Home > Personal Technology > Apple > iPhone 11 Review: Pro Power, Modest Price

iPhone 11

8.7

Build

8.3/10

Performance

9.3/10

Photography

9.0/10

Features

8.4/10

Value

8.6/10

Pros

  • Top-notch performance
  • Ultra-wide camera

Cons

  • No out-of-box fast charging

Let’s get it out of the way. The iPhone 11 is the most attractive phone in the iPhone 11 lineup. It offers all the power of the Pro models, most of the utility of the camera array, and one of the best-looking LCD displays in the market right now.

The iPhone 11 in Black, with the iPhone 11 Pro Max in Space Grey behind. Image: Ian Ling

1. Pro Power

The iPhone XR from last year had 3GB of RAM, one full GB under the more expensive iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max. This year’s iPhone 11 sports the same 4GB as the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max.

As the nomenclature reflects, the iPhone XR’s successor the iPhone 11 in this aspect takes the place of the mainstream iPhone X and Xs phones, while the iPhone 11 Pro dials the top tier features to 11.

The iPhone 11.

Compared on Geekbench 5, the iPhone 11 dished out a commendable performance with a multi-core score of 3304. The iPhone 11 Pro Max performed a hair better with a score of 3455. Both devices are powered by Apple’s latest A13 Bionic chip and are running iOS 13.

For comparison, the previous generation iPhone XR scored 2545 and the iPhone Xs Max scored 2618. Even the latest flagship Android phones struggle to catch up with last year’s iPhone models, let alone the iPhone 11 phones with the A13 Bionic chip.

Single-core ScoreMulti-core Score
iPhone 1113233304
iPhone 11 Pro Max13273455
iPhone XR11072545
iPhone Xs Max11082616
Galaxy Note10+7282481
OnePlus 7 Pro7212640

2. Pro Photography (Mostly)

Despite having only two camera lenses to the iPhone 11 Pro’s three, the iPhone 11 retains the most useful of the trio.

Having an ultra-wide option means having the opportunity for creative compositions anywhere. Image: Ian Ling

The 2x zoom on the Pro delivers a 52mm equivalent focal length, which is can be useful in certain situations, but if you really require a longer focal length for tighter framing, you can always crop in. However, being able to capture an ultra-wide angle of view requires dedicated hardware, and the addition of the second lens to the iPhone 11 cannot be understated.

That’s an important reason why I’d recommend the iPhone 11 over the iPhone XR and Xs phones in 2019, even if you are able to obtain the latter at a discount. That’s, of course, unless you’re the furthest thing from a photographer – but trust me, you’re going to regret that decision the next time you’re confronted with a breathtaking sunset on holiday.

The ultra-wide-angle camera on the iPhone 11 retains sharpness and colour as with its more standard 26mm equivalent main lens. Image: Ian Ling

While it might lack the telephoto chops of the pro model, the dual camera set-up is sufficient to deliver stereoscopic depth sensing to the iPhone 11. That means that non-human subjects like pets will finally work in Portrait Mode, where the previous software-based edge detection on the iPhone XR required a human face to work.

Several of the pro features have also come to the iPhone 11.

Night mode strongly challenges its Huawei and Google competition, delivering sharp, bright images in low light while offering the option to (kind of) choose the exposure time.

The camera interface on the iPhone 11 phones, displaying the controls for Dark Mode. Image: Ian Ling

An upcoming “Deep Fusion” mode will stitch and blend nine exposures taken during and before the shutter is pressed to deliver ultra-detailed images, so any comparison done now won’t be representative.

The camera user interface is also markedly improved from before, and is well ahead of the smartphone field in terms of ergonomics, aesthetics and usability. Controls for Live Photo, the flash and timer which previously resided at the top of the phone now come to the skeuomorphic horizontal “barrel” slider, accessible by simply swiping up.

Apple’s Phil Schiller showcases the Deep Fusion feature that delivers sharper images with computational photography – arriving this Fall. No wonder people are calling it “sweater mode”. Image: Apple

Quick Video also now enables users to capture a quick 1080p video by holding on to the camera shutter, sliding right to lock the recording for lengthier clips, or engaging the burst photo function by swiping left.

As a photographer, firing up the camera and accessing the right functions quickly matters equally if not more than the resolution, sharpness and quality of the images. After all, how would you judge a camera if you’re constantly missing the decisive moment?

The iPhone 11’s additional ultra-wide lens is completely worth the upgrade, especially with Apple’s trade-in offers.

3. The Display

On paper, the Liquid Retina seems inferior to that of the iPhone 11 Pro phones and indeed – much of the competition.

But in real life, Apple’s claim that their Liquid Retina displays are the most advanced on a smartphone isn’t the most audacious. Put next to the Pro models in most situations, and most (including myself) will struggle to differentiate the displays.

That’s because even though the 6.1-inch Liquid Retina display sports a lower 325ppi pixel density as compared to the 458ppi on the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, the often-decried 1792×828 resolution on the iPhone 11 (and iPhone XR) is more than sufficient to deliver sharp, clear imagery.

Couple that with Haptic Touch, Tap-to-Wake, True Tone and 120Hz touch sensing support, the Liquid Retina display really isn’t all that much different from the iPhone 11 Pro devices. Videos on the OLED-equipped Pro phones do look a touch better in direct sunlight, the display goes a notch brighter, and have higher contrast, but that’s about it.

4. Battery Performance

While the headline-grabbing improvement from last year’s iPhones was the 5-hour boost to the iPhone 11 Pro Max, the iPhone 11 isn’t shoddy at all.

The iPhone 11 delivered more than 10 hours of video streaming, and lasted sufficiently for a day. A downside to opting for the non-Pro model is the lack of included fast-charging apparatus that now comes as standard with the iPhone 11 Pro phones.

The iPhone 11 (L) and the iPhone 11 Pro Max (R). Image: Ian Ling

Those make a big difference, and I would encourage iPhone 11 buyers to spend the S$80 (US$50) in savings over the previous-generation iPhone XR to purchase a higher-wattage charger from Apple or a third party.

A teardown showed that the Pro devices had gotten beefier batteries fitted into thicker and heavier phones, which also benefitted from the axing of 3D Touch.

5. The Build

While the iPhone 11 Pro, like the iPhone X and Xs phones, steal the show with their premium glass-and-stainless-steel builds, the iPhone 11 goes the same way as the iPhone XR with a colour-matched anodised aluminium band around its circumference.

In fact, it’s almost exactly the same weight and dimensions as its predecessor apart from the obvious changes on the rear with regard to the camera set-up and the Apple branding. The iPhone 11 will also offer a more pastel Purple and Green in place of the bold Blue and Coral of the XR last year.

Apple CEO Tim Cook presents the range of iPhone 11 colours. Image: Apple

Its more colourful design makes for a more fun and hip design, where the Pro phones scream elegance and polish. If looking serious is a concern for you, any opaque case will be sufficient.

All iPhone 11 devices are rated at IP68, which is the full score, but Apple advertises 30 minutes of resistance against submersion in water of up to 2 metres, up from the 1 metre of the iPhone XR.

Everything you’re missing (spoiler: it’s not much)

Apart from a slightly lower battery life rated at 10 hours to the 11 and 12 hours of the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max respectively, the iPhone 11 does lack a few features of its more expensive sibling.

The rear of the iPhone 11 in Black.
  • No 52mm-equivalent telephoto lens.
  • The LCD display is older tech than the OLED display on the Pro phones, but isn’t a huge tradeoff as discussed above.
  • The rails are made from aluminium, unlike the luxurious stainless steel on the Pro devices. That’s no big deal – most flagship smartphones also run aluminium rails for their cost-effective rigidity and durability
  • The IP rating might be the same, but the iPhone 11 is rated for two metres less than the Pro phones.
  • Tops out at 256GB instead of 512GB of internal storage.

The iPhone 11 starts at SGD 1,149 for the 64GB model, with the 128GB and 256GB models costing SGD 1,219 and SGD 1,389 respectively.

It is available in White, Black, Yellow, (PRODUCT) RED, and new Green and Yellow.

Ian Ling
http://uncommontragedy.com
Ian is the resident Tech Monkey and Head of Content at VR Zone. His training in Economics and Political Science is at the basis of his love for journalism and storytelling. A photographer by passion, and an audiophile by obsession, Ian is captivated by all forms of tech that makes enthusiasts tick.

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