At its big launch event Tuesday, Apple spent nearly 30 minutes on the flashy iPhone 11 Pro, lavishing praise upon its three camera lenses and touting its bigger battery. And then there was that new green color. (It wasn't the most mind-blowing reveal.) The company spent just seconds on what was the most impressive change to its lineup: a price cut on the base model, the new iPhone 11, that makes it $50 cheaper than last year's iPhone XR. The iPhone 11, which packs a dual-lens setup, starts at $699.
The Apple iPhone 11 packs Apple's latest 7nm chipset, the A13 Bionic. While chipsets like Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855+ (7nm) and Samsung's Exynos 9825 (7nm) have closed the gap to the Apple A12 Bionic, it's still the most capable chipset on a smartphone. The A13 will push Apple's lead in processing power even further.
Apple iPhone 11 upgrade: the good, the bad and the uglyThe iPhone 11 gets a new main camera - 12MP f/2.4 ultrawide. Some people would have preferred to have a telephoto instead of an ultrawide, but most would pick the latter for its ability to pack more into the frame and offer a dramatic perspective. And at 13mm, Apple's ultrawide is very close to Samsung's 12mm one (which is noticeably wider than other ultrawide cameras on high-end phones).
There's also a new selfie camera. The 12MP f/2.2 selfie snapper can record 4K video and has a slightly wider field of view.
The Apple iPhone 11 is now IP68 water resistant, which translates into the ability to survive under up to 2 meters of water for 30 minutes. The iPhone XR was IP67 - 1m for 30 min.
Better battery life. Apple claims 1 hour more than the iPhone XR, which is already lauded for its endurance.
But at least the iPhone 11 is slightly cheaper - in the US, the base 64GB model is now $699, down from the iPhone XR's $749 of last year.
Apple iPhone 11 upgrade: the good, the bad and the ugly
Colors - the iPhone 11 comes in Black, Yellow, Product Red, White and the new Green and Purple (though we're sad for the missing Blue).
The screen of the iPhone 11 is the same 6.1-inch 828x1792px LCD of the iPhone XR. At this price you could have a 1440x3120px AMOLED with 90Hz refresh rate. However good the Liquid Retina of the iPhone 11/XR is, it feels distinctly outdated in 2019.
The base storage is 64GB. It's past time Apple made the base storage at least 128GB. These are not cheap phones and you can find devices that cost half as much and still have more storage in their base versions.
The two year old notch. This exact same sized notch has been around since the iPhone X, which came out in September of 2017. Apple has made Face ID better and fitted the notch with a better selfie (slowfie?) camera since then, but it remains one of the biggest display cutouts around.
The iPhone 11 still uses a Lightning connector, which is inferior to USB-C in both speed and abilities. Nearly everything nowadays uses the better and universal USB-C, even Apple's own iPad Pros and Macbooks, it was time to bring Apple's bread winner device into the fold.
The ugly camera module. The iPhone 11 Pro might have an excuse for the messy setup because it needed to fit more rear cameras (we've seen better solutions there too though). Yet the vanilla 11 has a dual setup not unlike the XS and XS Max and still moved to the square module.
The 5W charger in the box. The iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max ship with an 18W-capable charger in the box, the iPhone 11 ships with the comical 5W one, despite having support for 18W fast charging. But hey, if you're in the US, you could use that $50 saved from the entry price to get an 18W charger!
Apple is playing catch-up with the iPhone 11 camera
“Customers love iPhone because we focus on technologies that matter in their lives,” Apple’s Kaiann Drance said when introducing the iPhone 11 yesterday. If that’s the case, then Apple’s competitors have been doing the same thing for even longer when it comes to the camera. What might previously have been dismissed as gimmicks are now headline features for Apple.
The two biggest additions to the iPhone 11 camera system, the ultrawide lens and night mode, are commonplace on Android phones. That’s not really relevant for most iPhone buyers, who just want a phone that runs iOS and will enjoy the new capabilities. But since it’s impossible to know whether Apple has caught up to competitors in the area that matters most — basic image quality — the camera section of the presentation felt a little flat.
Apple was among the first companies to introduce a dual-camera system on a phone, and certainly one of the first to make it really useful. The iPhone 7 Plus’ telephoto camera enabled portrait mode and greatly improved zoom image quality, the one area where phones still lag cheap point-and-shoot cameras. So it was a little surprising to see Apple ditch the telephoto camera in favor of the new ultrawide lens for the iPhone 11’s dual-camera system.
Make no mistake, ultrawide is a great feature, and Apple spent a lot of time explaining the dramatic creative possibilities it enables. Anyone upgrading to the iPhone 11 will have a lot of fun with it. But why now? LG deserves credit for pioneering ultrawide cameras on every one of its flagship phones since the G5 in early 2016, and now in 2019 pretty much every other mid-to-high-end Android phone has one. Apple is simply catching up here.
That’s also true of the iPhone 11 Pro, which features a triple-camera system like every other flagship phone this year. Apple’s Phil Schiller called it a “pro camera system,” though if the Pro is doing anything beyond the regular 11 other than keeping the telephoto around and improving the aperture to f/2.0, he didn’t say. Schiller pointed out that between the ultrawide and telephoto cameras, the 11 Pro has a zoom range of 4x, which is true. But it still doesn’t have any further reach than the XS, and it can’t match phones like Oppo’s Reno 10x Zoom, which (confusingly) has about 8x optical zoom range with its ultrawide and 5x telephoto lenses.