The iPhone XR was the first commercial success that came on the second attempt for making a more affordable iPhone. The iPhone 5c failed to impress in 2013, and we thought we’d never see the maker give this idea another try. Well, last year the iPhone XR was more than well received being the best selling iPhone of the trio, so this year we welcome its sequel – the iPhone 11.
The iPhone XR was indeed a cheaper, toned-down version of the XS generation, with an LCD screen, one camera short, and promised some excellent battery endurance. Well, when we say cheaper, we are not saying cheap, as those words mean something different in Apple’s universe.
But truth be told, this year the iPhone 11 is even cheaper than the XR on launch – now priced at $700 instead of $750. The good news is that nothing has been left out and there are a few welcome additions to the low-tier iPhone.
So, the iPhone 11 keeps absolutely the same form factor and screen as the XR’s. It employs the same 6.1″ IPS LCD screen with 326ppi and a notch on top that contains the Face ID tech. The screen specs are unchanged – same contrast, brightness, Haptic Touch, and whatnot.
The iPhone 11 boasts the new Apple A13 Bionic chip – the same SoC that powers the flagship iPhone 11 Pro duo. It also gets a second camera, and it’s the new 12MP ultra wide-angle snapper, also brought from the Pro models. Features like Crop Out of Frame are available as well, and also shooting 4K videos with all cameras at once.
The new 12MP selfie camera has made it to the iPhone 11, too. It’s another 12MP shooter with 23mm wide lens, and it can do regular 4K clips at 60fps, or 4K at 30fps videos with expanded dynamic range. Cinematic stabilization is available on the front cam on all modes.
Apple managed to squeeze a larger battery in the same body as last year – now the iPhone 11 gets a 3,110mAh battery compared to 2,942mAh unit within the XR.
The iPhone 11 supports 18W charging, but it is not bundled with a fast charger in the box as the Pro models.
So, a new camera and new chip, among some new cool software tricks, are what’s new in the iPhone 11 over the XR. Oh, and Apple is offering the 11 in some new colors like Green and Purple (the latter we have here for review).
Apple iPhone 11 specs
- Body: Aluminum frame, Gorilla Glass front with oleophobic coating, Gorilla Glass back with glossy finish, IP68 certified for water and dust resistance. Black, Green, Yellow, Purple, White, and Red color options.
- Screen: 6.1″ IPS LCD screen of 828 x 1792 px resolution, 326ppi, 625 nits, 120Hz touch sensing, wide color gamut. True Tone adjustment via a six-channel ambient light sensor.
- OS: Apple iOS 13
- Chipset: Apple A13 Bionic chip (7nm+) – Hexa-core (2×2.66 GHz Lightning + 4×1.8 GHz Thunder) Apple CPU, four-core Apple GPU, 8-core Apple NPU 3-gen
- Memory: 4GB of RAM; 64/128/256GB of internal storage
- Camera: Dual 12MP camera: 26mm main wide-angle, F/1.8, OIS, Dual Pixel AF; 13mm ultra wide-angle, F/2.4, 120-degree field of view; quad-LED flash with slow sync
- Video recording: 2160p@60/30fps, 1080p@30/60/120/240fps video recording with wider dynamic range and spatial sound, OIS + EIS
- Selfie: Dual camera – 23mm 12MP F/2.2 front-facing camera with HDR mode + 3D TOF camera; 2160p@60/30fps, 1080p@30/60/120fps video recording with wider dynamic range and spatial sound, EIS, depth detection for Portrait mode
- Connectivity: Dual SIM, 4G LTE (1 Gbps); Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac/ax; Bluetooth 5.0; Lightning port; GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, QZSS; NFC; Apple U1 chip ultrawideband
- Battery: 3,110 mAh battery, 18W fast charging, Qi wireless charging
- Misc: Face ID through dedicated TrueDepth camera, stereo speakers, Taptic Engine
The iPhone 11 also brings better water protection and may or may not have tougher glass on its back and front. We guess only time and drop accidents will confirm the latter.
Anyway, we are ready to unbox this iPhone 11, so let’s get this review started, shall we?
Unboxing the iPhone 11
The iPhone 11 box is white and just a little bit larger than the phone itself. Inside, you will find the iPhone 11 bundled with a regular Lightning cable, a pair of EarPods ending on a Lightning plug, and the ancient 5W charger.
Apple is no longer shipping the iPhones with a 3.5mm adapter.
While the iPhone 11 supports 18W fast charging through USB Power Delivery, it is not bundled with the new 18W Apple charger that comes with the Pro models. Then again, the iPhone 11 is $50 cheaper than the XR, and we guess with those savings you can buy the said 18W charger ($29), the required USB-C-to Lightning 1m cable ($19) and the 3.5mm adapter ($9).
The iPhone 11 looks like any recent iPhone at the front – a large screen with two horns and nothing else. Over that the back Apple adopted the new square for the camera even though it’s a dual-setup on the iPhone 11 instead of a triple as on the Pro models.
Apple used the same screen from the XR on the iPhone 11 and it has no improvements in contrast or brightness. It’s a 6.1″ IPS LCD panel with a big notch for the Face ID, the selfie snapper, and top speaker. It is protected by the “toughest glass on the planet”, which is a custom Gorilla Glass made by Corning. The glass has minor 2.5D finish around the edge, but we can safely call it flat.
Apple has always used these minor curves around it glass panels to make the iPhones look thinner and prettier, but it has never gone to extremes such as curved or waterfall screens.
The iPhone XR was the first to retire the 3D Touch, but with the iPhone 11 generation – it is gone for good. Its functions were handed over to the Taptic Engine and this is how the Haptic Touch was born. It is just a long tap, but thanks to the taptic feedback – it feels a lot like 3D Touch. And this is what the iPhone 11 offers as 3D Touch replacement, just like the iPhone 11 Pro models.
The notch is not going away anytime soon and it is as big as on the other models. It contains the 3D TOF sensor, the earpiece that also doubles as a speaker, the new 12MP selfie cam, and a bunch of other sensor for True Tone, brightness, and proximity.
We are glad Apple finally upgraded the selfie camera and it’s now a 12MP shooter behind wide 23mm f/2.2 lens. It still lacks autofocus, but now it can do 4K at 60 and 30fps videos with always-on cinematic (fancy word for digital) stabilization. And thanks to the wider lens, the Face ID will supposedly work from wider angles.
The front glass has the usual oleophobic coating that makes fingerprints and smudges harder to stick and when they do, it is very easy to clean – you can do it with one swipe of your (clean) hand or short. We wish more makers use the same coating.
The iPhone 11 has noticeably bigger screen bezels than the Pro models and the same as on the iPhone XR. Its display is an LCD one instead of OLED and this type of panels have a few hardware restrictions that result in such bezels. But they are cheaper, ergo the cheaper iPhone price.
iPhone 11 between the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max
Well, the aluminum is still better than plastic and we liked the brushed finish as you can’t see any smudges on it. It is also not as heavy as steel.
The iPhone 11 has the usual stuff on its sides – the silent switch and the volume keys are on the left, the Lightning port with the second speaker and the mouthpiece – at the bottom, and the power key and SIM slot – on the right.
The back of the iPhone 11 looks different than the XR, XS and X, as it is more in line with the new 11 Pro series. It is also protected by a custom version of Gorilla Glass, lost the iPhone inscription in favor of a bigger and centered Apple logo.
The purple color looks really nice on the iPhone 11 and is a cool addition to the series. The back is not textured as on the iPhone 11 Pro, but glossy as it was on any other phone to come before series 11. Smudges stick, but are still easy to wipe clean.
What is textured though is the new square glass at the top left corner that houses the two main snappers and the flash. It’s a bit hard to see that this piece is matte until you touch it, but it is still a nice accent.
The hump looked less than ideal on the press images, but in real life the protrusion is much thinner than we expected from those pictures. In fact, we like it better than the giant knobs the iPhone X and XR had on their backs.
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max, 11 Pro, and 11
The iPhone XR had just one camera, but now the 11 has two – the regular 12MP main one with OIS, and the new 12MP ultrawide shooter. There is no zoom camera on the iPhone 11.
The iPhone 11 measures 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3 mm – identical to the XR and it weighs 194g – also same as the XR.
One detail that eyes can’t see is the improved water resistance. The iPhone 11 is IP68-rated for dust and water resistance (up from XR’s IP67) and it can survive in 2m deep (not salty) water for 30 mins.
Handling the iPhone 11 is as iPhone experience as it can get. It is somewhat slippery but thanks to the brushed frame – the grip is not a disaster. And since its size is in between the compact iPhone 11 Pro and the large iPhone 11 Pro Max, it is good in most cases for operating with one hand, though not all of them. We like the glass design and the aluminum frame – it’s a very traditional formula, and we hope this custom Gorilla Glass is as tough as Apple claims it to be. And note that this means it is tough to break, not tough to scratch – a very important detail we’d say.
The iPhone 11 is cheaper, but not cheap. It costs as much as many of the current Android flagships. But in the Appleverse, it is the one you get if you are on the budget. And the maker made sure you will want to get it.
The first step was to ditch any signs, which may diminish its value. Like the letter R meaning it’s no longer a special edition – it’s just the regular iPhone 11 now, and it was the show opener at the launch event. That’s a statement the iPhone 11 is now a fully-fledged member of the flagship iPhone 11 series.
And a flagship it is. The iPhone 11 is the bearer of Apple’s latest and most powerful chip – the A13 Bionic. It also has a dual camera that shows signs of the somewhat forgotten software magic with that expanded viewfinder, crop out of frame options, and multiple camera video recording. Not only that, but the new chip also makes wonders when it comes to dynamic range and digital stabilization in videos. And the new Night Mode is great in both speed and quality.
Apple has also improved a few bits and pieces since the iPhone XR. The sequel has better ingress protection, tougher glass panels, a larger battery, improved audio, and a new selfie camera.
The screen has stayed the same, which is probably iPhone 11‘s only potential deal-breaker. The size is still 6.1″ as on the XR – very thoughtfully positioned between the smaller and bigger Pro, but it has the same 326ppi like the iPhone 8 and the older smaller iPhones. It’s not bad, the text is sharp, and videos look great, but it’s hardly something you’d call 2019.
And yet the iPhone XR sold a lot with that same screen, so we see no reason why the iPhone 11 can’t repeat the same success. It’s got insanely powerful hardware under the hood, it takes some amazing pictures and videos, it excels in the audio and battery departments, and it’s just one zoom camera short of matching the Pro models. Well, that and a fast charger.
The iPhone 11 is a very thoughtful upgrade over the XR. It has everything new from Apple, but it costs less, and the tradeoffs seem to be just right.
We aren’t saying you should jump from XR on this one without thinking twice, but once again Apple has made just enough upgrades to make you want to do so. And we won’t judge you for that.
- Tougher and water resistant design, glossy back.
- The screen has excellent brightness and contrast.
- Apple A13 Bionic is the fastest smartphone chip on the planet.
- Excellent battery life, fast charging support.
- Stereo speakers with great quality.
- iOS provides smooth user experience.
- The main camera produces very good photos, Night Mode works as advertised.
- Amazing video quality and stabilization across the board.
- Excellent selfie photo and video quality.
- The calibration between the two snappers is excellent and allows for Crop Outside Frame, simultaneous video capturing, and smooth switching during recording.
- The notch is still enormous, and so are the bezels.
- A higher resolution screen would have made it more competitive.
- Comes bundled with a meager 5W charger in the box.
- No 3.5mm jack, and limited NFC implementation.
- The file management and file transfer in iOS is unnecessarily complicated.
- The camera photos come out bland.
- Ultra-wide camera lacks autofocus and Night Mode.
- We miss the zooming by telephoto camera.
- It’s a cheap iPhone, but it’s an expensive phone.