What are the Apple iPhone 11 Pro and Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max?
These are the latest high-end phones from Apple. The Apple iPhone 11 went on sale on September 20, offering an enhanced design over last year’s iPhone XR, with dual cameras and at a lower price.
But what if the regular iPhone 11 isn’t enough? Supposing you want even better build quality and an even more advanced camera? The iPhone 11 Pro fits the bill, with a higher-resolution display than the iPhone 11, a better screen tech in the form of OLED instead of the iPhone 11’s LCD and a third lens to sit alongside the pair on the iPhone 11.
Oh, and if you like the iPhone 11 Pro but its 5.8in OLED screen isn’t quite big enough, then there’s the iPhone 11 Pro Max to tempt you instead. It is in almost every way identical to the iPhone 11 Pro, but it comes with a 6.5in display, a bigger battery and a bigger price ticket. The two phones are so similar, you should really just choose according to what feels better in your hand.
Glance at it from the front, and the iPhone 11 Pro looks similar to the iPhone XS that preceded it last year. A full-screen front, save for a cut-out at the top where the Face ID camera and other tech sits. The notch that sits at the top of the display is identical to last year’s iPhones.
The stainless-steel antenna band that edges the phone is also broadly similar to last year, though the colours are slightly different. Three should be the same as 2018: space grey, silver and gold, but have been gently updated by Apple’s design team. There is a fourth colour that’s entirely new, never seen on any iPhone before: midnight green. This is a very dark green, darker than bottle green, and in some lights looks almost-but-not-quite-black. It’s an attractive, solid, serious colour, adding a subtle brightness to a demure and businesslike shade. All the stainless steel has been coloured to match the shade of the back of the phone, apart from the silver finish model which is uncoloured stainless steel. The iPhone 11, by contrast, has an aluminium antenna band.
Turn the phone over and the new colours are more clearly expressed, in a semi-matte finish that looks very classy. The camera bump, by contrast, has a shiny finish – even though it’s all crafted from the same piece of glass, which is designed to benefit the structure as well as the look.
This is glass that Apple says is the toughest on any smartphone. It’s the same toughness front and back. Though, to be honest, these are not cheap phones so it’s worth getting a case to protect your investment.
The camera design is a divisive issue. Personally, I really like it, but some have compared it to a stove top or Philips shaver. The lenses are certainly unmissable, but the design is much less dominant than if the area around the cameras was black, as on previous iPhones.
Water resistance, a handy regular feature on many phones now, is especially good here, able to survive a depth of up to 4 metres depth for half an hour. Oh, and don’t imagine that the Pro addition to the title means there’s a USB-C charging socket as there is on the iPad Pro and MacBook Pro. No, Apple has stuck with the Lightning connector which will frankly please all those people who have a bunch of Lightning cables at home. Still, there is a more powerful charging plug in the box, an 18W charger instead of the 5W charger found in every other iPhone box up to this point. It means the phone charges quickly, which is a bonus.
The OLED display on the iPhone 11 Pro (and iPhone 11 Pro Max) 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.
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.
A big change over last year’s iPhone XS is the removal of 3D Touch. This is the clever Apple system that recognised whether you were pressing lightly or more heavily and delivered extra effects as required. Last year’s iPhone XR introduced a similar but not quite the same effect, called Haptic Touch, though this was only available for a limited range of situations.
Now, Haptic Touch has replaced 3D Touch on all the new iPhones. There is very little difference between the two experiences in use, except that I find the response time is a little slower now, so you’re pressing for very slightly longer before the extra menus appear, for instance. It’s not a big deal, but 3D Touch was better.
The new iPhone 11 Pro camera, also found on the iPhone 11 Pro Max, is awesome. I mean, really.
It has three 12MP sensors, each with different focal lengths: there’s the regular wide lens, a telephoto lens offering an equivalent to 2x zoom and an ultra-wide with the equivalent of a 0.5x zoom compared to the wide lens.
This means there is great versatility and it’s possible to get just the image you want in many situations without moving around. The wide and telephoto lenses are on the iPhone 11: it’s the ultra-wide that’s the additional camera here. And it’s a fantastic addition, revealing more details without you having to step back.
True, it doesn’t get you right into the action like the 5x zoom on the Huawei P30 Pro, but in many cases, the range of lenses here is highly useful.
Apple has included a cute preview system. When you’re looking at what, say, the telephoto lens will snap when you press the shutter button, the surrounding area on screen shows what the wide lens would deliver. If you prefer the look of that, one tap will take you to that lens.
Apple doesn’t use the impressive full-screen view that Samsung likes, where the controls appear at the edges and the entire screen shows what the camera sees.
The new iPhone Pro cameras (like the iPhone 11) include a startlingly good Night mode. Unlike some phones, this one does not require you to switch to the night setting for it to work. It knows when to deploy it and a small moon symbol appears when it’s needed. In extreme conditions, it will take a series of images and meld them together for maximum effect. When these images are taken over, say, a three-second period, a timer counts down on screen. The timer only appears on the wide and telephoto lenses, by the way.
The results are pretty amazing. Apple’s intention is not to replicate what the scene would look like if you had been eating lots of carrots and had outstanding night vision. Instead, it wants to capture how the moment feels. Sure, it does see inhumanly well in the dark, but Apple’s skill is to make the colours look warm without being saturated or unreal.
Like rival cameraphones, Apple uses machine learning – others call it Artificial Intelligence – to improve the photos it takes. It’s true that Apple’s photos are often heavily processed but what makes the results so effective is that the company’s photographic engineers have unimpeachably good taste so the results can be just remarkable.
Over and over, I took photos with the iPhone 11 Pro which took my breath away for their vibrancy, detail and sharpness.
Apple doesn’t have a Pro mode on its cameras. It works on the principle that it should be simple to use, intuitive and, you know, just work. This can lead to frustration from some photographers who may turn to other iPhone photography apps instead.
But in a recent holiday in Chile, (thanks for asking: it was awesome), a trip that I really wanted to capture photographically, a curious thing happened. As the week went on, I found myself increasingly shooting on the iPhone and not my SLR. Not because it was more convenient, though in some ways it was, but because each evening as I reviewed my shots, I found the smartphone images were more striking than the dedicated camera. Apple exec Phil Schiller calls this the age of computational photography. If this is what it looks like, I’m in.
Video is also outstanding. Apple has long beaten rivals with its superior video recording. This phone shoots at 4K resolution and 60 frames per second (where many phones only manage half that frame rate).
Video looks sumptuous and there are even now sophisticated editing capabilities – you can change the aspect ratio of the video on the phone, for instance.
Portrait lighting is Apple’s special effect where it blurs the background while keeping the subject in needle-sharp focus. It then adds one of a series of effects such as turning the image into black-and-white and making the background black. Now with a High-Key Light Mono option, there’s a new way to make your portraits look astonishing. The effect cuts around the subject and turns the background bright white. It’s a high-contrast result which doesn’t work in every situation. But when it does, it’s highly eye-catching.
The selfie camera on the iPhone has until now never been more than 7MP resolution. Now, it’s 12MP and although there’s only one main front-facing camera, the addition of the TrueDepth camera used for Face ID means it’s possible to get some portrait effects here, too. The improved sensor makes for better selfies, as well as something Apple calls slofies. These are slow-motion video selfies and are quite fun. If you like that kind of thing.
And there’s more to come. I haven’t been able to review something Apple calls Deep Fusion, a system designed to really lift images taken indoors in lowish light. The examples I’ve seen of these are pretty impressive but it’s only in the coming weeks, when the feature goes live in an update to iOS 13 that its full effects will be known.
Already, though, this is a cameraphone that is very hard to beat.
The new wide sensor also boasts 100 per cent Focus Pixels. These are the pixel sites which are designed to not only grab the light but to help with focus, hence the name. When first introduced back in 2014, Focus Pixels were fewer than 10 per cent of the total because, Apple said, that was all that were needed. Now, with 100 per cent Focus Pixels, Apple is saying this is one of the reasons the photos the iPhone 11 Pro takes are so sharp.
Is it perfect? No. I kept putting my finger in front of the lens when shooting on the brilliant ultra-wide lens. I will learn not to do this, really I will, but the side-position rather than central mounting found on other phones got in the way of this.
And like any other smartphone, it lacks the superior ergonomics of a dedicated camera or the bigger sensor of an SLR.
The A13 Bionic chip is amazingly fast so there’s no hanging around – for anything. Apps open at lightning speed, video playback is great and apps do their business without hesitation. Only in the last few weeks of the A12 Bionic, last year’s processor, was Apple overtaken and then only by a handset or two. Expect the A13 to be the fastest processor in a smartphone for months to come.
It’s helped along by a new version of iOS which is nimble, effective and fun, with new features (such as an elegant dark mode which looks classy and saves energy) and greater efficiency.
Oh, what about 5G?
Although none of this year’s crop of iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max has 5G connectivity, I haven’t really noticed its absence. The 5G networks in the UK are fast and reliable, but they are only just taking shape. Until they are widespread and there are killer apps that make the most of the new speeds, like Uber, Deliveroo and other apps exploited 4G, the absence of the latest speeds may not matter.
I am regularly struck by the importance of battery life to phone users. Quite right, too. But sometimes I wonder if phone manufacturers wouldn’t be more successful if they just concentrated on super-powerful battery life and didn’t bother with anything else.
Well, this phone has a lot more features but has such improved battery life it’s hard to get your head round. It’s brilliant.
Nightly recharges are still recommended, but the iPhone 11 Pro has four hours more juice in it than the iPhone XS it replaces, while the bigger Max version outdoes the iPhone XS Max by a remarkable five hours.
These are Apple’s figures. In practice, neither phone ever ran out on me, however much I was doing in a day. The Max had the better battery life consistently, but both went to bed with battery levels usually well above 20 per cent.
- Astonishing cameras
- Standout battery life
- Subtle design enhancement
- Great build quality
- No 3D Touch
- No 5G
Apple iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max Review
Each year, Apple improves on the iPhone from the previous year. This time around, it looked like the upgrade would be minimal: a new camera, for instance. After all, the highly rumoured two-way wireless charging feature found on the Huawei P30 Pro, and others, never appeared.
But it turns out that the two main upgrades are enough to make the new phones worth buying.
Those are the new triple camera system, which is amazing, and the increased battery life, which makes a big, big difference.
Beyond that, the gently tweaked design (with new colours) really works, I’d say. The new brighter screen looks highly inviting and the speed and performance of the iPhone 11 Pro is another winning aspect. The lack of 5G really doesn’t matter – yet, at least. I suspect Apple’s call that it needn’t worry about the faster connectivity until next year will be proved right.
For now, the iPhone 11 Pro may not be the most advanced on the market. But it’s probably, on balance, the best.
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