iPhone 11 Pro: Apple’s New Top Phone

During today’s Apple media event in Silicon Valley, the company has announced the iPhone 11 ($699+) and the iPhone 11 Pro ($999+), which also features its most powerful camera system to date.

The iPhone 11 Pro comes with 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch displays, the latter is called the iPhone 11 Pro Max ($1099+). Apple has slightly pulled back the launch prices since last year, as the launch of the iPhone Xs showed that a higher price was no longer sustainable.

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Triple Camera

The iPhone 11 Pro camera system is clearly the most anticipated update, and it is somewhat catching up with the competition, with a triple-lens rear camera and a hefty list of image processing features.

However, the general specifications were somewhat disappointing, with relatively small apertures, which require a Night Mode (long exposure) to deal with dark scenes.

The addition of an Ultrawide camera is a very welcome addition that opens a world of possibilities to iOS users. Years after LG introduced ultrawide photography to the mobile industry, Ultrawide has truly become ubiquitous at the high end.

The zoom capabilities have not changed much, with the same 52mm but we’ll have to take a closer look at the whole camera module. Apple correctly calls its zoom “4X”  because it goes from 13mm (ultrawide) to 52mm (zoom) but don’t be confused: the maximum optical zoom is still 52mm, like on last year’s model.

We’ll have a more in-depth iPhone 11 Pro camera hardware analysis, and a complete Uber-G Camera IQ Benchmark when the unit arrives. For now, you can read our iPhone Xs camera review and see how it ranks amongst the best camera phones.

Design

On the surface, the overall shape and look of the iPhone 11 Pro aren’t very different, especially from the front of the phone which retains the same large notch at the top. However, Apple is using a new rear glass which seems much thicker and perhaps less prone to breakage, and that would be great because the Apple glass replacements/repairs are the most expensive in the industry.

The metal frame around the phone is made of stainless steel, which is proven to be more durable and more resistant to scratches than aluminum. However, it is also significantly heavier, especially for the iPhone 11 Pro Max. That said, we expect the overall feel to remain similar to iPhone Xs and Xs Max.

The updated industrial design looks good, even though the camera module is visually a bit off-balance when compared to competitors like Huawei, Samsung, or even Motorola. But, it’s probably not that big of a deal since iPhone users can’t really be swayed by this.

Display:  Super Retina XDR

Apple’s high-end handset displays have always been excellent, and this is no exception. With 2436×1125 and 2688×1242 resolutions, they aren’t the sharpest displays available (458PPI versus ~550PPI for some competitors), but the color quality and brightness is right up there with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.

Higher sharpness is not absolutely required, except for VR applications where you could really “see” the difference.

In fact, chances are that Samsung is the supplier of the OLED panel because we haven’t seen anyone else is building a 1200 NITs OLED panel for phones. Apple retains its unique haptic feedback system (it simulates a click feel with vibrations) and boasts having excellent spatial audio using both a proprietary algorithm and Dolby’s Atmos sound rendering engine.

The display is HDR 10, and Dolby Vision certified, so if you find compatible content, the visuals will be top-notch.

A13 Bionic Processor

Because Apple builds processors (SoC) only for itself, it can optimize efficiency more than silicon vendors that have to please a large number of customers with different needs and wants. That is totally true.

Apple’s A13 Bionic should keep Apple in the lead when it comes to synthetic CPU performance. The previous generation didn’t always win the graphics benchmarks, but we expect excellent performance and Apple should be very competitive with gaming.

Apple builds its processor using a modern 7nanometer semiconductor process and has 8.5B transistors, which puts it the same category as Huawei’s new Kirin 990 processor. We will see how Qualcomm’s upcoming Snapdragon 8xx will compare later this year.

Apple explained some of the power optimizations it has done, such as having hundreds of voltage domains. These are very valid ways to optimize for power, and most chip makers use similar techniques. The extent to which Apple does it is hard to compare because of the lack of factual comparative data.

Finally, a great deal of communications is being done on the NPU (AI processor or Neural processor), but again, without comparative benchmarks, it’s not clear where Apple is on the map. It will be interesting to dig further into it, but the impact of higher performance AI isn’t as easy to perceive as faster graphics.

Battery

Apple says that all new iPhones will get longer battery life, but hasn’t communicated on the actual battery capacity during the keynote, so power-efficiency might be at the root of the extended endurance.

The most concrete battery-related improvement is that Apple will join the rest of the industry and ship a “fast charger” in the box. We criticized that decision in our iPhone Xs Review and are glad to see Apple shipping with a faster charger in o the box.

iPhone Xs didn’t have one and was the slowest-charging high-end phone we tested. It was 5X slower to charge than the Huawei P30 Pro and 2.5X slower than Samsung Galaxy S phones. With an 18W charger definitely won’t beat Huawei (40W) but may almost catch up to Samsung.

Conclusion

Apple’s new offering is a decent refresh which may entice iPhone users with 3-4 years old iPhones to finally upgrade, although the iPhone 11 (non-Pro) is definitely a better deal and offers much higher value for your money.

If Money is not a concern, and coming from an iPhone Xs the Ultrawide camera is likely to be the most significant upgrade in everyday life since the zoom will probably perform similarly. Apple has tried to frame the extra battery life as a possible incentive, and if we’re talking about 4-5 hours, it is possible.

But when it comes to battery life, only real-world tests can provide an answer, so stay tuned for the independent reviews.

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