Apple iPhone 11 review: The best $700 iPhone Apple has ever made

When you first hear the names of Apple’s new iPhones: the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max – you may have questions. Where’s the iPhone X? And what makes the iPhone Pro … Pro? What happened to it last year XS is XS Max? This year’s new phones are refined sequels (literally and figuratively) of the three we got last year. For some people the iPhone 11 just needs to be better than the XS. And indeed it is. But for others, it’s nice to know where Apple stands in the wider phone landscape. There are wild 5G speeds on the horizon, as well as bizarre and expensive foldable phones like it Galaxy Fold from Samsung. And then there’s the more expensive $ 799 (£ 669, AU $ 1,049) Google Pixel 4, which actually makes the $ 699 (£ 729, AU $ 1,199) iPhone 11 an even better value.

Read more: IPhone SE 2020 review

Apple has done a great job with new features, including some major camera improvements like it Night mode for taking pictures in low light situations e Deep Fusion, a new way for iPhone 11 and 11 Pro to process photos taken in situations where the lighting is bright enough to see, but nothing like being outside on a sunny day.

To read: iPhone 11 vs iPhone 11 Pro: Important differences to help you decide which one to buy

But there’s a good reason the company named its most expensive and sophisticated phones “Pro” this year: price. Apple is smartly targeting the $ 699 iPhone 11 as a phone for most people, in the same mold as the iPhone XR ($ 599 at Apple) last year.

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While the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max (left and top) have three 12-megapixel cameras, the iPhone 11 (right) only has two.

Sarah Tew / HDOT

Essentially, iPhone 11 and 11 Pro are 85% the exact same phone. If you want a dedicated telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom, different size options, a better screen and finish, you will pay 30% more. That’s not to say the $ 999 iPhone 11 Pro and $ 1,099 11 Pro Max aren’t great phones. It’s just that the iPhone 11 actually is that well. And that’s why Apple’s “value” phone with its gorgeous cameras, solid build (which survived HDOT’s drop and water tests) and iOS 13.2 earns the iPhone 11 a HDOT Editors’ Choice award. .

Editorial note, March 30: Five months later Apple launched the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, phones still represent two of the best you can buy today. In February, the Galaxy S20 launched at a starting price of $ 999. Technically it is the cheapest phone of Samsung’s current generation. Compared to the Galaxy S20, the iPhone 11 is a steal. The original review, published on September 17, follows below.


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It still starts at 64GB

The $ 699 iPhone 11 model gets 64GB of storage, which is probably fine for a lot of people – and that’s a $ 50 price drop from last year’s base iPhone XR model. 128GB for $ 749 probably makes the most sense if you’re shooting any video, and 256GB for $ 849 should only be considered if you’re shooting a lot of videos. Pro phones add a 512GB layer that you won’t need unless you’re shooting 4K for a living. See the table at the bottom of this review for full pricing details, including UK and Australian pricing.

Read more: Steven Soderbergh may have to switch to the iPhone 11 Pro for his next movie

Colors: iPhone 11 is the fun phone

For whatever reason, Apple is still making the low-priced iPhone 11, the one available in fun colors. There are two new colors, called green and purple, which are more like mint green and lavender. These new pastel colors replace last year’s blue and coral options.

I have the green iPhone 11. Its color is pleasant and the color of the aluminum case is much more similar to that of the glass. The glossy glass back looks the same as last year’s XR. So does the rest of the phone, with the exception of the dual cameras, which are lifted from the back and placed in a frosted glass camera square.

By contrast, the iPhone 11 Pro models all have metallic shades: silver, space gray, gold, and a military-style midnight green. The three cameras look more industrial (perhaps imposing). The rear glass is opaque, rather than glossy. They are made of steel instead of aluminum. And Pro phones feel significantly denser. They pack larger batteries and the steel adds weight.

I love that the iPhone 11 follows in the footsteps of the iPhone XR and is again the mid-sized phone with a 6.1-inch screen – compared to the two iPhone Pro models 5.8 inches and 6.5 inches. I have come to prefer the smaller iPhone 11 Pro, like the iPhone XS last year.

Cameras

In recent years, Apple has made great strides in camera quality, but so have many other phone makers such as Samsung, Huawei and Google. The camera arms race is something hard-core photographers study closely, but I’d say it has gone way beyond what most people need. The iPhone 11 cameras are some of the best for capturing photos and videos you can buy today.

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The iPhone 11 can switch from a wide angle to an ultra wide angle lens. The iPhone 11 Pro can do the same, but it also offers a telephoto lens to get closer to the subject.

Sarah Tew / HDOT

The 11 features a new ultra wide-angle camera, night mode for low-light photography, Deep Fusion processing for better indoor shots, faster autofocus, and overall sharper images with more accurate color reproduction. For a more in-depth look at the camera differences between this year’s iPhone and last year’s, Read our iPhone camera comparison between the iPhone 11 with Deep Fusion and the iPhone XR. Ultrawide offers a radical change of perspective that can be visually unique and mind-boggling. This won’t become your favorite camera, but it’s just great to use.

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This plate of scallops really takes center stage when photographed with the iPhone 11’s ultrawide camera.

Patrick Holland / HDOT

Night mode is a key feature that helps Apple achieve similar capabilities from Google, Huawei, and Samsung. And so far, Apple’s version is impressive.

A night shot of Brooklyn Bridge Park, which brings out the colors. More saturated colors are part of the night mode atmosphere.

Scott Stein / HDOT

Night mode, how it works and when not

Like Google Pixel 4, Huawei P30 Pro and Galaxy Note 10 from Samsung, taking amazing photos in low light seems to be in every phone maker’s computational wheelhouse now. Apple’s version brightens photos, captures less image noise and does all of this automatically. The way it works is that when you open the default camera app, the phone determines when it’s dark enough to go into night mode. At present, there is no manual way to activate the mode.

Night mode uses adaptive bracketing and takes a series of photos, some with a longer shutter speed, others with a shorter one. The iPhone then blends all the photos together to reduce blur and brighten shadows. When I took handheld night mode photos, the sequence took 3 to 5 seconds. When I put the iPhone on a tripod, I got a 10 second time and was even able to manually override it for a 28 second night mode shot.

I took a photo of a tree in my yard that was completely dark. Below is a shot with the iPhone 11 in night mode and another with last year’s iPhone XS.

The HDR feel of the photos retains some of the nighttime effects, but other times the photos can end up looking like daytime. Night mode can be turned off by tapping the icon and sliding the timer to off, but it has been an improvement in almost all cases so far.

It’s not a perfect tool: faces can be blurry, details can be lost. But still, I was flabbergasted. The night mode effects work the same on the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, but the Pro also has a telephoto camera that can use it.

However, you cannot use the night mode in the ultra wide angle mode. That camera ends up looking a lot darker and doesn’t even have optical image stabilization. This is true on all of this year’s models.

Frame your shots well, and the ultra wide-angle camera can do fun things.

Scott Stein / HDOT

Ultrawide angle = dramatic camera

The newer camera has an ultrawide 13mm equivalent lens that’s just plain fun to use. If the main wide-angle camera is like a business suit and the “tele” lens is a sporty blazer, then the ultra-wide is the equivalent of a Hawaiian shirt. It’s obviously different and it really changes the way you shoot. It won’t look great in every situation, but it can be at hand in equal parts, like when shooting in smaller and artistic spaces, adding drama to a mundane scene.

Apple balanced the distortion so there’s some (you want for that ultrawide look) but it’s not awful. I quickly found angles on my subjects that made them look larger than life. Most importantly, you can use the ultrawide lens when shooting video. In fact, during a recording it is possible to switch from one camera to another. Apple has even added a cool zoom effect to the transition between lenses.

Without a doubt, it can create stunning shots. Ultrawide cameras are another new trend among phone cameras. Apple promises some extra benefits here. The iPhone 11 has an improved ultrawide Portrait mode that can work with close-ups of your pets and other things. All phones have an expanded viewfinder that now previews what’s out of the shot, which can help you know when to use the ultrawide lens.

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The ultrawide camera works for photos and videos.

Patrick Holland / HDOT

A funky extra also captures some ultrawide camera data into a Quick Take video, when you hold down the camera button in the Camera app. It seems to attract people who may be out of frame. So far, I haven’t made this mode work for me yet.

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