The iPhone That Defined a New Era Plummets in Price

Apple iPhone XR Credit: Hadrian / Shutterstock
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There’s little doubt that Apple’s iPhone XR has been a complete game changer for the smartphone marketplace — perhaps even more than Apple had expected or hoped for when it released it two years ago. At a time when iPhone prices were slowly climbing into the stratosphere, the iPhone XR became a welcome breath of fresh air, offering all of the exact same performance specs as the more expensive models, while sacrificing only the better camera system and the more expensive OLED display.

As more and more reviewers began to agree that the iPhone XR was the “best phone for most people,” and the iPhone XR began dominating sales of not just iPhones, but smartphones in general, Apple realized it had a hit on its hands. Although some still viewed the iPhone XR as the red-headed stepchild to its more expensive brothers, most consumers just saw the lower price tag and the great features, and jumped on it without hesitation. By the following year, Apple realigned its branding to make sure there would be no confusion as to exactly where its successor — the iPhone 11 — fit into the iPhone lineup.

In fact, even more than two years after its release, the iPhone XR offers great value for the money, and has remained popular enough that Apple hasn’t stopped selling it. Now, however, there’s even more reason to consider the iPhone XR, as Apple has for the first time added the classic model to its refurbished store, giving you a chance to get the best-selling smartphone of 2019 at a seriously great price.

iPhone XR or iPhone SE?

Starting at $499 for a 64GB model and only $539 for the 128GB version, this is such a great deal that it could make it a tough call for some users whether to buy the new iPhone SE or spend a bit extra for the older, but slightly more capable, iPhone XR.

To be clear, the iPhone SE is still $100 cheaper for the base 64GB model, although at the 128GB price point, that difference shrinks a bit to only $90. With the refurbished units, the iPhone XR also makes a return in a 256GB capacity — something that Apple hasn’t been selling since the iPhone 11 debuted last year — for only $629, or $80 more than the $549 256GB iPhone SE.

The iPhone SE also comes with Apple’s newest and fastest A13 Bionic chip, putting it in the same performance class as all of Apple’s iPhone 11 models. While most users probably won’t notice an actual performance difference in day to day tasks from the older A12 chip used in the iPhone XR, it does make for some nice photography improvements thanks to the more powerful Neural Engine.

On the other hand, the iPhone XR gives you Apple’s Liquid Retina display, which although still LCD and not OLED, is a notch above the iPhone SE, which retains the same display as the older iPhone 8. You also get the True Depth camera on the front, so you’ll get better selfies, plus support for Face ID.

In short, the iPhone SE is still a great choice if you’re looking to get the most bang for the buck in terms of performance and rear camera photography, but if you prefer the better edge-to-edge display (minus the notch), and Face ID, the iPhone XR is suddenly a more compelling choice than ever.

Refurbished iPhones

While the word “refurbished” might make you nervous, it’s important to note that when Apple refurbishes a product, it really is making it every bit as good as new — and in some ways even better.

Consider that tens of millions of iPhones come off of Apple’s assembly lines every year. There is no way the company can test every one, so it relies on a tight manufacturing process and spot checks, but that still means that when you buy a new iPhone there’s no guarantee that you’re getting one that’s even been turned on before you take it out of the box.

By comparison, when Apple refurbishes an iPhone, it fixes whatever is wrong with it, replacing whatever parts are necessary, and then specifically puts it through a series of tests to make sure that it’s working. Then on top of that, it often puts it in a whole new casing and puts in brand new accessories, so you don’t even need to worry about things like scratches and scuffs. For all intents and purposes, a refurbished product should be as good as new — it’s just that Apple can’t actually sell them as new, so it offers them at a discount.

It’s also worth adding that a refurbished iPhone comes with the exact same one-year warranty as a brand new iPhone, and you can purchase AppleCare+ for it in the same manner, which for the iPhone XR will only set you back $149 for two years, or $7.99/month if you want to go with a subscription plan. There’s even AppleCare+ with theft and loss coverage for $249 or $12.99/month.

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