Apple released the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max on the morning of September 10, 2019. I began testing all three phones a few hours later. Although I really like the entry-level model, the iPhone 11 – you can read my in-depth review of it here – I quickly realized that every detail about the Pro and Pro Max models turned out to be that bit better.
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max and iPhone 11 Pro
Read on for my in-depth review and the best place to buy the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 1 Pro Max right now. I’ll be updating these deals every day or so, so please check back.
Sometimes with a phone, it’s easy to be bowled over in the early days and find yourself disappointed as time goes on. Well, that’s true of more in life than just phones, of course. So, this review is about having used the iPhone 11 Pro long-term, to test if it really can keep its appeal as it gets that little bit older.
Whether you’ve been using the iPhone 11 Pro yourself for a while and want to see how my experience measures up, or are considering buying one yourself, read on for how the Pro feels four months and more down the line.
By the way, if you are thinking of buying an iPhone 11 of any variety, this post includes a round-up of the latest deals. It’s updated frequently, so please check back for the newest offers. Or bookmark my Forbes page.
I’ve been using both the Pro and Pro Max phones equally and almost everything is identical between the two, from the processor that powers each to the cameras, display resolution and more. Almost everything here applies to both models, even if it only says iPhone 11 Pro in the text. If it doesn’t apply equally, I’ll say so, but as a rule of thumb the differences between them are just the display size, battery size and, oh yes, the price tag.
Apple iPhone 11 Pro in gold finish
There’s an unwritten rule about the structure of many reviews: start with design, then discuss the display, unlock system, cameras and other features, almost always in that order. Then, finish off with words about performance and battery life.
But I’m starting with battery life, because it’s one of the real standouts of the 2019 iPhones. What’s more, I believe it’s a game-changing upgrade which matters to, you know, real people. And it matters more than megapixel numbers or even some of the newest features.
Of course, the phones have a lot more going for them in lots of ways than the previous models but, four months down the line I still can’t get over how epic the battery on the iPhone 11 Pro and, even more so, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is.
Unlike my experience with almost all previous phones from many manufacturers, here I have never had to charge the iPhone 11 Pro during the day. I have always had battery to spare, even on days when I’ve been flying internationally westward, when the day inevitably ends up being much longer.
If I’ve knocked the iPhone off its wireless charging pad during the night, so it starts the day at, say 65% capacity, I still haven’t been worried.
It’s hard to express just what a difference it makes, this complete faith that the iPhone will last all day with not a scintilla of worry.
Well, you’ve got the point: the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max all have such great battery life you won’t bother carrying a portable charger with you any more.
Where to buy the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max right now.
The prices aren’t the cheapest at Apple but you’re ensured of an unbeatably good experience, especially inshore which includes phone set-up.
Apple iPhone 11 Pro, 64GB: $999, buy here.
It’s also available with 256GB storage, $1,149 or 512GB, $1,349, from the same link once you’ve chosen your color.
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max, 64GB: $999, buy here.
It’s also available with 256GB storage, $1,249 or 512GB, $1,449, from the same link once you’ve chosen your color.
Fancy something cheaper?
Apple iPhone 11, 64GB: $699, buy here.
It’s also available with 128GB storage, $1749 or 256GB, $849, from the same link once you’ve chosen your color.
If you’re thinking of buying two iPhones, Verizon is one of several stores offering a hefty discount. It says: “Buy one, save $700 on a second with Unlimited. One new line required.” Find the deal here for the iPhone 11 Pro.
The same terms are available for the iPhone 11 Pro Max, here.
iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max
Okay, so I’m getting a little more traditional with my review structure now. The design of the iPhone 11 Pro is tremendous. It’s a real head-turner. From the front, it looks just like the previous iPhone XS and XS Max models: richly detailed OLED display covering the entire front, save for the True Depth Sensor at the top (some call this the notch). Same black frame around the display, narrow and even all round. It’s black, even if you choose the silver or gold versions of the iPhone 11 Pro which on earlier models would have sported a white frame. Which means the notch doesn’t stand out, of course, when the display is off.
The stainless-steel frame is also like the previous iPhone XS, but not like the iPhone 11 which has an aluminum edge. According to the color of iPhone you choose, the stainless steel is matched to it. So, on the silver version, the stainless steel is not colored at all. On the gold, space gray and midnight green iPhone 11 Pro, the frame is tinted perfectly to complement as appropriate. It’s a neat detail that looks great.
Turn the phone over and the back is what sets the iPhone 11 Pro apart, from previous iPhones and the iPhone 11. For a start, it’s a matte-finish glass that looks and feels just great. Even after four months, the feel of the phone is unlike other handsets: smooth but not glossily smooth and deeply classy. Not overly slippy, either.
There’s one part of the back which is glossy, in fact: the area where the three cameras sit. It’s a slightly raised square (with curved edges, of course, this being Apple). It’s color-matched to the back of the phone, but with a gloss finish. This is the stylistic reverse of the iPhone 11 which has a gloss back save for a camera square which is matte.
Because the square itself is color-matched to the rest of the phone the overall impression is not of the square but of the three lenses which protrude from it.
Leaked versions and renders ahead of the launch almost all got the look of the back of the phone wrong. They thought the camera square would be bulkier with lenses flush to a deeper bump and colored black. The final result was much, much better. On darker finishes like midnight green and space gray, the cameras are barely noticeable. On the gold and silver models they really stand out. Certainly, in the weeks after launch, it was when I was testing the gold iPhone 11 Pro that people recognized as the new iPhone while the midnight green iPhone 11 Pro Max drew much less attention.
The iPhone 11 Pro Max and iPhone 11 Pro displays
The OLED display on the iPhone 11 Pro looks tremendous. It is pin-sharp, with a resolution of 458 pixels per inch (ppi), much more than the 326ppi on the less expensive iPhone 11. The brightness levels are the highest yet on an iPhone, 800 nits for reading outdoors easily and up to 1200 nits for viewing HDR content. Both of which are brighter than on last year’s models.
Statistics apart, what makes this display really sing is the fidelity, offering astonishing colour accuracy so what you see on the display is recognisable as what you see in the real world. It is compatible with HDR10 and Dolby Vision.
The screen has amazing contrast levels – Apple says it’s 2 million to 1. Whatever the figures, the result is what matters and this display looks pretty great. Video playback is butter-smooth, strikingly bright – and those contrast levels look amazing.
The triple camera on the iPhone 11 Pro Max
The cameras on the iPhone 11 Pro are a real selling point for this phone. In recent years, iPhone cameras have continued to be great, but other phones, most noticeably the Huawei P30 Pro, overtook Apple for photographic virtuosity.
Expectations this time around were that Apple couldn’t possibly make up lost ground, couldn’t catch up.
As it turns out, the cameras on the iPhone 11 Pro put Apple in the lead again, against all predictions. The three rear cameras on the 11 Pro offer an irresistible combination of immaculate lenses, ground-breaking software and great ease of use.
Apple’s cameras don’t have a Pro mode (ironically, not even on the iPhone 11 Pro) because they are designed to be effortless to use: let Apple do the heavy lifting, make the choices. All of which could turn out badly if Apple’s engineers had bad taste, could lead to unrealistic results, badly crafted images.
Thankfully, Apple’s guys have amazingly good taste so that images, though definitely processed, do two remarkable things: capture the moment faithfully and make it look great.
The three lenses are a regular wide lens, telephoto (2x) and ultra-wide (0.6x the wide lens). Although even this doesn’t match the versatility of phones like the Huawei P30 Pro with its 5x optical zoom lens in the mix, it’s a combination that works well in most situations.
Choose the telephoto lens and the display shows at the sides what the wide lens would see. Choose wide and you’ll see what the ultra-wide would offer at the edges. The wide and ultra-wide are identical to the sensors on the iPhone 11.
As with any current smartphone camera, space requirements mean there’s no optical zoom here. There are “equivalent to” 2x and 0.6x zooms by switching lenses. So, it’s always best to use each lens without zooming as that will be a purely digital zoom. Three lenses adds greater versatility.
The ultrawide is particularly useful: instead of stepping back a few paces, which anyway isn’t always possible, just flip to this lens for a really impressive wide view.
Multiple lenses also make for outstanding bokeh effects where your subject is in sharp focus and the background blurred. The iPhone 11 Pro is tremendous at this. And the Portrait Lighting effects continue to improve, offering convincing black-and-white studio effects which put your subject on a black or, now, a high-contrast white background. It doesn’t always work but it creates some really eye-catching results when it does.
Night mode is another new feature for the 2019 crop of iPhones. In line with Apple’s desire for simplicity, this is invoked automatically, you don’t have to turn it on.
A small icon of a moon appears on the top of the display when it’s active and it can tell you exactly how long the exposure will be. But it’s not done by a long exposure, which would be inevitably blurred.
Instead, it works by taking multiple images across a second or more and mashes them together to create the result. And the results are amazing. It not only makes you feel the camera can see better than you, but the brighter image it comes up with is still evocative of the event itself. In other words, it’s not over-brightened for the sake of it.
The camera interface is also improved with a swipe mechanic on the screen to reveal extra menu options.
The front-facing camera is now 12MP, too and comes with a wider field of view. When you turn the iPhone to landscape orientation, the camera knows to automatically choose that wider view. Apple also announced the slofie (I know, I know) which stands for slow-motion selfie video shot at 120 frames per second. These are actually quite fun.
The more I use these cameras, the more impressed I become. Sure, the interface is so simple you can crave greater controls (there are apps available if you want this) but for most people and in most situations, what the iPhone does is exactly what is wanted, that is, deliver exceptional results with minimal effort. Which makes you want to use it again.
More recently, Deep Fusion has arrived, which is another auto-on feature. When you’re taking images in low-to-average lighting, it takes nine images and combines them to offer great detail, beating that from the regular HDR effect. It doesn’t work with every lens or in every lighting condition but offers another gentle upgrade to your photos.
There are other outstanding cameraphones around at the moment – you can read my review of the seven best current ones here – but for my money, Apple has stolen a lead with its jaw-droppingly good cameras here.
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max and iPhone 11 Pro
The release of iOS 13 brought dark mode which has proved highly popular, offering a less in-your-face design with black backgrounds instead of white. On the Pro phones with their OLED screens that offers power saving, too, as well as a clean, attractive look.
Face ID, the fast, reliable and secure facial recognition system introduced on the iPhone X, is more effective now and works at more angles, so you don’t have to crane your neck forward when it’s on your desk, say – though you do still have to lean in. This improvement has also come to the other Face ID iPhone models as it’s software-based.
The processor, called A13 Bionic, is blisteringly fast. Right now, it’s easy to notice how quickly apps launch and respond when in use but as developers create more demanding apps, expect the new processor to step up to the plate. Still, in more than four months I haven’t noticed a scintilla of slowdown. It’s still amazingly quick.
Note that the splendid 3D Touch effect of the iPhone X and XS is not here. That’s the subtle haptic feedback you get when you touch certain menus. It was replaced on the iPhone XR by Haptic Touch which works in a different way. Previously, Haptic Touch was limited in what it did but it’s now been expanded to wherever 3D Touch went. You can feel a difference and it doesn’t feel quite as nippy as 3D Touch, but on the whole, I forgot about the change pretty much instantaneously.
Four months on, the iPhone 11 Pro continues to delight. I’ve tested a lot of phones in the past year, and some have come close to persuading me to change but the combination of pleasing looks, outstanding cameras and – perhaps most of all – epic battery life has kept me coming back to the iPhone over and again.
It’s true, there’s no 5G iPhone yet but, until a killer app arrives that needs 5G to work, I don’t think I’ll miss that.
For many, the iPhone 11, which is especially good value at $699, will be sufficient. In most regards, it’s just as capable. But I love the super-high resolution OLED screen, stainless-steel antenna band and the extra camera that the Pro version offers.
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