Hands on: Is the iPhone 11 Pro worth its price tag?

Apple’s latest phones come with a new camera and a new Pro label

The iPhone 11 Pro.

The iPhone 11 Pro.

 

Apple unveiled three new phones on Tuesday: the iPhone 11, the iPhone 11 Pro and the iPhone 11 Pro Max. In price terms, the iPhone Pro 11 starts at €1,179, with the Pro Max costing from €1,279. The iPhone 11, which will take the place of the iPhone XR, will go on sale from €829. That means, for the first time in many years, Apple has not used the arrival of its new premier offering to increase the price point for its phones.

We got hands on the devices to give them a (very) quick roadtest.

The look

The iPhone 11 Pro is glass and aluminium, sticking largely to the same design the iPhone has had since the iPhone X. But there is one noticeable difference: the camera on the back has three lenses instead of two, and it’s arranged in a square instead of vertically stacked.

The back of the phone is milled from a single piece of glass, eliminating any potential compromising of the phone’s water resistance. It’s matt textured instead of smooth, and it feels like it would be less slippery to hold than the smoother phones Apple has been putting out of late. It also means fewer fingerprints to deal with.

The 11 Pro Max is the bigger of the two phones, with a 6.5 inch screen compared to the 11 Pro’s 5.8 inches. This is the main difference between the two; in terms of tech spec, there is no difference between the 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max. You get the same camera, the same chip, the same power.

You also get the same choice of colours – gold, space grey, silver and, a new option for Apple, midnight green. Current favourite is a toss-up between midnight green and silver.

The camera

The crucial difference between the iPhone 11 Pro and the Xs is the third camera Apple has included, the ultra-wide lens that lets you zoom right out and capture more of the surrounding world in a single frame.

When you open the camera, you start at the standard wide-angle lens. In the past couple of iPhones, you could switch between 1x and 2x; the 11 Pro gives you a third option, zooming out to 0.5x.

There’s a subtle change to the camera interface too. Instead of black bands top and bottom of the camera screen, you will see the potential extra scenery you could be capturing with the ultra-wide-angle lens. When you zoom out to 0.5x, you’ll see the familiar photo interface. It’s the difference between getting a photo in a tight spot and feeling like your shot has been cramped, or being able to take in all of a building instead of cutting the top off.

Apple has also changed its zoom wheel slightly too. It feels easier to use, and you’ll also see the focal lengths.

Night mode has been improved; it’s automatic, once the light drops below a certain level. The end result is brighter photos with more natural colours and not a huge amount of noise. It doesn’t look over-processed though, which is key.

There’s smart HDR too, which will identify the subjects in your photograph and light them in a more natural way.

In Portrait mode, you can now zoom in, and there’s a new lighting mode for black and white keylighting that will give your photos a seriously professional look.

Video is smooth, even when you are mobile and handheld, thanks to the optical image stabilisation. One of the great additions is QuickTake. When you are in photo mode, you can start shooting video by pressing and holding the shutter button (or the volume down key). No need to switch on the screen, making it easier to capture video in a hurry.

On the front of the phone, you have a 12 megapixel camera; turn the phone to landscape mode and the camera automatically widens the viewing angle. It’s the difference between getting three people into your photo and getting in four.

The front camera has also been upgraded on the video front. Now you can take slo-mo video selfies (apparently called slofies, but no, I’m not doing that. Stop it).

One thing I couldn’t test was the impact of the upgraded TrueDepth camera on the speed of FaceID. It’s supposed to make it all a bit faster, but for obvious reasons we couldn’t test that one fully. More on that when I have a proper review unit in my hand.

Also one for later: Deep Fusion, which will take nine photographs, including four before you even press the shutter and one long exposure, and then use the power of the iPhone’s A13 Bionic chip to piece together the best photograph possible. It picks up the detail, perfects the textures and optimises for as little noise as possible. In general, it makes the photos look a lot better.

The performance

In the short period of time I had with the phone, the performance seemed smooth. The A13 bionic chip is an upgrade from last year’s so you would expect it to perform as well as, and better than, the A12.

Apple says it’s also its most efficient chip, so it uses less power than its predecessors. That should mean a battery-life bump – four hours extra for the 11 Pro and five for the 11 Pro Max.

Obviously the real test will be when the phone is loaded up with apps we barely use but never delete.

The rest

There is another benefit to buying an iPhone – regardless of whether it is an 11, 11 Pro or 11 Pro Max. Apple is throwing in a year’s worth of its streaming service for customers. Sure, it’s only €5 per month that you’re saving but better in your pocket than someone else’s. And if you sign up enough people for their free year, Apple is working on the assumption that some will keep paying for it. Your move, Netflix.