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iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro Review – Maximum hype, and it rarely disappoints

I’m like you – I look at Apple’s announcements and I think “yeah, we’ve seen that before” – but you’ve got to hand it to them, they really believe that the way they do things is right, and that being first isn’t necessarily best.

This is not new. The iPod wasn’t the first digital music player, the iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone – however both completely changed the game.

Now hold up there, I’m certainly not saying what we have here with the iPhone 11 is a game changer. It’s not.  It’s what I regularly refer to in this industry as an evolution not a revolution.  But trust me, Samsung, Huawei and others will be looking at Apple’s devices and thinking – hmmm, should we be doing that?

How do the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro differ?

It’s a bloody good question frankly, and while the Pro tag and the Triple Lens camera on the two most expensive models makes for the most obvious differences there’s a bit more to it.

The iPhone 11 Pro is the smallest of the three with a 5.8 inch screen.   Next up the size chain is the iPhone 11 with a 6.1 inch screen, below the iPhone 11 Pro Max at 6.5 inches.

Both Pro models feature that stark looking triple lens camera setup on the back, all the iPhone 11 is missing is the 2x telephoto lens as all three models have the standard “Wide” lens and the new “Ultra Wide” lens.

There’s different colours across iPhone 11 vs the iPhone 11 Pro models, but under the hood there ain’t much more to it.

Oh, and the iPhone 11 is water resistant to 2 meters for 30 minutes, while the Pro models can hit the deeper end at 4 meters for 30 minutes.

Camera Hardware

They’re impressive looking lenses right?  They sure do stand out.

Each serves a purpose – the Ultra Wide has a ƒ/2.4 aperture and 120° field of view, the Wide features an ƒ/1.8 aperture while the Telephoto at ƒ/2.0 aperture is your two times zoom.

Wide and Ultra Wide are the same on iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro models.

Night Mode

It’s not what you’ve got it’s how you use it folks. And that’s what Apple are hanging their hats on.  

Night mode comes on automatically when you are shooting in a dark area.  It’s signified by a yellow night mode switch at the top of the camera app which also shows a timer based on the number of seconds night mode is required.

This is NOT a shutter time.  An open shutter on a traditional camera lets in everything it sees and uses it as part of the photo.  Apple’s night mode is immensely smarter and aimed at real life use cases.  

Basically, this works well hand-held.  If the iPhone detects it is on a tripod (because there is no movement registering on the sensors), it will take an even longer shot, but handheld you’re probably looking at a 3-4 second photo.

What the iPhone does in that 3-4 seconds (which are shown counting down on screen after you hit the shutter button) is take a range of photos, some quick some longer exposure or video, and it uses super smart software to combine it all, pick the most important information and show you a low light photo like you’ve probably not seen before.

Check this out – this is my messy office – it’s Dark because the light is off.

That was shot on the iPhone XS.

Now look at the room:

No additional light was turned on, that was shot at the exact same moment, on the iPhone 11.

WOW.  Really impressive.  Now with that said, the Huawei P30 Pro’s low light performance is equally impressive, so this really will be a battle for the title – something I won’t be deciding here – we’ll wait to see what DXOMark think of the iPhone 11 overall.

Camera Software

In addition to night mode, the camera app has had a dramatic overhaul.  Firstly, because of the additional lenses, the iPhone will now tease you with details that you aren’t about to capture.

Imagine you’re pointing your phone at a group of people – but they can’t all fit in – “squeeze in” you yell.  And you can’t walk backwards there’s a wall there perhaps.

Now, with the ultra-wide lens, you will get a preview of what’s possible if you switch.  It’s like the Ultra-Wide is using the standard wide shot’s time to promote itself.

Take this for example – I can’t see the whole map – but you’ll see slightly greyed out some more detail which will be available to me if I switch to the ultra-wide.  Smart stuff.

When you’re in the camera app, on a standard photo shoot – you can now press and hold the shutter button to take a video – very similar to how it’s done on Instragram Stories.

If you need a burst shot, simply press the shutter and slide to the right.  If you want to keep recording but remove your finger, slide to the right to lock in record mode.

The Best Video on a Smartphone?

Massive claim from Apple – and I can forsee some challenges to this claim.

Apple put this down to a combination of factors – quality, capability, stabilisation.

My testing showed the stabilisation to be excellent for a smartphone – it’s no GoPro for sure, but in walking shots the steps are basically removed.

Quality is outstanding too – All four cameras on the Pro (Front and rear) are capable of 4K at 60fps.

However, if you shoot a video and use the full range of zoom as part of the video there’s one issue I kept finding.  Switching through the zoom range, each time you reach a new lens there’s a flick in the video because the lenses don’t exactly overlap.  I would have liked to be able to film a video using the full range of zoom, but if you start at 2x and come back o 0.5x you’ll get two flickers in the video as the camera moves to the 1x and 0.5x lenses.

Not ideal, and I’m not sure it’s an easy software fix.  The alignment of the lenses will never be perfect while they are separate lenses.

That aside, the video really does stand out as a feature.  Shoot a wonky video? Now in the standard Photos app “Edit” button, you can rotate video.  Game changer.

Slow Motion Selfies? Slofies?

Leave me out of this, I do not want to see the word Slofie appear in the Macquarie Dictionary. But, it’s there if you want it.

Switch to the front facing camera, slide across to Slow Motion and you’ve got Slow motion capabilities for your selfie – I really don’t see the need, but some instagram influencers will no doubt show us how it’s done.

The real feature of the front-facing camera that’s worth nothing is the wide angle.  It’s not quite an ultra-wide, but the additional side room on the shot will keep your mates in shot if you’re taking a group selfie.  Plus the software is smart enough that if you flip the phone sideways it automatically switches to the wider view.

FaceID

It doesn’t quite work while the phone is on the desk next to you, but it does work on more acute angles than before.  For the people who bemoan the lack of a fingerprint reader (and I’m one of them, Apple Pay works SO much better on an iPhone with a home button) – FaceID is class leading as a face unlock, and it’s now 30% faster.


I’d still prefer the Apple logo on the back to be a fingerprint sensor, but – beggars can’t be choosers.

And no – there’s no in-screen fingerprint reader either.  Technology that has now existed so long it’s on  some of the cheapest smartphones going round, but Apple – in my view – would look at that and say simply – “It’s not that good”. And they’re right.  It’s not fast, it’s not easy, it’s not consistent, so it’s not for them.

Power

That A13 Bionic chip inside all three iPhones is – by Apple’s measure – the “fastest chip in a smartphone”, with the “fastest CPU and fastest GPU”.

While Apple will talk about Machine Learning and Neural Engines, let’s just talk about raw power.

Geekbench scores, 1112 single core for last year’s iPhone XS, and the iPhone 11 Pro hits 1331. Multi Core that jumps from 2880 up to 3547.

All of this might chew through battery life, but in fact it’s more efficient, which leads to additional hours of battery life in your day.  

My experience has been excellent each day.  While it’s only been just under a week, this is the best battery life I’ve had in an iPhone.

Colours

The iPhone XR last year was the first colourful iPhone since the iPhone 5c.  This year, the iPhone 11 is the colourful one.  Instead of being some sort of “lower end” looking model, the iPhone 11 is a genuinely great flagship phone.

It comes in six colours, Green, Yellow, Purple, Black, White and Red.

The iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max come in four colours, Space Grey, Silver (White), Gold and a new Midnight Green.

Midnight Green is the pick of that bunch given it’s new and will stand out, plus it’s not a bright crazy colour.  That’s the hero for sure.

eSIM

Like the iPhone XR Apple has included both a Nano SIM tray and an eSim on the iPhone 11 models. As of this week, all three of our major telcos are offing eSIM support on the iPhone. 

DualSIM is very new to iPhone, and it’s primarily for travellers, but for those who are forced to, or choose to carry two phones – one for work one for personal – it’s a huge advantage and uptake should grow over the next twelve months.

iOS 13

It’s a radical change in many ways, but in others it’s business as usual.

There are features launching with iPhone 11 that haven’t even been in the Beta versions to date. 

Dark Mode is the key feature – though in reality you will probably see many more features in day two day use.

The reminders app is a much better design, which should encourage you to get on top of things faster.

In CarPlay there’s a light and dark mode, plus Do Not Disturb While Driving can be activated with CarPlay running.

So much more, but best we cover that separately I think!

Should I buy it?

Well isn’t that the million dollar question.  Well, not really near a million – but for many people the question is should I upgrade.

On the streets today I spoke with loads of people about the iPhone 11, it was surprising how many people are still using an iPhone 6.  Those people and the early adopters who can’t resist are in the crosshairs for Apple.

I can’t imagine needing the iPhone 11 if you have an iPhone X or newer.

Users of the iPhone 8 won’t be blown away by power, but anyone using an iPhone with a single camera will enjoy the upgrade and get a big boost out of all the new features.

This is easily the best iPhone yet – but that would not surprise anyone.

Comparisons to Samsung and Huawei are important to ensure we can keep check on who’s innovating where and which device features compare. 

However, I can’t see many Android users looking to the new iPhone with great desire.  I also don’t think that’s Apple’s goal.

The iPhone 11 will be appeal to any iPhone user, and while owners of an iPhone X or XS won’t be rushing to the iPhone 11 – the features of the most basic iPhone 11 will blow any older iPhone away.

At $1199 the iPhone 11 is the standout of the three, available in six colours it looks good, the camera is fantastic and it’s powerful enough to do everything you need today and for years to come.

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iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro Review – Maximum hype, and it rarely disappoints
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