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Apple iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro review: Advancing the state of the iPhone (Updated!)

By Kenny Yeo - 8 Dec 2019

Display, sound, software, and other features

Display

Expectedly, the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro boast some of the best displays in the business.

The iPhone 11 gets the same Liquid Retina display as last year’s iPhone XR. It measures 6.1 inches across and has a resolution of 1,792 x 828 pixels which means a pixel density count of 326 PPI. It also supports TrueTone technology and the DCI-P3 colour space. Of course, the difference is obvious if you place it next to the iPhone 11 or even an older iPhone XS but it’s still a very, very good display. It’s crisp, sharp, and has very nice vibrant colours. If I were to nitpick, it’d be nice if the display’s bezels were thinner; and if its resolution was a Full HD equivalent; and finally, it would also be nice if Apple added Dolby Vision and HDR10 support. But as it is, it’s one of the best LCD displays I have seen on a phone.

Though the iPhone 11 has an LCD display, it's still plenty sharp, crisp, and vibrant. You'll only notice the difference if you place it next to an iPhone with an OLED display.

The iPhone 11 Pro, on the other hand, has some nice screen updates. As a result, they are now called Super Retina XDR displays, in reference to the Pro Display XDR that was unveiled at WWDC 2019 earlier this year.

Size, resolution, and therefore pixel density counts are unchanged, so you get the following:

  • iPhone 11 Pro: 5.8-inch, 2,436 x 1,125 pixels, 458 PPI
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max: 6.5-inch, 2,688 x 1,242 pixels, 458 PPI

The new displays, however, are brighter than before. The Super Retina XDR display can now go up to 800 nits in brightness when outdoors for better readability in direct sunlight, and it can go up to a whopping 1,200 nits when viewing HDR content such as HDR10 or Dolby Vision movies or HDR photos (interestingly, these specs are similar to the Samsung Galaxy Note10. Yup, only the iPhone 11 Pro’s display is HDR10 and Dolby Vision compliant ― the iPhone 11’s display isn’t. It’s also worth noting that the peak brightness of the iPhone XS and XS Max’s Super Retina display was “just” 700 nits. Under the right situations, the new iPhone 11 Pro’s displays are noticeably brighter. But insofar as clarity, sharpness, and colour accuracy are concerned, the two are about the same, which is to say that the iPhone 11 Pro has an excellent display.

The iPhone 11 Pro's display is faultless with crystal sharp visuals, and rich and accurate colours.

One thing missing from the iPhone 11 Pro is 3D Touch. So now the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro all have Haptic Touch. The difference is that 3D Touch allowed you to bring up contextual menus by hard pressing on a screen. Haptic Touch, on the other hand, can be invoked just by holding on to the screen. Now, not everyone is going to miss this since I suspect most people don’t even know the existence of 3D Touch in the first place, but for those who do use 3D Touch often, Haptic Touch will take some getting used to as it doesn’t quite have the tactile feel of 3D Touch, though, in practice, it actually works just as well.

The notch is still there but it's the price you pay for Face ID.

The last thing I need to mention is the notch. Yes, it’s still present and it’s where you will find the TrueDepth camera (more on this later) and the Face ID system. To be sure, it’s a compromise. Apple could have easily put a simpler front-facing camera system and dispense with the pesky notch but that means missing out the Face ID, which is one of, if not the most secure and convenient biometric authentication system in a phone. In the end, it’s a reasonable trade-off but one cannot help but look at the current crop Android devices, like the Galaxy Note10 and Vivo V15 Pro and be envious of their all- or nearly all-display designs.

 

Audio

The stereo speakers project a wider sound stage and can get overbearingly loud.

On the audio side of things, the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro both come with stereo speakers. But new to the two models is spatial audio, which is Apple ways of saying surround sound. The aim is to create a more immersive experience by projecting a wider sound field. Compared to the iPhone XS Max, the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro sound just about as loud, but distortion is less pronounced and the sound is more controlled at extreme volumes. Also, the stereo separation and effects are more distinct and there's even the slightest palpable sense of bass. It’s impressive how loud these two phones can get.

Since there’s no headphone jack, Apple has thoughtfully provided the phones with EarPods with Lightning Connector. As far as bundled headphones go, the EarPods are very decent and certainly good enough for most users. If you wish to use your wired headphones, you need to get a Lightning to 3.5mm adapter from Apple for S$15. And if you want to go wireless, Apple offers two very good options in the form of the AirPods and PowerBeats Pro.

 

Software

The 2019 iPhones will ship with iOS 13 — the latest version of Apple's mobile OS for its phones. Also, it will be released as a free update on 19 September.

The two phones will ship with iOS 13, the latest version of iOS. It was first unveiled at WWDC 2019 earlier this year in June. It’s not a radical update so anyone who has ever used a recent iOS device will be able to get hang of it quickly. As is the case with every new iteration of iOS, there’s a whole lot of changes — too much to get into here — but some that are worth highlighting are Dark Mode, a revamped Photos app, more memoji customisation options, greater privacy features like Sign In with Apple, up to 30% faster Face ID with support for greater range and more angles, a new Maps app, and faster all around performance.

To find out more about iOS 13, read our initial coverage here and then head over to Apple’s own iOS 13 preview.

iOS 13 looks great in Dark Mode.

 

Other features

There loads of other new features

There a host of other new features and improvements to the new iPhones that I will highlight here.

Support for Wi-Fi 6 — This is pretty significant as Wi-Fi 6 is the next big thing in wireless technology. If you are not sure what Wi-Fi 6 is, read our guide here. But in a nutshell, it aims to improve wireless network performance by offering more robust support for multiple devices. But before you get too excited, it'll require Wi-Fi 6 routers to work, which are still rather pricey right now.

U1 chip — The new iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro phones will come with a U1 chip. Apple didn't talk about this during the keynote but I have been told that the U1 chip uses ultra wideband technology to give the phones enhanced spatial awareness and it will enable some interesting use cases. For example, you can simply point your U1-equipped iPhone at another and begin an AirDrop transfer.

Also, reports say that the U1 chip might be used to enable tracking and to help users find their devices or other U1-equipped items. Unlike Bluetooth, ultra wideband technology uses time-of-flight calculations to pinpoint its position. As a result of this, it can be used to find other U1-equipped devices with an accuracy of up to 10cm. This makes it much more useful and helpful than Bluetooth trackers. It might also be used in conjunction with Apple's rumoured AR headset to enable new AR experiences.