The iPhone XR is the sweet spot in this year’s iPhone lineup. And now it’s available SIM-free, which is the best way to buy it.
As you may know, Apple offers its iPhone handsets in carrier-based and SIM-free (carrier unlocked) versions when purchased directly. In the past, it has typically made only the carrier-based versions immediately at launch—no doubt to prop up its carrier partners—and then it would release the SIM-free versions two or three weeks later.
With the 2018 lineup, however, Apple did things a bit differently. For the first time, it’s flagship handsets, the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, were available on launch day in both carrier-based and SIM-free versions. So I was able to buy an iPhone XS immediately in SIM-free form (and loved it). This isn’t a “preference” for me, it’s a requirement.
Sadly, the iPhone XR, which was released about a month later, in late October, was not available in SIM-free form at launch. Instead, it was released only in carrier-based versions, as with previous iPhone launches. So I ended up getting the T-Mobile version, which comes with a SIM but offers broad carrier compatibility.
Well, the SIM-free version is available now. If you visit Apple’s website and step through the iPhone XR purchase process, you’ll discover that “Buy without a carrier” is available alongside AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon options (here in the U.S., of course). As Apple notes, these versions are “SIM-free” and can be “activated with any carrier later.”
That’s the one you want.