Alright, its iPhone time. Apple released three new iPhones all at once this year. The iPhone 11, Pro, and Pro max. Now, I honestly think the iPhone 11 is the phone most people in the iOS ecosystem should get if they’re upgrading.
So we’ve got a whole other review that phone you should check out too. But this, this is the Pro review. The dark mode, cash money review for professionals who use their phones to do pro stuff. Like taking telephoto photos. Actually, I have no idea why Apple called these phones Pro.
They’re basically just nice updates to the iPhone XS but I also think it’s a waste of time to argue about names. iPhone 11 Pro Max is a bad name. But you know what, it’s a great phone. And I think Apple might have done it. Let’s get into it.
The iPhone 11 Pro looks almost exactly like the iPhone XS from the front. It’s a little heavier and thicker but unless you’re comparing them directly, you probably won’t notice. I certainly didn’t. You do get a much bigger battery in exchange for that extra size, which Apple says leads to a four hour battery life increase on the regular Pro and a five hour jump for the Pro Max.
But it’s surprisingly hard to check that number. I’ll get into why in a minute. The big difference with the XS comes on the back where Apple says the rear glass is now stronger and it comes in this frosted matte finish. The whole back and the bump is a single piece of glass that’s milled out.
The iPhone 11 is the reverse. It has a glossy back and a camera bump is matte. Now you know. I got a lot of questions about this matte finish and I think it’s really nice, especially in this new midnight green color.
It didn’t really pick up any fingerprints but it does seem a tiny bit more slippery than the gloss back of the previous phones and the iPhone 11. But I also think most people are just gonna stick this thing in a case so it doesn’t seem like a huge issue.
A lot of people also asked me if this matte finish will scratch easily, similar to the back of the Pixel 3 and so far the answer seems to be no. But we’re gonna have to keep an eye on it over time. Apple’s finally relented and included an 18 watt USB C fast charger with the Pro phones.
So you get a USB C and a lightning cable as well. Now Apple’s USB C charger is not the smallest or prettiest charger out there. But anything is better than the slow five watt brick it’s been including for years, so I’ll take it. So let’s get into these cameras.
Apple has a lot at stake here. Google and Samsung’s cameras have been outperforming the iPhone for a couple of years now. And Chinese filmmakers in particular, have been racing each other to add an endless array of photography features.
If you’re in the US, you’re probably locked into imessage and no camera is good enough to make you switch. But Apple doesn’t have that advantage in big markets like Europe and China. Everyone uses WhatsApp and WeChat and switching from iOS to Android is much easier.
So Apple’s added a bunch of features that first appeared on Android phones. There are three cameras in the iPhone 11 Pro. The telephoto camera has the same basic sensor but a faster F2.O lens.
The main camera has the same F1.8 lens and a slightly better sensor. And there’s the new super fun ultra wide camera which is basically twice as wide as the main lens and F2.4. And the F2.2 front camera is now 12 megapixels up from seven has a wider 24 millimeter focal length so it can pull out to a slightly wider angle in landscape for selfies.
The iPhone 11 cameras are an enormous proven over the XS and beat the Pixel and Galaxy Note 10 in most of our tests. This shot of verge video producer, Mario Abdulkaf, outside in bright sunlight, shouldn’t be too hard for any camera to do a good job with. And all these photos look basically fine. But zoom into 100% crop and the improvement from the iPhone XS to the iPhone 11 main camera is stunning.
The iPhone 11 is way sharper, with way more detail. I also think the iPhone 11 does a way better job than the Note 10 and it’s a little better to my eye than the pixel three. This improvement is due to something Apple’s calling semantic render.
Basically, smart HDR recognizes what’s in the image and renders it appropriate. I asked Apple to break down how it works for me and it basically goes like this. First, the iPhone starts taking photos to a buffer the instant you open the camera app. So by the time you actually press the button, it’s captured four underexposed frame and the photo you want. Then it grabs one overexposed frame.
Second, smart HDR and semantic rendering then start looking for things in the photos it understands. Faces, hair, the sky, things like that. Then it uses additional detail from the under and overexposed frames to selectively process the areas of the image it’s recognized. Hair gets sharpened, but the sky doesn’t it just gets denoised.
Faces get relighted to make them look more even and the iPhone knows to sharpen up your facial hair. Smart HDR is also less aggressive in flattening the photos. Highlights and faces aren’t corrective as aggressively as before because those highlights make photos look more natural. Finally, the whole image is saved and you’ve got a photo.
This all happens instantly every time you take a photo which is a testament to how powerful Apple’s A13 processor really is. Here’s that final image we just took. You can see how the iPhone 11 preserves more detail than the Pixel and Note in the shadows and highlights and just blows the iPhone XS away in sharpness. The improvements to smart HDR applicable across cameras.
The Note 10 did a better job exposing the sky but the 11 is just a much sharper photo with more detail. You can see the same thing with selfies. While the iPhone 11 evenly pulls up shadows in Mario’s face but preserves the contrast with the background. The Note 10 did all kinds of goofy skin smoothing and the Pixel 3 looks great, but it has less detail than the iPhone. Now there are places where the iPhone 11 didn’t win in our tests.
The XS historically struggled with backwards subjects. And while the 11 is a definite improvement, this photo is really blue. I think the Note actually did the best overall job here. And I think the pixel does the best job in low light but the iPhone isn’t bad. It’s a lot better than the XS was last year.
Apple’s promised a new mode for these situations called Deep Fusion, which is supposed to ship later this year, but I wasn’t able to test it. If it improves photos taking this kind of light, then the iPhone will basically pull ahead in every situation. Apple also added a night mode this year and it’s really impressive. It comes on automatically in the dark and suggests an exposure time which you can tweak or turn off if you want.
The Pixel photo here looks more dramatic but look a little closer. Both of these night mode photos look pretty similar but look at all the extra detail in the bushes in the iPhone shot. Same with this shot. You’d never that fence was even there in the Pixel photo.
I think the Pixel produces more dramatic looking shots out of the camera, but I would rather have the extra detail from the iPhone. All in all, I think the iPhone 11 camera does better in bright light than the Pixel 3 and Note 10 and the night mode beats the Pixel 3 more often than not.
If this promise deep fusion update improves medium to low light performance, as much as Apple says it will, the iPhone 11 will once again be the smartphone camera to beat. Apple’s also made video on the iPhone 11 better with improved stabilization exposure and the ability to record 4K60 video from any of the three cameras. – But isn’t really that good?
In low light, Apple isn’t afraid of under exposing the blacks whereas in Samsung and Google will bring them up. Now the 11 Pro does do a lot more smoothing to compensate for all the noise this typically creates. The front facing camera on the iPhone 11 Pro did a great job of balancing my skin tone and just the exposure in general. Even against this large neon light source.
But it wasn’t as sharp as the Note 10. Now all these comparisons are great, but chances are you won’t be recording on all the songs side by side at the same exact time. So let’s just talk about the iPhone 11 Pro.
The front facing camera now records in 4K and the selfie is exactly how you’d imagine it. You’ll use it once and probably never touched it again. The video from the rear cameras though, is really good. Like in perfect light, it’s honestly just impressive.
Switching between lenses is pretty seamless, in terms of color accuracy and exposure. And you can use the dial method or just tap the lenses on the screen to switch. Now you can switch between lenses when you shoot in 4K60. So make sure you set 4K30 or lower if you’re gonna be doing that.
The ultra wide angle lens looks super cool even with the crazy distortion. But there is no image stabilization which shouldn’t be a problem because naturally, the wider the lens, the less need for that. Both the telephoto and wide lens keep your shot stable and pretty sharp for a sensor their size.
The color is punchy and pretty saturated and in perfect lighting, you too can have that shot in iPhone look. But in low light, even the iPhone 11 Pro, when viewed on a screen larger than its own comes to noisy blacks and haloed highlights.
My big issue though, why do I have to leave the camera app , to change the frame rates? It’s not intuitive and it’s just time consuming. Apple just put it in the app. iPhones have always had great video, but the video on the 11 Pro is the best I’ve seen on a smartphone, to date. And the gap is only getting bigger. Enough of me, back to Nilay. – The screen on the iPhone 11 Pro is a new OLED that Apple is calling the super retina XDR display.
There’s still an option, Apple is still doing fancy rounded corners and uniform bezels, which no one else the industry is really managed to match. Those bezels are still pretty big though, especially compared to something like the Galaxy Note 10. This is the third year of the basic iPhone 10 design and apples competitors haven’t been sitting still in trying to beat it. The big upgrades to the screen are around brightness and power efficiency.
Basically the screen can get a lot brighter than before and it also uses up to 15% less power according to Apple. Now in typical situations, Apple says the iPhone 11 Pro display can go up to 800 depths of brightness and that when you’re watching HDR content, the highlights will peek at 1200 depths.
In normal situations, I don’t think you’re gonna notice it. I’ve never had a problem looking at my iPhone XS display outside. But it’s a huge and obvious improvement, when you’re watching HDR movies. I never really bought the idea that previous iPhone displays were Dolby Vision, but the iPhone 11 Pro display, kind of pulls it off.
It’s hard to capture this on video, but it’s just a lot brighter and punchier on the 11 Pro display compared to the XS. The Note 10 display definitely looks as bright, but the iPhones color processing, looks way more natural to me especially with Apple’s true tone system turned on. So this video is not in 4K for watching an iPhone. Sorry about that.
Apple has also updated the audio on the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, something they’re calling spatial audio. It’s basically a surround decoder. If you’re watching a Netflix movie with Adobe 5.1 sound or game encoded in 7.1, you’ll get virtual surround from the stereo speakers. The iPhone 11’s also support Dolby Atmos, which is a little silly for stereo speakers, but it’s there. There’s also a standard wide stereo support like last year for everything else.
All in all, the iPhone speakers sound really loud and generally better than ever. There’s no more 3D touch on the iPhone 11 Pro, it’s been replaced by what Apple calls haptic touch, which is basically just long pressing on things with haptic feedback.
In most places, you don’t really notice it’s gone and some things are actually will easier to figure out. Opening the camera from the lock screen, feels the same to me. Rearranging icons on the home screen is a little simpler to figure out since there’s a context menu that pops up now.
Picking at links in Safari, is a little different in iOS 13, but it’s also a little simpler. The only place I truly miss 3D touch was the keyboard. You could press down anywhere on the keyboard to move the cursor around on the XS but with haptic touch on the iPhone 11 Pro, you can only press and hold on the space bar. Now I never really realized how many times a day I use that one specific 3D touch feature and I missed it. But if the trade off is that there’s more room inside the case for bigger battery, I’m fine with it.
Apple claims the iPhone 11 Pro lasts four hours longer than the iPhone XS and that the iPhone 11 Pro Max, lasts five hours longer than the XS Max. As I mentioned earlier, it’s really hard to test those claims. Apple doesn’t run a strict battery test that we can just repeat.
Instead, it’s getting that number by taking its huge data set of iPhone usage and apply it to a model of the new phone. So you’ll notice that the only hard numbers Apple publishes are like hours of video playback. Simple tests of a single task, which isn’t how anyone uses a phone.
All that said, the battery life on the iPhone 11 Pro has been impressive. I’ve been using an 11 Pro Max is my primary phone for the past week, and it has consistently run for 12 to 14 hours on a single charge. And about 10 hours of screen on time, off the charger is reported in battery settings.
That is a huge improvement over my XS Max, which generally runs for eight to nine hours, on a single charge. The smaller 11 Pro has been just as impressive. That’s the phone Becca used for her testing and it still had 50% of its battery left the morning after she shot her part of the review.
It turns out a slightly thicker phone with a bigger battery was the right move after all. Inside the new iPhone 11 Pro, there’s the new A13 bionic processor, which as usual benchmarks far above the competition.
There’s a lot of headroom here for things like AR, games and high end photo and video apps but its not like the A12 bionic in the iPhone XS is slow. Most of this extra power will useful towards the end of this phones life, not the beginning.
Face ID is a little bit faster and works at more angles but it’s not particularly dramatic, it just works a little bit better. I think this is the best kind of iterative update. It made a thing that was already pretty good a little bit better and anything that makes securing your phone a little bit better is great.
And most intriguingly, there’s a new chip inside the iPhone 11 its called the U1 which does precise positioning using an ultra wideband radio. Apple says the forthcoming iOS 13.1 update will allow you to just point the phone at another U1 device, to put it at the top of your airdrop list. But none of that works yet, so we’ll just see.
Obviously the iPhone 11 Pro runs iOS 13 and I have to tell you, iOS 13 is pretty buggy. I saw all kinds of glitches and crashes during my week of testing and iOS 13.1 is already in beta and scheduled for wide release by the end of this month. So it really seems like Apple just squeaked this thing out the door and is racing the fixed bugs. I asked Apple about some of these glitches and they told me they’re always fixing bugs and iPhone owners generally auto update.
But if you’re on the fence about upgrading, you might wanna wait until some of these bug fix updates actually ship. Assuming all the bugs get fixed, the biggest new feature in iOS 13 is dark mode which is very nice. But otherwise, this is a lot of tiny little updates. There’s a swiping keyboard now. Reminders is a much better app.
Apple maps keeps getting a tiny bit better every year. Siri’s voice is slightly smoother. It’s a lot of little things that add up into a big update but if you handed this phone someone using iOS 12, they might not even notice unless dark mode was on.
The iPhone 11 Pro starts at $999 with 64 gigs of storage, which doesn’t seem like quite enough for that price. And the 11 Pro max starts at $1099. You can spec the pro max all the way up to $1449 with 512 gigs of storage, which means that you can pay an awful lot of money for this phone if you want to.
If you’re in the iOS ecosystem and it’s time to upgrade, it’s a pretty tough choice this year. The standard iPhone 11 offers almost everything you get from the pro for $699. And I think most people should get the iPhone 11.
You’ll still get the improved main camera, the fun new ultra wide lens, the a 13 processor and iOS 13 and all the rest. And if you want a smaller phone, the iPhone 11 and Pro is a little bit smaller than the iPhone 11. Which seems a tiny bit unfair to people who want a smaller phone.
The entire lineup is still pretty big though. So if you’re hoping for something to replace that aging iPhone SE, you’re not gonna love any of these options. I’m very picky about displays and cameras, so I’m gonna get an iPhone 11 Pro.
Adding the improved battery life in the iPhone 11 Pro stands out is a major step forward from the XS and one of the best flagship phones of the year. Or it will be, when Apple fixes iOS 13. That was the discussion about the iPhone 11 Pro review. See you…….