This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
While last week’s Apple keynote in Cupertino, CA, didn’t exactly bring the smoke and mirrors of March’s event (wherein Oprah and Tim Cook hugged before a standing ovation and I may have shed a tear), there are three new additions to the iPhone family not to be slept on. And together with iOS 13, iPhone’s newest operating system coming out on Thursday, the new iPhones are pretty darn nice. I’ve been using the iPhone 11 and its more sophisticated cousins, the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, for the last week, and here are my honest thoughts thus far.
The iPhone 11 Basics
My coworker, upon looking at my iPhone 11 the other day, said: “That is a sexy phone, Anabel.” She was referring to its combination of purple hardware and Dark Mode screen (a feature of the forthcoming iOS 13). I have to agree with her. The iPhone 11’s color options are, in my opinion, even better than those of the iPhone XR, and I have gotten many on compliments on the lavender shade of my 11 so far. I use this clear case from Apple to protect it, since I wanted to display the color of the phone but was too afraid to fully go commando.
Apart from the new colors (green, yellow, black, white, and (PRODUCT)RED in addition to purple), the real star of the iPhone 11 is the much-improved camera system, which contains two rear cameras (in comparison to the XR’s single rear camera) — but more on that later. Aside from all the new photo opps, the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max are all made with the most durable glass yet, which means you can drop these bad boys and feel a little less nervous doing so. (I did this the other day with my iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro Max at the same time, narrowly missing the toilet, and braced myself after what were two very loud thuds only to find both screens unscathed.) They all also have the A13 Bionic chip, the fastest chip in a smartphone, Wi-fi 6, the fastest ever Wi-fi, and the new Super Retina XDR display. While the presence of these new features isn’t as easily felt as, say, the new selfie camera, I can honestly say that these phones have felt a lot faster than my XR.
As far as battery life, the iPhone 11 can last up to an hour longer than the iPhone XR. It’s also fitted with spatial audio, which makes watching TV on your phone a much more immersive experience than before, since the sound is literally 3D. (Though it’s a bit annoying while watching Instagram Stories when I don’t need such intense audio.)
iPhone 11 Pro & Pro Max
The iPhone Pro and Pro Max also come in cool colors, though they’re a bit more understated. I’ve been using the midnight green (there are also the silver, gold, and space gray that we’ve seen before). Its sleekness is largely due to the matte finish on the back, which both looks appealing and also makes the device less slippery. In fact, I might continue to let this one go naked. Apart from the cameras (and price tags), the only other differences between the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max and the iPhone 11 are that they are more water-resistant (up to four meters for up to 30 minutes) and have a longer battery life (the Pro lasts up to four hours more than iPhone XS, and the Pro Max lasts up to five hours longer than iPhone XS Max). And then, of course, the iPhone 11 Pro’s screen is 5.8 inches (smaller than the iPhone 11’s 6.1 inches), while the iPhone 11 Pro Max measures out at 6.5 inches.
All About The Cameras
But now for the real stars of this party. The iPhone 11 comes with two rear cameras — wide and ultra-wide, the latter of which captures four times more field of view than was previously possible. Toggling between the lenses made me audibly gasp a few times — especially when peripheral objects I didn’t even think the camera could perceive on the outskirts of the frame appeared in full form on the display when I used the ultra-wide lens. These lenses, of course, can be utilized in photo to great effect, but where they especially shine is in video (4K video up to 60 fps, to be exact). Technically, it’s the highest quality video ever made possible by a smartphone, which makes sense — it’s really freaking high quality when you see it up close. You can also switch between lenses while in video, or switch into video while taking a photo (a feature called QuickTake mode). The whole camera interface is a lot more seamless now. What the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max have that the iPhone 11 doesn’t, though, is a third rear camera with a telephoto lens that can capture 40 percent more light and really takes Portrait mode up a notch with more powerful zoom capability. (And speaking of Portrait mode, all three models support pet portrait photography, which, until this point on iPhone, was not a thing!)
Practically speaking, the best new feature here is Night mode, which pretty impressively brightens dark photos. It looks a whole lot like the Google Pixel’s Night Sight, only you don’t have to opt-in — it’s automatic in low-light settings. You can even use it as a flashlight. When you shine it at something dark, the screen will display it with more light than you can see with your own eye.
And, of course, there’s the improved selfie camera. It has a wider field of view than models before, so you can actually fit entire groups in the frame. Apple also seems especially proud of its new “Slofie” capability — a.k.a. the slo-mo selfie video just begging to be made into a viral video challenge on TikTok.
If you’re in the market for a new phone, this next-gen iPhone lineup is a great one. But if you have a model that already supports iOS 13 (basically, anything including and younger than an iPhone SE), it’s still kickin’, and you’re not a content creator or photographer who could majorly benefit from the improved camera system, there’s no need to rush out and buy a new one. (While the iPhone 11 Pro can’t compete with the capabilities of, say, a Sony a7 III, creators will definitely get a lot more use out of these new iPhone camera lenses than those of iPhone cameras past.) That said, as a non-content creator, to me, the coolest things about the new phone are the iOS 13 features (like in-text Memojis), which can be downloaded on most already-existing iPhone models and aren’t specific to this new hardware.
But if you do make photo or video content and don’t want to shell out thousands of dollars for a professional-grade camera, the 11 Pro and Pro Max, at $999 and $1,099, respectively, have cameras that are shockingly sophisticated. And even without the telephoto lens, the Phone 11 still has the ultra-wide and wide lenses. Plus, the latter model starts at $699, which is $100 less than last year’s iPhone XR launch price. Keep in mind, too, that trading in old devices can slash the cost of a new phone significantly (and it’s the environmentally sustainable thing to do).
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