Apple’s iPhone XR: Bad marketing?

“I took out my iPhone XR to check a text — surely someone was finally wishing me a Merry Christmas — and one of my wife’s relatives asked: ‘What’s that?'” Chris Matyszczyk writes for CNET. “‘It’s an iPhone XR,’ I replied, sinking, as many people do, to the Eks-R pronunciation. ‘What’s that?'” she replied… ‘Well, it’s the newest iPhone,’ I said. ‘Never heard of it,’ she replied. ‘Never seen one either.'”

“My thoughts drifted to how Apple has advertised these new, cheaper beasts. First, it did the usual phones-floating-in-mid-air sort of ad, with all sorts of product benefits featured in words,” Matyszczyk writes. “Depth control. Liquid retina. Color-accurate LCD. Did these things impress anyone?”

“Could it be that Cupertino doesn’t have a clue how to sell a phone that, to many eyes — including my own — offers a far more satisfying value than, say, the XS?” Matyszczyk writes. “Could it be that, by launching three new iPhones in quick succession, Apple has muddied the perception of all three? …I fear Apple needs to be a lot clearer about its phones’ individual identities.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Okay, so we’re talking average people here, not tech-obsessed folk like us. It’ll take a bit longer for them to figure out that there are new iPhones and why they might want to get one (with Apple’s help, colorful jumpsuited dystopian somethings or other notwithstanding).

Matyszczyk brings up what we call “Gesture Phobia” and “Face ID Fear.” That is, people fear Face ID is some Big Brother thing beaming their bad hair days back to the central office for identification (i.e. the average schmoe still don’t understand how it works; Apple marketing’s fault) or they’re scared they won’t be able to learn how to use an iPhone that lacks a Home button (i.e. the average schmoe still don’t understand how it works and how easy it is to adapt; also Apple marketing’s fault).

As we asked back on December 7th:
Could more people than we think be afraid of iPhones without Home buttons; worried that they won’t be able to use them? We know this isn’t the case, as it’s extremely intuitive home to use a modern X-class iPhone (and iPad Pro), but that doesn’t mean less savvy iPhone owners aren’t opting to stick with the Home button paradigm for one more iPhone (that’ll they’ll own for some 3 or more years).

The learning curve is so slight as to be nonexistent. The retraining is measured in hours, or no more than a couple of days for even the slowest of learners. Losing the Home button was excellent in all respects, except it’s made us hate our iPads over the past year… As iPhone X users already know, the Home button is the bane of smooth iOS use. The Home button is a staccato inducer; an iOS-interruptor that needs to disappear. Every time we pick up a non-iPhone X iOS device, we cannot believe the rudimentariness of the Home button-based UI. Over the past year, we’ve come to hate the Home button anachronism. Die, Home button, die! — MacDailyNews, August 29, 2018


  1. Face id is a god sent gift to those with slightly moist hands.. plus authentication is so tranparant and out of the way .
    The new swipe getsure is way more ergonomic and efficient and its fluidity is bar none.
    Home button iphones feel so clunky and old after using the swipe gesture and the faceid ..
    There is just no comparison.. !

      1. He is right, and I was reluctant to get this iPhone XS to replace my iPhone 6S. But the big difference for me is the quality of the camera and the FaceID. Other than that, my iPhone 6S did everything I needed it to do.

        1. Does anybody think the whole conceit of this bit of writing is fictional? He took out his iPhone XR and someone asked, “what’s that?” It’s not like it’s an entirely new form factor that would confuse and baffle onlookers. It looks exactly like the iPhone X to the casual observer.

          I declare shenanigans on CNET and on MDN for permitting this tripe.

      1. My brother remodels kitchens and bathrooms for a living. He can’t use the fingerprint sensor either. Between calluses, cuts, dry skin and dirt it’s a no go for him. Told him that the next iPhone upgrade will solve that with face ID.

        I work with my hands quite a bit, so I have both thumbs and both index fingers added. One of them is usually in decent shape to work with the touch sensor.

  2. To most ordinary folk an iPhone is an iPhone. Apple should do away with the numbers system and just call it an iPhone, the iPhone XR could just be called iPhone Colourway or something similar. It would be a lot easier to market and easier for your average consumers to understand.

  3. That is just it. These are tech items, so the way to differentiate them is only by looking and the spec sheet. If you don’t understand or don’t want to follow, then it doesn’t matter how you market it. The phones are the same except for the extra camera and the more modern screen, if you are into photography, get the expensive one. If you are not, save some money and get the XR. But how do you market this?

  4. I dont get the ads featuring colours. Which includes green – which isn’t available.

    The 5C should have been XR -still polycarb (which was lovely to hold) but would have been more cost efficient for apple. It could have been that size and they could have give us some decent colours like bondi blue

    = mic drop

    Not the monster truck, always the bridesmaid XR thats not quite as desirable because its almost the same but definitely worse then XS.

  5. Of course Apple is bad at marketing. Has been for years. No coherent message at all.

    Just like Apple’s poor quality software, and now hardware.

    The whole company is a clusterfsck under Tim Cook.

    There’s a reason why the market has hammered Apple down from $233 down into the $150’s in the span of all of 6 weeks.

    That reason is Tim Cook’s feckless leadership.

    Exhibit A: Eddy Cue still has a job.

    Exhibit B: AirPower MIA 1 year after the announcement.

    Exhibit C: New Mac Pro nowhere to be found. Apparently Tim Cook’s Apple has forgotten how to make cutting edge desktop computers.

    1. Well said and all true, Alan. Apple led the downturn in the stock market when the stupid decision to HIDE unit sales numbers. We need a CEO with moxie and creative vision…

    2. For the most part I agree with you too Alan. Anyone with their eyes open and knowing the history of Apple would agree with you. There have have just been too many screw-ups and bad decisions coming out of Cupertino well into the un-visionary Tim Cook era. May that era be very short-lived.

    3. “Just like Apple’s poor quality software, and now hardware.”

      If you really believe that, then why aren’t you somewhere else enjoying better software and hardware — and better sites talking about those wonderful products?

      Many articles have been written about the emotional disorders of whinylittlebitches and trolles and their incessant negativity.

    4. Alan I am not going to go on a rant here but what in the world are you talking about….with the exception of the Mac Pro missing the other 2 points are meaningless. apple will post their best quarter ever in about a month. they dominate in wearables by a 10 to 1 margin. the dominate in the only cell phone category which actually generates profits 10 to 1 worldwide. their smart home offering works better than anything else int he market hands down. if you think lack of air power or 1 person working there who sucks is going to be the downfall of apple I have some great land I can sell you in the everglades which is positing and untouched.

      ok I lied and ranted but I just cannot take the people who ignore the astounding numbers apple puts up with these farcical comments about the company collapsing

  6. I saw a kid playing a game on the train and was blown away by the color of the screen and asked what kind of phone – he said iPhone Xr… and I’ve owned nearly every iPhone…

    hint… the Xr is not for iPhone faithful… it’s a switcher device that’s going to take a big bite out of Samsung.

  7. Funny the first time I picked up an iPhone in 2008 I could not work out how to get back to the home screen. I had to ask one of the staff at the Apple store. It was completely unintuitive to have to use button in such a way on a touch screen device. Face ID is much more intuitive and makes these true touch screen devices – with the added benefit of ‘almost’ full screen display. The notch does not worry on my iPhone and the bezels on 2018 iPad Pro are just right to hold the device without covering screen. Apple would have done much better announcing the XR in separate event to Xs & Xs Max. I would not consider an XR myself, as I use the 2x camera on my Xs too much, but for average user I am sure the XR is the best phone to get.

    1. Younger just means tech obsessed.

      Apple needs to judge product sizes, names and features from testing both internally & externally with a wide array of “normal” people.

  8. If Apple had only released the Xr most people would be pleased. I was pleased enough to get a “free” one last week when moving from ATT to T-Mobile.

    Overall the Xr is a very good iPhone. The camera performs well for my 74 year old eyes. I actually believe that it’s as good as.

    After reading about the Product Red program I also decided to go with the Red iPhone. Product Red has now raised $600 Million and a third of that has come from Apple and its Product Red participation.

    Another interesting point for the young, techie folks: Run the numbers and figure out the difference between the 3 new iPhones in terms of future value in the year you turn 65. That should be as important as tech advances for younger customers.

  9. I agree.. how did they decide to come out with 3 phones at once… STEVE would have killed at least 1 for sure.. and it would have been the XR getting the boot until summer or next fall.. then bring it out. It would do better next year anyways.. APPLe OUTSMARTED THEMSELVES which I have done A few times myself. Nobody’s perfect, and we Can learn more from our mistakes more than our success.

    So apple will have to Be more Cautious next time. They have the cash right now to make a number of mistakes, but don’t advise they do this again anytime soon… “stay the course!” (g.w. bush)

  10. Being an incurable gadget freak that I am, and contrary to a popular belief that I am an Apple basher, I love Apple (hey, I bought a new Mac mini really for no reason but it was new in 4 years:-), and I will probably never leave the iPhone while experimenting with various other possibilities with my 2nd phone line. But I developed somewhat of antipathy or biological squick against anything X, first by tremendously exaggerated hype in 2017, then some specifics about the design of the X series, FID and OLED for example.
    I always have had the curiosity in the X series and went to Apple Store many times or borrowed my friends’ phones. Among the X series, I almost bought the Xr just to test it for 14 days but stopped short of doing so. I do not like the face ID (and I do not get into why in detail here), but the most reason I held back from the Xr was actually the size. It’s almost as if Apple considered it a simple and cheaper alternative to other two more expensive siblings (i.e., being too conscious of their own overpricing). If it was at least the size of the Xs, or better still a bit smaller, I know I would have bought it. The notch (or a pair of horns:-) did not quite bother me. Also, I have an instinctive fear of losing a mechanical reset button (home button) that also doubles with the touch ID. For any electronic devices, a single mechanical reset button would be a last resort to return to battery so to speak when everything else failed.
    I am hoping that Apple can accommodate the on-screen fingerprint ID that has already been incorporated rather well by Android camp and I am sure it will be much improved next year. Then, I will return to the yearly update that was halted last year.

  11. The XR (to me: ‘Eks-ar’) is fine as a phone, but doesn’t suit everyone.

    The ergonomics are best for vertical use, which is a pain for a snapper and video maker like me.

    The blank screen has no visual clue for orientation, so it’s 50/50 whether you have to invert the phone to start it.

    Face ID is inappropriate for many situations, so I would like the option of fingerprint (and home) button.

    The XR is too big and clunky for me. Then again I loved my bijou SE, and would run to the AppleStore for an SE2.

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