Apple iPhone 11 Pro initial review: I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine

Apple has ditched the iPhone XS and XS Max for the new iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro Max. Two new iPhone models that will sit at the top of the iPhone range and, as the name suggests, feature Pro-like features for those who really want the best of the best when it comes to iPhone.

But, by adding a Pro label, has the new iPhone 11 Pro become out of reach of most users? We’ve been trying out the new device at the Apple event in Cupertino ahead of its release later in September. 

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iPhone 11 Pro design

  • New midnight green colour
  • IP68 for water resistance up to 4 meters for up to 30 minutes
  • Three cameras on the rear of the phone

The new iPhone takes the same design language as found in the iPhone XS launched in 2018 and refines and hones the experience. 

You still get the 5.8-inch OLED display, which has been improved in terms of brightness and contrast (more on that in a bit), and you still get the polished stainless-steel chassis with glass rear back.

The rear glass has been toughened to withstand more knocks, bumps, water, and dust; however, it has changed to introduce a new camera section and now gets a frosted (Apple calls it matte) finish, so it doesn’t reflect as much.

The biggest design change is the addition of a third camera on the rear of the device, which takes the camera from being virtually hidden to now a major part of the design language.

This is a phone that wants you to know it has three cameras.

Those cameras protrude from the case and, rather than being hidden in a single block, each has its own lens frame.

It’s certainly a polarising design, with the people we’ve asked already either loving the bold lines or hating them.

While the iPhone 11 gets six colours to choose from, the iPhone 11 Pro only has four colour options: space grey, silver, and gold (as on the iPhone XS range), and a new midnight green (which, as the name sounds, comes across as a dark forest-like green).

The design surprisingly has that familiar-but-new feel about it, and at the moment, we think it works, but are still not 100 per cent decided about that lens configuration.

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iPhone 11 screen

  • 8-inch OLED display
  • Now called Super Retina XDR

The iPhone 11 Pro features a 5.8-inch display, which is the same size as the iPhone XS, but it’s been considerably upgraded. It still comes with True Tone support and wide colour P3, but it now offers 1,200 nits brightness, more than enough for HDR video playback, and a two million-to-one contrast ratio, which is twice that of the iPhone XS.

Because of the new features, Apple has moved to rename the screen technology. It’s now not called a Retina display, but a Super Retina XDR display. Up close and even under the bright lights of the demo area at the Steve Jobs Theatre, the screen looks great and really shines.

The move to the new display delivers two further outcomes: a better battery life because it’s a much more efficient display (combined with a new processor), and we lose 3D Touch.

The later isn’t just a big deal. Due to a lack of support from developers, Apple had already removed it from last year’s iPhone XR, and now in 2019, all iPhone 11 models move to Haptic Touch instead.

That, in the short term, will mean you can finally do things like long-press on the settings icon and pick a Wi-Fi network or a Bluetooth device quickly and easily. Hurrah.

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iPhone 11 gets a new processor

  • A13 Bionic processor
  • 18W Fast charger included in the box
  • Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos support
  • No 5G

A new iPhone means a new processor, and this year Apple has moved to the A13 Bionic, an upgrade from the iPhone XS A12 Bionic.

Yes, that means more speed, more ability to do more things, and we plan to test this to the best of our abilities when we get the phone in for review. Our time with the iPhone 11 was short, and although we managed to play a couple of the games Apple demoed on stage, which are designed to showcase the powerful capabilities of the device, we didn’t get enough time to really see what they were able to do.

The new processor and GPU promises to deliver a whopping four hours of more battery on a single charge than the 2018 iPhone XS, which, let’s face it, is a huge claim, and we look forward to seeing if that’s true.

Other additional new specs worth noting are a new U1 chip, which uses ultra-wideband technology for spatial awareness. That, combined with iOS 13.1 coming on 30 September, means AirDrop should become even better, with directionally aware suggestions. Then, there is Wi-Fi 6 support for faster network connectivity, and the promise of improved sound using spatial audio and Dolby Atmos. Sadly, we weren’t able to test any of them in our hands-on experience, so the verdict is very much still out on how they affect and improve the experience of the iPhone 11 Pro.

There’s also fast charging, as found in the iPhone XS, but this time Apple actually includes an 18W charger in the box, so you can enjoy it without having to go an buy an additional charger.

However, what isn’t included is 5G, or bilateral charging, allowing you to charge your AirPods or Apple Watch by placing them on the back of the device – two things Apple competitors already offer.

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It’s all about photography

  • Triple camera system
  • New ultra-wide lens added
  • Night Mode
  • The front-facing camera also upgraded

If you like photography, then Apple has its sights on impressing you. The new iPhone 11 Pro features three cameras on the back of the phon.e and these address three different lenses to offer a comprehensive package – well, that’s the idea.

You now get a 12 mega-pixel wide, 12 mega-pixel tele, and 12 mega-pixel wide lens on the back to give you .5x, 1x, and 2x optical zoom from the three cameras. In camera terms, that’s a 26mm standard / 52mm tele / 13mm wide experience.

The professional photos Apple has had taken with the camera look impressive, and we are hoping that the photos we take will match up to the same level of quality.

The main appeal to the new offering is going to be the ultra-wide camera, as this is basically new to what iPhone X and iPhone XS users have been enjoying so far.

The camera app has been adapted to show you at all times what you could be snapping if you switch to the new lens – and, like the ability to change from wide to tele previously, the experience is now opened up to include the ultra-wide, too.

One of the nicer upshots is that Portrait mode no longer has to be so close and in your face.

Apple has also introduced Night Mode, presumably in response to the successes Google has had with the feature, and the system works using software smarts to understand you are taking a picture at night and tries to compensate, accordingly.

We’ve yet to try Night Mode for ourselves, and the results Apple showed us looked good but very “noisy”. We are holding out judgment until further closer inspection.

On the video front, you can shoot up to 4K 60 fps with HDR support; iOS 13 intros new video editing features; and Apple has even gone as far as introing a new font, called SF Camera, specifically for the camera app to give it a more “pro” feel. 

First Impressions

Apple really is going all out on the camera focus here, hoping that the additions of a third camera lens and a better screen to enjoy it will convince those that believe they are Pro users to jump on board.

While other manufacturers are looking at gimmicks and “innovations” to help sell the story, Apple looks to be looking to deliver a device that delivers what it promises.

At the moment, you could argue this is a camera that also happens to be a phone. In fact, Apple’s keynote at the event didn’t even mention the iPhone could also make calls or send messages (it can).

Ultimately, though, from what we’ve seen this is Apple using 2019 as a refining and honing process, which will set the groundwork for future Pro devices to become even more powerful.

That’s what we’ve seen with the iPad Pro range, and its worked well, so expect to see the same here for the iPhone 11 Pro, too.

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