Updated Sept. 11: Added additional details about WiFi 6 and the iPhone 11's U1 Ultra Wideband chip.
Apple's iPhone 11 Pro with its triple-lens camera array dazzled the filmmakers in the audience at its Sept. 10 event, but you don't need to plunk down $1,000 for an iPhone with neat photography tricks. Apple's base-model iPhone 11, an upgrade from last year's iPhone XR, starts at $699 and offers the same night mode, slow-motion selfies and ultra-wide-angle landscape shots that the $1,099 iPhone 11 Pro does for $400 less — and it comes in more fun colors.
Editor's note: This is our hands-on review of the iPhone 11. We have a separate iPhone 11 Pro hands-on review that covers the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max.
iPhone 11 price and release date
The iPhone 11 starts at $699 for 64GB of storage. Two other models with 128GB and 256GB capacities are also available for $749 and $849, respectively. Apple starts taking preorders Friday (Sept. 13) at 8 a.m. ET/5 a.m. PT, and the iPhone 11 will be available to buy in stores Sept. 20.
iPhone 11 specs compared
|Model||iPhone 11||iPhone 11 Pro||iPhone 11 Pro Max|
|Screen Size (Resolution)||6.1-inch Liquid Retina HD (1792 x 828)||5.8-inch Super Retina XDR (2436 x 1125)||6.5-inch Super Retina XDR (2688 x 1242)|
|CPU||A13 Bionic||A13 Bionic||A13 Bionic|
|Storage||64GB, 256GB, 512GB||64GB, 256GB, 512GB||64GB, 256GB, 512GB|
|Rear Cameras||12-MP wide (f/1.8), 12-MP ultra wide (f/2.4)||12-MP wide (f/1.8), 12-MP ultra wide (f/2.4), 12-MP telephoto (f/2.0)||12-MP wide (f/1.8), 12-MP ultra wide (f/2.4), 12-MP telephoto (f/2.0)|
|Front Camera||12-MP (f/2.2)||12-MP (f/2.2)||12-MP (f/2.2)|
|Battery Life||1 hour longer than the iPhone XR||4 hours longer than iPhone XS||5 hours longer than iPhone XS Max|
|Water Resistance Rating||IP68 (2 meters up to 30 minutes)||IP68 (4 meters up to 30 minutes)||IP68 (4 meters up to 30 minutes)|
|Size||5.9 x 3 x 0.33 inches||5.7 x 2.8 x 0.32 inches||6.2 x 3.1 x 0.32 inches|
|Weight||6.84 ounces||6.63 ounces||7.97 ounces|
|Colors||Black, Green, Yellow, Purple, White, Product RED||Gold, Space Gray, Silver, Midnight Green||Gold, Space Gray, Silver, Midnight Green|
iPhone 11 design and display: Colorful and bright
The iPhone 11 looks like the iPhone XR at a glance — both have 6.1-inch LCD displays and bodies made of aluminum-and-glass. The iPhone 11 comes in purple, which the XR doesn't, in addition to five other colors (black, green, white, yellow and red).
But when you turn the iPhone 11 over, its difference from the XR is obvious: A dual-lens camera is housed in a square camera patch color-matched to the rest of the chassis. The iPhone XR's lone camera lens signified its spot as the cheaper iPhone, but the dual-lens iPhone 11 seems more premium with that extra lens.
If you don't like the square camera patch, none of the iPhone 11 models will appeal to you — the new camera design is inescapable.
ENTER TO WIN: Our iPhone 11 Pro + ESR Wireless Charger giveaway
iPhone 11 cameras: High-end tricks in an affordable package
The iPhone 11 sports two 12-megapixel camera lenses, one wide-angle and one ultra-wide-angle. This is a change from the iPhone XS lineup, which offered a wide-angle and a telephoto lens. (The 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max have a wide-angle, ultra-wide-angle and telephoto lenses.)
The new ultra-wide-angle lens lets you capture more of the details in the frame, from expansive landscapes to group selfies. Losing the telephoto lens doesn't mean sacrificing Portrait Mode — in fact, you even gain a new lighting effect called High-Key Mono for dramatic black-and-white portraits. Portrait Mode will also finally work on pets, which is guaranteed to make the internet a brighter place.
In selfie mode, rotating the phone from portrait to landscape mode automatically activates the ultra-wide-angle shot — it's like the iPhone 11 senses when you want a wider shot and adjusts accordingly.
The best part of the new lens set-up is that you get all of the same photography features that make the iPhone 11 Pro so appealing. Night mode, 4K video-shooting and, of course, slow-motion selfies (which Apple calls slofies — the jury is still out on whether that term is cool or not).
Of course, I had to take a slofie of myself shaking my hair out like a cheesy Pantene commercial. It was glorious. I predict these videos will take over Instagram within weeks.
I didn't get a chance to test out Night Mode, but in sample shots Apple showed off in demos of the iPhone 11, the level of brightness and detail rivals Google's Pixel 3.
iPhone 11 performance: A13 Bionic ups the ante
A new slate of iPhones means an advanced new processor, and the iPhone 11 lineup's A13 Bionic promises to surpass its predecessor, the A12 Bionic.
Apple says the A13 has a 20 percent faster CPU and GPU than the A12, which was already the most powerful processor we've ever tested, easily beating this year's chips from Qualcomm and Huawei. I saw the A13 Bionic in action on the iPhone 11 with a quick play-through of the demanding action-RPG Pascal's Wager. The graphics were beautiful and the gameplay seamless, which is what you'd expect of a new iPhone.
The Neural Engine is also expected to be faster, which will enable quicker machine learning for analyzing photos and videos.
A new behind-the-scenes image processing feature called Deep Fusion, rolling out later this fall, will take advantage of the the A13's power to refine your images pixel-by-pixel. This feature could make the iPhone 11's cameras competitive with Google's Pixel phones, which use software rather than camera hardware to create the best possible images.
iPhone 11 battery life: Could surpass XR
The iPhone XR lasted 11 hours and 26 minutes on the Tom's Guide Battery Test, continuous web-surfing over LTE. That was impressive enough to land the XR on our list of longest-lasting smartphones, and the XR easily cruised past the iPhone XS and XS Max.
Apple says the iPhone 11 lasts an hour longer than the XR in the company's testing, or up to 17 hours of video playback and up to 65 hours of audio playback. We plan to put the iPhone 11 to the test to see how it compares to last year's iPhones as well as the two new 11 Pro models.
iPhone 11 wireless connectivity: WiFi 6, Ultra Wideband, no 5G
Apple only casually mentioned the iPhone 11's WiFi 6 support when introducing the new phone, but it's a pretty welcome addition. WiFi 6 means faster speeds, but the real benefit of the new networking standard is how it more efficiently manages traffic from more connected devices. It's early days for WiFi 6, but more WiFi 6-compatible networking equipment is on the horizon, including WiFi 6 routers, and the iPhone 11 figures to benefit as it comes online.
There's another connectivity technology supported by the iPhone 11. All of Apple's new phones sport the company's new U1 chip that uses Ultra Wideband technology. According to Apple, that improves the phone's spatial awareness, helping it pinpoint the exact location of other U1-equipped devices. For now, that means your iPhone 11 will be able to know the exact location of other nearby iPhone 11s — which Apple is using to help prioritize AirDrop transfers between devices. Potentially, it could let your iPhone more easily track the location of anything else with a U1 chip, like that rumored key tracker Apple reportedly has in development.
One connectivity standard is MIA on the iPhone 11. The new phone won't be able to connect to faster 5G wireless networks, as it lacks a 5G modem. For most users, this won't be too big a loss as 5G is only rolling out this year, with wireless carriers offering service in just a handful of big cities. Still, Samsung, LG and OnePlus have all released 5G versions of some of their phones, so they can boast something the iPhone 11 can't offer.
There's a lot to love about the iPhone 11 at first look. The camera features are impressive, even stacked against the iPhone 11 Pro, the design and new purple shade are beautiful, and the price is right. The promise of longer battery life than the already impressive iPhone XR is a bonus.
But is the iPhone 11 too good to be true? Stay tuned for our full review to see what you sacrifice for a more affordable iPhone.