With all that said, the XR's camera may seem disappointing if you're used to the kind of flexibility a dual camera provides. The difference is most obvious when you're trying to do two things: Zoom in on your subject and take a bokeh-filled portrait.
The zoom issue is pretty obvious. Because there isn't a secondary telephoto camera here, the XR has to rely on digital zoom, which just means it blows up the image and crops out the edges. This is a great way to lose detail in a hurry, especially if you're trying to get really tight on a far-off subject. The same is true of other single-camera phones like the Pixel 3, but Google's intelligent sharpening does a better job of keeping things crisp (or at least, crisper than they would've been otherwise). Apple is leaning on some clever computational photography techniques to get its images looking as good as they do, but Google is doing a better job at pushing single-camera smartphones to their limits.
And then there's portrait mode, a feature that debuted on the dual-camera iPhone 7 Plus. Reconfiguring it for a single, primary camera must've taken some work, and Apple pulled it off quite well. Backgrounds are appropriately blurred out while the subject's face remains in sharp focus (you can change the level of bokeh after you've snapped the photos).
The thing is, Apple just doesn't offer the same flexibility with portraits here as it does on its other phones — even older ones. Consider this: Though the camera does a pretty good job isolating the subject from its background, you can't use Apple's fancy mono-color mode to make moody portraits when you're using the main camera. All you get are natural, studio and contour lighting effects, which, in fairness, continue to work very well. (Don't worry about your selfies, though -- because the XR uses the exact same 7MP TrueDepth camera up front, you can still easily add some drama to your headshots.)
The most important thing to keep in mind is that portrait mode doesn't work at all unless you're pointing the main camera at a person. Which I guess makes sense -- this is portrait mode we're talking about. But you can forget about getting bokeh-filled images of your pets or your dinner. Feel free to try: If you do, the phone will actually tell you it can't detect a person's face. Some of you won't care because the results are usually pretty great, but if you really care about taking the best smartphone photos you can, the XS and XS Max offer some notable advantages.
While it's limited in ways other iPhone cameras aren't, the iPhone XR is still a great performer. I'm not going to sit here and pretend that it's as flexible or as impressive as some dual cameras, but what we've got is, once again, more than enough for most people.