest features and improvements in the areas of privacy and security.
Apple iPhone XR: full hardware specifications
|Apple iPhone XR
|A 12 Bionic
|Memory (RAM / internal)
3GB / 64 and 128GB
|Dual SIM support
|6.1-inch, HD resolution (1,792 x 828 pixels), Liquid Retina IPS LCD, 625 nits, 326 ppi
|150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3 millimetres
|LTE, WLAN 802.11 a/b/g, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, Lightning, Apple Pay, A-GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, QZSS
|12-megapixel, f/1.8 aperture, optical image stabilizer
|7-megapixel with f/2.2 aperture
4K with up to 60 fps (rear camera) / 1080p with up to 60 fps (front camera)
|Wired charging at 15 watts
Qi standard wireless charging
|Face recognition (Face ID)
|Gorilla Glass (front and back), aluminum chassis
Yes, it's still worth buying the iPhone XR if...
... you are currently using an older iPhone model and do not want to move away from the iOS ecosystem, the overall user experience, have a preference for a fairly generous display, and still want to retain Face ID support for security purposes without caring too much about versatility in terms of camera performance.
In this case, I would highly recommend that you pick up the 128 GB variant since there are no memory card slots for expansion purposes as and when the need arises. Alternatively, there is always the option to rely on a cloud subscription.
It is not worth buying the iPhone XR in 2021 if...
... you are looking for a smartphone with a higher resolution display and a more versatile camera solution that offers possibilities such as wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle shots, optical zoom, and a depth sensor. In addition, other Apple models already offer a better experience when it comes to battery life and a powerful processor at a lower price point. That was fulfilled by the iPhone SE (2020).
... you are willing to ditch iOS.
Among the available iPhone XR alternatives, here are several models that fall within the same price range while offering equivalent or superior hardware features.
Apple iPhone SE (2020)
Compared to the iPhone XR, the iPhone SE (2020) has a newer and more powerful A13 Bionic processor, sacrificing display size (it has a 4.7-inch display at HD resolution) and Face ID support. However, it features the once-loved fingerprint sensor. The camera doesn't offer that much versatility here either, featuring a lone wide-angle lens.
However, what makes this device a true iPhone XR alternative is the price and the fact that it should be on the receiving end of system updates for a far longer period of time.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
On paper, the Galaxy S20 FE has better hardware specifications compared to the iPhone XR. A superior display and an extremely versatile camera set.
Apple iPhone 11: if you can invest a little more
If you can invest a bit more, why not consider the newer iPhone 11?
So, would you invest in an iPhone XR today or would you settle for another alternative? Why or why not? Share your opinion with us in the comments below.