Apple Inc.’s new iPhone 11 is the most refined version of the notch-based hardware to date. From the dual-camera setup to unexpected improvements to sound quality, the iPhone 11 has it all and does it well.
Coming from the iPhone 6S, I’ve tested and skipped all Face ID versions of the phone since 2017. At the time of launch, Face ID was slower and hit or miss compared to the reliable Touch ID. For the iPhone 11, Face ID is stellar. It’s fast and unlocks in one second from waking. It can even scan from a face-down desk hover to unlock the phone at the office.
The biggest enhancement on the iPhone 11 is the new dual-camera setup. The back features the standard 12MP wide angle ƒ/1.8 lens and adds an Ultra Wide camera to fit more into the frame. The Ultra Wide ƒ/2.4 lens works great to fit more landscape into a scenic shot and solves the common problem of trying to squeeze everyone into the frame. The lens produces a softer image than the Wide for less detailed shots, but is still a welcome addition.
Night mode is an advanced feature to help boost exposure in photos captured in low light. It turns on automatically and does a fantastic job to use whatever light available to brighten the entire image without compromise to color.
The 12MP TrueDepth front camera can now capture video at 4K 60FPS and take 120FPS slow-motion selfies called Slofies. It’s great if you have a lot of hair and want to see it captured in all its glory. But for most owners, it’s there and won’t be used much.
Battery life is similar to the iPhone XR, roughly an hour more than its predecessor. Expect all day battery life with standard use and quick charge to 50 percent in 30 minutes with the 18W charge adapter (sold separately).
The most unexpected improvement in the iPhone 11 is the sound quality. The new Dolby Atmos and Spacial Audio features produce excellent audio from basic streams to robust action movies.
For owners with older iPhones, the loss of 3D Touch is a bummer. Haptic Touch, which relays a similar long-hold function, does the job but doesn’t feel as snappy. Also, you have to long-hold the space bar to move the cursor around the field rather than any place on the keyboard.
The hardest adjustment when upgrading to the iPhone 11 may be its size. At 6.1-inches, it’s far larger than the old 4.7-inch version and is more on par with the size of the Plus series. To have to pay $999 for the 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro for a smaller footprint is absurd.
Another drawback is that the iPhone 11 isn’t ready for the future. A 5G antenna is not built-in to the latest iPhone, which means that a $699 investment will last a full year before it’s eclipsed by the 5G version, expected in 2020. Also, those waiting for a Touch ID replacement may receive an in-screen fingerprint reader in 2020 or 2021.
Change is hard. For iPhone owners that still don’t have any issues with the current phone, keep it and wait for the 5G version. Owners with buggy phones, particularly the iPhone 7, should trade-in and take advantage of the $350 credit from select U.S. carriers. The iPhone 11 is the best bang for your buck with all the bells and whistles you expect, and even some that you don’t.