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Extended review: iPhone 11 Pro really looks like the next generation of the device

Sarah GillmorSep 23, 20191 04022 votes +12 rating

Review of new Apple smartphones: iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro Max. The product manager of popular Russian website spent several days with the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro Max and shares his impressions of the updated line of smartphones of the company.

A reviewer from the Medusa website in his iPhone XS review a year ago concluded that in 2019 Apple would have to try to outperform its own smartphone models. In fact, for this company it was enough to focus on two things: fix the problems of past models and improve everything that can be improved. It would be nice if the battery held the charge for as long as possible, the screen showed the picture as on professional monitors, and the camera shot like an expensive camera.

In 2019, Apple was doing just that.

iPhone 11 Pro

Extended review: iPhone 11 ProPhoto: Apple

iPhone 11 is the 3rd generation iPhone with the so-called bezel-less design. And there are no fundamental changes in it. The borders at the edges, which in 2019 are already perceived as too large, and the corporate cutout at the top, by which the iPhone is easily recognized in a number of other smartphones, have been preserved.

Of course, there are small updates in the device’s design. And they’re mostly about fixing problems. For example, all the side buttons on the iPhone 11 Pro Max moved lower – to make it easier to reach them with your fingers.

Finally, Apple got rid of the large iPhone signature "Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China" on the back. Unfortunately, smartphones that are shipped to Russia will still have a CE badge and a crossed-out bin – this is a legal requirement. Nevertheless, pleasant body design began to look even neater and cleaner.

The Apple logo has expanded and moved to the center – in order to visually balance the massive block of cameras, which has become several times larger compared to previous generations.

In general, the new camera block in the iPhone 11 has decreased in thickness with an increase in size. Now it does not stick out of the case, as in the past. So the iPhone 11 Pro Max lying on the table without a case does not behave like a pendulum. You can check social networks and respond in instant messengers even don’t picking up the smartphone from the table. The phone case will not tremble with every touch. The only exception is the upper left corner of the screen.

Another improvement is the replacement of the glossy glass of the back with matte. Apple now uses solid sheet glass, which is processed in a special way to increase strength. In theory, the iPhone will withstand heavy loads when dropped and can easily transfer four meters immersion in water for 30 minutes. In practice, none of the journalists and bloggers dared to conduct such experiments on strength with test devices, so the first estimates of the daredevils are likely to appear after the start of sales.

Visually, the new glass more closely resembles aluminum from the sixth generation iPhone. Touch marks are not so noticeable on it. A pleasant update, even though most iPhone buyers will still carry it in their case.

The iPhone 11 Pro’s display got the marketing too long name – Super Retina XDR. The latest abbreviation is a reference to the professional displays that the company introduced in June. This is still OLED technology, so each pixel has its own highlight, and the black color in the picture is really black due to the fact that the pixels can be simply turned off.

However, along with the XDR prefix, two maximum brightness levels for different lighting and an increased contrast ratio of 2 million to one were added to the display. Together with the changed operation of the True Tone function, which adjusts the color balance to the ambient lighting, the picture on the screen is very clear and detailed.

If you pick up the iPhone 11 Pro after the iPhone XS, the claimed improvements are practically not visible. Slight differences in the picture can be noticed only by putting both smartphones side by side and opening the same image – on the XS the picture is slightly less contrasting and slightly less detailed.

Extended review: iPhone 11 ProPhoto: Apple

In the new generation of smartphones, Apple completely rejected the technology for recognizing strong taps on the screen – 3D Touch. In return, the company offers Haptic Touch. A beautiful long name hides a simple long press on the screen, which is accompanied by a slight vibration.

From a product point of view, the solution is logical. Now there is a single scenario on all the company’s mobile devices: a long press on the screen on any iPad or iPhone always brings up a context menu. And from the point of view of working with interfaces, the scenario has become much more transparent, I’m still not sure what I did before to open the link in a new tab – I held my finger for a long time or pressed the screen harder.

Nevertheless, the rejection of 3D Touch in new iPhone 11 for some owners may be painful. Firstly, many people are accustomed to using 3D Touch in the keyboard to quickly move the cursor – they pressed harder anywhere and instantly switched to drag and drop mode. Now the scenario is more complicated – you need to hold your finger on the space bar to call a similar function.

Secondly, it’s hard to get used to the new scenario for dragging and dropping icons. The fact is that to switch to the main screen editing mode now you need to use the super-long press. The finger does not stand up to two seconds of waiting and automatically tries to push the screen to reach the desired function. Apparently, especially for some people, Apple added a new item to the context menu.

There is another product advantage of 3D Touch rejection. More space for the battery appeared inside the phone body without a special layer that tracked strong pressures on the screen. Plus, the case itself became 0.4 mm thicker (and 11 grams heavier).

Along with the physical increase in battery, Apple has done a great job in improving the energy efficiency of iPhone components in 2019. The screen began to consume 15% less energy compared to the XS, and a special controller can intelligently allocate resources depending on their priority.

For several days of the test, it is difficult to assess how much the duration of work from one charge has changed. But there really are improvements. You can perform standard manipulations to write text, install dozens of different applications, take pictures on different cameras, shoot 4K video, listen to music, ride with the navigator and never connect to charging. In the evening, the iPhone 11 Pro showed 60% battery power. Not bad, considering that the iPhone XS, freed from any tasks for almost the whole day, was already approaching 30% of the battery charge that evening.

The XS camera is not just out of date in a year. With the release of the Samsung Galaxy S10 with a wide-angle camera, you can almost stop using it for shooting. As a result, you can take two smartphones with you on trips: S10 for photos and videos, iPhone for work.

So, cars reviews that are posted on some sites may possibly be photographed on the S10. The wide-angle camera in the smartphone gave a much more interesting picture. Plus, it replaces the need to carry GoPro with you. Therefore, many users expect not just updates from the iPhone 11 Pro cameras. Because Apple needs to not only catch up with its competitors in this case, but also take a step forward. The company definitely coped with this task.

The iPhone 11 Pro has three cameras. Each with its own lens. The main lens is an ordinary f/1.8 with a focal length of 26 mm and a 12 MP sensor, ultra-wide – f/2.4, 13 mm, telephoto – f / 2.0, 52 mm.

The hardware part of the cameras is not as interesting as the algorithms that are responsible for creating images. Even before the user presses the shutter button, the iPhone takes four rough shots, which it saves to the buffer. Then the algorithm recognizes the objects in the pictures and, if necessary, applies additional details to them taken from draft pictures. So the hair becomes more contrasting, the sky is smoothed, the shadows and highlights are adjusted. In less than a second, the iPhone performs millions of such calculations to ultimately save one frame in memory.

If you describe the pictures on the new iPhone in simple words, then they turn out exactly the way I see them. There are no exaggerations with the brightness and unnatural color of the pictures. Algorithms especially help in night shooting mode. It turns on automatically when there is not enough light in the frame, and takes a picture saturated with color from a dark, boring frame.

The night mode works like this. When you press the shutter button, the iPhone takes a series of shots instead of just one – a notification is displayed on the screen at that moment that you should not stop shooting. Then, all the images obtained within a couple of seconds are processed by the algorithm and combined into the final result. Noise disappears from the frame, darkened areas become lighter, and light parts do not become overexposed.

Together with the new cameras in iOS 13, the shooting interface has also changed. Firstly, you can smoothly switch between different modes using the scroll. Secondly, the capture button now works as in Instagram stories – a long press immediately starts recording video. The front camera was also updated – it got wider coverage, learned to record video in 4K and support slow-motion shooting.

The new iPhone has increased the speed of Face ID recognition system. But more importantly, the angle at which the iPhone recognizes the face has increased. Therefore, in a few days of the test, you will even forget about the old habit of constantly tilting your head to the iPhone lying on the table to read notifications.

The speaker volume has increased. Now speakers support playback of Dolby formats. Although I can hardly remember the case when I used the speakers of the iPhone to play something – what wireless headphones for...

Extended review: iPhone 11 ProPhoto: Apple

The iPhone 11 design is almost unchanged compared to the XR. The same aluminum and glass, the same border thickness around the screen, which is still noticeably thicker than the Pro version. But the water resistance has improved, thus the iPhone can be immersed for half an hour in water to a depth of 2 meters.

Noticeable changes are only on the back cover: an enlarged camera unit, a logo that has moved closer to the center, a missing iPhone inscription and glossy glass – look the same as in the XR. The display also remained unchanged. This is the LCD screen that Apple calls Liquid Retina. It knows how to adapt to the surrounding lighting and supports Haptic Touch – tactile feedback with a long press on the screen. In a word, the same as in the XR.

Of course, this is not OLED, therefore, in comparison with Pro, the difference is visible to the naked eye. There is no such perfect contrast and sharpness, and the black theme of iOS 13 does not look so black. Nevertheless, having opened the same photo on 11 and 11 Pro, I would not say that the difference between displays is catastrophic. The Liquid Retina screen handles colors, shades, and detail display well.

Apple claims to have improved the smartphone’s energy efficiency, making it run one hour longer than the XR. However, we are talking about a test in which the smartphone continuously played 17 hours of video instead of the previous 16. Since the actual use of the device is significantly different from similar tests, it is unlikely for the buyer this change will be noticeable.

But the changes in the cameras will be noticeable. The iPhone 11 has two cameras. Main wide angle f/1.8. The second is ultra wide – f/2.4. Exactly the same cameras and sensors are installed in the Pro-version, so the pictures from both phones are identical. Two cameras made it possible to add a “real” portrait mode to the iPhone 11. The accuracy of identifying objects in the foreground has increased, but with blurring the background there are no noticeable changes – it is still done programmatically and with bugs at the edges of the objects.

It seems that the most optimal set of lenses has turned out in iPhone 11. The usual wide and ultra-wide cameras are enough for most occasions. For example, in my photo library over the past year, I discovered that I resorted to using a telephoto camera in up to 10% of cases. What can not be said about the wide-angle camera – much more interesting pictures were obtained with it in most cases.

Attention to the screen

iPhone 11 Pro replaces iPhone XS. And it really looks like the next generation of the device: a new display, body, camera, noticeable improvement in energy efficiency and fast charging in the kit. The iPhone 11 looks more like a slightly updated XR, which received a couple of new cameras as a present from the Pro version. But the iPhone 11 has probably one of the most important benefits for the buyer.

The iPhone 11 is cheaper than the iPhone XR when it went on sale a year ago, and much cheaper than the iPhone 11 Pro. At the same time, the smartphone takes the same excellent pictures and also works quickly with tasks using the same A13 processor. For the difference in cost, the buyer of the Pro version gets two things: the best screen on the market and one extra camera, which is likely to be rarely used.

The screen is the only factor that adds doubt when choosing between the two models. After a year with the iPhone XS OLED display, it’s hard to get back on the LCD. However, I suppose that for $500 I can quite get along with the screen without the prefix “best” in the description.

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  1. Harry Parkes
    Harry ParkesJournalist
    2019-10-9, 7:43AM
    Should be noted also that most phones in US/Canada are sold on device subsidies/loans. So the cost of the phone is spread over many months. Takes a lot of the bite out of paying double for an iPhone, at least psychologically. In other parts of the world you pay for your phone plan (typically quite cheap relative to North American rates) separately and you just go and buy a phone. Unbundled essentially. So the extra cost of the iPhone is quite noticeable.

    Recently switched from an Samsung S8+ to an iPhone 7 Plus, just to see what the fuss was about. Its nice enough and there are definitely some very good elements of the iPhone, but there's a lot of stuff I miss on Android. Will probably go back to Android once the next slew of phones is out.

    Basically, from a phone perspective, upper end of Android phones are entirely competitive with and often superior to the latest iPhone in many respects. They're not the same in every regard, but they trade wins and losses. Also, with Android phones having a large price advantage and iPhone as a brand not carrying the same cachet as it used to, its unsurprising that Apple would be having some issues.
  2. William Thayer
    William ThayerJournalist
    2019-10-9, 7:30AM
    If the number of "exotic features" on high-end phones guaranteed sales supremacy, Samsung would long ago have triumphed over Apple. Why in the world would stupid Korean consumers pay for Apple products when Samsung offers so much?! Samsung marketing has been using this ploy for many years.

    In fact the iPhone has at least two important features that Huawei cannot surpass:

    1. In-house designed processor: the A12 Bionic chip vs. the Kirin 980 chip
    2. iOS vs. Android

    Huawei, like every other Apple wannabe in the world uses Google developed Android software. Ironic, isn't it, since Google is locked out of China? The problem, of course, is that so doing throws aways the Apple advantage of designing its system software specifically for its own hardware, forcing more memory and CPU use for the same level of performance. And Huawei isn't in charge of the update path and can't readily provide rapid software fixes to its users the way Apple can.

    The result: iOS is safer than Android, and in the rather dodgy world of Chinese cyberspace, that's no minor advantage.
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