Apple decided to throw “pro” in the title of its newest iPhone lineup, a distinction that may be harder to sell than, say, in an iPad. However, it looks like Apple is indeed at least trying to make the new branding make sense.
The good news is that the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max are getting generally great reviews. This is a fantastic smartphone, with the most impressive cameras in Apple’s smartphone history, ridiculously good battery life for most, and the new matte finish and overall design changes are all great. The new display is praised by many as well.
This is a quick review roundup of Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max.
Engadget does call out the price, which still starts at $999, and isn’t a huge fan of every design decision. However, the publication is happy with the camera performance as a whole (even with some shaky details in photos taken with the ultra-wide camera), the boost in battery life, and more.
Apple’s new flagship is packed to the brim with new components, but the changes that really stand out are its flexible triple camera and the significant improvements to battery life. Day-to-day performance is faster than last year’s premium iPhones, but often only just, and many will be hard-pressed to spot the differences between these new Super Retina XDR displays and the ones we got last year. The iPhone 11 Pro represents Apple at the peak of its smartphone game, but it might not be a must-buy if you’re a frequent upgrader.
And battery life…
If your current phone’s battery has seen better days, though, the Pros might be worth the splurge now. So far, Apple’s claims of significantly improved battery seem spot on. When I tested the brand-new XS last year, it would run for between 9 to 9.5 hours off a single charge on days with heavy use. This year, the smaller Pro dealt with the same general workloads and lasted for closer to 12 hours before needing a charge. The larger Pro Max, meanwhile, routinely stuck around for between 13 to 14 hours on a single charge, compared to the 11 to 12 hours I squeezed out of the iPhone XS Max.
Mashable has some points to call out, like the fact that 3D Touch is gone and replaced with Haptic Touch. The phones are still expensive. And the review also points out that 64GB to start with the “pro” iPhone 11 lineup is probably not enough storage.
However, unsurprisingly there is still a lot to like. The rear cameras, and even the upgraded front-facing camera, are all improvements and make considering an upgrade worth it. The better battery life is also a huge improvement on its own. Night mode, which takes even better shots in low-light situations, is a nice addition as well.
Apple’s deep software paired with the camera hardware is what sets the iPhone 11 Pro cameras apart and makes zooming between the three cameras feel so smooth; there’s none of the stuttering you see on Android phones when you toggle from one camera to the other.
It’s for this very reason that the three cameras on the back of the iPhone 11 Pros are aligned the way they are: for zooming straight out from the center. On Android phones, where the three cameras are usually aligned in a row, you have to physically shift the phone to the left or to right to recompose a shot, and doing so feels less like zooming in and out and more like switching to separate cameras. It’s a small detail, but if you’re serious about photography, it makes all the difference.
And battery life:
The thicker iPhone 11 Pros have room for a larger battery. Coupled with the power efficiencies from the A13 Bionic chip and you get longer use time: Apple claims up to 4 extra hours on the iPhone 11 Pro compared to the iPhone XS and up to 5 more hours on the iPhone 11 Pro Max versus the iPhone XS Max.
My iPhone XS usually lasts from around 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with my abnormally heavy usage (lots of email, Slack, iMessage, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Spotify, and Feedly). On the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, I routinely got about 3-4 more hours. I probably could have squeezed out the full 4-5 hours Apple advertises, but that would have required tweaking some settings like reducing the brightness down from 100 percent and lessening the frequency apps used my location.
The trend continues with The Verge, which notes how great the battery life improvements are in the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. The review says the new display is certainly fun to look at on a daily basis, thanks to its deep blacks and vivid (but accurate) colors. And of course, the trio of cameras on the back are exceptional, with Night mode especially standing out.
Basically, if you want to pay a bit more money to have the best display, and the best cameras, then the iPhone 11 Pro is the way to go.
But after using an iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max for the past week, I think they’re more than the sum of several lightly updated parts. These are some of the most well-balanced, most capable phones Apple — or anyone — has ever made. They have excellent battery life, processors that should keep them relevant for years to come, absolutely beautiful displays, and a new camera system that generally outperforms every other phone, which should get even better with a promised software update later this fall.
Yes, they’re expensive. And yes, I think most people should probably buy an iPhone 11, which has most of the same features, including the same basic camera system, for $300 less. But if you want to pay more to have the best display and the best camera, the iPhone 11 Pro is worth the premium over the iPhone 11.
As for battery life…
It’s clever, but there’s no way for reviewers to repeat and verify that test. So the best I can tell you is that Apple has historically been good about meeting its battery life claims, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max I’ve been using every day for a week has consistently run for 12 to 14 hours on a single charge, with over 10 hours of screen-on time reported in the battery settings per 24-hour period.
That’s compared to 8 to 10 hours of battery life at most for my iPhone XS Max, which is a marked improvement. It’s not enough to make me stop charging at my desk throughout the day, and I’ll definitely still carry a battery pack on trips. But it’s a big bump, and it’s better than most Android phones we’ve tested.
The smaller iPhone 11 Pro also performed well. We used it all day for the review video, sent it out for several hours of shooting photo tests and 4K video in the evening, left it off the charger overnight, and it still had 50 percent of its battery left the next morning. We’ll update this review with some more real-world usage numbers for the smaller phone at the end of the week.
And the new display…
a new display on the iPhone 11 that Apple is calling the Super Retina XDR display, a reference to Apple’s fancy new Pro XDR monitor and the iPhone 11 Pro’s increased peak brightness levels: 800 nits in standard mode outdoors and 1200 nits in the highlights of HDR content (compared to 625 nits in standard mode for the XS).
I think it’s more accurate to say that this is the first real HDR display Apple’s put on a phone. The iPhone XS was theoretically capable of HDR playback, but I never found it convincing. The iPhone 11 Pro is very convincing. It’s an obvious difference when watching a Dolby Vision movie like John Wick 3, and the display overall holds its own against the Note 10’s excellent display.
WIRED isn’t shy about calling the iPhone 11 Pro or iPhone 11 Pro Max expensive, and even notes that the handsets are thicker and heavier than some might expect after so many years of Apple trying to go lighter and thinner. But that obviously means more room for a bigger battery, and the review notes just how great the battery life is. And the three cameras on the back, too.
Basically, if you’re willing to fork over some more cash for your new iPhone 11 Pro, you’ll be happy with what you get back.
One of the key differences between the pro models and the regular, non-pro iPhone 11 is the display technology that Apple uses in each. Apple is calling the display on the Pro iPhones Super Retina XDR” which is a way of saying it’s an OLED display with an extremely high resolution. It also happens to be the brightest screen in an iPhone, with up to 1,200 nits of maximum brightness. The iPhone 11 has an LCD, and while it’s also a high-resolution display and has the same True Tone” color technology, it’s not nearly as luminous or rich as the Pro displays.
Did you pre-order an iPhone 11 Pro? If so, are you even more excited to get your phone now?