Along with the iPhone 11, 10.2-inch iPad, and Apple Watch Series 5, Apple unveiled its most advanced iPhones to date: the 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro and 6.5-inch iPhone 11 Pro Max.
Because I know you’re dying to know: The camera bump on the rear with protruding triple lenses is real and it’s big. You’ll probably get over it quickly.
The more important question is whether the iPhone 11 Pro offers compelling enough features to earn its pro name. Is it worth spending at least $999 instead of $699 for the iPhone 11?
It’s impossible for me to answer that from my short hands-on time with the iPhone 11 Pro and Max, but I can tell you this: There’s a ton to unpack.
Doesn’t attract as many fingerprints
The iPhone 11 Pros don’t have a revolutionary new design (that’s supposed to come in 2020), so it’s mostly a glass-and-metal sandwich evolved from the iPhone X.
The iPhone 11 Pros come in two display sizes: 5.8 inches and 6.5 inches for the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, respectively. However, the Super Retina XDR OLED displays have been enhanced with higher contrast ratio (2,000,000:1) and increased brightness (up to 1,200 nits).
The most noticeable visual change on the iPhone 11 Pros is the matte glass back. It repels fingerprints way better. Don’t believe me? See for yourself:
The glass is also tougher. Take a coin or key to the phone, and you’ll be shocked to see the scratch marks on the matte glass rubs right off. It’s kinda nuts.
Of the four colors the iPhone 11 Pros are available in (Space Gray, silver, gold, and a new Midnight Green), I liked Space Gray the most. The new Midnight Green will no doubt be the one everyone pines for, but I kind of wish Apple gave the iPhone 11 Pros more vibrant hues, like the lavender and sea foam green reserved for the iPhone 11.
Apple’s also pushed the Apple logo lower and removed the “iPhone” text from the back. Contrary to earlier rumors, the Apple logo doesn’t double as a marker for wireless charging AirPods or an Apple Watch — there’s no such “reverse” or “bilateral” wireless charging feature on any of the iPhone 11 Pros.
The huge squircle-shaped camera bump, which is nearly twice the size of the pill-shaped bump on the iPhone XS, is also … not ideal.
Don’t get me wrong, the bump really isn’t as terrible in person. It’s translucent-ish and looks better than it appeared in leaked photos and renders. However, the three lenses raised on top of the bigger bump isn’t the most stylish. I’m sure the bump will become a non-issue over time, but it’s still kind of disappointing from such a design-focused company like Apple.
I also noticed the iPhone 11 Pros are slightly thicker and heavier than the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. Not considerably bulkier, but holding them in my hands made me really miss the super thin and light days of the iPhone 6.
The iPhone 11 Pros have the same A13 Bionic chip as the iPhone 11. Apple says it’s the most powerful chip in a smartphone with the fastest CPU and GPU performance. I believe it because every Android phone with the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip still lags compared to the iPhone XS’s A12 Bionic chip.
Triple camera delight
The iPhone 11 Pros’ best feature is easily the new triple camera system, which now includes an ultra-wide lens alongside the main wide lens and 2x telephoto lens.
All three cameras have 12 megapixels of resolution. The main wide camera has an f/1.8 aperture, which means it can let in the most amount of light for the best low-light photos; the 2x telephoto camera has an improved f/2.0 aperture for better low-light shooting as well; and the new ultra-wide camera has an f/2.4 aperture and a 120-degree field of view. (Apple says you can squeeze in 4x more into a photo compared to the wide camera).
Apple revamped the camera app to take advantage of the three lenses. Above the carousel of shooting modes, there are toggles for the three cameras: 0.5x (ultra wide), 1x (main), and 2x (telephoto).
These are simple enough to use and you can also press and hold on the zoom buttons and swipe up and down to bring up a zoom ring.
Having used ultra-wide cameras on Android phones such as the Galaxy Note 10 and OnePlus 7 Pro, it’s definitely great to see the iPhone finally get one as well.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t determine if the iPhone 11 Pros’ ultra-wide camera is superior to the ones on Android phones. The few ultra-wide photos I took inside of the brightly lit Steve Jobs Theater looked good with seemingly sharper image quality from corner-to-corner compared to the Note 10, but I’ll obviously need to put it through shoots in the real world later.
Like the iPhone 11, the iPhone 11 Pros boast improved video recording. All three cameras and the front-facing camera can now record in 4K resolution at up to 60 frames per second. Apple says there’s improved audio recording for video as well and better High Dynamic Range (HDR), which I’ll also have to test later.
Slow motion video recording with the higher resolution 12-megapixel selfie cameras is fun, too:
The one camera feature I couldn’t try out was Night Mode. The demo area inside of the Steve Jobs Theater was bright and Night Mode only automatically kicks in when the camera detects a dark scene. An iPhone 11 Pro product person told me a timer appears in the camera app and counts you down to the number of seconds you need to hold the iPhone steady; the duration varies depending on the amount of luminance.
More bang for your $1,000
With a starting price of $999 for the iPhone 11 Pro and $1,099 for the iPhone 11 Pro Max, these phones still command premium prices. Moreover, $699 for the iPhone 11 is even more affordable than the iPhone XR was when it launched for $749. It’s easily the better deal since with the iPhone 11, you still get the Pro’s ultra-wide lens (you just don’t get the telephoto).
An included 18-watt fast charger, 4 to 5 hours of longer battery life, better water and dust resistance, and faster Face ID unlock, round out the iPhone 11 Pros feature set. Plus, you also get a year of Apple TV+ for free with each device.
After playing with the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, I’m not as offended by the camera bump. I’m more interested in how the cameras compare to the latest and greatest Android phones. For that, I’ll have to wait until I can test them properly.