Apple iPhone 11 Pro review: Ultimate camera champion

Apple launched the new iPhone 11 Pro along with the iPhone 11 and the Watch Series 5 on September 27 in India.

I have been using the iPhone 11 Pro for a week and here are my thoughts about Apple's latest flagship mobile.

Design, display and build quality
If you keep the iPhone 11 Pro side-by-side with the predecessor iPhone XS, there is no discernible difference when looked from the front-side. The big notch at the top with Face ID sensors and front-camera disturbs the uniformity of the display, but it grows on you.  Over-time, you forget it exists at all, as the multimedia apps automatically cover the notch to offer obstruction-free viewing experience.

On the back, the change is a bit drastic. The new iPhone 11 Pro flaunts dual-tone glass sheet over of the surgery-grade stainless steel shell. At the top left corner, it has a square-shaped glossy camera module with three big lenses and the rest of the body is in a matte finish. 

Despite the odd design, the craftsmanship of Apple engineers has to be applauded for meticulously blending the glass with the metal around the edges. 

I like this midnight green review unit and have to say, the matte finish on top, actually enhances the visual appeal of the iPhone 11 Pro. People who have a thing for military camouflage green shade will love this variant.

When held in hand, it exudes premium build quality. Thanks to a matte finish, the shell repels the fingerprint smudges. With compact form factor and sturdy frame, it offers a good grip for the fingers to hold on to the iPhone.

Apple iPhone 11 Pro dimensions: 144.0 x 71.4 x 8.1 mm; Weight: 188g

Apple in collaboration with Corning has developed a custom glass shield for the iPhone 11 series and is said to be the strongest material used for a mobile in the industry. I didn't dare to put that to the test but, happy to note that the neither the phone's display nor the shell have picked up any scratches so far.

Having said that, the glass on the iPhone 11 Pro no matter how strong, Apple claims it to be, will shatter if dropped on hard concrete with a rough surface. Given the high cost of the device and repair charges, it is better to have a shell cover and also a screen guard (preferably tempered glass) on the display. 


Apple iPhone 11 Pro comes with 5.8-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display (DH Photo/Rohit KVN)

Also, the iPhone 11 Pro comes with an IP68 rating and it can survive underwater up to four meters close to 30 minutes. You can take it to the swimming pool or to a beach and snap photos, but be sure to dry the phone thoroughly (minimum five hours) before you plug it to the power source.

Apple iPhone 11 Pro sports an OLED-based 5.8-inch Super Retina XDR display and, it is one of the best mobile screen panels, I have tested this year. It offers natural colour accuracy, true black and is capable of reaching a peak brightness of 1200 nits while playing high-resolution videos or graphics-intense games. 

With the new spatial surround sound system and Dolby Atmos, I had a really good time watching multi-media contents on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube apps with and without earphones. 

Also, the screen legibility in the direct sunlight is quite impressive. I never had to squint my eyes to view content on the phone's screen outdoors.

Performance
Apple's new iPhone 11 series houses a proprietary A13 Bionic chipset, which comes integrated with third-generation neural engine. It is said to be the most powerful processor for mobile in the industry, and I am happy to note that the device lived up to the reputation. 

Whatever you throw at the phone, be it playing graphics intense games, long photography sessions, launch apps and switch between multiple apps, it worked buttery smooth and never over-heated beyond my comfort level. And, It didn't show any slightest sign of lag-ness, but have to say the buggy iOS 13 did annoy me a little.

However, Apple was quick to release a series of incremental patches to fix issues. After that, I haven't faced any problems so far.

Must Read | Apple Watch Series 5 Review

The iOS is one of the key aspects of Apple iPhones, which makes the latter more compelling than the Android mobiles. The Cupertino-based company keeps its ears to the ground monitoring community forums to check for issues and release quick updates to fix issues and also offer long-term software support. The latest iOS 13 supports 2015-based iPhone 6S series.

With a limited number of devices to focus, Apple delivers software to all eligible iPhone models in a single time frame, while Google's Android distribution is highly skewed among devices. The latest Android 10 is not even present in the one-percent of the total devices and even 2018-series Android Pie has less than 11-percent market share. On the other hand, iOS 13 has already reached more than 60-percent of the iPhones.

Another new feature in the iPhone 11 series is the U1 chipset, which uses Ultra-Wideband technology, the first-ever in a smartphone, for spatial awareness. It was activated with iOS 13.1 update. With this, the iPhone 11 series will be able to quickly detect Apple products and also be able to transfer data via AirDrop feature faster than ever before. 

Camera


Apple iPhone 11 Pro comes with triple 12MP sensors - Ultra Wide, Telephoto and Wide (DH Photo/Rohit KVN)

During the special event at the Steve Jobs Theater, Apple spent quite a lot of time describing the iPhone 11 Pro's camera capabilities. And, I have to say, it does live up to the hype. Apple's new mobile has the best camera and I am particularly in awe with the night mode and the ultra-wide mode. 


Apple iPhone 11 Pro camera's photo sample (DH Photo/Rohit KVN)

Thanks to super-sensitive sensors, Apple iPhone 11 Pro intuitively activates night mode and takes brilliant and sharp photos with near-natural colours. Yes, there is a bit of noise, but the image quality is the best compared to other top-end phones I have reviewed this year. Another aspect is that the light in the picture never gets blown out as we see in other phones, which tend to make the photo come off as if it is taken during evening or daylight. The iPhone 11 Pro's night mode just highlights the subject while keeping the colours of the surrounding environment such as the dark sky or clouds as natural as possible.


Apple iPhone 11 Pro camera's photo sample (DH Photo/Rohit KVN)

Apple says that the iPhone 11 Pro's camera takes multiple images while optical image stabilisation steadies the lens. Then the camera software gets into work and aligns images to correct for movement. It discards the sections with too much blur and fuses sharper ones. It adjusts the contrast so everything stays in balance. It fine-tunes colours so they look natural. Then it intuitively de-noises and enhances details to produce the final image.


Apple iPhone 11 Pro camera's night mode photo sample (DH Photo/Rohit KVN)

With the ultra-wide sensor, the iPhone 11 Pro can capture more details in a scene than ever before. This comes handy in taking landscape pictures such as beach, grasslands, castles and scenic natural hillocks.


Apple iPhone 11 Pro camera's photo sample (DH Photo/Rohit KVN)

In natural light conditions, the default Smart HDR mode photos are neat and crisp with rich details of the subject.

Like the predecessors, iPhone 11 Pro takes really good stable videos and I have no hesitation to say, it is the best in the business.


Apple iPhone 11 Pro camera's photo sample (DH Photo/Rohit KVN)

On the front, it features new 12MP FaceTime camera and is capable of the taking 4K videos up 24 fps (frames per second), slo-mo videos dubbed as Slofies, a first for any iPhone. It brings fun to the sombre photography session and worthy to be posted on social media sites. It is sure to get the teens excited, but adults are unlikely to be as enthusiastic as the former.


Apple iPhone 11 Pro night mode photo sample (DH Photo/Rohit KVN)

The Cupertino-based company is expected to bring a new Deep Fusion feature with the iOS 13.2 update. The new camera feature is said to be a game-changer in mobile photography. Apple's senior vice-president Philip W. Schiller has called the 'Deep Fusion' as the-- "computational photography mad science". It will enable iPhone 11 Pro models to capture clearest photos. Before the user taps the shutter button, the device would have already taken multiple photos with different exposure levels and do pixel-by-pixel analysis with the picture taken by the user. It will fine-tune image by identifying multiple aspects such as skies, walls, textures and other fine details such as hair or fur, even a wool fabric on the sweater to get the best photo with minute details captured in whatever light condition it is taken. 


Apple iPhone 11 Pro camera's photo sample (DH Photo/Rohit KVN)

Also, I love how simple the iPhone camera interface is. Everything can be found on the screen and we just have to scroll left to right to find the right mode (such as pano, portrait, slo-mo and etc) and start the photography session.

Furthermore, Apple has introduced a new feature QuickTake. Now, the iPhone users can instantly start recording video by long-pressing the shutter button and swipe right. And if you want to take a series of photos with burst mode, just tap the shutter button and swipe it to the left.

Also read | How to take best photos on Apple iPhone 11 Pro

For the uninitiated, Apple iPhone 11 Pro houses three cameras-- 12MP Ultra Wide ( F2.4 aperture, five-element lens and 120-degree field of view), 12MP Wide (F1.8,  six-element lens & Optical Image Stabilisation)  and a 12MP Telephoto (F2.0 & OIS) with 2x optical zoom out; digital zoom up to  5x. 

Also, it supports Portrait mode with advanced bokeh and Depth Control, Portrait Lighting with six effects (Natural, Studio, Contour, Stage, Stage Mono, High-Key Mono), Night mode, brighter True Tone flash with Slow Sync, Panorama (up to 63MP) and 100% Focus Pixels (Wide), Auto Adjustments, Next-generation Smart HDR for photos, Wide colour capture for photos and Live Photos, advanced red‑eye correction, auto image stabilisation,burst mode, photo geotagging, Image formats captured: HEIF and JPEG, 4K video recording at 24 fps, 30 fps or 60 fps, 1080p HD video recording at 30 fps or 60 fps, 720p HD video recording at 30 fps, Extended dynamic range for video up to 60 fps, Optical image stabilisation for video (Wide and Telephoto), 2x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out; digital zoom up to 6x and Audio zoom.

On the front, Apple iPhone 11 Pro features 12MP TruDepth FaceTime camera. It features F2.2 aperture, Portrait mode with advanced bokeh and Depth Control, Portrait Lighting with six effects (Natural, Studio, Contour, Stage, Stage Mono, High‑Key Mono), Animoji and Memoji, 4K video recording at 24 fps, 30 fps or 60 fps, 1080p HD video recording at 30 fps or 60 fps, Slow-motion video support for 1080p at 120 fps, Next‑generation Smart HDR for photos, Extended dynamic range for video at 30 fps, Cinematic video stabilisation (4K, 1080p and 720p), Wide colour capture for photos and Live Photos, Retina Flash, Auto image stabilisation and Burst mode.

Battery
Besides the camera, battery life is another biggest improvement I noticed in the iPhone 11 Pro. Thanks to well-optimized iOS 13 and the Apple A13 Bionic, the device consistently offered more than a day's battery life. 

The iPhone XS was barely able to reach 9:30 pm, but the successor was having more than 45-percent despite me performing the same tasks such as calling, WhatsApp messaging, social media browsing, binge-watching videos and other normal chores in my active hours (6:00 am to 11:00 pm).

Apple has also introduced the optimised battery charging feature. It observes phone charging behaviour like when it usually gets plugged to the power source and unplugged. 

For instance, if it notices that the phone is being charged overnight, it intelligently slows the device's charging time over the night. It will charge normally till 80-per cent and stops. It then fills up the remaining battery capacity, in the last few minutes just before I plan to pick up the phone in the morning.

This apparently slows the chemical degradation of the battery and will help the cell retain maximum power for longer years.

Another welcome change in the new iPhone 11 Pro is that Apple is finally offering 18W fast charger with the retail box. Previously, it used to offer 5W charger, which took forever to fully charge the iPhones. Now, the new iPhone 11 series can be charged faster, provided you disable the 'Optimised Battery Charging' feature. You can enable/disable it by going to Settings >> Battery>> Battery Health >> on/off Optimised Battery Charging.

Final thoughts
For the past few years, Pixel phone users had the privilege to proclaim owning the best camera phone in the industry. But, with the introduction of the iPhone 11 series, Apple fanboys finally have a champion to cheer.

The Cupertino-based company has done a fabulous job with the iPhone 11 Pro's camera and I am eager to check out the Deep Fusion feature, which is slated to be activated in the upcoming iOS 13.2 update.

Besides the exceptional camera capabilities, another attribute I like about the iPhone 11 Pro is the insanely long battery life. It not only has a significant improvement over the predecessor but also better than most of the rival brands in the premium smartphone category.

Who should buy Apple iPhone 11 Pro series?
If you have any of those Touch ID-based Apple mobiles (iPhone 8 and older models), go for the iPhone 11 series and you will love the fluid full-screen gesture features,  fabulous camera, buttery smooth performance and the state-of-the-art Face ID. 

If you own any of the 2018-series iPhone XS series, continue for another year. But, if you happen to have more spare money, go splurge on the iPhone 11 Pro models, you won't regret it. 

Also read | iPhone 11 review: The go-to Apple mobile of 2019

And, if you are that long-time flagship Android phone owner itching to scale the high-walled garden-- Apple iOS, it's the right time to upgrade to the iPhone 11. 

Pros:

Premium build quality

Powerful Apple A13 chipset

Exceptional camera 

Long-lasting battery life and fast charger in the retail box

Long-term software support (minimum of four years)

Free access to Apple Arcade and Apple TV+ for a year

Cons:
The square camera bump appears visually odd to the eyes. But it's not a deal-breaker, as the device delivers in its job of capturing top-notch pictures. As I said with the iPhone 11, rival Android phone-makers may try to ape the triple camera design as they did with the notch-display of the iPhone X.

Get the latest news on new launches, gadget reviews, apps and more on personal technology only on DH Tech.

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