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iPhone 11 Pro review: Apple scores near perfect 10, thanks to battery life, cameras and phenomenal performance Review

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After using the iPhone 11 Pro as much as possible every day for the past week, I was ready to give Apple's phenomenal new flagship device my first perfect 10 rating. Alas, the phone is not perfect, as it offers a paltry 128GB starting capacity. Now, I'm left considering a move to the 256GB model.

A couple of years ago, the Apple iPhone X restored my joy in smartphones. Last year, I went through the iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR before choosing to stick with the iPhone XS.

While the Apple iPhone 1 (see ZDNet's Jason Cipriani's review) will likely be the best-selling model this year, it was a no-brainer for me to use T-Mobile Jump On Demand to trade in my XS for the iPhone 11 Pro. Even though it is $300 more than the iPhone 11, that sweet 5.8-inch display size, extra telephoto camera, and gorgeous OLED screen are enough for me to justify this phone.

Also: 11 reasons I'm buying an Apple iPhone 11 Pro instead of a Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus

Specifications

  • Processor: Apple A13 Bionic chip, third-generation neural engine
  • Display: 5.8 inch 2436 x 1125 pixels resolution OLED (458 PPI)
  • Operating system: Apple iOS 13.1
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB internal options
  • Cameras: 12MP f/1.8 aperture, 12MP f/2.4 aperture ultra wide, and 12MP f/2.0 aperture 2X telephoto triple rear cameras. 12MP front-facing camera with f/2.2 aperture.
  • Wireless technology: LTE Advanced, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, GPS/GLONASS/GALILEO
  • Dust and water resistance: IP68
  • Battery: 3.046mAh battery rated at up 65 hours of audio playback and 18 hours of video. Wireless charging and fast charging with 18W adapter in the box.
  • Dimensions: 144 x 71.4 x 8.1mm and 188g
  • Colors: Gold, Space Gray, Silver, and Midnight Green

When Apple starts the iPhone 11 Pro at $1,000, then it should start with 128GB capacity, especially with an improved triple rear camera system that will have you capturing more photos and videos than ever before. While the 4GB RAM may also seem to be a low capacity, iOS runs with far less RAM than Android so it's tough to make a direct comparison.

Hardware

In the past, I wrote that iPhone battery life was limited while others seemed to ignore the fact you couldn't go a full, long day on a single charge. Apple kept releasing thin iPhones while those in the enterprise were asking for more battery life and willing to give up some thickness to get it. In 2019, Apple finally relented and made the 11 Pro 0.4mm thicker while providing users with a rated four more hours of battery life. This is exactly what we wanted and the slightly thicker phone still feels great in the hand.

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While most iPhone users tend to use a case with their phone, some also still like to carry the phone naked. Since the iPhone X, Apple's glass backs had a glossy finish. This year, we see textured matte glass on the back that nearly eliminates fingerprints and also reduces the likelihood that the phone will slide off a table. We still have that lovely stainless steel frame design that helps justify the high cost of the phone.

Also: Goodbye iPhone XR: Signal strength and size bring me back to the iPhone XS

Apple added another camera this year to the Pro models, so we now have three 12MP cameras for wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto scenes. The top camera is the wide camera with f/1.8, 6-element lens, OIS, and 26mm focal length. The one below it is the 2x optical zoom camera with 52mm focal length and f/2.0 aperture with OIS. The camera in the middle, toward the center of the phone, is the ultra-wide camera with 120-degree field of view, 5-element lens, and f/2.4 aperture. This camera does not have OIS.

Check out my Flickr gallery with sample full-resolution photos from the iPhone 11 Pro and Google Pixel 3 XL.

We have seen Samsung and Huawei roll out phones with AI support for the camera interface in an attempt to use computing power to improve photos. Apple uses its next-generation Smart HDR and machine learning to help improve your shots through more accurate lighting with advanced algorithms.

While on a recent family vacation, I decided to use my iPhone XS for video capture and was blown away by the quality and capability of the iPhone for video capture. Apple took the iPhone 11 Pro to the next level with audio zoom, ultra-wide-angle support, advanced editing tools and more. It labels it the highest quality video camera in any smartphone and I think this may be accurate.

Apple builds upon basic Samsung OLED displays with its own tuning and advanced requirements. The new Super Retina XDR display can now go up to 800 nits in the sun or up to a stunning 1200 nits when viewing extreme dynamic range content. The display is incredible and it is so good you may want to go up to an iPhone 11 Pro Max and watch all of your mobile video content on this phone.

Also: 10 days with the iPhone X: My joy of smartphones restored

The ringer switch and volume buttons are on the upper left, the side button is on the upper right, the SIM card slot is on the lower right, and the Lightning port is on the bottom. Just like we saw with the iPhone XS last year. The 5.8-inch display size is perfect for me, and I couldn't be any happier with the size of the phone.

The stereo speakers sound great, the phone is extremely responsive, and no other phone I have tried gives me as much pleasure when it comes to usability.

3D Touch has been taken out of this year's iPhones, but it's likely very few will even notice. Haptic feedback has been implemented and provides nearly everything that 3D Touch did while removing a level of confusion that baffled me a bit when I did use 3D Touch, on those rare occasions. The press-and-hold haptic capability is similar to what we see on Android phones, but again, done better.

Battery life has been excellent for me and even with very busy days I still have around 40% left at the end of each day. I've seen people reporting 10 hours of screen on time and that is ridiculous when long-lasting Android phones give you six or seven hours.

Software

The iPhone 11 Pro runs the iOS 13.1 (an update was released just a few days after the launch) seen on all new models and other modern iPhones. Take a look at this ZDNet article for some of the more compelling features of iOS 13.

I love the dark mode option, new Reminders application, and native ability to swipe on the keyboard for text entry. I no longer have to install a third-party keyboard and can take advantage of Apple's native prediction.

The camera application has also gone through an update to support the new cameras, with the preview of different lens options appearing “under” the camera controls on the viewfinder, quick camera controls near the capture button so everything is easily operable with your thumb, and improved video editing tools. I love the circular thumb zoom interface that seamlessly moves through all three cameras, unlike anything I've ever seen on any other phone before.

The Apple iPhone 11 Pro also now has support for night mode, improving on the stunning capability Google presented with Night Sight last year. Apple also improves the usability of technology, and its low-light capability is not an option you have to turn on manually but turn on when it is needed, and then it gives you the ability to use a slider to customize the shutter time for custom low light results.

Price and availability

The Apple iPhone 11 Pro is available now in four colors starting at $999 for 64GB. The 256GB model is $1149 and the 512GB model is $1349. You can buy it through Apple and pay in full or join the Apple Upgrade Program. US carriers have various offers to finance the purchase, including the Jump On Demand option I exercised with T-Mobile.

Daily usage and conclusions

Regular listeners of the MobileTechRoundup podcast know I am a sucker for colored phones, so I just had to get the new Midnight-Green color. It is much better in person when compared to the online photos and in some lighting, the back almost looks gray. The frosted back glass is awesome and reminds me of those lovely OnePlus phones. The glossy green stainless steel sides help you understand why the phone is $1,000.

The more I use the camera software with the three cameras on the iPhone, the more I want to just leave behind all the Android phones I have and stick with the iPhone. The software is optimized for usability, and I'm blown away by how the three cameras are so well integrated. A truly stunning achievement by the Apple engineers.

The Apple iPhone 11 Pro is nearly perfect and while some may put the high price down as a con in reviews when you use a tool for many hours a day it is pretty easy to justify $1,000 price to get work done without any compromises.


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