iPhone 11 Pro: the best small phone available

  • iPhone 11 Pro: the best small phone available
    Costing from £1,049 the iPhone 11 Pro is one of a rare breed: a premium flagship smartphone that doesn’t have a ginormous screen and is therefore small by today’s standards. iPhone 11 Pro: the best small phone available
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A cracking camera, great screen and 32-hour battery life

   Apple’s iPhone has gone “pro” for its 11th iteration, with dramatically improved cameras and longer battery life, which make the smaller iPhone 11 Pro the king of more manageable phones.

Costing from £1,049 the iPhone 11 Pro is one of a rare breed: a premium flagship smartphone that doesn’t have a ginormous screen and is therefore small by today’s standards.

Everything is relative, of course. The iPhone 11 Pro’s 5.8in screen is considerably larger than the 4in iPhone SE, but compared with the monsters of the modern smartphone era with their 6.5in-plus screens the iPhone 11 Pro is positively pocketable.

The iPhone 11 Pro is essentially the same on the outside as the mould-breaking iPhone X from 2017, with a stainless steel and glass body, Face ID notch and 5.8in screen.

The new phone is 0.4mm taller, 0.5mm wider, 0.4mm thicker and 11g heavier than the iPhone XS that came before it, but you’d be very hard pressed to tell, even side-by-side. While the 188g weight is fairly heavy compared with rivals, the rest of the dimensions compare favourably, making the iPhone 11 Pro one of the easiest of devices to pocket, hold and use with one hand.

Apple’s Super Retina XDR “Pro level” OLED screen is new for this year and is considerably brighter during regular usage and when displaying Dolby Vision or HDR10 content.

It’s a gorgeous display. Sharp, bright, colour-rich and full of contrast. At 60Hz it isn’t quite as smooth a screen as the 90Hz display on the OnePlus 7 Pro, but it wins on all other counts against everything else, particularly at this size.

Flip the phone over and you will see a new frosted glass back, which is more grippy when the phone and your hands are cold, but less so than the previous glossy coating when both are warm. The camera lump is now a square raised glass section in the top right with three cameras arranged in a triangle. If you suffer from trypophobia (that’s an aversion to clusters of small holes) the iPhone 11 Pro is definitely not for you.

Screen: 5.8in Super Retina XDR (OLED) (458ppi)
Processor: Apple A13 Bionic
Storage: 64, 128 or 256GB
Operating system: iOS 13
Camera: Triple 12MP rear cameras with OIS, 12MP front-facing camera
Connectivity: LTE, wifi 6, NFC, Bluetooth 5, Lightning, Ultra Wideband and GPS
Dimensions: 144 x 71.4 x 8.1 mm
Weight: 188g

The iPhone 11 Pro has Apple’s first triple 12-megapixel camera setup. It has the same normal and 2x telephoto configuration as previous models, but adds the new ultrawide camera from the iPhone 11.

The combination gives you the ability to shoot at 0.5x, 1x or 2x optical zoom then up to 10x digital zoom.

Apple calls this a “pro camera system” and like the dual-camera system fitted to the iPhone 11, it is a noticeable step up from last year, producing some of the best images I’ve had the pleasure to shoot across a range of different lighting conditions.

Apple’s new night mode brings the iPhone 11 Pro up to par with the gold-standard of Google’s Pixel 3 in very low-light photography, but note that it only operates on the main camera not the ultrawide or telephoto.

The automatic mode takes multiple frames between one and three seconds when handheld, depending on available light and how much you’re shaking the phone. Stick it on a tripod and you can set it to up to 30 seconds, which is best illustrated with starry sky shots - something I couldn’t test in dank, rainy Britain.

Smart HDR has been improved in bright lighting conditions too, producing well controlled highlights with detail in both shadow and bright spots. Images are slightly less flat and more dramatic than the XS last year too, which is a good thing.

The deep fusion technology, which will be enabled on the iPhone 11 series with iOS 13.2 (tested in beta for this review), also made a huge difference in fine detail particularly in middling light. For the first time with any smartphone, including the Pixel 3, we’re approaching the level of sharpness and clarity at full crop that only a proper camera with a large lens has managed in the past.