Apple’s new iPhone 11 ($699), iPhone 11 Pro ($999), and iPhone 11 Pro Max ($1,099) go on sale Friday, and right on schedule, the first round of reviews are in. As expected, people are loving them—so much so that some current-gen iPhone owners might want to consider upgrading.
In fact, Nilay Patel from The Verge wrote exactly that: “I think the iPhone 11 cameras are so good that they’re worth a year-over-year upgrade from the XR; I don’t usually say that.”
That’s surprising, since the iPhone 11 doesn’t seem like a massive upgrade on paper. Yes they all have an extra camera, better battery life, and a faster A13 Bionic processor, but those three upgrades add up to a big leap, based on the first round of reviews:
“All three cameras can take 4K60 video now, and if you record in anything less than 60 frames per second, you can switch between the wide and ultra-wide lenses with no color shifts or exposure changes, which is impressive. The only Android phones that compete with Apple in video are from Samsung. But Apple’s still ahead, and the gap is getting wider.”
“And that brings me to iOS 13 in general, which… is pretty buggy on all my iPhone review units so far. … I’ve seen some weird glitches and app crashes during my testing, and I’ve had to restart a couple of times to get things back on track. Apple told me some of these things will get cleaned up in iOS 13.1”
“The iPhone 11 is going to sell really well. And it should because it’s great. It has the best new lens, an ultra wide that takes great family photos and landscape shots. It has nearly every software feature of iPhone 11 Pro.”
“Unfortunately, the iPhone 11 (non pro) still comes with a 5W charger. This stinks. I’d love to see the 18W become standard across the line.”
“The results are startling, elevating Apple to the level of Huawei, Samsung and Google when it comes to taking low-light and night photos – and in some ways enabling it to surpass its rivals. Night mode can make photos shot at 1am look as if they were taken in late afternoon, and if you can get your subjects to remain still, you’ll take great snaps.”
“(The square camera bump) takes some getting used to, almost to the point of it being too obtrusive visually, with your fingers playing across it far more when you’re holding the iPhone in landscape, but it actually isn’t as obtrusive as the bump on 2018’s iPhone, thanks to being ‘layered’ up from the back – the glass housing around the lenses is raised a small amount from the rear glass, and the sensors themselves a little more.
“The speakers have gotten significantly better with iPhone 11. They’re not just stereo now. If your media offers 5.1 surround, Apple will project spatial audio using their own, custom virtualizer. It even supports Dolby Atmos, which means when you’re watching a movie, it doesn’t sound like the audio is coming from just one side or the other. It sounds like its coming from a stage projecting right out of the iPhone. Kinda spooky, but all tones of cool at the same time.”
“Again, the standard iPhone 11 is terrific. Like I said, what differences there are may not mean much to most people and that’s fine. That’s even the point. It’s the $699 iPhone for everyone.”
“In some cases, the photos I took on the iPhone 11 Pro Max were clearly sharper, brighter, and even more (you hate to say it) professional-looking than the iPhone 11 photos of the same scenes or subjects. The iPhone 11 Pro Max captured the best Portrait Mode photo of my colleague Lydia, showing accurate colors, picking up on details like wisps of hair and freckles, and handling highlights and sunlight well.”
“The iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max have stainless steel frames, while the cheaper iPhone 11 is made of aluminum. All three new iPhones this year are thicker and heavier than their predecessors (iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR). The iPhone 11 Pro Max, in particular, is a chonk of a phone, to use the internet’s current parlance for fat cats.”
“The Pros take the lead when it comes to augmented-reality apps, too, like Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs. Not only were the Pros slightly faster at recognizing flat surfaces in front of me, they also let me walk around and change my view of the virtual much more smoothly than on the XS. The game ran fine on both, but the Pro’s extra power made the elements on-screen feel a bit more like they were real-world objects, not just assets rendered on a display.”
“I will say, though, I have dropped the Pro and Pro Max a few times onto our hard office floor out of sheer clumsiness, and neither has cracked. That’s not to say they’re pristine: As durable as Apple claims this glass is, the screens covered in it have picked up a few nicks from being slid into schmutz-filled pockets and tossed into backpacks.”
“Meanwhile, the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro captured the most true-to-life image with accurate colors, exposed the candles the best, and maintained sharpness across the image. They didn’t produce the crispest photos, but overall, the consistency of the image quality wins.”
“I’m less bothered by these prices — monthly installment plans help split up the cost — and more by the fact the base storage is still 64GB. A $1,000+ “pro” iPhone shouldn’t have the same amount of base storage as a $700 iPhone 11.”
“Now, while I haven’t done any formal battery benchmarking, I did informally monitor the battery indicator in the upper right corner of the display on both the 11 and the 11 Max Pro that I tested, and I wasn’t lacking for juice or end up desperately searching for an outlet all day and well into the evening, even after watching a full-length Hollywood movie on a cross-country flight.”
“You really didn’t expect Apple to bring back the standard-sized headphone jack it removed in favor of its own Lightning connector a couple of years ago, did you? Neither did I. But on the plane, I was reminded again of the hassle of having to use an adapter to plug in a pair of corded Bose headphones I had with me (and not able to charge the phone at the same time). And Apple no longer even includes that $9 adapter in the box.”
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Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.