Commentary

Apple's 'Cheaper' XR Inspires A Plethora Of Positive Reviews

Do you think Apple is using its $999 (and up) iPhone XS as a foil? To read the reviews emerging for the $749 (and up) iPhone XR, which will go on sale Friday, you would not be crazy to think so. Let’s take a look at a few of the headlines:
    • “Apple iPhone XR Review: A Cheaper Phone Suited to Most of Us” — New York Times
    • “iPhone XR review: Why you should consider the budget model over the pricier XS” —USA Today
    • “The most colorful iPhone is also the best buy” —CNBC
    • “Apple iPhone XR Review: Better Than Good Enough” — The Verge
    • “iPhone XR review roundup: Lower price with no big compromises” —BGR

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“The iPhone XR is not the most technologically advanced iPhone; many of Apple's superior components have been reserved for the costlier device. But the iPhone XR is still a moderately great phone. It’s great not in the way that super-futuristic, game-changing technology devices are. It’s great in the way that a bunch of already possible things have been packaged together cleanly and nicely,” Lauren Goode writes for Wired,essentially summing up the verdict of of most reviewers.

And that’s good enough for most of us “who don't spend [our] lives comparing specs and staring at bezels on multiple models of new smartphones each fall,” Goode adds.

But most of us are also old enough to remember when the average cost of a smartphone was a couple of hundred dollars cheaper than, all of a sudden, it seem to be today. 

The Apple Newsroom has its eyes on the reviews, too, and crows: “Reviewers around the world have put iPhone XR through its paces and are sharing their impressions of the newest member of the iPhone family. That includes everything from its 6.1-inch Liquid Retina display, advanced camera system that creates dramatic portraits using a single camera lens, all-day battery life and six beautiful finishes …” 

Most of the critiques it cites praise various technical aspects of the device, but there’s this from John Gruber on Daring Fireball:“Dollar for dollar, the [iPhone] XR is almost certainly the best iPhone Apple has ever made.”

It doesn’t get any better than that for a marketing department.

Not that there aren’t glitches.

“There’s a lot to like about the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max while, in my opinion, the budget-friendly iPhone XR is the best of the bunch. But their launches have been more mixed and having already admitted to one serious launch problem, now Apple has quietly confessed to another,” writes Gordon Kelly for Forbes. “The company chose not to issue a public statement but instead confirmed to The Verge that the so-called ‘BeautyGate’ scandal is indeed real,” he continues.

“Beautygate” is “a reference to Samsung-style beautification filters, which Apple has always insisted it doesn’t use,” Nilay Patel explains for The Verge. “Whatever the case, it was definitely there, but now it’s going away: during our iPhone XR review, Apple told me that iOS 12.1 will fix a bug in its smart HDR camera system that resulted in smoother-looking photos taken by the front camera [than the back] on the iPhone XS and XR.” 

XR. XS. XS Max. Not to mention the last generation X, 8 Plus and 8 that are still available.

“Lately, Apple has made shopping for an iPhone complicated. So let me simplify: If you’re in the market for an upgrade, buy the iPhone XR," writes Geoffrey A. Fowler for the Washington Post

“With the $750 iPhone XR, arriving in stores on Friday, you have the opportunity to leap ahead to better technology -- like a superior camera and more screen -- without getting a nosebleed from the price tag. The best part: Your battery will last an astounding three hours longer than the $1,000 iPhone XS, according to my tests. Just promise you’ll do one thing before you buy: Go to a store and see whether the XR’s larger shape fits your hand.”

Good advice there. The larger screen is great for “playing games, reading articles and going down YouTube rabbit holes,” but make sure you can handle it. Otherwise, you may be making frequent trips to Genius Bar to have your shattered screen replaced.

Speaking of which, I met a friend the other day who was walking his bicycle to the repair shop in our village after he’d experienced a flip-over-the-handlebars experience on a nearby trail. This sleek machine clearly was not a Walmart Huffy. I asked him what the bike had cost. “$8,500,” he said. “Feel how light it is,” he said in response to my raised eyebrows. “And the year after I got it, it was $14,000. And nowadays, you can get a bike that’s only a couple of pounds …”

Just keep raising the bar on both expectation and prices, as Apple certainly has demonstrated over the years, and watch the dollars roll in.

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