This is the everyman iPhone of 2019.
Available in a fruity array of colours, with a seemingly modest dual-camera and powered by Apple’s A13 Bionic Chip, the iPhone 11 is the most affordable iPhone of 2019.
Whilst dual-cameras sounds meagre by today’s standards, clever software known as Deep Fusion takes multiple photos at one time to ascertain the most optimal versions, then mashes them together for the best possible results. Plus, the low-light performance sees huge improvements and portrait mode isn’t only reserved for humans, like with the iPhone XR. Strike a pose, cat.
We’ve been using the iPhone 11 for two weeks and (spoiler alert) we’re impressed.
Design: Toy Soldier
Aside from the (divisive) square camera module on the back, it looks much like the XR, but with some extra colours available such as: mint green and lilac.
The forged glass and aluminium feels familiar but also feels super robust. Despite the quality of the build, it looks and feels a little bit, well, plastic. This is only heightened by the clinical Apple white of our model, reminiscent of early iPods or 2006 MacBooks. We actually quite like it, but compared to the iPhone 11 Pro which opts for a frosted glass back, it looks a bit inferior.
Business as usual design-wise, same lighting-cable, all the same buttons exactly where you’d expect them, and the notch remains. It’s a touch wider than the iPhone 11Pro at 5.9in and a little thicker at 3in but still very manageable in one average sized hand.
It's worth noting that the iPhone 11 is slightly less waterproof than its siblings and can only cope with 2 metres of dunkage compared to 4m. So yes, it’s a tiny bit chunky and not particularly feather-light (184g in weight), but we like that it’s solid and we’ve even dropped it a few times and it’s remained completely in-tact with zero damage, which is what Apple promised with its strengthened glass.
Something we’ve always appreciated about Apple is the clean design, with no unnecessary words or text-based branding, and this follows on from that.
Display and Sound: OLED lacking
How much does that really matter boils down to the user’s preference.
For those who are consuming huge amounts of media, or editing video on the fly, it’s a pretty big deal. And to those who are just taking a few pictures at the weekends, playing a few games, catching up on emails and WhatsApping ‘til their fingers go blue – it shouldn’t really matter.
You still get a 6.1in Liquid Retina display which is substantially brighter than the XR by a whole 63 nits. And that really does make a difference and help with viewing angles, especially in bright light.
Haptic Touch comes to the iPhone 11, rather than 3D touch and it’s incredibly quick and easy to adjust to, pressing longer instead of harder. We also found it be smoother than 3D touch on the XR which we could sometimes misjudge.
The Dolby Atmos spacial audio graces all the new iPhones, which is a delightful addition and does aid in creating a more immersive viewing experience and a treat for the ears as the sound is more dynamic.
Performance and Software: Chip and dips
There’s a lot to like about iOS 13 and it’s going to run smoothest on the newest Apple devices.
Swipe typing is a new feature that’s handy for drafting quick messages one-handed, you can type without taking your finger off the screen. Dark Mode has rolled our across iOS 13 too, and makes using the iPhone such more a more pleasurable experience in the evening and it comes to many third part apps too, like Instagram.
Apple’s FaceID sees an update too, the field of view has been increased, so it’ll be easier to unlock your phone when you’re in the middle of Twister. It’s quicker at recognising my face, but still not quite perfect and occasionally I had to tilt it slightly. But all this and more, is now available to update on a load of Apple products.
What we really care about it that A13 Bionic Chip. It scores higher on Geekbench than its flagship rivals and day-to-day, the phone is incredibly quick and responsive. I don’t remember apps ever loading this quickly. It makes light work of low-level video editing too.
There’s a new U1 chip too, which apparently is what makes AirDrop so much speedier, and we can fully confirm this. The thought of using AirDrop to share files was once met with laughter, now it’s the best damn way to share things across Apple devices and we'd be lost without it since we're so reliant on the iPhone’s camera and there’s no quicker way to get them on an Apple laptop.
Camera: Twice as nice
You might think you’re being short-changed not getting a third telephoto like the swankier iPhone 11 Pro, but having used both, it turns out, it’s not really a big deal.
You get the same wide angle 12MP (OIS) main sensor with f/1.8 aperture and a 12MP ultra-wide angle f/2.4 camera, so you miss out on the telephoto lens. We didn’t miss it that much, it just means you have to get closer to your subject.
Standard photos between the iPhone 11 and Pro are impossible to tell apart, which is no bad thing as photos are clear, with exposure balanced perfectly and colours looking natural.
Portrait mode is ace too and works across all manner of subjects, even pigeons, but they won’t stay still for a shot, you’ve been warned.
Night Mode is where the party’s at. Just like the Pro, it will detect the darkness and an icon will appear in the top left screen noting the exposure needed to capture the image, ranging from 1-5 seconds. It’s important to hold your phone as still as possible as its gathering image data in the sensors and piecing together your night-time shot. iPhone has caught up with the likes of the Pixel and the Huawei P30 Pro and we can’t fault it. There’s also the option to turn off the mode, if you want a proper dark photo.
The camera app interface has been upgraded and you can preview what the image will look like using either the wide or ultra-wide angle lens before taking the shot. If you hold down the built-in shutter, it’ll start filming as if it’s a video (much like Instagram Stories) and this is quicker way to shoot moving images than to transition into video mode.
Don’t forget yourself(ies) now that there’s a 12MP camera at the front (buried in the notch) and feel free to capture some ‘slofies’ with the slow-mo setting, it’s quite fun and especially dramatic if you add an epic soundtrack.
4K video makes its way to the iPhone 11 too, so there’s nothing stopping you making that feature film now.
iPhone 11 verdict
We’ve saved one of the most important things ‘til last. Let’s get real, all of the above doesn’t really matter if you run out of power, and that’s one department where the iPhone 11 trumps the pro. It’ll last a full day with heavy usage, and well over a day if you’re not a working, gaming, photo taking freak like us.
There’s no fast 18W charger in the box like there is with the Pro, but we suggest you buy one (£29), it’s well worth it.
You’re getting a neat package with the iPhone 11 and it’s not silly expensive. The new Bionic A13 chip packs serious power, the cameras are near faultless (for a smartphone) and it’ll last a full day.
The OLED is more of an issue than lack of telephoto lens, so if you can bring yourself to get over that, then start thinking about what colour you might opt for.