A worthwhile iPhone upgrade
It seems like every Apple iPhone launch is the tech event of the year, a chance to rip up the rulebook and question everything we thought was possible about smartphones. Usually, that raft of advancements also comes with an advancement in price too, but shockingly this year’s major launch of the iPhone 11 works out cheaper than the earlier iPhone XR, almost £100 cheaper at launch. So what’s going on? Is the iPhone 11 another great leap forward that won’t break the bank, or is Apple holding something back to keep the price down? Find out by reading our review.
It can be hard to talk about the design of the iPhone 11, or indeed any modern smartphone, from the front because it’s almost all screen. This is a design choice that Apple and most smartphone manufacturers seem to be running with now, as this form is very similar to the floor to ceiling screen of the iPhone XR with the same silver edging. This does, however, make it noticeably different and more functional when compared with older iPhones such as the 7 or 8 (or indeed the new iPhone SE) which still made use of a top and bottom bezel.
Using a full-screen phone vs one with a bezel (or border, or whatever we’re supposed to call it) like on the iPhone 8 is night and day in comparison, giving you a far larger viewing area for photos and video, and more functionality when it comes to using the touch screen. One big difference between the 11 and the XR design is the rear camera, which on the 11 is more prominent as Apple have had to make room for the two new lenses on the dual-camera system.
Under the hood
There’s good and bad in terms of the performance of the iPhone 11. Getting this out of the way: There are no new and amazing technologies on display here that will change how you use your phone…yet. The iPhone 11 marks the debut of the A13 Bionic chip, the latest upgrade to its family of chips that will power all of the 11’s variants, and the vast majority of the improvements this makes are technical ones you’ll barely notice as it’s all going on behind the scenes. It’s hard to pick this out as a bad point because what is does mean is that it can handle just about every task you ask of it with ease: Simple tasks go by without a moment’s thought, as do tasks that might have had iPhone 7 or 8 models struggling like complex video editing or high speed downloads, while even multi-tasking HD downloads with high end games and video streaming didn’t have it breaking a sweat. However, no doubt some gadget enthusiasts will be disappointed that there are no game changers in this device.
But that doesn’t mean all of that extra processing power is going to waste: One element that Apple have been focusing on, beyond some minor UI changes to make life easier, is the battery life of the device. Like the XR before it, the new A13 chip is capable of an array of smart background adjustments to its processing power which allow it to intelligently conserve battery life without making a song and dance about it or interrupting your experience. This gives is a pretty incredible battery life of 35 hours with minor engagement, or 25 hours with an average amount of social media and video streaming use. It’s low key, but it does go some way to showing that Apple are conquering the great shrinking battery phenomenon that has plagued smartphones since they were invented.
This also seems like a good time to mention the 11’s little brother, the iPhone SE. Billed as a ‘more affordable’ version of the 11 it looks almost identical to the iPhone 8, sharing its battery and camera, but while also packing in exactly the same operating software and new A13 chip found in the iPhone 11. It’s a nice alternative, as it can do most of what the 11 can do but for only around £400, but don’t expect the battery or camera to match up.
By far this phone’s standout feature, the camera packs a dual camera set up when its direct ancestor, the XR only had one, and they’re all updated versions: a regular camera, a wide angle lens and an ultra wide angle lens. The result of this is an extremely versatile phone camera that has noticeable better performance in low light than any of its predecessors and even other smartphone cameras on the market.
While it’s not the standout leader in ever department, the Pixel 3 is faster and the Galaxy s20 smoother, it can’t be touched for the sheer quantity of features and settings that it brings to the table. Add this to an improved portrait mode, on-the-fly automatic photo editing mode Deep Fusion, slow motion selfies and a whole lot more besides, and you’ve got a camera that is a real box of tricks and a huge step up on the iPhone 7 or 8.
While many will see this phone as an iPhone 10.5 rather than a true next-generation, largely due to the similar design, we think it’s a clear improvement in a great number of ways. While we might have to wait for the iPhone 12 for something truly game changing, this phone blows older generations like the iPhone 7 and 8 out of the water with the sheer amount that it can do at once without breaking a sweat. The addition of a truly market leading camera and a genuinely impressive battery life also give us an indication of where smartphones are going to be in the next few years. All this available at a lower price than its immediate forerunner, and comparable to other phones that are in a similar category, makes it a pretty obvious choice for anyone who wants to get the most advanced phone in its same price bracket.
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