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iPhone 11 review: More 'pro' than it looks

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iPhone 11: More ‘pro’ than it looks

The best iPhone value is even better now.

by Raymond Wong

iPhone 11: More ‘pro’ than it looks

The best iPhone value is even better now.

by Raymond Wong

The iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max dominated the spotlight this year, but the iPhone 11 is the better value.

Starting at $699 — $300 less than the iPhone 11 Pro, which starts at $999 — you might think Apple cut a lot of corners with the iPhone 11. That’s simply not true.

Like the iPhone XR was to the iPhone XS, the iPhone 11 has nearly every meaningful feature the iPhone 11 Pros have: the most powerful performance in any smartphone, a new ultra wide camera, night mode for better low-light photography, longer battery life than the previous generation, and all of the new features in iOS 13 such as dark mode and a redesigned Photos app.

The iPhone 11 Pro has a few extras that contribute to its higher price tag. But if you don’t need the icing, the iPhone 11 is the new people’s iPhone, even if it doesn’t have “Pro” in its name.

$699 (starting)
  • Same powerful performance as iPhone 11 Pro
  • Fantastic ultra wide camera
  • Incredible night mode
  • New colors!
  • Starts at $50 less than iPhone XR did
  • No fast charger included
  • Bezels are still thick
The Bottom Line

The iPhone 11 gets you every important iPhone 11 Pro feature, like an ultra wide camera, for hundreds less.

Mashable Score4.75

Cool Factor4

Learning Curve5

Performance5

Bang for the Buck5

The iPhone 11 has the same 6.1-inch Liquid Retina display as the iPhone XR.

Zlata Ivleva / Mashable

Choose your color

Apple was right with the iPhone XR: most people really don’t care if an iPhone is a few millimeters thicker, or if the display is an LCD with thicker bezels instead of an OLED with thinner bezels, or if the metal frame is made of aluminum instead of “surgical-grade” stainless steel. They just care that it’s still a great iPhone.

Physically, the iPhone 11 is a near carbon copy of the iPhone XR — they have the same dimensions and weight — but it has two cameras on the back instead of one. They sit on top of a matte glass squircle bump. (Fun fact: The iPhone 11 Pro is reversed, with a glossy bump on a matte back.)

And just like the iPhone 11 Pro, the big bump and two smaller lens bumps are less ugly in person. Really.

Frame is still made of aluminum and the back from glass.

Zlata Ivleva / Mashable

Sorry, headphone jack isn’t coming back!

Zlata Ivleva / Mashable

The 6.1-inch Liquid Retina display (including the bezel thickness and notch), stereo speakers, lack of a headphone jack, and buttons are all identical to the iPhone XR.

Haters will still nitpick at the 720p resolution LCD screen, but as I said in our iPhone XR review, it’s a non-issue. If you want a better iPhone display with more pixels and better brightness and higher contrast, you know how to get it: buy an iPhone X, XS/XS Max, or 11 Pro/11 Pro Max.

The iPhone 11 still comes in black, white, and (Product)RED, but also a new purple and green, and a yellow that’s not as vibrant as the one that’s available for iPhone XR.

I’ve been using the green, which is in a sea foam hue. The purple’s nice, too. I miss the coral and light blue iPhone XR, though.

Face ID is 30% faster thanks to iOS 13.

Zlata Ivleva / Mashable

Like on the iPhone 11 Pros, the Apple logo has scooted down to the middle and the “iPhone” branding is gone. The glossy back, which supports Qi-based wireless charging, is still a fingerprint magnet, though. So if you hate seeing your finger grooves, either get a case or the iPhone 11 Pros, which have a matte fingerprint-resistant glass back.

Water resistance has been bumped up to IP68 on the iPhone 11 compared to the iPhone XR’s IP67: submersible in up to 6.5 feet of water for up to 30 minutes, instead of only 3 feet.

The iPhone 11 has two rear cameras: 12-megapixel wide and 12-megapixel ultra wide lens.

Zlata Ivleva / Mashable

Upgraded cameras

Apple popularized dual-lens cameras with the iPhone 7 Plus, giving users a main “wide” lens and a “2x telephoto” lens.

The iPhone 11 has two cameras on the back, but instead of a telephoto lens, you get an ultra wide shooter — the same 12-megapixel (f/2.4) camera with 120-degree field of view on the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max.

Here’s how the two cameras on the back and front-facing “TrueDepth” camera break down:

  • 12-megapixel “wide” camera with f/1.8 aperture with optical image stabilization (OIS)
  • 12-megapixel “ultra wide” camera with f/2.4 aperture and 120-degree field of view
  • 12-megapixel “TrueDepth” selfie camera with f/2.2 aperture

And honestly, unless you use the telephoto lens often or prefer how it takes portrait mode photos, you’re not missing out with the iPhone 11’s cameras.

Just like on the iPhone 11 Pros, the ultra wide camera is the one you want to know about. I’ll save you a couple of hundred words: it has a really wide field of view and it’s a blast to shoot with. It’s hard going back to the regular wide camera after you go ultra wide.

Ultra wide

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Wide

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Ultra wide

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Wide

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Ultra wide

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Wide

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Despite not having optical image stabilization, overall image quality from the ultra wide camera is terrific. There’s of course distortion from the stretching of a scene, but it’s not as curved as on other smartphone ultra wide cameras.

Like the iPhone 11 Pros, the other most impressive new camera feature on the iPhone 11 is night mode. The iPhone 11’s night mode surpasses Google’s Night Sight on Pixel phones with greater clarity and less artificial-looking color brightening.

iPhone 11

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Raymond Wong / Mashable

iPhone 11 (with night mode)

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Raymond Wong / Mashable

As expected, the iPhone 11 shoots fantastic photos with vibrant realistic color, incredible dynamic range, and sharp details. Other phone cameras tend to produce images that are too saturated, too flat, or too contrasty. The iPhone 11 shoots the most balanced photos.

Apple’s tuned the image processing with improved “Smart HDR” for more lifelike photos. Some people felt the iPhone XR and XS’s Smart HDR made photos resemble watercolor paintings. I wasn’t one of them, but comparing shots taken with the iPhone 11, XR, and XS, I can see Apple’s tweaked the cameras to produce a little more contrast, and increased the shadows and highlights.

Portrait mode on the iPhone 11 also works on pets and objects; on the iPhone XR, it only worked on people, using machine learning to spot a face. The results on photos of pets and objects can be hit or miss.


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Video recording on the iPhone 11 is the same as on the iPhone 11 Pro. Same improved video stabilization, same video capture at 4K resolution at up to 60 frames per second on all cameras, and same slow motion “slofie” recording with the front-facing camera. Basically, like any iPhone, the iPhone 11 has the best video camera in any phone.

For more detailed iPhone 11 and 11 Pro camera comparisons, definitely go check out the camera section in our iPhone 11 Pro review. Rather than duplicate its lengthy comparisons, I’ll just leave some of my favorite photos shot with the iPhone 11 below. And, as always, you can agree or disagree with me on Twitter @raywongy or Instagram @sourlemons. I want to hear from you guys!

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You’ll get the same A13 Bionic performance on iPhone 11 as iPhone 11 Pro.

Zlata Ivleva / Mashable

As powerful as the iPhone 11 Pro

The iPhone 11 may not be made of the same premium materials or have a telephoto camera, but one thing it isn’t is underpowered compared to the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max.

Apple uses the same A13 Bionic chip with the same 4GB of RAM in the iPhone 11 as it does in the iPhone 11 Pros. And the iPhone 11 scored virtually the same on Geekbench 5: 1,335 on single-core and 3,454 on multi-core (average of three CPU tests).

In every case, whether it’s for gaming, or editing video in iMovie or LumaFusion, or messing with augmented reality apps, the iPhone 11 is as powerful as the iPhone 11 Pros. You’re not losing any performance.

With the same performance as the iPhone 11 Pros, the iPhone 11 also kicks every flagship Android’s butt. For single-core performance (most use cases), the iPhone 11 is 45 percent faster than Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 and the OnePlus 7 Pro, 50 percent faster than Huawei’s P30 Pro, and 73 percent faster than Google’s Pixel 3L.

Not too shabby for a phone that costs hundreds less than every one of those phones aside from the OnePlus 7 Pro, which starts at $669.

iOS 13: same OS you know, but better.

Zlata Ivleva / Mashable

Similar to the iPhone 11 Pros, the iPhone 11 also has faster gigabit-class LTE and WiFi 6 connectivity. In the right places, the iPhone 11 gets faster download and upload speeds than previous iPhones. I noticed the iPhone 11 was able to connect to T-Mobile’s LTE network in areas of New York City (like Long Island City and Willet’s Point), where my iPhone XS has always failed to do so.

And, just like the iPhone 11 Pros, the iPhone 11 also includes the U1 “Ultra Wideband” chip, which can be used for more precise location tracking. As with iPhone 11 Pro, I wasn’t able to test the U1 chip’s first announced feature: AirDropping a file to another U1-equipped iPhone by pointing them at each other. The feature is supposed to be ready in iOS 13.1.

Dark mode on iOS 13 is really nice.

Zlata Ivleva / Mashable

Until this year, the iPhone XR had the longest battery life of any iPhone, and on the iPhone 11, you get an hour more.

The iPhone 11 doesn’t have the best battery life of this year’s three new iPhones — the iPhone 11 Pro Max and iPhone 11 Pro last way longer — but it’s still a beast and will easily last a full day.

Sadly, the iPhone 11 doesn’t come with an 18-watt fast charger and USB-C-to-Lightning cable like the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max. Included in the box is still a slow 5-watt charger and USB-A-to-Lightning cable that takes forever to charge the iPhone 11.

From least expensive to most: iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Zlata Ivleva / Mashable

Still the best iPhone for everyone

Last year, I said the iPhone XR was the “Goldilocks of iPhones” and “the iPhone for everyone.” It was powerful, had killer battery life, took excellent photos and videos, and cost hundreds less than the iPhone XS.

With the iPhone 11, that’s even more true than before. It’s still the people’s iPhone. It has faster performance, an ultra wide camera, night mode, an hour longer battery life, new colors, and a lower starting price at $699 instead of the $749 the iPhone XR launched at. That’s a hell of a value for a new iPhone no matter how you look at it.

Obviously, if you want more premium materials, a telephoto camera, longer battery life, and a better display, you’re going to lean towards the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max. But be prepared to shell out more money for it.

In all cases, the iPhone 11’s features are more than enough, not just for today but for years to come. I still recommend doubling the entry-level 64GB to 128GB for another $50, though. Trust me, you’ll need it when you inevitably end up taking more photos and videos.

  • Written by Senior Tech Correspondent

    Raymond Wong

  • Edited by Tech Editor

    Keith Wagstaff

  • Photography by

    Zlata Ivleva / Mashable