Last week, Apple unveiled their new set of iPhones to the general public. They showed off three new models – the 5.8 inch iPhone XS, the 6.5 inch iPhone XS Max, and the 6.1 inch iPhone XR. The iPhone XS and XS Max offer incremental upgrades to last years iPhone X, sporting Apple’s new A12 Bionic chip, a new dual 12MP wide-angle and telephoto camera, and improved Face ID. These updates came as no surprise to consumers who follow Apple and the iPhone closely. There was, however, one announcement regarding the iPhone that caught many off guard, the iPhone XR.
Apple continues to lose global market share to Samsung, who offers more phones at a cheaper and more accessible pricepoint. Last year, the iPhone X started at $1,000, excluding many from the Apple ecosystem. Consumers who can’t afford or aren’t willing to spend that much money on a phone are limited to Apple’s previous models of the iPhone at a (slightly) discounted price, precluding people from the latest technology and pushing them towards competitor’s phones such as the Google Pixel 2 ($649) or the Samsung Galaxy S9 ($839).
In order to combat this trend, this year, Apple is releasing the iPhone XR – a 6.1 inch version of the iPhone starting at $749. Upon first glance, this phone seems like a steal, sporting many of the same exterior design elements and internal specs as the pricier XS and XS Max for a substantial discount. While I’m sure the XR is a great phone that will introduce many to the Apple ecosystem and capture a segment of the market that Apple has struggled to penetrate, there is one thing about the XR that makes me shudder: the screen resolution.
It comes as no surprise to most consumers that the XR has a lower quality screen than the XS and Max, it’s a cheaper phone so you can’t expect to have the same screen as the thousand dollar models that cast a shadow over the XR. It does come as a surprise, however, just how much worse the screen is than the even last year’s iPhone releases.
This is the iPhone 4 – released in 2010. Since the iPhone 4 was released, Apple has released exactly 14 new smartphones, not including the XR. The iPhone 4 has a screen resolution of 326 pixels per inch (ppi). This was fantastic at the time, as it was the most HD screen to ever be put into a smartphone. The iPhone XR releases on October 26th, 2018 as part of Apple’s newest line of phones and has a screen resolution of – you guessed it – 326 ppi.
To me and many others, this is ridiculous – an 8 year old screen being put in a brand new phone and sold for $750. The screen is so low resolution, that users will likely not be able to watch 1080p HD video on the XR. The reason for this move is twofold – differentiate the product enough so that it doesn’t cannibalize the XS and XS Max’s sales, and to push consumers who are considering the XR to spend the $1,000 on the better screen. If the XR had the same screen as, say, the iPhone 6 Plus at 1080p 401 ppi, the screens would be indistinguishable from each other to many consumers, causing many to opt for the cheaper XR in favor of the more expensive models.
To me, the most upsetting aspect of this horrible screen is how well Apple hides its existence from consumers. On Apple’s website they say things like “Introducing Liquid Retina. The new display on iPhone XR is the most advanced LCD in the industry. An innovative backlight design allows the screen to stretch into the corners. So you see true-to-life color from one beautiful edge to the other.” What they don’t tell you is that it’s the “most advanced LCD in the industry” because no other phones use LCD displays anymore, with most offering higher quality OLED or AMOLED displays. Another trick that Apple has been using for years now is the use of terms like “Liquid Retina Display.” We’ve all heard the term “Retina Display” before and Apple has done a great job ensuring that whenever we hear that term, we associate it with the highest quality screen. What most people don’t know, however, is that the term “Retina Display” is a trademarked term created by Apple that has no real correlation to actual screen resolutions.
The iPhone XR will no doubt be a fantastic phone that will accomplish exactly what Apple intended it to, and many consumers may not even take quarrel with the lower resolution screen. The problem, to me, is that Apple could have put a much better screen into their XR for virtually no additional cost, as 1080p screens are the industry standard and are widely available for a low price. Apple, however, would rather increase their revenues than uphold their responsibility to bring users the best technology available for the lowest price.