Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

AnandTech and Paul Thurrott Each Published iPhone XR Reviews This Week

So here’s something a bit unexpected: two technology news websites have published reviews of a late-model iPhone. It’s February; the phone in question was released over three months ago. But they’re good reviews, and I recommend reading them.

Andrei Frumusanu at AnandTech took the usual route of that website and dove deep into its hardware characteristics and performance, and comparing it to the iPhone XS models. This, from their graphics performance tests, is notable:

Because of the relatively low screen resolution on the part of the XR’s display — a sub-FHD 1792×828 — I’ve had a lot of trouble actually getting workloads to push the A12’s GPU to its peak frequencies in on-screen scenarios. This causes an interesting dilemma for the iPhone XR: It has absolutely abundant GPU performance that won’t be used any-time soon. As game developers on iOS will be targeting and tuning their workloads to run smoothly on the most demanding devices of a generation, it means that games will most likely be setting their baseline as the higher-end iPhone XS Max, which has to push over twice the pixel resolution. The net result is that for any given 60fps graphics workload, the iPhone XR will run cooler and with a longer battery life than what you would experience on the XS or XS Max.

Paul Thurrott is smitten, too:

No matter. The iPhone XR, despite these apparent deficiencies, still emerges as the best new iPhone. And I’m not the only one who has figured this out: The iPhone XR has been the best-selling iPhone since it launched, and that includes both new iPhones — meaning the models that Apple launched late last year–as well as the cheaper, older iPhones that it still continues to sell as well.

That may not surprise those who believe that price is the primary driving factor for that success. But I believe that price is only one element of what makes the iPhone XR so special. And that Apple would be wise to examine why this model is so successful and not just immediately abandon the design, as it did previously with the “unapologetically plastic” iPhone 5C. Unlike that rip-off, the iPhone XR has a future.

The iPhone XR is a remarkable product, and its success is not shocking to me at all. But I still believe that this iPhone lineup has become more confusing over time, with the 2018 models differentiating little in naming or overall appearance. This round of reviews seems like a good reminder that the iPhone XR isn’t the junior or “lite” version of the flagship XS models; it’s a terrific product that can stand alone.