Sometimes I wish gadget reviews would get right to the point. As a gadget enthusiast myself, I often want to know what is actually different, which features are worth the ticket price, and if it’s better to take a hard pass on something new and alluring.
The new Apple iPhone 11 Pro is definitely new and alluring, but it’s intended for a certain audience. If you’re in the market for a new smartphone, this is the year Apple took a serious stance on battery life at the risk of making the phone a bit thicker.
It’s also the year Apple put three lenses into one phone and improved the front camera, so it’s appealing for serious photographers and the selfie-takers among us.
You could argue it’s not the year of any fantastic new innovations, although the ones I’ve found after a full week of testing did reveal themselves over time, and I’ll cover the ones I liked best.
For now, here’s the cold hard truth. If you really need a phone that lasts longer (about five hours more than the iPhone X in my case), the iPhone 11 Pro is for you. The phone costs $999 for the 64GB version. I also tested the iPhone 11, which costs $699.
When a gadget lasts a lot longer, it means we can check our email later in the day and not miss that important one from the boss. It means we can check our social-media feeds and analytics without worrying the battery will die. On a business trip, we can book a rental car after we arrive on a redeye flight (been there, done that).
In my tests, the iPhone 11 Pro lasted beyond a full day, or about five hours longer than the Apple iPhone X I’ve been using for a while.
That’s a significant increase, one that is quite surprising.
I checked the iPhone 11 Pro after a full day of occasional use and it had 60 percent battery life left. (Mind you, I turned off all notifications and didn’t listen to music or watch videos.) It made me wonder what kind of black magic Apple was using, even though, empirically, I knew it was due to the thicker enclosure (a hair thicker than the iPhone X).
In terms of the new camera, I went into the test thinking sure, an ultra-wide and a telephoto lens will be nice, but how often will I be taking group photos of my family or zooming in on a bug on the lawn? It turns out, fairly often. I tended to rely on that wider lens for landscape photos, and at least in one instance, to snap a picture of a cool car, capturing the entire length and breadth in a way that was not possible with a normal smartphone camera. I zoomed in at a conference for a nice group photo.
The three-lens camera is also easy to use, with an option in the camera app that changes among telephoto, wide-angle, and ultra-wide angles without a lot of fuss.
In terms of other features, it took a while to find them. I noticed after a few days that the face detection works faster than before. The phone feels much snappier, thanks to the new A13 Bionic processor, especially for things like editing a video from the phone. I noticed a new app call LumaFusion was particularly speedy. I tried a game called The Gardens Between, and it was fast enough that I didn’t miss my Nintendo Switch.
There’s also a “secret” chip called the U1 Ultra Wideband that helps with AirDrop transfers now and could be useful for other purposes down the road. The phone is more waterproof than before (you can swim with it) and the glass is less likely to break. I dropped the iPhone 11 Pro once and didn’t get any cracks.
One important thing to know: The iPhone 11 Pro will not work with the faster and more reliable 5G network you may have heard about recently. Apple hasn’t commented yet about why that is or if the next iteration of the iPhone will use 5G, but then, it’s worth noting that 5G is not yet widely available in most cities anyway.
It’s on the way, though.
Other than the two major new features and less obvious innovations I mentioned, the iPhone 11 Pro is a smart upgrade for those that want the best battery life and camera and don’t really need 5G for now.
It’s exceptional in terms of battery life and the three cameras. I’m a big fan, but I can also see how paying $999 for yet another iPhone might give you pause.
My tip: Know exactly what you are getting yourself into.