The iPhone 11 is the replacement for the iPhone XR.
It has a similar design, size and shape. But it brings with it a new naming system which indicates that, unlike last year when it seemed like a budget option, this is now THE iPhone, the main event, with the higher-specced iPhone 11 Pro suddenly almost more of a niche item.
Certainly, the additions of the fastest processor yet of any iPhone (also found in the Pro models) and dual rear cameras taken from the iPhone 11 Pro, make it a very attractive proposition.
Design and build
The iPhone 11 has a glass back and front. Apple says the back is made from one piece of glass and is the toughest glass on a smartphone.
The finish is glossy, unlike the iPhone 11 Pro, apart from the camera square, which is matte (also unlike the Pro).
The camera square which, this being Apple, has curved corners to it, has divided opinion. But the fact that the bump is flatter than expected and the cameras, unlike on previous iPhones, stand proud of the square, may enhance the appeal.
Apple has taken its design in a subtle new direction with the decision to remove the words “iPhone’ and “Designed by Apple in California, Assembled in China” from the back of the phone. So, there’s just the Apple logo, moved downwards to sit more centrally. It looks spare and elegant.
The colours are what set the iPhone XR and now the iPhone 11 apart. These are all new this year, either because they’re whole new colours or variations of a previous colour, like yellow or PRODUCT(RED), both of which are slightly different from last year. The other colours are black, white and the new ones, green and purple.
The purple is more of a mauve or lavender shade, it’s very light and delicate. In the flesh it looks tremendous. The aluminium edge band is colour-matched to the rest of the phone and Apple has managed to do this in a convincing and attractive way.
Even, and here’s attention to detail, the inside of the Lightning socket is colour-matched. Another company would probably have just used a black inner section on all models.
Like the iPhone 11 Pro, the iPhone 11 has had a camera upgrade. Here, it’s the addition of a second camera, while the Pro models have three. Both are 12MP sensors, one wide-angle, one telephoto. The arrival of twin cameras means more effects are possible, such as portrait mode which comes with a High-Key Mono effect which bleaches out the background entirely and puts your subject in high-contrast black-and-white.
Although the iPhone XR was capable of portrait modes using its single rear camera, it was limited to human faces, that is, you couldn’t take a shot of your pet dog with an artfully blurred background. Now, with two cameras, you can. And, indeed, take portrait shots of anything, even inanimate objects.
The camera now allows you to shoot video at 4K resolution. You could do this before at 30 frames per second (fps) but now it’s capable of 60fps.
As with the Pro models, the front-facing camera has been upgraded. It’s now 12MP instead of 7MP. The new, super-fast processor is the A13 Bionic. It’s substantially faster than last year’s A12 Bionic, a processor which is still industry-leading.
The possibilities with this chip, which is the same as in the much pricier iPhone 11 Pro, are exciting. Though much of this phone is the same as the iPhone 11 Pro, there are exceptions. Such as the charging capabilities. On the Pro, there’s a much faster-charging plug bundled in the box while the iPhone 11 manages with the same system that iPhones have always had, a 5W charger.
Battery life is a hugely important factor on any phone and though this handsets’ predecessor, the iPhone XR, had the longest battery life yet of any iPhone, it’s now bettered here by an extra hour. It’s no longer the longest-lasting battery because the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max have had even bigger leaps forward, but it should certainly be the case that your phone doesn’t die on you early in the day.
iPhone 11 initial verdict
The iPhone 11 is the new standard bearer for Apple phones, designed for everyone, even if there is an even higher-quality option, the 11 Pro, for those who want more.
However, for a price starting at £729, cheaper than last year’s iPhone XR, the iPhone 11 is pretty powerful.
There’s the latest, most high-end processor and a battery that lasts longer than before. The iPhone 11 looks great, especially in shades like purple and yellow, with subtly colour-matched edges and what Apple says is a highly resilient tough glass case.
But though it’s colourful, this is a serious handset as well (you can choose a more sober colour like black or white if you prefer). The dual-rear cameras should take great photographs even in challenging situations like low light.
The iPhone XR was the most popular smartphone in the world, Apple says. This is likely to outdo it.
Watch this space to read our full review once we've had it in our palm for longer than an hour...