First impressions and design: Subtle changes with Apple's classic style.
Screen and sound: Excellent screens to show off all your favourite content.
Camera: A big upgrade with ultra-wide angle and night mode take iPhone photography to a new level.
Performance and battery life: Battery life gets a boost and iOS 13 improves functionality.
Value and verdict: Apple impress again with another line-up of exciting iPhones.
Following months of rumours, launch events, and preorders, 2019’s Apple iPhones are finally in the shops and ready to be snapped up by Apple adorers, flagship fanatics and people who just fancy upgrading their old handset.This year, you can pick from the iPhone 11, the entry level upgrade of the iPhone XR, or the iPhone 11 Pro (and its supersized Max version), which replaces the iPhone XS.But which new iPhone should you go for? Are the better specs of 11 Pro worth the cash? Or is the 11 the best value? Let’s get unboxing and see how they match up.
Appearance wise, the new iPhones don’t look drastically different from their predecessors, but there are some stylish new touches that set them apart.
They’ve still got the same rounded edge and glass backs that give a premium smartphone feel, but the glass of the iPhone 11 Pro now has a matte effect, which looks great in its new Midnight Green colour.
It’s also available in Space Grey, Silver and Gold, with all four colours having a subtle, muted look.
The matte glass 11 Pro also feels less slippery and doesn’t show any fingerprints, whereas the regular glass of the 11 does pick up a few as you're using it. But that's nothing a quick wipe can't fix.
The 11 Pro has stainless steel edges to complete the premium phone feel. Weighing 188 grams, it’s actually a little bit heavier than the iPhone XS, but it’s really not something you'd notice. It’s definitely still a very lightweight phone that feels great in hand and doesn’t weigh down your pockets.
The iPhone 11 is a little bigger and bulkier than the 11 Pro, its glass back and brushed aluminium edges can feel a tad slippery when compared to the 11 Pro, but if you end up getting a case (which you probably will) this won’t be an issue. It weighs 194 grams so it’s a also heavier, but it’s not a hugely noticeable difference. And you do get more screen for your money.
Appearance wise, the 11 is certainly more colourful than the 11 Pro - it comes in six appealingly-pastel tones. We opted for Green but you can also grab it in Black, Yellow, Purple, Red and White.
Biggest of them all is the iPhone 11 Pro Max. This supersized smartphone has a huge 6.5-inch display with all the same tech as the iPhone Pro. It can be a bit awkward to hold and it weighs a hefty 226 grams so might not fit into smaller pockets (or hands), but it’s undeniably fantastic for scrolling and streaming.
On the back, the 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max have seen a bit of a divisive reaction over the triple-lens camera display. Bunched together in a square box, reactions range from “it looks fine, what's the fuss about?” to “ugh, eyesore” to “it’s triggering my trypophobia”. We'll let you make your own mind up on this one.
Apple has been keen to highlight the durability of its new iPhones. All three are water and dust resistant with an IP68 rating. That means they’ll survive an aquatic accident, like spillages and splashes. Interestingly, despite having the same ratings, the iPhone 11 Pro can take a full on 30 minute submerging in up to 4 metres of water, while the standard 11 can only go into 2 metres.
The iPhone 11 has the exact same 6.1-inch Liquid Retina LCD screen that was found on the iPhone XR. It spans practically the whole front of the phone, with incredibly thin bezels.
The iPhone 11 Pro may have a smaller screen, but it takes the quality up a level. Its 5.8-inch display uses OLED tech rather than LCD to give you what Apple calls a Super Retina XDR display. The Pro Max has the exact same screen specs as the 11 Pro, just on a larger display.
The result is a screen that’s sharper, clearer, and brighter than the LCD iPhone 11. That’s not to say the iPhone 11 doesn’t have a fantastic screen, it’s just not as good next to the 11 Pro.
If you put the two together it’s a bit like those sight tests you get at the opticians - which looks clearer, iPhone 11? iPhone 11 Pro? The answer is the Pro.
Predictably, contrast, resolution and pixel density are all considerably higher on the 11 Pro compared to the 11. Being brighter, the 11 Pro is easier to see outdoors, especially in direct sunlight.
This year, Apple has replaced 3D touch with Haptic Touch. If you press down on an app on the home screen, you’ll get a pop-up box with a range of shortcut options. Long press WhatsApp and dive straight into a specific group chat, or press down on the Camera icon to instantly launch into selfie mode.
Usefully, where the XR didn’t have 3D touch, the iPhone 11 does have Haptic touch, so that’s a nice little improvement on last year’s model.
When you’ve got great displays you want good sound to match. All three new iPhones have spatial audio playback that creates an immersive audio experience, especially when paired with newly-supported Dolby Atmos.
If you’re looking to plug in your headphones you may have a slight problem. As is now the norm for Apple (with many other manufacturers following suit) iPhone 11s do not have a traditional headphone jack. You can either use the supplied lightning connecter Apple earphones, grab a dongle and use your wired headphones, or get Bluetoothing and go True Wireless.
While the new iPhones may not have the drastic redesign some people were hoping for, one feature they’ve definitely improved is the camera. Both the 11 and the 11 Pro have a significantly better camera than last year, and a slew of new photography features.
The 11 has dual 12MP lenses on the back - wide and ultra wide, while the Pro and Pro Max go one better by adding a telephoto lens on the back for 2x optical zoom. All three have a 12MP TrueDepth front camera too, which you can use for detailed portraits and Slowfies (more on that later).
Picture quality is largely similar on all models, the ultrawide option lets you zoom out of whatever you’re shooting to get a wider, all-encompassing image that is genuinely impressive.
However as mentioned the 11 is lacking the 2x zoom. You might miss this on portraits as the Pro lets you get more up close and personal to your subjects, without sacrificing any image detail.
Dark mode fixes an area where Apple has previously been left in the shade, giving fantastic results in lowlight conditions.
Apple has also teased a feature that will be released in an upcoming update - Deep Fusion. It’s not out yet we haven’t been able to put it to the test, but Apple says it uses all of the iPhone’s lenses to take 9 different shots and merge them in to one perfect picture.
Since photography has seen an improvement, so has videography. You can shoot clips in 4K UHD and get genuinely cinematic footage. The new QuickTake button means you can seamlessly switch from photo to video with a simple swipe so you’ll never miss an impromptu capture through fumbling around in setting changes.
There’s 4K recording on the front camera too, you can even record in slow motion, which is where the Slofie comes in. Apple showed off its hilarious Slofie footage at the iPhone 11 launch event. Whether it catches on or not remains to be seen, but it’s a fun gimmick you can get a few laughs with.
Apple has added some heavyweight hardware to its new iPhones this year, in the shape of its A13 Bionic Chip.
This chip is what keeps all the exciting tech in your iPhone ticking along. From Night Mode in the cameras to faster app functions, it’s all made possible by this powerful chip. Importantly, it also helps you get the best battery life out of your iPhone.
With iOS 13 you’ll get some nice upgrades too. Highlights include a new photos interface that lets you scroll through your photos by day, month or year, as well as new editing functions that might just consign other photography apps to the bin. A personal favourite is the new dark mode that drenches every background in black for a view that’s much easier on your eyes in the evening.
The iPhone 11 Pro has got a big battery boost this with Apple claiming that it lasts 4 hours longer than the XS. The Pro Max is even better with 5 hours more battery than the XS Max. The standard iPhone 11 has only got a 1 hour increase over the XR, but we’re happy to say that the battery kept going even through a whole day of heavy use without needing a charge.
They all support fast charging too, so with the right adaptor you can get around 50% worth of battery charged up in just 30 minutes. The catch? The fast charging adaptor is not included, so you’ll have to fork out a little extra for this particular luxury.
You can also enjoy the convenience of wireless charging, but again you’ll need to splash out on a separate charging pad.
It’s crunch time, which iPhone do you buy? Well, the 11 Pro and Pro Max completely live up to their new Pro name. They are every bit the premium smartphone, the always on point Apple design with the matte glass, steel edges and sleek shape impresses, and even though there hasn’t been a huge overhaul in look, the excellent new camera really does make it a genuine upgrade from the XS.
But, and there’s always a but, the 11 Pro Max is very expensive, at £1,149 for the smallest 64GB version, it’s quite a big outlay. The smaller-screened 11 Pro isn’t drastically cheaper either, starting out at £1,049 for the 64GB model.
On the other hand, the standard iPhone 11 starts out at a much more affordable £729, and essentially all you’re missing out on is a flashier design, sharper screen and slightly better camera.
If money is no option, or you’ve been saving up to get the absolute best iPhone available, get the Pro Max. But, if you’re not that fussed about digital zoom or stainless steel edges and just want a new iPhone that looks great, takes excellent photos and has a nice big screen, pick the 11 in one of its pastel colours and you won’t be disappointed.
Still unsure? Check out our phone comparison table.
Decided on the iPhone 11 Pro Max? Check out all our deals.
All about the Pro without the Max? Here are the best iPhone 11 Pro deals.
Rather save a few pounds? Head over to our iPhone 11 deals.