The iPhone 11 is a smartphone for everyone. While it lacks the polished finish and extra camera found on the 11 Pro, it delivers where it matters.
Apple turns it up to 11
IF YOU’RE NOT wowed by the iPhone 11 Pro’s triple cameras and inky OLED screen, the iPhone 11 – which is some £320 cheaper – is probably the iPhone for you.
It arrives as the successor to last year’s iPhone XR, and though it retains the same chunky bezels and wide notch, it lands with some decent new features in tow; there’s a dual-camera setup with added ultra-wide camera and Night Mode, an A13 Bionic chipset and a smartened up chassis available in an array of new colors. So, naturally, we were given the black model to review.
Though we were given the goth-friendly variant rather than a more vibrant yellow or purple model, we were still quickly won over by the handset’s design.
The iPhone 11 is a near carbon copy of the XR with the same dimensions, weight, and glossy black panel. However, you’ll now find two cameras on the phone’s rear, which sit atop a matte glass squarish-circular bump; the iPhone 11 Pro, curiously, sports a glossy bump on its matte backside. Though the array protrudes slightly, it’s hardly the bulge that leaks had suggested.
While it looks identical to the iPhone XR and is just as prone to picking up fingerprints, Apple tells us that the new anodized aluminum and glass chassis is its toughest yet, so hopefully it’ll prove harder to scratch or shatter; we haven’t put this to the test yet, thankfully. Water resistance is also included, with the iPhone 11 offering IP68 resistance – that’s 30 minutes in up to two meters of water.
It’s the same old story around the front, too. While a huge improvement over the likes of the iPhone 8, the handsets 6.1in screen comes surrounded by thick black bezels, and you’ll find the same wide notch at the top of the display. Having used an iPhone X for close to two year’s we’ve become used to the screen cutout, but it does look somewhat dated compared to the likes of the OnePlus 7 Pro and Galaxy Note 10 with their bezel-free and punch-hole screens, respectively.
On paper, the iPhone 11’s screen sounds just as dated as its bezel-flanked front; it sports a 6.1in Liquid Retina LCD panel with a lowly 828×1792 resolution.
However, while some will bemoan the 720p-resolution screen – after all, the £399 Google Pixel 3a boasts a resolution of 1080×2220 – we found it a non-issue. Though it lacked some of the punch of our OLED-equipped iPhone X which was more noticeable with dark mode switched on, the iPhone 11’s display is plenty sharp and vibrant enough, held up well in bright sunlight, and offered more realistic, natural colors when held next to an OLED handset.
The screen, which is slightly larger than the 5.8in offering on the iPhone X Pro, also offers the same True Tone and Wide Color Display (P3) features as its OLED counterparts.
We think it’s a display that will satisfy most, but if you’re after something punchier, you’ll have to cough up for the Pro or Pro Max.
Performance and battery life
Though it’s Apple’s, er, “cheap” iPhone, the handset packs the same A13 Bionic SoC and 4GB RAM as the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro.
Unsurprisingly, this means that scrolling through Twitter is silky-smooth, firing open apps is lag-free, and everything just zips along nicely as you would expect from a flagship Apple device.
Though we don’t need benchmarking to confirm that the A13 Bionic delivers exceptional performance, the results we got only confirm it; the iPhone 11 scored 391,420 on AnTuTu 3DBench, beating out the likes of the OnePlus 7 Pro and Galaxy Note 10+. It was a similar story when using the GeekBench 5 CPU test, in which the iPhone 11 scored a single-core score of 1,338 and a multi-core score of 3,329.
We’re just, if not more impressed when it comes to battery life. Apple is promising that the iPhone 11 will last one-hour longer than the iPhone XR, and while we haven’t got last year’s model to pit it against, it put our iPhone X to shame.
During our tests – which saw us using the iPhone 11 as a main, day-to-day device, the handset easily breezed through an entire day, and on most days we still had 30 to 40 percent juice left as we went to bed; we’re confident the iPhone 11 will last even the heaviest of users through a full 24-hours.
Sadly, though, it’ll take a while to charge back up; Apple is including putting its dated 5W charger in the box, even though the iPhone 11 Pro ships with an 18W USB-C fast charger.
The iPhone 11’s most-hyped feature is its new dual-camera setup, with Apple adding an ultra-wide f/2.4 12MP camera to the rear of the phone and improving the sensor for the main f/1.8 12MP camera.
Perhaps the most important upgrade, though, is the addition of a night mode, with Apple finally addressing complaints about iPhones’ lackluster low-light performance. Unlike Googe’s Night Sight, Apple’s alternative isn’t a dedicated mode and instead automatically detects when you are trying to take a photo in a low-light environment. Though you have to hold uncomfortably still, the results are great, full of natural color, and easily on par with those we’ve captured on Google’s Pixel handsets.
In good lighting conditions, the iPhone 11’s camera performs even better. Images are full of detail and vibrant color, and the new ultra-wide mode squeezes plenty more into a shot, albeit at the expense of some quality. However, the iPhone 11 doesn’t oversaturate wide-angle images, which we’ve found an issue with the Galaxy S10 and Note 10.
The iPhone 11’s front-facing camera has also been updated, with Apple adding a new, er, new slow-mo video mode for selfies, or ‘selfies’ as the company disappointingly calls them.
As well as capturing more detailed images of your mug than the iPhone XR, this improved front-facing camera also allows for improved Face ID. It’s now possible to unlock the device without having to gawp directly at it; you can do so if it’s flat on a table, for example. We also noticed that Face ID was slightly faster on the iPhone 11, likely thanks to Apple’s A13 wizardry.
The iPhone 11 runs iOS 13 out of the box, and while it brings with it a handful of new features such as dark mode and improved privacy tools, the OS is still a bit buggy. We’ve experienced weird glitches and apps crashing during our time with the iPhone 11, which we’ve had to restart on numerous occasions.
Overall, though, iOS 13 is a decent upgrade. The dark mode is much easier on the eyes than Apple’s vibrant white color scheme, it gives you notifications when apps try and slurp your location data in the background (we’re looking at you, Facebook) and the Photos app has been given a huge, much-needed makeover, that’ll filter out your endless screenshots and pictures of receipts.
The iPhone 11 is a smartphone for everyone. While it lacks the polished finish and extra camera found on the 11 Pro, it delivers where it matters. Performance is exceptional, battery life is great and the cameras are among the best we’ve tested this year, even if lacking the additional telephoto lens. If you don’t fancy staffing more than a grand on a new smartphone this year, the iPhone 11 is a great value.