Apple SVP Phil Schiller has conducted a lengthy interview with Engadget, ahead of the launch of the iPhone XR. The new iPhone went up for preorder on Friday and remains in good supply so far today, but analysts believe it will ultimately prove to be the bestselling model out of the XR, XS and XS Max.

The interview tackles two areas of the iPhone XR debut that have been causing quite a stir in the wider Apple community; why exactly is it called ‘XR’ and the quality of its less-than-1080p display …

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In reference to the XR name, Schiller says that Apple does not pick acronyms that stand for a particular word or phrase. This has been the standard company line since the iPhone 4s.

Colloquially, customers saw iPhone 4s as the Siri phone, but Apple never officially confirmed that connotation. Later ‘S’-year phones had even less obvious ties with particular features. The 2008 iPhone 3GS remains the only iPhone name with which Apple went on-the-record with a meaning; the S stood for speed.

However, interestingly, Schiller says that the XS and XR suffixes do have a meaning to him personally, drawing a parallel with the automotive industry.

“I love cars and things that go fast, and R and S are both letters used to denote sport cars that are really extra special,” he said with a smile.

Good to know that Apple marketing is well-prepared for the launch of the Apple Car!

The other big online controversy since the iPhone XR was unveiled last month is regarding its display. Specifically, the screen resolution. YouTube content creators have spouted many videos criticizing the iPhone XR for having an old ‘720p’ screen. The iPhone XR screen is 1792×828 pixels. This means it cannot display a 1080p movie without some downsampling, unlike the XS, XS Max, or the iPhone 8 Plus. It has a pixel density of 326 PPI — the same as the iPhone 8.

It is true that most new Android phones, even low-end ones, feature 1920×1080 panels. Whilst the XR is technically inferior on that particular bullet point, nobody complained that the iPhone 8 was too low resolution last year, and of course there are many different factors that determine the quality of a smartphone screen. Customers who value higher-PPI panels can consider the iPhone 8 Plus, or the XS series.

Engadget quizzed Schiller for his opinion, and naturally he mostly dismissed the concerns. Given the iPhone XR still has a greater than 300 PPI display, the human eye is still unable to resolve individual pixels at normal viewing angles.

At least with respect to the first point, Schiller believes this is a case of what’s on paper not doing justice to reality. “I think the only way to judge a display is to look at it,” he told me, adding that Apple calls these screens “retina displays” because your eye can’t discern individual pixels unless you press your face up right against the glass. “If you can’t see the pixels, at some point the numbers don’t mean anything. They’re fairly arbitrary.” And when asked if the screen was to blame for the XR’s staggered release, he simply said, “This is when it’s ready.”

Schiller also says that the XR is not targeted to any specific demographic or customer market segment, but it is about making the iPhone X experience more accessible to the wider market: “We think the iPhone X technology and experience is something really wonderful, and we want to get it to as many people as possible, and we want to do it in a way that still makes it the best phone.”.

The iPhone XR goes on sale at Apple Stores around the world this Friday, starting at $749. Expect press embargo reviews to drop tomorrow or Wednesday.


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