A great new camera setup fails to justify heavy pricing – 3.5/5
You might look at that score and think that I’m being harsh, especially considering how well this device benchmarks and looks at a glance (see further down). It would be impossible to give this phone a bad score; it is, of course, largely superb.
However, there’s a healthy dose of cynicism running through the whole industry right now, with smartphone sales forecasts looking gloomy and foldables providing, in my opinion, the most gimmicky form of innovation seen for a while. Every device launch this year, and I say this indiscriminately, has looked very shiny above all else, with device improvements varying across vendors, but overall offering nothing earth-shattering, not least upon last year’s models.
Into this troubled market has stepped Apple with seasonal regularity, and nothing I say will stop Apple zealots rushing to the stores, nor will it convince dyed-in-the-wool Android users to switch over. People with iPhones that are between one and three years old will be the ones wondering whether or not take the plunge into Apple’s triple-camera world.
To them I would say: if you really care about your phone’s camera that much, then go for it. Otherwise, hold on for another year (and then probably get an XR anyway). Anyone with anything from 2015 or before – definitely take the plunge if you’re able.
- OS: iOS 13
- Processor: A13 Bionic
- Screen: 5.8 inches
- Resolution: 1125 x 2436 pixels
- Memory: 4GB
- Internal storage: 64GB, 256GB, 512GB
- External storage: None
- Water resistance: IP68 dust and water resistance
- Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 12MP
- Front camera: 12MP
- Video: 4K @ 60fps
- Battery: 3,046mAh (approx.)
- Connectivity: LTE, WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS,NFC, Lightning
- Dimensions: 144 x 71.4 x 8.1mm
- Weight: 188g
Despite the reaction to the new range’s camera design being mixed to put it generously, I find it refreshing. Apple got people talking because the camera setup looks unlike anything else – it can only really be found on the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max. So fair play to Mr Cook and co. on that front.
Adding to that, the matte finish on the back feels good to hold and to look at, eliminating fears of fingerprint smudges and feeling a lot less slippery than many of this year’s flagship Android releases (although I would, as always, urge getting a case). On the front it’s essentially a continuation of the XS range visually.
At 5.8 inches with no bezels, the 11 Pro is a great size – large, but not too large, and more compact than the 11. I’m also not to iffy on the wide notch at the top, which I know is maligned. It feels great in the pocket, and fits to one-handed use. It’s a little thicker and a little heavier than the XR, but that’s not all that noticeable and is in service of a bigger battery, which is a major selling point.
Storage and speed
A note on how Apple has tiered its storage sizes for the devices: it’s done it badly. There is next to no point getting the 11 Pro with 64GB storage (which my review copy was), unless Apple decides to suddenly do away with iCloud costs. If you want to take loads of pictures, 4K 60fps videos, slofies (which are a massive marketing ploy, but do provide quite a lot of fun when watching slow-motion gurns), as well as play large, battery-intensive apps, you’ll find that 64GB of storage vanishes surprisingly quickly. It’s a shame that Apple neglected to include a 128GB model – or even to make 128GB the baseline amount of storage.
In terms of battery, the 11 Pro is fantastic, but the XR already provides a full day’s usage. Performance-wise, there was a lot of brouhaha from engineering guru Sri Santhanam at the Apple Event about the new A13 Bionic chip powering the phone – and don’t get me wrong, it’s fast. However, when comparing it to my SE, I found that, while the smoothness and speed were certainly up a notch or two, the differences weren’t life-changing.
What I will say in favour of the speed is the facial unlock (seamless really is the only appropriate word for it), and the NFC – I’ve never paid quicker for a pint.
Key selling points
- iOS 13
- Triple camera setup
- New A13 Bionic chip
- Fantastic battery life
- Apple services discounts
- Quicker than ever performance
What are we really here for, aside from cheaper subscriptions to Apple’s new services? The camera. And, yes, the new triple-camera setup (a party to which Apple is the latest, yet loudest arrival) is impressive. Quality is smooth, and draws from natural light very nicely indeed. The wide-angle setup is great for crowd or group shots, or capturing some magnificent scenery – although it does seem to sacrifice finer detail. Slow-motion shots are wonderful, and 60fps 4K video is, simply put, astonishing.
For ease of use, you can’t do much better, with the easy ability to instantly switch between the three cameras – although Apple is missing a trick by not tying its camera settings into the camera app. If you want to make any adjustments, you have to head back into the main settings app. It’s a siloing of software that’s a minor but noticeable annoyance.
A counterpoint to that is the phone’s great night mode, which comes on automatically in low light with a suggested exposure time that can be tweaked or turned off.
Overall, competitors seem to focus more on flashier, contrast-y shots – but when used correctly, the iPhone’s pictures can look streets ahead in the detail department.
Unsurprisingly, the iPhone 11 Pro benchmarks fantastically – although a slight black mark against the Geekbench app, which is free on Android but not on the App Store!
- Geekbench: single-core – 1,336, multi-core – 3,585
- GFXBench – 2,802
- AnTuTu – 457,994
- 3DMark – 5,371
At a glance
An iPhone was never going to play poorly here, now was it?
- Speed – 5/5
- Camera – 4/5
- Battery – 5/5
- Design – 4/5
- Value – 3/5
- Price – £1,049/£1,199/£1,399
Overall, Apple has done what it has done for the past few years, which is to make a marginally quicker, slicker phone. The camera is a big selling point, but when you think A) about how many wide-angle and telephoto pictures you’ll actually take, and B) how other manufacturers make devices that compete across the board for far cheaper prices, you start to wonder how much more Apple can get away with it – especially with decisions such as the one to offer the 11 Pro with 64GB for more than £1,000, which is just downright cheeky.