The iPhone XR – Why You Shouldn’t Buy

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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

9 thoughts on “The iPhone XR – Why You Shouldn’t Buy

  1. This phone wasn’t even on my radar prior to 3 minutes ago, but I am shocked to know that Apple is actually putting a screen with the same resolution as seen on the iPhone 4 on one of their newest products to date. I appreciate the notion that they’re pricing the phone lower (as they definitely should), but I don’t necessarily agree with it. If they’re going to subsequently lower the prices of older phones as each new edition is released, their older phones are going to be even cheaper than this XR. I’m curious as to if the company believes they’re going to be selling many XRs–I would love to know their predictions on phone sales for the year. I also wonder about the ethicality of this: people with limited screen knowledge may not know the difference between LCD and OLED when purchasing the phone online, people may be tricked into buying the XR and being very disappointed when it ships. If a technology company is going to develop new phones at higher and higher prices, I just don’t see the point in offering one with screen resolution that is so much worse than what they’ve continued to prime our society to expect. Thank you for bringing my attention to this and I agree, this made me shudder too. Great post!

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  2. Apple is losing its global market, the iPhone customers are almost saturated, which means it’s hard for Apple to gain more iPhone customer. To increase the revenue in the mobile phone sector with the given customer population, Apple needs to make more profits on new iPhones and tries to target the customers with different consumption abilities. In my opinion, targeting more customers by lowering the products’ quality is not wise for Apple. I think iPhone XR

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  3. Apple is losing its global market, and the iPhone customers are almost saturated, which means it’s hard for Apple to gain more iPhone customers. To increase the revenue in the mobile phone sector with the given customer population, Apple needs to make more profits on new iPhones and tries to target the customers with different consumption abilities. In my opinion, targeting more customers by lowering the products’ quality is not wise for Apple. I think iPhone XR will be redundant and unpopular like iPhone5C.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey Keegan,
    I had no clue that “Retina Display” was a term trademarked by Apple. They have definitely done a good job of ensuring their customers would associate this term with high quality, even though it does not have any correlation. With their famous September conference to reveal the next generation iPhone, Apple has created hype around their products and led customers to assume it was groundbreaking technology. Hearing that the XR has the same screen quality as the iPhone 4 is very disappointing, especially since they did their best to hide that fact from public knowledge. Certainly more customers will become aware of this, which could either force Apple to change their tactics or perhaps cause a switch to Android.

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  5. I wonder if Apple will receive negative feedback for this move with the iphone XR, like they have for moves in the past that seem to be only focused on maximizing profits. As you say in the conclusion, I believe that Apple has a responsibility to provide its customers with the best technology and advanced products. To me, it seems like there is no valid explanation for putting such a low quality screen on a new apple product. I understand Apple wants to price phones at a cheaper price to increase their market share with a different type of customer, but to do so in a way that is so profit focused rather than giving customers readily available technology for the same low price, I believe is a terrible move by Apple. I did not know about this low screen resolution before I read your blogpost, so I am interested to see if there will be more news coverage on this product moving forward. Overall, I enjoyed reading your blogpost because it definitely sheds light on a topic that I didn’t know about previously, and is relatable to and therefore affects such a large amount of people.

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  6. I’m definitely disappointed –– but not surprised –– to read about this cheap move from Apple. It’s a low blow, seeing as they know they can enter a cheaper market with ease; regardless of product quality, the Apple brand will sell.
    The fact that they brag about the size of the screen on advertisements and posters is ridiculous. It’s one thing to cover up the screen’s embarrassing lack of features with a ‘Retina trademark’, but to brag about having an LCD screen is something else.
    This really demonstrates how far Apple is willing to go to make some money, knowing full well that a small amount of outrage probably won’t lose them a huge amount of business.
    After all, I am typing this irritated comment on one of their computers.

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  7. This is really interesting, Keegan. When the iPhone XR came out at that $749 price point, I honestly considered upgrading. I doubt that I would have realized I was buying such an inferior product. The screen would barely be an upgrade over my three year old iPhone 6S. Pretty weak move from Apple, who is clearly trying to get more customers at this lower price point but is willing to cut some significant corners to do so. Perhaps it will go over most customer’s heads, or even make customers spend more to get the screen of the XS, but it definitely does not sit well with me.

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  8. Great job! I was completely ignorant of the differences across iPhone models, especially with the hyped up releases. For the most part, I am resolution-agnostic, but hearing that Apple is sticking an iPhone 4 screen on a brand new phone and selling it for $750 is absolutely absurd. That being said, I have to give Apple credit for rebranding LCD as “Liquid Retina Display” and leveraging their position as an outdated LCD phone. As an investor, it is very troubling to see Apple sacrificing customer experience and happiness for unsustainable, incremental revenue. It will be interesting to see how this affects Apple over the next few quarters and to see how loyal customers respond — whether they remain trapped in the ecosystem or begin to leave for Google, Samsung, or another competitor.

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  9. Great blog post, Keegan! I had no idea the iPhone XR has such a poor screen resolution. When all 3 phones came out, I was tempted to get XR because it was cheaper, but after reading this, I am so disappointed that Apple is more concerned about revenue growth than product quality. I was surprised that Apple announced 3 iPhone releases…kind of overwhelming and harder for people to tell apart the difference.

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