iPhone XR vs iPhone 7: Is the gap too big?

Most people will be eyeing up Apple’s new 2018 iPhones, but for the thrifty amongst us Apple’s stealthily dropped price of its older handsets. The iPhone 7 is now more affordable than ever as a result, on paper, an absolute steal. But how does it compare to the most ‘basic’ of this year’s crop, the iPhone XR.

iPhone XR vs iPhone 7 – Design

Take a look at 2017’s iPhone line and you’ll spot a clear fork in Apple’s smartphone design language: one direction entrenched in the older big bezel styling, the other looking forward. The iPhone 7 was one stop along that more antiquated path, with big bezels, a 16:9 aspect ratio display and a TouchID-toting home button. The iPhone 7 also kicked off the loss of the headphone jack from the iPhone’s hardware setup and was the last metal-bodied iPhone to be made – essentially it was the final distillation of true old-school iPhone thinking.

The new iPhone XR looks space age compared to the iPhone 7 as a result. Its design is punctuated by an extended, notched display. Like the iPhone X, its back is curved glass in place of the 7’s all-metal finish and a frame of colour-matched 7000 Series aluminium runs around the phone’s edge. Both phones benefit from IP67 dust and water resistance too.

Apple’s also pulled a bit of an iPhone 5C with the XR, launching it in an impressive six different shades (black, white, yellow, coral, blue and Product RED), trouncing the 7’s five finishes of rose gold, gold, silver, black and Jet Black (aka, shiny black).

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iPhone XR vs iPhone 7 – Specs and features

Both phones have LCD panels but the XR’s is larger, sharper and loses out on 3D Touch. That glass back also grants the XR wireless charging, which isn’t an option due to the iPhone 7’s metal construction. On the inside, there are some pretty clear-cut differences too. Despite still packing a capable chipset in Apple’s A10 Fusion SoC, the XR trumps the iPhone 7 on raw power by rocking a processor that’s two generations newer, in the form of the A12 Bionic chip. It also has a larger battery to boot.

iPhone 7 iPhone XR
Display 4.7-inch 16:9
750 x 1334 IPS LCD
6.1-inch 1792 x 828 IPS LCD
Processor Apple A10 Fusion Apple A12 Bionic
Rear camera Single 12-megapixels Single 12-megapixels
Front camera 7-megapixels 7-megapixels
Software iOS 12 (upgraded from iOS 10) iOS 12
Storage 32/128GB 64/128/256GB

Tthe iPhone 7 comes in two wildly different configurations. We’d suggest steering clear of the smaller 32GB capacity model and go for the sizeable 128GB version. The XR meanwhile has three different skews, with double the base amount of space at 64GB and double the maximum space with a 256GB variant.

There’s also the matter of software. While the iPhone 7 is enjoying the benefits of iOS 12, it’ll likely see a loss of support from Apple long before the iPhone XR.

iPhone XR vs iPhone 7  – Camera

Side-by-side, the imaging experience on the iPhone 7 seems rather pedestrian; there’s a 7-megapixel front-facer and a 12-megapixel single rear camera. The setup on the back of the XR is markedly the same, with another OIS-toting rear camera and the same resolution front sensor, but after the advent of the iPhone X, the XR also enjoys the company’s TrueDepth sensor.

This means portrait mode when using the front snapper for additional background blur and virtual lighting effects for your face, FaceID unlock (as unlike the 7 there’s no home button) and, of course, Animoji and Memoji for some animated fun. Speaking of portrait mode, the XR is the first phone to also support the feature via a single rear camera too.

iPhone 7 vs iPhone XR – Price

For every year that Apple ranges an older iPhone, it drops its pricer further and further. As such, the iPhone 7 replaces the iPhone 6S as the company’s most affordable handset, starting at $449/£449. Being a member of the 2018 contingent, the iPhone XR enjoys no such discount but is at least the cheapest of this year’s crop, starting at £749/$749.

Early verdict

Based on the design, feature-set performance and software support, there’s little reason to opt for the older iPhone 7 if you’re torn on which to choose. However, if your wallet doesn’t stretch to the iPhone XR but you still want an iOS-powered smartphone, the 7 is far from the worst that you could do.