In the smartphone market, Apple is the only name that I’d consider to be an aspirational brand. People don’t want iPhones, they desire getting one. But at the same time, the popularity and dexterity of Android smartphones have waned off the appeal for quite a sizeable bunch of people. With the launch of the iPhone 11, this is the first time that Apple has acknowledged that it’s feeling the heat from OEMs like OnePlus and Samsung. This is why they probably decided to price the phone at a price cheaper than its predecessor.
At a cheaper price than the iPhone XR, the iPhone 11 offers a better camera setup, a more powerful processor, and better waterproofing. But while there are definite improvements over its predecessor, it is competitors like the OnePlus 7 Pro, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and the upcoming Pixel 4 that the iPhone 11 really needs to win against.
So how does the iPhone 11 fare? Let’s find out in our full review of it.
iPhone 11 Review: Design
Depending on how you liked the iPhone XR, the iPhone 11 looks just as good or bad. The phone has an aluminium-and-glass body but this time around there are a new set of pastel colours that the phone is painted in: Green, Yellow and Purple. The standard colours of white, black and product red are still here for people who don’t want to experiment. Personally, I liked the colourways of the iPhone XR better.
The only major difference in design is at the back of the phone. The iPhone 11 now has a dual camera setup that sits in a square module along with a secondary mic and a dual-LED flash. The camera module has pushed the Apple logo to the centre of the phone. The glass has a glossy finish whereas the camera module gets a matte finish. Although this won’t make a difference to most, I’d just like to point out that both these finished are done on the same slab of glass and that is pretty sweet from an engineering perspective.
In a nutshell, the iPhone 11 doesn’t break any grounds in terms of design and falls behind the Note 10 and the OnePlus 7 Pro in my perspective. But this doesn’t mean that the phone doesn’t feel good in the hand, it does. In fact this just makes me believe that Apple is waiting until next year to unleash it’s next chapter in design language.
iPhone 11 Review: Display
This part is going to be a rant. I still don’t understand how Apple stuck with a 720p LCD panel that has bezels thicker than yo mamma. And what riles me up further is that everyone has settled with this. Okay, I agree that its probably the best LCD panel I’ve ever seen but that still doesn’t justify this inclusion. Coming from the OnePlus 7 Pro that has minimal bezels and a great QuadHD AMOLED panel, the viewing experience on the iPhone 11 is just way sub-par. Streaming content on Prime Video or Netflix is just not as enjoyable. What makes this situation even worse is that one of iOS 13’s prime features is the inclusion of the system-wide Dark Mode. The use of an AMOLED panel would not only offer a superior viewing experience here but would also help eke out more battery. With up 625 nits of brightness, the iPhone 11 doesn’t do a great job in being legible in bright sunlight too.
Considering the fact that there are phones like the OnePlus 7 Pro and the Galaxy Note 10 in this price range that offer razor-thin bezels and excellent displays, there’s no way the iPhone 11 can get away with this. So, if you rely on your smartphone for most of your media consumption, prepared to be disappointed. This is more unfortunate given how good the dual speaker setup that supports spatial audio on the iPhone 11 is.
iPhone 11 Review: Performance
The A12 Bionic that fueled the nifty performance on the iPhone XR is now replaced by the A13 Bionic that goes even further. Have you heard about the Jaguar XE SV Project break its own lap record at the Nürburgring Nordschleife? Well, that’s pretty much what’s going on with the Apple’s processors here; they’re pretty much in their own league. The iPhone 11 is buttery smooth and handles anything that you throw at it with finesse. Couple its beastly CPU with its GPU and the phone is untouchable when it comes to gaming graphics. Couple this with Apple’s Arcade and the iPhone 11 has a formidable gaming phone alias.
In terms of processing power, Apple’s Bionic processors are in their own league altogether.
Apple has also been gracious with RAM and has increased the number from 3GB to 4GB. And while you’d expect this to lead to better memory management, that isn’t the case. The iPhone 11 is horrible at keeping anything in memory. In fact, EverythingApplePro also did a video on the same that showed the iPhone XS taking a lead in memory management. But more than the lack of its ability to do so, it’s probably iOS that is to be blamed here. The initial releases of a new iOS system tend to be buggy. But even if Apple fixes this over time, the iPhone is not the phone you would want to get to multitask. Unlike Android, there’s no support for features like floating windows or multi-window.
It’d be wrong on my behalf to complete the performance aspect of the phone without mentioning the wonder that AR on iPhone is. Powered by the powerful Bionic processors, Apple’s iPhone constitute for the biggest AR platform in the world right now. Applications that make use of it have an unparalleled refinement that is rarely seen on any other phone right now. I personally tried out Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs and was taken aback by how smooth the performance was. Right from remembering where the virtual game is placed in the real world to how the game reacts with physical pans of the phone, it was an enjoyable experience.
iPhone 11 Review: Software
The iPhone 11 comes with iOS 13 out of the box. But as we all know, the initial software had way too many bugs. Apple was quick in squashing bugs and went on an update spree by pushing updates to fix updates that were meant to fix the original bugs. At the time of writing, I’m currently on iOS 13.1.2 and everything has seemed to settle down.
I’ve always been an Android user and the restrictive nature of iOS had always kept me away from switching. Before switching to the iPhone 11, I was using the OnePlus 7 Pro which has a 90Hz display and has arguably the best UX and UI of any Android phone right now. But I was pleasantly surprised with what iOS has to offer. iOS 13 offers great optimization and makes the most of the hardware it is presented with. The UX is characteristic of fluid animations and applications open at the blink of an eye. There’s also a new system-wide dark mode that paints the UI in dark tones of black and grey which is easier on the eyes in dark environments. Everything else is pretty much the same. Siri still sucks, the ecosystem is still pretty restrictive, applications are still better on iOS as compared to Android, and the entire UI is still more visually appealing.
After using the iPhone along with the Apple Watch and the MacBook, I’m convinced that Apple offers the best ecosystem of hardware and software right now.
It’s also beautiful how seamlessly Apple products talk to each other. After using the iPhone along with the Apple Watch and the MacBook, I’m convinced that Apple offers the best ecosystem of hardware and software right now. All functions blend into devices and it’s just great how I can pick up my iPhone calls on the MacBook and control the volume of the music playing on the iPhone with the crown of the the Apple watch.
Apple has also taken the Security aspect up by a notch with iOS 13. It now offers greater control of location permission in apps, and notifies users when applications ask for other permissions like Bluetooth. Apple also introduced a new “Sign in with Apple” tool that automatically generates a random email address for apps that ask for your email address to sign in. Unlike Google and Facebook, Apple states that they won’t track these logins to target ads to the user.
But coming from Android, there are quite a few things that I’m not a huge fan about on iOS. Notification management on iOS is still nowhere close to what Android has to offer. Notifications from a handful of applications is all that’s needed for the notification panel to get cluttered. This is one place where Android is still ahead. As mentioned above, there’s also no support for floating windows or multitasking which is honestly a waste of all the processing prowess that the A13 Bionic boasts off.
But all in all, iOS is a darn good system that most users can get easily used to. It definitely is far from the customizability and variety that Android has to offer, but its ease-to-use and robust optimization make the entire experience delightful.
iPhone 11 Review: Camera
The cameras on the iPhone 11 are hands-down the biggest update over its predecessors. The single 12MP shooter on the iPhone XR has binary fission’d into two 12MP shooters. While the primary sensor is unchanged, the 11 gets a secondary ultra-wide sensor that truly improves the overall shooting experience. The A13 Bionic also plays an important role and makes possible something incredible known as Deep Fusion, which I’ll talk about below. What else? The iPhone finally gets a much-needed Night Mode, can shoot 4K@60FPS with all its lenses, and also supports audio zoom. Let’s dive right into how these jargons on paper translate in the real world.
Actually, let me spoil it for you. The iPhone 11 is the best overall camera phone you can buy right now in its price segment. The new cameras don’t just catch up with Android flagships in terms of still images but also take a respectable lead in shooting videos.
iPhone 11 is a highly consistent shooter that inspires confidence every time you take it out to take shots. Until now, the Pixel 3 was the only other phone that would make me feel such. The phone takes crisp shots with accurate colour reproduction being in that rare breed of phones that don’t oversaturate colours. Dynamic range is excellent too.
One key area where iPhones lacked until now was while taking shots in the night. Without a dedicated night mode, even budget Android phones with Night mode could blow the older iPhones out of the water. But with Night Mode now present, night shots from iPhone have never been better. When in dark environments, it kicks in automatically and shoots up to 3 second exposure shots. If you’re looking for longer exposure, you’ll need to put the phone on a tripod which will then let you take up to 30-second long exposures. Unlike, most Android phones, the lack of a dedicated night mode doesn’t let you fire it up in daylight to further improve sharpness or white balance. Also, Night Shots are not as dramatic as we’ve seen on the Pixel 3. They bend more towards realistic side of things, which isn’t necessarily good.
The inclusion of the wide-angle camera is such a boon. Apple being Apple, has done the best implementation of this lens in terms of software. Firstly, to show the perspective that the wide-angle camera can offer, the interface at the top and bottom becomes translucent. This is a neat addition but it might prove to be slightly distracting when you want to focus on a particular subject in the frame. Secondly, the output of the ultra-wide matches the primary sensor in colour reproduction and dynamic range which means you can seamlessly switch between the sensors without having to worry about getting two drastically different shots. The only complaint I have with this sensor is that there’s no night mode support for it like the Galaxy Note 10+ has. Hopefully this is something that we can see in a future update.
While Night Mode tends to low-light conditions, Apple has developed a new Deep Fusion feature that makes use of computational photography to deliver even better results in medium to low-light conditions. Using the A13 Bionic’s computational prowess, the feature works on pictures, pixel-by-pixel, to reduce noise and improve image clarity. This feature isn’t available for the general users yet and is expected to hit the iPhone 11 series later this year. But since it’s available on the iOS 13 Beta, we decided to try it out and were quite impressed with what this is capable of doing. You can check out more on what Deep Fusion can do on the iPhone 11 here.
The iPhone 11 adds another portrait lens called High-Key Light Mono which places the subject in a space of white with the subject itself getting a monochrome treatment. But what’s more important is that the portrait mode now even supports objects and pets. But in my usage, I found edge detection to be a hit or a miss. It quite frequently blurred my ear off and missed the space between two people. This is the shabbiest part of the camera experience for me. But when the edges were detected alright, the shots came out pretty sweet.
Let’s get to videos now. Well, I’m not going to waste your time here. The iPhone 11 is the best camera phone for taking videos. Sure, it doesn’t offer a manual video mode to control settings like some other Android flagships do with its stock application. If that’s highly important for you, you could buy the FiLMiC Pro application from the App Store that’ll give you all sorts of manual controls. In fact, it can also shoot videos from two lens simultaneously offering twice as much footage in the same amount of time!
Apple wasn’t playing when it said that the new iPhones take the highest quality videos in the industry.
While shooting a video from the native app, the iPhone also offers an option to seamlessly switch between the ultra-wide lens and the regular lens with a smooth animation. Even while zooming in, the iPhone 11 does an excellent job of doing it smoothly, frame by frame. Talking about zooming, the iPhone also supports Audio Zoom which allows the phone to hone in on the sound that comes from the object you’re pointing it at. Faruk, from iPhonedo, does a great job in showing how effectively this works in his video here.
The rear cameras support taking up to 4K videos at 60 frames per second with extended dynamic range and 1080p videos at 240 frames per second. To quickly get into taking a video, you can now long-press the shutter button and swipe right. And if you’re wondering how to take burst shots, you need to do the same but swipe right instead of left. The ultra-wide sensor on the phone supports OIS (Optical Image Stablization) and does an exceptional job at capturing stable videos.
Surprisingly, the front camera on the 11 is no slouch too. The 12MP TrueDepth is now geared to take 4K videos at 60 frames per second and 1080p at 120 frames per second. Videos taken by the front camera get the stablisation treatment which results in great output. Selfies taken by this snapper were well-detailed, had accurate colours and great texture. If you’re a budding vlogger and need a secondary reliable camera, the iPhone 11 is something you should definitely consider.
The front facing cameras is still accompanied with sensors to make possible Face ID and Animojis/Memojis. Face unlock is now faster than ever and I’m thoroughly convinced that it should be standardized on all phones. The only gripe I have with is that I still need to maually swipe up from the bottom of the display to get to using the phone.
iPhone 11 Review: Battery & Charging
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Combining a highly efficient processor, a 720p LCD panel and a highly optimized operating system, the iPhone 11 is a marathon runner. On no occasion did I manage to kill the phone despite of using the phone heavily. Although iOS makes it difficult to read screen on time numbers after a full charge, I got an average of about 6-6.5 hours of SoT with atleast 20-30% charge left at the end of the day.
But there’s a major complaint that I have here. Apple being Apple, only bundles a 5W charger with the iPhone 11 even though it supports 18W fast charging. For someone who is already spending flagship money on a phone, buying a fast charger shouldn’t be an outstanding expense. With the 5W charger, a full charge can take up to a ridiculous 3 hours! If you don’t want to clench your fists or pull your hair out, I’d strongly recommend you to get an Apple-certifiec 18W brick. Wireless charging is also present on the iPhone 11 but it’s still pretty slow after Apple has capped it to 5W after the iOS 13.1 update.
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The iPhone 11 finally redeems itself in terms of the camera and is now standing amongst the best performers out there. This alone, is the biggest talking point about the new iPhone 11 when compared to the XR that it’s replacing. Everything else is still pretty much the same. The display is still atrocious for this price (when compared to competitors), performance is still the best in the game, iOS is still buttery smooth and is now more secure than ever and battery backup is excellent too.
The iPhone 11 is Apple’s attempt at making a phone that’ll appeal to the masses. And with the expensive price tags on the “marginally” better iPhone 11 Pro and the iPhone 11 Pro Max, the iPhone 11 is pitched psychologically to appear as a bargain. With a renewed focus on India, the iPhone 11 is now competitively priced at INR 64,990 for the base variant. The 128GB and the 256GB variant cost INR 69,990 and INR 79,990 respectively.
So, if you’re looking for a new iPhone this is definitely the one you should get. The Pro models cost a whole lot more and the additions make it difficult to justify this jump in price. But if you’re agnostic to the OS and want a phone that matches the design philosophy of the current times, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and the upcoming OnePlus 7T Pro should be great alternatives in the same price segment. While the camera performance won’t be as good, they’ll win most people over.
Image Credits: Dhawal Bhanushali | Mashable India