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

Apple released the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max series along with the Watch Series 5 on September 27 in India. 

I used the iPhone 11 (Product) Red model for a week and here's what I think about Apple's latest feature-rich mobile.

Display, design and build quality:
Apple iPhone 11 is very similar to the iPhone XR's design. On the front side, nothing has changed. The new iteration has the same 6.1-inch screen and a big notch on top, which houses the front camera and advanced Face ID security system with companion sensors.

Thankfully, the similarity ends right there. Everything else in the iPhone 11 is new and better than the predecessor. 


[From left to right] Apple iPhone 11 and the iPhone XR (DH Photo/Rohit KVN)

On the back, it has a premium shell made of good blend of airplane-grade aluminium and glass. It has a dual-tone finish. The square camera module, which houses dual-sensors and LED flash sits at the top left corner and has a matte finish, while the rest of the body is smooth and has a clear glass cover.

The square camera module looks a bit odd to the eyes, but I love how the glass flawlessly blends with the metal around the edges. Also, my review unit Product RED looks gorgeous and is an instant eye-turner. Engineers have done a good paint job on the metallic frame and also camera bump is not that intrusive and it slips into the pocket without any fuss. If you use a shell case, it evens out the camera bump and you won't feel a thing.


[From left to right] Apple iPhone 11 and the iPhone XR (DH Photo/Rohit KVN)

Also, for the first time, the company has let go off the iPhone branding on the back. It now has only the iconic Apple logo in the middle and in this case, (PRODUCT) RED engraving at the bottom. Other colour variants will have just the Apple insignia. This is the minimalist design language at its best and yet the brand can be easily recognisable when kept in a pile of other branded phones.

Apple has incorporated custom glass shields on both the front and the backside and if the company is to be believed, it is the toughest material used for a mobile phone in the industry. I did not dare to test the durability of the glass, but when held in hand, it exuded premium quality and I felt the sturdiness of the shield. So far, it hasn't got any scratches.

Also, the iPhone 11 comes with the IP68 rating and the device can survive underwater for close to 2 meters for up to 30 minutes. Going by the Apple ads, the new iPhone can even sustain an accidental splash of soda or a coffee. But, if you face such a situation in real life, its a good practice to wash the device with clear water and dry them with a soft dry cloth. Don't use or charge up the phone at least for five hours.

Must Read | Apple Watch Series 5 Review

Apple iPhone 11 sports an LCD-based liquid retina display with 326 ppi (pixels per inch) resolution. I have previously said the same about the iPhone XR and I'd like to repeat it again that the normal human eye cannot make out any discernible difference between high-resolution screens beyond HD. On a big screen of a TV, we can make out the obvious differences, but in the compact display of a mobile, it is very difficult to notice pixelation unless you have microscopic eyes. So, don't fall for the marketing gimmicks of the phone brands.

I had a really good time watching videos and faced no issues reading messages, emails even under direct sunlight on the iPhone 11. 

Performance:
Apple iPhone 11 houses proprietary A13 Bionic CPU with a third-generation neural engine. It is touted to be the most powerful processor and GPU for a mobile in the industry and yes, the device lives up to the hype. It is blazingly fast in terms of loading apps, photography sessions, power-intensive gameplay, and other normal day-to-day chores.

The credit has to go for Apple having full control over the hardware and the software (iOS). With such tight integration, iPhone 11 performance is way better than any of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855-powered Android rivals in the market.


Apple iPhone 11 (DH Photo/Rohit KVN)

Initially, I had some issues with the iOS interface. For instance, names in the WhatsApp used to over-lap in the chat session and some times did not respond to the touch, but Apple was quick to release a series of software patches within the span of one week and after that, there have been no problems.

I am loving the system-wide dark mode in the new iPhone 11. The interface in terms of visual appeal has been enhanced and also it saves battery life. 

Another aspect of the iOS 13 I liked is the user-privacy security. It has helped me keep an eye on apps like Google Maps and others, which seem to track to my movements even when I am not using them and also now, Apple has made it mandatory for app developers to seek user permission for everything.

I was puzzled when the BookMyShow app asked me to access Bluetooth connectivity. Apparently, it uses the information seek a Bluetooth device for getting more accurate data on the location of the user and so that it can offer information like the nearest theater and what movie it is showing. But, I declined the permission and you should too. It just not the BookMyShow, there are other apps that seek similar permissions. 

This is a welcome step by Apple and it will help us lead a secure private life. If I want to watch a movie, I rather come to the app and look for it. I don't need an app that digs my personal information without my knowledge and recommend me to watch a particular movie.

Read more | Apple iOS 13: iPhones get dark mode and more

The new iPhone 11 also comes with U1 chipset, which uses Ultra-Wideband technology, the first-ever in a smartphone, for spatial awareness. With this, users will be able to detect and transfer data (via AirDrop) between iPhones and iPads faster than ever before.

Also, the face unlock feature works super fast at all light conditions and sets a new benchmark in the mobile industry.

Camera:
Apple iPhone 11 comes with a dual-cameras-- 12MP ultra-wide sensor ( with F2.4 aperture and 120-degree field of view) and 12MP wide sensor (with F1.8 aperture)-- with 2x optical zoom out and digital zoom up to 5x.


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

Apple has done a remarkable job with the iPhone 11's camera. It takes fantastic images in all light conditions, be it in the early morning or the bright afternoon or in pitch darkness. 


Apple iPhone 11 camera sample (DH Photo/Rohit KVN)

In the picture (with default smart HDR mode), the iPhone 11 captures rich details even in the shadows. The colour of the subject, for instance, the lotus (above) looks natural and not too overwhelmingly bright.


Apple iPhone 11 camera wide-angle sample (DH Photo/Rohit KVN)

The ultra-wide-angle feature is a big upgrade over the predecessor iPhone XR. The new phone can now capture a lot more information around the subject in a single frame than ever before. It works well while taking landscape pictures of a beach or a hillock or even in the city to capture big landmark buildings without any hassle.


Apple iPhone 11 camera's ultra-wide-angle photo sample (DH Photo/Rohit KVN)

Another new feature of the iPhone 11 is the night mode. Apple has finally up the ante to compete with the Google Pixel phones and yes, it succeeds.

Read more | Google Pixel 3a review

The iPhone 11's super-sensitive camera sensors automatically detect the surrounding environment, lacks light and turns on the night mode. It will ask the user to be steady while taking the photo and within a few seconds, it produces stunning pictures with accurate colours. What's interesting is that we can see the transformation of the pitch dark location turning bright and it is like watching a magic trick. 


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

I have to note that there is some noise in the night mode pictures, but they are sharper and have more colour accuracy than the rival branded phones I have reviewed this year.

Also, Apple iPhone 11 takes brilliant and stable videos. It can record 4K videos at 24 (frames per second) fps, 30 fps and 60 fps. And, Slo-mo videos up to 240 fps. 

The front-camera (12MP) takes really good selfies. I particularly like portrait pictures and have to note that Apple has improved edge detection of the subject's ears and hair over the predecessor. 


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

Also, it can now record 4K videos and slo-mo selfie videos dubbed as Slofies. The kids will love it, but I doubt adults will share the same enthusiasm.

It can be noted that Apple is testing the Deep Fusion feature in the iOS 13.2 beta. It is believed that the picture quality will improve further. 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. I will be updating the review article as and when it is made available to the iPhone 11 series.

Battery:
Like the iPhone XR, the successor too, offers a really long battery life. 

I'd like to bring to your attention that the battery life of the iPhone 11 or any mobile for that matter, is very subjective. It depends on how we use the phone. 

During the testing period, Apple iPhone 11 never ran out juice during my active hours (6:00 am and 11:00 pm). It always had more than 30-percent left before I could retire to the bed.

My personal routine usually involves messaging, making/answering phone calls, reading email notification, browse the internet, read newsfeeds on social media channels, catch up on few movie trailers and also check out cricket match scores while commuting between home and the office (vice versa) and other normal chores.  Once I reach office, I refrain from using the phone, as I use my PC to do the work and do email communication. I do get a lot of calls and WhatsApp messages in the office hours (10:30 to 5:30 pm), but I only respond if it is of high priority, mostly work. When I reach home, I spend an hour reading news feeds on Facebook or Twitter. So, on average, I have a screen time of a little over five hours per day.

Now, you get the gist of how much time I spend on the mobile throughout the day. If you happen to have a similar routine, the iPhone 11 will last a full day without having to worry about plugging it to a power bank in the middle of the day or in the evening. 

The iPhone 11 supports fast charging,  but it comes with a 5W charger in the retail box. This may come off as a bummer for some, as rival brands offer fast charger (up to 30W) with a flagship phone.  However, it is unlikely to affect most users, as they are likely to charge the phone overnight.

Also, Apple has introduced an optmised battery charging feature with the iOS 13 update. It is powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithm, which will learn the battery charging pattern. For instance, if the device detects that it is being charged every day during the night time, it will intelligently stop charging after the completion 80-percent and will complete just minutes before I plan to unplug the phone in the morning.

This technique apparently reduces the speed of chemical degradation of the battery and thereby help retain maximum power capacity for long.

Final thoughts:
The new iPhone 11 is a minor incremental upgrade over Apple's most popular 2018-series iPhone XR. The design (except for additional camera sensor) and the display have barely changed.  But, the camera capabilities, performance and battery life of the iPhone 11 are phenomenal and are better than most rival branded phones. 

Furthermore, Apple is preparing to release a new advanced photo mode -Deep Fusion in the iPhone 11 series. And, with the ultra-wide-angle and night mode options, it now has an edge over the photography-famed Google-made Pixel phones. 

Also, the iPhone 11 price starts at Rs 64,900, Rs 12,000 less than the predecessor's launch price, making it a compelling buy.

Apple is also offering one-year free access to ad-free Apple Arcade (exclusive games) and TV+ (original sitcom series and movies) for iPhone 11 series owners.

Over-all, the iPhone 11 is a well-rounded flagship phone. If given a choice between the iPhone 11 and the iPhone 11 Pro, I suggest you go for the former as it has almost everything except for the OLED screen, stainless steel frame and telephoto lens. Believe me, you won't miss much.

Read | Apple iPhone 11 Pro review: Ultimate camera champion

Pros:
Powerful processor
Marked improvement in the optics department, especially the ultra-wide-angle and night modes 
Free access to Apple Arcade and Apple TV+ for a year
Long-lasting battery life
Premium build quality
Long-term software support (minimum of four years)

Cons:
The square camera bump seems odd to the eyes, but it's not a deal-breaker, as it delivers in its duty of capturing top-notch pictures. I have an inkling that some Android rivals might mimic the iPhone 11 series design as they did with the notch-based display of the iPhone X and later models.

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