The reviews for Apple's new iPhones are here, which has sparked the annual question among iPhone owners: should I plunk down $1000 for a new phone? This year, buyers will be choosing between the iPhone 11 (starting at $700) and the iPhone 11 Pro (starting at $1000). Is it worth springing for the three cameras and the Super Retina XDR display on the 11 Pro? Or will the cheaper 11 get the job done? Here's what the early reviews say:
If you care about cameras, The Verge says that both the 11 and the 11 Pro are big steps forward, with the 11 making "older phones like the iPhone X and iPhone 7 look downright bad." But it's the 11 Pro that will really take you to the cutting edge:
It appears Apple took all of those criticisms to heart because the iPhone 11 Pro cameras are an enormous improvement over the XS, and they beat the Pixel and Samsung's Galaxy Note 10 Plus in most of our side-by-side comparisons. In fact, I think the iPhone 11 Pro is the best smartphone camera on the market right now.
The A13 Bionic chip is fast, sure, but you're not going to notice a big difference coming from the recent generation of iPhones:
The A13 processor and RAM are the same on all the new iPhone models (4GB RAM, and a seemingly equally fast processor by benchmarks). It's a bit faster in single tasking, and a bigger leap in multitasking. Graphics performance, in theory, looks great, coming closer to last year's iPad Pro.
Like the iPhone 11 Pro, the iPhone 11 also has Apple's new A13 Bionic processor, which is both more powerful and efficient than the A12 Bionic in the iPhone XR. It's plenty fast. Although the A12 Bionic was plenty fast, too, and I couldn't tell you I noticed some huge performance difference between the 11 and the XR.
If you're coming from the OLED-bearing iPhone XS, you probably won't notice much of a difference with the new Super Retina XDR display:
You'd expect displays with such grandiose names to pack some noticeable improvements, but, you'd be wrong. The screens Apple used here are beautiful — I just wouldn't say they're noticeably better than the ones we already had. Compared to the XS and XS Max, the Pros have an ever-so-slightly warmer tone out of the box. This arguably becomes less of an issue when you're using True Tone, a feature that dynamically changes your screen's temperature depending on the level of ambient light around you. Still, when doing direct photo comparisons between the XS and the Pro, I often found myself preferring the way the older screens reproduced colors.
And while the 11 Pro's display is definitely better than the 11's LCD, it's not a massive difference:
LCD displays are typically not as vibrant or impressive as OLED panels and that's true of the iPhone 11 too – the iPhone 11 Pro is crisper, its colours are punchier and its blacks are blacker – but you wouldn't necessarily notice this difference unless you were viewing the two models directly next to each other.
Apple promised big things for the iPhone 11 Pro Max's battery life, and based on early looks, it appears to have delivered:
My battery tests over several days at the parks point to Apple's claims about improvements over the iPhone XS being nearly dead on. Apple claims that the iPhone 11 Pro lasts 4 hours longer then the iPhone XS. The iPhone XS came in at roughly 9.5 hours in tests last year and the iPhone 11 Pro came in nearly bang on at 12 hours — in extremely challenging conditions.
But you won't exactly be hurting with the regular iPhone 11:
The iPhone 11's battery life is very good, partly because its LCD screen sips less power, partly because of the more efficient A13 Bionic chip, and partly because the battery in it is bigger than the battery in last year's iPhone XR or XS (though it is not bigger than the battery in the iPhone Max models). Last Friday, I unplugged the iPhone 11 at midday when it was fully charged. I am a heavy phone user; I get a lot of notifications, I stream media, I use maps, and I frequently crank up the display's brightness. By bedtime that night, I still had 56 percent battery life. At 10 am Saturday, I set out to run errands with the phone's battery at 46 percent and hit the 20 percent "low battery" mark while I was getting ready for dinner that evening.
Taking Photos Of Your Dog
BuzzFeed's John Paczkowski went right for the heart of the matter, and put the iPhone 11 Pro through its paces in the most common use case: taking portrait mode photos of your dog:
Portrait Mode in the iPhone 11 Pro seems to be better, though, and like Fergus, I'm not quite sure why. What I do know is that I am not deleting as many Portrait Mode fails.
So, Which To Buy?
So if you're in the iOS ecosystem and you're thinking about upgrading, I think the easy choice is the iPhone 11. It offers almost everything you get from the Pro for $300 less: you'll still get the improved main camera, the fun new ultra-wide lens, the A13 processor, iOS 13, and so on.
The extra money for the Pro basically buys you a far superior display, a telephoto camera, and improved LTE performance.
The extended battery life on the iPhone 11 Pro Max is still not enough to convince me to buy a chonky phone. If I had to choose between all three new iPhones, and budget was not a factor, I would buy the iPhone 11 Pro. The smaller size is right for me, and its camera is a step above the two-lens camera module on the iPhone 11.
Come on – some of you are reading this out of fantasy. You're just wondering how good this handset can be while you're contemplating a new iPhone, and for you, the iPhone 11 will bring a lot of joy… you know you don't really need that bump in power or extra lens.