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iPhone XR: That's how we broke the camera



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James Phelan / CNET

The iPhone XS has a lot to offer in our drop test but is the cheaper iPhone XR just as strong?

At first glance, the iPhone XR has many features of its high-end sibling: edge-to-edge display, glass on both sides and a metal bumper. But it is built a little differently. For starters, the larger 6.1

-inch screen has more breakable surface than the 5.8-inch display of the iPhone XS . It is also enclosed in an aluminum frame, instead of thicker stainless steel wrapping around the glass of the XS and XS Max.

The glass itself is different too. The screen is in the same glass as the XS and XS Max, which Apple says is "the most durable glass ever in a smartphone," but the back is different. It's stronger than last year iPhone X – which broke on our first year test on the first Drop – but not as robust as on the iPhone XS. And it has a single camera on the back with a slightly more pronounced bump.

To find out if and how this affects the durability of the phone, we've brought our brand new, bright yellow iPhone XR just like his older siblings on the sidewalk to do some real (non-scientific) drop tests.

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How heavy is the glass on the iPhone XR?



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Case 1: Pocket height, screen down

I started with a case drop from the pocket height or about 3 feet (0.9 meters), the height at which many accidents happen. The same drop that broke through the iPhone X last year.

I pulled the iPhone XR screen down to test the harder glass first. Unfortunately, it has barely weathered our test – when it landed, it has already toppled over and the back has broken the fall. The right side hit first, then bounced on the camera side and then dumped for the last landing in the air: screen side down.

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The back broke the case in this case and broke the camera lens.


James Phelan / CNET

From the spot where I stood, it looked like the back survived without scratches. But when I picked it up, I noticed that the sapphire crystal on the camera had a C-shaped crack from top to bottom. The aluminum frame also had some visible scratches on the side, which scraped off the gold layer and exposed the underlying silver. The screen, on the other hand, did not look any worse, with a few speckles on the edge that scraped off when I ran my fingers over it.

I took some test shots with the camera and noticed that most shots looked pretty good despite the crack. Where the crack became visible was during the video recording when the light hit at right angles.

Since the screen and back glass are still intact, I have decided to continue our drop test.

Drop 2: Pocket height, screen down

Since the screen did not hit the ground at the last drop, I decided to drop it back from the same height of 3 feet with the screen side. This time I held it with both hands to better control the drop.

The top part of the screen broke the fall, then the right edge and bottom edge were caught up, so the phone jumped up again and turned 180 degrees in the air, until it was again screen side down and the top right Corner, the ground landed first.

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The iPhone XR landed face down on the second drop of 3 feet.


James Phelan / CNET

After seeing how much power was thrown on the screen this fall, I expected it to do some damage. But when I turned it around, the screen was fine. It had some white lines at the edges of the glass, but most of it turned out to be cement particles and rubbed off immediately. There were a few tiny dents in the glass on the top of the screen, but nothing too noticeable.

Drop 3: Eye Level, Free Fall

To increase the stakes, I took our iPhone XR at eye level or 5 feet (1.5 meters). This is about the height it would fall from your hands when you take a picture, another common situation.

I started with the phone in the landscape with the screen facing me, the way you would hold your phone, of course, when you take a picture and then drop it.

The rear upper corner of the frame above the camera broke the fall, then bounced off and hit the other edge of the frame, went back up into the air, this time with the back on the ground.

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The aluminum frame of the iPhone XR took most of the power off this initial fall from the eye level.


James Phelan / CNET

There was no visible damage on the screen, but the scratches on the aluminum frame had multiplied, worst in the corner over the camera where the phone hit first. The back still looked good, but a closer look showed a tiny break in the lower left corner of the glass. Apart from the camera and the hard-hitting frame, this phone was still in a combat condition.

Drop 4: Eye Level, Screen Side Down

For the last test, I decided to put the front glass through the bell and drop it face down from eye level (5 feet).

I knew it was bad the moment the phone fell to the floor. She gave a loud thump and even threw up a light cloud of dust as she landed almost perfectly flat on her screen.

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The iPhone XR landed so hard on its screen on this 5-foot drop that it even kicked some dust on the sidewalk.


James Phelan / CNET

And indeed, when I turned it over, I noticed a cluster of spider webs sticking out from the earpiece. I could even feel the tiny broken glass shaking off as I ran my fingers over the phone.

The back glass was still intact, but that was the end of our drop test.

The Collapse

It took four bad drops on rough pavement to finally crack the screen of our iPhone XR. Because of the nature of our tests, it's hard to tell if the iPhone XS (which survived the fourth and last drop) is more durable than the XR. I suspect that even the iPhone XS would have cracked after this facial plant in the end. I realize that Apple has made the glass of its new phones stronger than its predecessors. Both the iPhone XR and the iPhone XS held longer than the iPhones 8 and X, and even some of their competitors .

Even though the iPhone XS has a slight advantage when it comes to surviving drops, the iPhone XR costs at least $ 250 less. It is also cheaper to repair. Replacing the screen without AppleCare + will cost you $ 199 compared to the $ 279 of the iPhone XS, and the $ 329 will cost you to fix the 6.5-inch screen on the XS Max. (See UK prices and Australian prices.)

Replacing the camera is not so easy. A broken lens falls under "Other damage," which means $ 399 you have to hand over. That alone is reason enough to put a thick case on your iPhone XR.


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