Note: This article was first published on 17 September 2019 and updated on 19 September 2019 at 4:30pm with battery life results and ratings.
Ever since 2012 and the iPhone 5, Apple has always announced its new phones in September and this year was no different. This year sees Apple announcing two new flagship models and one more affordable one ― just like last year. The two flagship models are the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. Significantly, these are the first iPhones to be called “Pro.” On the other hand, the more affordable model is called the iPhone 11 and it’s the spiritual successor to the iPhone XR ― the XR hasn’t been discontinued and remains on sale. Even though these new models look remarkably similar to last year’s iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR, Apple has bestowed them with a host of improvements and enhancements that deserve a closer look.
But before we do, for the sake of readability and because the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone Pro 11 Max are identical save for the display sizes, we are going to refer to the iPhone 11 Pro Max unit that we have here as the iPhone 11 Pro.
Got that? Good, let's begin the review starting with design.
The new iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro are instantly recognisable as they follow much of the design cues and aesthetic that was laid forth by their predecessors. Following the iPhone XR, the iPhone 11 features an aluminium body and a glass back. The glass back is milled from a single piece of glass and Apple says its the strongest glass you will find on any phone. This same glass is used for the front too to protect the display. The iPhone 11 has a glossy glass back but the area around the camera is textured. As you will see later, this is reversed in the iPhone 11 Pro. The ports and positions of the mute switch, volume and power buttons are all the same ― no headphone jack and no expandable storage card slot, sorry. It has IP68 water and dust resistance rating and can stay submerged up to 2 meters for up to 30 minutes. The biggest difference insofar as looks are concerned is when compared to the iPhone XR is that the iPhone 11 has two cameras instead of one.
It’s pretty much the same story with the iPhone 11 Pro. Like last year's iPhone XS and XS Max, the iPhone 11 Pro comes in two sizes — 5.8-inch for the iPhone 11 Pro and 6.5-inch for the iPhone 11 Pro. Instead of aluminium, the iPhone 11 Pro has a stainless steel chassis, but the glass back, like the iPhone 11’s, is milled from a single piece and is claimed to be the hardest glass you find in any phone. The glass that protects the display is this very same super-strong glass. And as I said earlier, the glass back of the iPhone 11 Pro has a textured matte finish save for the camera bump which has a smooth glossy finish. The iPhone 11 Pro also has an IP68 water and dust resistance rating but Apple says it can stay submerged in up to 4 meters of water for up to 30 minutes ― that’s twice the depth of the iPhone 11. And again, the biggest difference insofar as looks are concerned when compared to its predecessor is that the iPhone 11 Pro has three cameras.
In the hands, the iPhone 11 feels quite similar to the iPhone XR and this is confirmed by the technical specifications. They measure and weigh the same. It’s not a huge phone by any stretch but at 8.3mm and 194g heavy, it is quite a chunky phone.
The iPhone 11 Pro, on the other hand, is thicker and heavier than its predecessor. While the general footprint is the same, thickness is up by 0.4mm from 7.7mm to 8.1mm. Weight is up 11g from 177g to 188g for the smaller iPhone 11 Pro, and up 18g for the iPhone 11 Pro Max from 208g to 226g. As an iPhone XS Max user, I can immediately feel the difference. It’s not a dealbreaker by any means but it’s something worth taking note of since the iPhone 11 Pro Max is noticeably heftier in the hands.
I must also talk about the camera bump. Not a year goes by that we do not discuss the camera bumps on iPhones. This year’s camera bumps are more contentious than ever and also very conspicuous. It hasn’t even been a week but we already have tons of memes surrounding the camera bump. Personally, I’m indifferent towards the bump. If you are bothered by it, ask yourself how often do you turn your phone around to look at its back. Furthermore, from a practical standpoint, it makes more sense to have three cameras bunched together as it reduces the shift in point of view as you change cameras. And if rumours are true, the upcoming Pixel 4 will also have a conspicuous square camera bump so the new iPhones aren’t alone in that regard.
Finally, let’s talk about colours. The iPhone 11 comes in six colours ― just like the iPhone XR. Black, white, yellow, and PRODUCT(RED) returns, but gone are coral and blue. This is a pity since I though coral and blue were the more interesting colours. Taking their place is the new purple and green. The new purple finish is more like lilac or lavender. Green, on the other hand, takes on different hues depending on the light but for the most part, I would describe it as a light shade of pandan cake green. If you are wondering what my picks would be, my first choice would be green, then purple, and then PRODUCT(RED) because the red is so striking.
The iPhone 11 Pro comes in four colours. Space grey, silver, and gold returns, and joining them this year is a new midnight green colour. It was certainly unexpected but it makes sense given this particular shade of green feature prominently in the current street-wear/street-style trend. I see it more as olive or military green. At any rate, colours are subjective and there’s no right or wrong, just what you like. If you asked me, I’ll go for gold. The gold is still this very soft hue of pink gold that I like.