Before I begin my review of the iPhone 11 Pro, let’s rewind to the 2007 Apple keynote. Steve Jobs, the then CEO, and co-founder of Apple started his presentation by talking about this revolutionary product that is a mobile phone, a widescreen iPod with touch controls and a breakthrough internet communications device, which is today commonly known as the iPhone.
Sure it might not seem like a big deal today, but back in 2007, the original iPhone was a breakthrough device that set the stage for the revolution of the modern smartphone era.
Apple, then, soon started its iconic ‘If you don’t have an iPhone, you don’t have an iPhone’ campaign. The series of ads were all about what features you miss out on other smartphones that you could get only on an iPhone. Collectively, the iPhone has been put forward as ‘The Smartphone’ that consumers should buy.
Jump to 2019, and the iPhone has ‘Pro’gressed a long way. With the iPhone 11 Pro, you get a close-to-full screen display, a dominant performance unit that is far ahead from the next-best, and improved cameras. The iPhone 11 Pro also has the best battery life ever in an iPhone of its size.
The price, too, has sky-rocketed to a premium of nearly Rs 1 lakh for the base variant. Is Apple’s latest and greatest iPhone worth your money?
I've been using the iPhone 11 Pro for well over a month and here is what I think about it.
Design and Display
Apple is known for not making any significant year-on-year design changes on the iPhone.
From the front, the iPhone 11 Pro continues to have the same design architecture as the iPhone X and the iPhone XS. Having said that, iPhone users who plan to upgrade who are most likely to be on an iPhone 7 (like me) or later, might find this to be quite a new design.
There’s a 5.8-inch screen with a wide notch on top for the front camera and Face ID sensors. Compared to the previous generation, Apple says the Face ID is faster and can now detect the face from a wider range. It does feel a bit faster, but you still need to lean over and look directly at the iPhone when its kept on a flat surface like your work desk.
After reviewing phones like the OnePlus 7T (Review) and the Realme X2 Pro (Review), I thought the wider notch on the iPhone 11 Pro would be bothersome. But to be honest, it wasn’t the case.
Unlock the iPhone 11 Pro, and you will see that the OLED screen, which Apple calls Super Retina XDR, is also brighter and better. The display can get as bright as 800 nits in normal conditions and can hit even brighter — up to 1,200 nits — when viewing HDR10 content.
The iPhone 11 Pro’s display offers excellent levels of colour accuracy and sharpness, thanks to the wide colour gamut and TrueTone panel. You would appreciate the screen like I did while watching shows on streaming services like Netflix and Apple TV+. The display does make you notice those deep blacks, especially when you are watching shows like Stranger Things where the scenes are relatively dark.
What complements the viewing experience is the combination of Dolby Atmos and spatial surround sound that together offer a loud and clear audio experience.
Even in direct sunlight, the screen performed quite impressively, and I didn’t face any issues with brightness levels between 60-80 percent. I kept the True Tone display (TTD) enabled most of the time during my over-a-month long experience. True Tone display, basically, adjusts the colour and intensity of the screen depending upon the ambient light. With TTD off, you’ll notice that the screen’s colour temperature leans a bit towards the cooler side.
To sum up the display review on the iPhone 11 Pro, I wouldn’t mind calling it the best display on a smartphone. If you don't believe me, check the DisplayMate score which rates the iPhone 11 Pro’s display as A+.
If I were to complain, I wish Apple could’ve launched the iPhone 11 Pro and the iPhone 11 Pro Max with a ProMotion high refresh rate display.
Things have changed drastically at the back of the phone. The iPhone 11 Pro now features a triple-camera setup on the back. Initially, while covering stories on the leaked render images of the iPhone 11 Pro, I disliked the way these three cameras were placed. The trypophobia did not trigger for me as it did for some as I read on the internet but seemed a bit odd considering Apple’s design language in the past. However, after seeing the iPhone 11 Pro in person, the rear camera’s design did grow on me.
The back of the iPhone 11 Pro is matte instead of a glossy finish that was seen on the iPhone XS series with the Apple logo placed in the centre. If you ask me, I loved the way this new matte design feels.
Not only is it less slippery, but also far less prone to smudges compared to other glass backs. Oh, by the way, Apple claims that the iPhone 11 Pro has the toughest glass ever on a smartphone. While I would not risk testing that claim, I did accidentally drop the iPhone 11 Pro a couple of times and (fortunately) it survived.
The overall form factor of the iPhone 11 Pro would be appreciated by the ones who want a compact smartphone with a bigger screen and no compromise on the performance. On the smaller iPhone, I found it far too easy to reach out to the power button and the volume buttons located on either side. The iPhone 11 Pro Max offers a larger 6.5-inch screen and a bigger battery.
iPhone 11 Pro performance and software
The iPhone 11 Pro is powered by Apple’s A13 Bionic chip, which is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. Geekbench and AnTuTu scores show the iPhone 11 Pro’s (and the iPhone 11 Pro Max) performance unit puts Qualcomm and Huawei’s Kirin silicon chipsets to dust.
One might also wonder how is it possible to get a smooth, lag-free performance without any trouble on the iPhone 11 Pro with just 4GB RAM. The secret lies in Apple’s tuning of hardware and software.
The iPhone was never about only the specifications. It has been more about the synchronisation and optimisation between the hardware and software that when combined, offer a smooth, seamless experience. And this level of performance is not limited till the next iPhone’s launch, but for three to four years at least.
I loved trying out games on the iPhone 11 Pro. My gaming sessions involved a couple of Apple Arcade games and some graphics-heavy games like PUBG, Asphalt 9 and Call of Duty.
The performance unit may not look superior on paper, but my real-world tests prove that gaming on the iPhone 11 Pro is sheer fun. You wouldn’t complain about lag or any frame drops for the next couple of years at least. My iPhone 7 still runs smoothly on iOS 13.1 and the phone loads games like PUBG faster than some midrange/flagship Android devices.
Another plus feature of the iPhone is receiving software support for many years, unlike many expensive Android smartphones. The iPhone 5s, which was launched in 2013, got software support till last year’s iOS 12 and my iPhone 7 still runs on the latest iOS update. Although apps load slower as compared to the original operating system, the difference isn’t much.
While we are talking software support, the iPhone 11 series boots on iOS 13, I’ve had my share of issues with the latest iOS update, courtesy of bugs. The messages app crashed while I used the Memoji stickers. For reasons unknown, my AirPods second-generation connected via Bluetooth to the iPhone, disconnected quite often. Apple later did release new software updates for fixing such minor issues.
The new update isn’t a massive overhaul but offers some key UI enhancements and features like Dark Mode, redesigned apps. The standout and most talked about feature has been Dark Mode. We’ve already listed some of the key features in iOS 13 like a revamped Photos app, new Reminders app, etc. iOS 13 also includes a bunch of India-specific features.
A couple of features that I love most, apart from Dark Mode and the new Photos app, is the new volume indicator and the editing in the Photos app. The new volume indicator no longer blocks your screen while you are using your iPhone. Instead, it has now been moved to the top-left corner of the screen.
There’s also a U1 chip that is paired with the A13 Bionic chip. The new chip enables communicating with other iPhones with U1 chip for faster file transfer through AirDrop. You can just point towards the iPhone you want to share a file with, and their name would be first in line.
The iPhone 11 series borrows a feature from the iPhone XR, which is Haptic touch. Although it works the same as 3D touch, the levels of haptic feedback you used to get with the dedicated motor are different — I kind of miss 3D Touch after using the new Haptic touch. However, I do not mind this as removing the 3D Touch motor has made room for a bigger battery.
With the iPhone 11 Pro, Apple has solved one of the biggest complaints its users made — battery life. Apple claims that you can get up to four hours more worth of juice on the iPhone 11 Pro compared to the previous generation. Although the company has not revealed the exact capacity, several reports suggest that the iPhone 11 Pro comes with a 3,190 mAh battery.
The battery capacity may not be as much as many Android flagships, but it does last longer. There have been times wherein I came back home with nearly 20 percent of battery left after a full 10-hour workday. This, despite listening to music on my AirPods second generation, constant connectivity with my Apple Watch, scrolling through Twitter and Instagram, typing notes, clicking pictures here-and-there, and some gaming sessions.
Got to admit, the iPhone 11 Pro holds its head above water when it comes to battery life. The bigger iPhone 11 Pro Max has an even bigger battery and is said to offer five hours more worth of juice than the iPhone XS Max.
The upgrade isn’t limited to the increase in battery size, but in the charger as well. Apple now ships the iPhone 11 Pro with a faster 18W fast charger instead of the age-old 5W charger out-of-the-box. The cable is now USB Type-C to Lightning, which means that you don’t need a separate adapter to connect your iPhone to your MacBook. The iPhone 11 Pro typically took a few minutes less than a couple of hours to fully charge with the faster 18W charger.
In case you want to take your iPhone underwater, the iPhone 11 Pro can survive a lot deeper, up to 4 meters for 30 minutes to be precise.
What I don’t like about the iPhone 11 series is that for Rs 99,900, you get 64GB of storage. That amount of storage for the price feels like peanuts, considering the cameras can produce some heavily-sized images. Sure Apple does offer up to 512GB memory, but you will have to shell out a few more thousand rupees.
iPhone 11 Pro Camera
The camera unit on the iPhone 11 Pro is amongst the highlight features. Before I get into the brilliant image quality, let's get the specifications out of the way.
The rear camera trifecta on the iPhone 11 Pro (and the 11 Pro Max) consists a wide, an ultra-wide, and a 2x telephoto lens. All three lenses get the same 12MP resolution with different apertures and sensor size. The iPhone 11 Pro’s primary 12MP f/1.8 sensor comes with Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) and shoots at a 26mm focal length. The telephoto lens with OIS support has an f/2.0 aperture and shoots at a 52mm focal length. Lastly, the 12MP f/2.4 ultra-wide shoots at a 13mm focal length.
As I stated above, the iPhone 11 Pro’s camera is no short of brilliance. All three cameras give stunning results with an excellent amount of sharpness and dynamic range. What I absolutely love about the iPhone 11 Pro’s camera is that the saturation and contrast are at par with what you see with your eyes — natural.
While all three cameras perform exceptionally well, the star, according to me, is the ultra-wide. Apple has had a slow-and-steady approach with the ultra-wide camera, and indeed, has won the race. It has an excellent dynamic range and the colour temperature is consistent across the three lenses.
However, do not expect the same level of sharpness from the ultra-wide lens. There is some distortion along the corners, which is common across all ultra-wides. I’ll let these set of pictures do the talking here.
There’s also a portrait mode one the iPhone 11 Pro with a new effect called ‘High-key Light Mono’, which clicks a grayscale image of the subject in a white background. The iPhone 11 Pro has, by far, the most accurate edge detection in Portrait mode. One can now also choose to click portraits using the wide or the 2x telephoto camera on the iPhone 11 Pro.
The iPhone 11 Pro’s camera gives a high-quality performance in lowlight as well. A new introduction to the list of features on the iPhone 11 Pro is the Night Mode, which activates automatically based on the lighting conditions. While the tiny circular icon allows you to adjust the exposure time (between zero to 9 seconds in some cases), Night mode on the iPhone 11 Pro cannot be activated manually. I felt like this is a bummer as I wanted to use Night Mode in some situations.
Nonetheless, the iPhone 11 Pro beats the Google Pixel more often than not when it comes to image quality in low light. I, especially, love the fact that Night mode on the iPhone 11 Pro does not change the sky’s colour to some shade of blue and tries to keep it as natural as possible. Basically, when you click photos on the iPhone 11 Pro using Night Mode, the outcome is an image that looks like it was shot during the night.
Unfortunately, Night mode doesn’t work on the ultra-wide camera (check the second image in the album above), and the low-light output on the telephoto lens is satisfactory. To take its notch higher, there’s something called as ‘Deep Fusion’ that promises to improve medium-to-lowlight performance and offer much better details. I’ll update the album as I click more-and-more images on the iPhone 11 Pro.
As for the selfies, there is a 12MP TrueDepth front camera which also records what Apple calls Slofies. It is basically a slow-motion video recording using the front camera. The front camera also supports various effects for portrait mode.
When it comes to video recording, the iPhone 11 Pro, hands down, is the best and way ahead of the competition. All the three cameras can shoot in 4K and you can switch between the primary and telephoto lens at 4K 60fps as well.
Switching between the three lenses is also quite simple with the help of the tiny toggle switches. While you’re using the primary camera, the camera UI will suggest and show you a wider frame in the background just in case you want to switch to the ultra-wide camera, which, according to me, is a nice touch.
There’s also a ‘Capture photos outside the frame’ mode in the camera settings, which captures the area above and below the set frame and lets you recompose during post-processing. The feature is disabled by default and when activated, photos images in HEVC instead of JPEG.
If you’ve read this review till here, you must have realised that the iPhone 11 Pro is, indeed, a complete package. The smartphone by Apple means business and offers you quality and enhanced performance for your buck.
At the very beginning of this review, we reminisced the iPhone advert from the yesteryears, ‘If you don’t have an iPhone, you don’t have an iPhone’.
In fact, the iPhone 11 Pro does offer an experience that not many smartphones offer in today’s age.
While the price tag may be on the higher side, keep in mind that you pay for the premium experience. A versatile set of cameras with a variety of features that offer excellent image quality, a bright and colour-accurate display that is a best-in-class, a powerful and lasting performance unit coupled with long-term software support, all packed in a body that when held in hand, talks premium.
The iPhone 11 Pro is, undoubtedly, the best iPhone Apple has ever made. As a whole, it is also the best smartphone to buy in India. Google Pixel 4 reportedly has a fantastic camera but it isn’t coming to India. There’s no word on the India launch of the Huawei Mate 30 Pro, which has the highest DxOMark score, either.
If you are on an iPhone 7 or 8 and you don’t wish to spend Rs 1 lakh on the ‘Pro’ variant, the iPhone 11 offers a good bargain. Though, you'd miss out on the OLED display and get an LCD instead. The more-affordable iPhone 11 also misses out on the telephoto lens. You also get a 5W charger instead of the 18W fast charger with the iPhone 11 Pro.
iPhone X users, who are used to the OLED screen, may be able to notice the subtle difference in the iPhone 11 LCD screen and it is recommended that they buy the ‘Pro’ variant.
If you’re on the iPhone XS series, I wouldn’t recommend buying the iPhone 11 Pro unless you want that ultra-wide lens. Those who want a bigger screen and battery, the more expensive iPhone 11 Pro Max is an option.
For Android users who are thinking to switch and want the best set of cameras and an ever-reliable performance unit, the iPhone 11 series can definitely be recommended. I agree that iOS has no room for customisation like Android, but the gap in terms of features between the two operating systems is narrowing down. Also, when it comes to privacy and OS upgrades, the iPhone offers a far better and reliable experience.