Hands on: iPhone 11 Review

Hands on: iPhone 11 Review

Hands on: iPhone 11 review

The iPhone 11 has one big feature that will really matter to users, and more so than any other element: it’s got a killer price.

While the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max steal the show in terms of headline spec, the new iPhone has a lower price than the iPhone XR (the surprise hit from last year) and yet improves the spec in a few key areas.

It’s got faster innards, a much, much improved camera and comes with iOS 13 as standard – and does so at a price that allows users to get a new iPhone for less than most top-end phones out there.

That said, it’s far from the most advanced iPhone out there, so has Apple got a hit on its hands, or is it something that doesn’t quite hit the spot?

iPhone 11 release date and price

  • iPhone 11 launch date: September 10
  • iPhone 11 pre-order date: September 13
  • iPhone 11 release date: September 20
  • iPhone 11 price: starts at $699 (£729, AU$1,199)

The iPhone 11 release date is set for September 20, which is good news for anyone looking to get hold of Apple’s affordable new iPhone, as the XR hit stores later than the XS in 2018.

If you’re ready to make a commitment to the handset, iPhone 11 pre-orders open on September 13 and – don’t forget – it will come with a year’s subscription to Apple TV Plus in the US.

The iPhone 11 price is hugely impressive in the US, where it starts at $699 for the 64GB storage model – we can’t begin to call this phone ‘cheap’, but that’s a drop of $50 over the iPhone XR, and it’s an incredible thing for Apple to do here.

In other regions the iPhone 11 price is still lower than the XR, but the saving isn’t as great. The 64GB iPhone 11 will set you back £729 in the UK and AU$1,199 in Australia, which represents a saving of £20 and AU$30 respectively over XR.

There are, as usual, a range of storage options to go for – with the aforementioned 64GB model joined by 128GB ($749, £779, AU$1,279) and 256GB ($849, £879, AU$1,449) versions, if you’re looking to spend more money to get extra storage.

iPhone 11 camera

Like the iPhone 11 Pro, the new iPhone 11 packs a large camera bump on the rear, with the square design housing two sensors (the iPhone XR only had one).

The fact that it has this square design on the rear is interesting, as it doesn’t need this extra square space – it could just have the thin lozenge that adorned the rear of the iPhone XS. The sensors also appear larger, so packing them into the thinner area doesn’t necessarily make sense.

But Apple clearly wants users to feel like there’s some shared visual identity between the range, with all three of the iPhone 11 models packing the same rather unsightly square block on the rear.

But enough about how this bump looks – what does it actually do? Well, two sensors live in there, both 12MP. However, this time around it’s the standard lens plus an ultra-wide angle lens, enabling you to pull back to see more of a scene, with an instant visual suggestion to do so:

The camera’s prowess is the most exciting part of the new iPhone 11, with the capabilities extending far beyond packing another sensor into the mix – where there’s now two 12MP sensors, a wide-angle ‘normal’ sensor and an ultra-wide one that takes a step back to extend the field of view of the shot.

Firstly – and this is something we didn’t get a chance to test out – there’s Deep Fusion landing on this phone. This system takes eight photos before you even press the shutter, and a long-exposure option as well.

The Neural Engine of the high-power A13 Bionic chipset is then able to think through what it’s looking at and choose the best pixel from each shot – meaning you’ve got a camera that’s the equivalent of ‘mad science’, according to Apple.

You can still capture background blur shots of course using portrait mode, with improved masking to produce ‘studio-quality’ portraits.

The front-facing camera has been improved too – the sensor has been upgraded to 12MP to facilitate wider-angle pics when you rotate the phone to landscape, and you can shoot slow-motion selfies as well (which Apple is infuriatingly calling Slofies).

We didn’t test this out – for fear of people seeing, to be honest – but some of the demos on Twitter that we encountered were impressive (if you’re into that sort of thing, and want the new functionality).

The front-facing camera also has an ultra-wide mode where the camera range will extend when turned out to landscape mode – the automatic turn and extend will really appeal to those trying to get people into a group.

There’s also an improvement to video quality too, where the phone can now shoot in 4K and with the smooth 60fps – it lacks the finesse of the iPhone 11 Pro, in terms of raw power, but the quality we saw seemed to be slick and more colorful than before.

The camera was by far the most impressive part of the iPhone 11, and given the lower price could be something that really helps sell the phone.

iPhone 11 review

Night mode looked impressive in the demo shots we saw

iPhone 11 design and display


Weight: 194g
Dimensions: 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3mm
OS: iOS 13
Screen size: 6.1-inch
Resolution: 1792 x 828
CPU: A13 Bionic
Storage: 64/128/256GB
Battery:  1 hour longer than XR
Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP
Front camera: 12MP
Waterproof: IP68
Headphone jack: No

Apple hasn’t messed with the formula of the iPhone XR for the iPhone 11, with the same chunkier chassis, compared to the iPhone 11 Pro, coming with a chunkier border around the 6.1-inch LCD (Liquid Retina) screen.

If you hold the iPhone 11 Pro and the iPhone 11 side by side you’ll notice the real difference in design, with the latter feeling significantly thicker in the hand, although the Pro also has a nice matte finish.

However, we tested both the iPhone XR and XS for more than a month last year, and after a short time both phones felt similarly smooth and premium in the hand, so we don’t anticipate this being a huge issue.

The LCD display of the iPhone XR returns on the iPhone 11 to keep costs down compared to a pricier OLED option. It’s still bright and clear – and it seems to help when it comes to battery life, as the iPhone XR has the best battery life of any iPhone we’ve tried.

However, the resolution on the iPhone 11 is a little lower than on the iPhone 11 Pro, again thanks to the cost-saving efforts on show – and it’s worth it for the lower price point, even though it lacks the OLED screen that’s offering such powerful color reproduction and contrast ratio compared to the LCD screen here.

Of course, side-by-side you can tell that the iPhone 11 doesn’t have the same image reproduction quality as the new flagship, even though it is brighter.

There is one thing the iPhone XR had going for it over its better-specified brother last year: more colors. That’s the case again in 2019, with the iPhone 11 colors enlivening the demo area once more.

You can choose from black, white, yellow, lavender and mint green, as well as the standard Product (RED) for your new lower-cost iPhone, and the look of the range is certainly more dynamic and fashion-friendly than that of the more expensive models.

iPhone 11 battery life and iOS 13

iPhone 11 review

Like the other new iPhones, the iPhone 11 is flaunting iOS 13, and the lower-cost device makes full use of the fancy new features the operating system brings with it.

Like the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, it’s also packing the A13 Bionic chipset inside, although we suspect with less RAM, as per last year – even though our Apple demo person said the internal spec was precisely the same.

Rumors leading up to the launch event suggested a lower performance score for the iPhone 11, so we suspect that under heavy load the device won’t be quite as snappy as the higher-end version – but Apple is saying this is the fastest CPU of any phone out there, so we think those benchmarks were bogus in the build-up.

That’s not to say it’ll struggle with any tasks, as during our testing with the demo unit there was nothing to suggest a hint of slowdown – but then again, it’s not really possible to push a phone hard when you’re fending off hordes of other journalists trying to do the same thing.

Gaming was particularly impressive in our demo – the shadows and detail reproduction in Pascal’s Wager impressed a lot, as did the fluid gameplay.

When it comes to the iPhone 11 battery life, the new handset has a lot to live up to: the iPhone XR had the best battery life of any modern iPhone, and we want to see the same again here.

All the preconditions are there: a theoretically more efficient processor inside, the more power-friendly screen, and (presumably) efforts made to eke out a little more life this year.

Apple is claiming one hour more battery life than on the iPhone XR, which means that things inside have to have been made more efficient.

Sadly, there’s no fast charger in the box with the iPhone 11 as there is with the 11 Pro – again this fits with the cost-saving theme, but we were hoping it would come as standard so that battery concerns could be minimized somewhat.

That said, if you’ve got a phone that charges wirelessly, getting a pad for home and work should see you on full power for a lot of your day – so perhaps this isn’t much of a miss after all.

In terms of overall battery life, we’ll need to run some more stringent tests on the iPhone 11 for our full review, which will be coming soon.

Early verdict

(Image credit: Future)

The iPhone XR was the underground hit for Apple last year. It took high honors throughout our review process, and while it didn’t perform anywhere near as powerfully as the flagship XS, it stole the show for being a cheaper and highly capable entry into the iPhone universe.

Now the iPhone 11 is aiming to repeat that trick – and with a lower price and improved camera, we feel like this could be the phone that really resonates for Apple here.

Apart from the camera improvements, it’s mostly the power that’s been upped, so we’ll need to find out whether the iPhone 11 offers a material upgrade over last year’s model.

But let’s not move away from the headline here – the iPhone 11 is one of the cheapest new iPhones in years, and so many users will be drawn to the fact that you can now get a brand-new iPhone for far less than the $999 many might have expected.

It’s not the most powerful smartphone out there, but does offer some camera capabilities for a handset from Apple at this price point.

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