- Apple’s announced a new smartphone model Wednesday, the iPhone XR.
- The new device shares the same basic design as the company’s flagship iPhone XS and many of the same high-end features, but is $250 cheaper and comes in an assortment of colors.
- That combination of price, design, and features could make it popular with Apple fans who have been holding on to aging phones.
- In fact, it could trigger a long-awaited iPhone upgrade cycle.
To hear the technoratti tell it, Apple’s iPhone event Wednesday was a snooze fest.
But as the assembled reporters and analysts were starting to zone out, and as Apple’s stock price slipped, the company unveiled what will prove to be its sleeper hit. The iPhone XR, the most low-ranking member of Apple’s expanding X family of devices, is exactly what the company needs to revive its sluggish smartphone sales.
The new device offers many of the high-end features of last year’s iPhone X and this year’s XS with a price that’s in line with that of the iPhone 8 and older models. My sense is that’s going to be more than enough to convince iPhone owners who are holding on to aging devices to upgrade.
Apple could use the help. On an annual basis, the number of iPhones the company has been selling recently has barely budged and is actually down from what it sold three years ago. While last year’s premium priced iPhone X helped boost the company’s smartphone revenue, the stagnating unit sales are holding back the company’s overall growth, and have led to declining market share.
You can chalk up Apple’s stalling smartphone sales to a pair of factors. It basically stuck with the same design from 2014’s iPhone 6 models to last year’s iPhone 8. Although the innards of those phones changed over time, they looked basically the same and the new features they offered weren’t compelling enough to encourage consumers to upgrade en masse.
Prior to Apple’s official unveiling of the iPhone X last year, many analysts expected its anticipated revamped design to spark a massive upgrade cycle. But it didn’t, due to the product’s steep $1,000 price tag. That was a $350 premium over the starting price of the flagship models it replaced and put it out of reach of many consumers.
That’s where the new iPhone XR comes in. The device was announced at the end of Apple’s press event, which was dominated by the company’s unveiling of its new flagship XS models that have little noticeable difference from last year’s iPhone X.
The iPhone XR could spur Apple customers to finally upgrade
But the XR is a wholly new model. It’s got the same basic design of the iPhone X and XS, with a large edge-to-edge screen. In fact, while its display is bigger than that found in any other iPhone model other than the XS Max, the phone itself is actually smaller than the iPhone 8 Plus and previous plus-sized models.
What’s more, it comes in a rainbow’s assortment of colors. So for iPhone owners who have been holding out for something that looks different and new, it will likely fit the bill.
But if that’s not enough to convince them it’s a worthy upgrade, the XR also offers many of the same cutting-edge features found on the top-of-the-line XS models. Among them: Apple’s Face ID facial recognition system; the company’s latest and fastest chip, the A12 Bionic processor; and support for both wireless charging and some advanced photo features, such as the ability to take “portrait” photos with blurred backgrounds.
The XR’s most compelling feature, though, is likely to be its price. At $750, the XR isn’t exactly cheap. But that’s $250 less than the starting price for the XS, and XR comes with a bigger screen. And it’s actually $50 less than Apple charged for the iPhone 8 Plus last year.
To be sure, the XR doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles in the XS. It’s got a lower resolution screen than the flagship models, and, unlike them, its display is based on LCD technology, not OLED. Consumers will likely be able to tell the difference if they compare them side by side.
What’s more, it lacks the telephoto lens found not only in the XS and XS Max but in previous years’ Plus models. And it doesn’t have 3D Touch, Apple’s technology that typically shows users more options or information if they press down on an app icon or menu option.
But my guess is none of that will matter. I think lots of Apple customers with aging phones are going to jump at the chance to have a device that looks like an even more fun and colorful version of the iPhone X. I think the long-awaited iPhone upgrade cycle may finally be here.