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iPhone 11 Pro Hands-on Review

Killer triple cameras, faster performance and (much) longer battery life

For

  • Triple rear cameras with ultra-wide lens
  • New camera Night Mode
  • Faster A13 processor
  • Brighter display
  • Longer rated battery life

Against

  • Skimpy 64GB of storage
  • Still a notch on the front

The iPhone 11 Pro very much wants to be a new tier of smartphone, and based on what I've seen so far, it could very well be.

The iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max replace last year's iPhone XS and XS Max in the iPhone lineup. And Apple hopes to justify the Pro name with a wealth of upgrades, including triple rear cameras that promise to beat the best camera phones, a faster A13 processor, a brighter display and (very important for me) much longer battery life.

I went hands-on with the new iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max and came away impressed with their new capabilities, but there's some caveats, too.

iPhone 11 Pro: What you need to know

  • The iPhone 11 Pro packs three cameras, giving you an ultra-wide angle lens and a telephoto lens for a 4x optical zoom range.
  • The new Night Mode in the iPhone 11 Pro promises much improved low-light performance without trying to turn night into day.
  • You can expect up to 4 hours of extra battery life from the iPhone 11 Pro vs the iPhone XS and 5 hours of extra endurance from the iPhone 11 Pro Max vs the iPhone XS Max.
  • The A13 Bionic processor promises the fastest performance in any phone along with improved graphics.
  • The iPhone 11 Pro's Super Retina XDR display is brighter both when viewing HDR content and when outdoors in sunlight.
  • The iPhone 11 Pro's glass (front and back) is said to be the toughest yet in a smartphone, and you get improved water-resistance up to 4 meters for 30 minutes.
  • Apple is rolling out slofies, which are slow-motion selfies shot at 120 fps.
  • You get a fast charger in the box (finally) to juice up to 50 percent in 30 minutes.

iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max price and release date

The iPhone 11 Pro starts at $999 and comes with 64GB of storage, as does the $1,099 iPhone 11 Pro Max. Apple will also offer 256GB and 512GB models, if you're willing to pay extra. The 256GB model costs an extra $150, while the 512GB adds $350 onto the base model price.

You can pre-order the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max this Friday (Sept. 13), starting at 8 a.m. ET. The phones hit retail shelves a week later on Sept. 20.

See how to pre-order the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max.

iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max Specs

ModeliPhone 11 ProiPhone 11 Pro Max
Starting Price$999$1,099
Screen Size (Resolution)5.8 inches (2436 x 1125)6.5 inches (2688 x 1242)
CPUA13 BionicA13 Bionic
RAMUnknownUnknown
Storage64GB, 256GB, 512GB64GB, 256GB, 512GB
microSD?NoNo
Rear Cameras12-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 Camera12-MP (f/2.2)12-MP (f/2.2)
Battery Life4 hours longer than iPhone XS5 hours longer than iPhone XS Max
Water Resistance RatingIP68IP68
Size5.7 x 2.8 x 0.32 inches6.2 x 3.1 x 0.32 inches
Weight6.63 ounces7.97 ounces
ColorsGold, Space Gray, Silver, Midnight GreenGold, Space Gray, Silver, Midnight Green

iPhone 11 Pro design 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The iPhone 11 Pro looks similar to the iPhone XS from the front, but there's no mistaking this phone for its predecessor once you turn it around. Not only are there three camera lenses, but there's also a new matte finish for the glass that's frankly a breath of fresh air compared to smudge magnets like the Galaxy Note 10.

The iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max are available in four colors: Gold, Space Gray, Silver, Midnight Green. The Apple logo also moved on the back; it's now centered and the word "iPhone" has been removed. 

ENTER TO WIN: Our iPhone 11 Pro + ESR Wireless Charger giveaway

So what about the "camera patch" on the back of the iPhone 11 Pro? It's definitely not a seamless look, and there's a bit of bump, but it has been precision milled to fit in with the rest of the design aesthetically.

As far as durability, the iPhone 11 Pro ups the ante with what Apple says is the toughest glass ever in a smartphone, but we'll have to see how it stacks up in our durability testing. The phones are also rated for IP68 for water resistance up to 4 meters up to 30 minutes.

Cameras: Three lenses and new Night Mode

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The iPhone 11 Pro models now come with three lenses, all of them 12-megapixel sensors. The main wide-angle camera features an f/1.8 aperture; it's joined by a ultra-wide lens with an f/2.4 aperture and 120-degree field of view, plus a telephoto lens with an f/2.0 aperture. That means the telephoto lens lets in more 40% light than before, which should mean shots with less noise.

Switching between lenses is easy using the redesigned camera interface, which will let you tap to zoom in or out, depending on whether you want a close-up or more of the surroundings in your photo. The best part of this interface is that it gives you a preview in the live view of what your photo could look like if you used the ultra-wide lens.

iPhone 11 pro night mode camera

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple has also added a Night Mode feature to the iPhone 11 lineup. At least based on Apple's own samples, this mode has a lot of potential. It revealed a lot more detail with Night Mode engaged. And you don't have to activate a separate camera setting for the Night Mode to turn on; it comes on automatically.

Although I didn't get a chance to try the Night Mode, apparently the iPhone 11 Pro will tell you how long you need to hold the camera steady in order to get the best shot.

(Image credit: Apple)

The cameras will support a new feature called Deep Fusion coming to the iPhone later this fall via a software update. 

With Deep Fusion, your iPhone captures nine different shots — eight are captured before you even press the shutter button — which are then fused together via computational photography to produce a more rich and detailed image. A photo shown off captured the fine detail of threads on a sweater.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

iPhone 11 Pro video

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple is really touting the video improvements on the iPhone 11 Pro. All four lenses, including the front 12-MP TrueDepth camera, can capture 4K video at up to 60 frames per second. 

A new QuickTake feature lets you shoot video while capturing photos just by long-pressing on the shutter button. This can help you capture moments without having to switch modes.

An improved cinematic video-stabilization feature should keep the shake out of any videos you shoot with the iPhone 11 Pro. And Apple says that editing tools once available only for still photos will make their way to video editing with the iPhone 11 Pro.

The coolest new video feature is unlocked with an app. The Filmic Pro app lets you shoot using all four cameras at once, and it was pretty cool to see the iPhone 11 Pro record footage using the front and rear cameras at the same time; I could see this being a huge hit.

The video fun doesn't stop with the rear camera. The iPhone 11 Pro lets you shoot slow-motion selfies or slofies, which we had a lot of fun with at Apple's event. My colleague Caitlin's hair moved across the frame dramatically as she whipped her head around. (Alas, I have really short hair.)

iPhone 11 Pro Super Retina XDR display

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max sport a new Super Retina XDR display, which sure is a mouthful. It's a custom-designed OLED with up to 1,200 nits brightness when watching HDR 10 and Dolby vision movies or viewing HDR photos. The rating is 800 nits of peak brightness when viewing in sunlight. This panel looked really bright and colorful in person as we skimmed through the Photos app.

Apple says that the Super Retina XDR display also features a 2 million-to-one contrast ratio with true blacks, as well as enhanced HDR performance.

Screen sizes aren't changing from the iPhone XS and XS Max, so you'll still have the option of either a 5.8- or 6.5-inch OLED panel on the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro. At 2436 x 1125 resolution for the iPhone 11 Pro and 2688 x 1242 for the Pro Max, both phones offer 458 pixels per inch.

iPhone 11 Pro: A13 Bionic

Apple's A12 Bionic chip in last year's iPhones still tops the latest chips from Qualcomm and Huawei, and the A13 Bionic should keep up the pace, with speed boosts across its CPU, GPU and neural processor. 

Apple promised 20% improvements in speed during the iPhone 11 Pro unveiling. But the processors are more power efficient, too, which should lead to improvements in battery life.

We got to taste the performance boost as we fired up the new Pascal's Wager game, a new action-RPG title coming to the App Store. The animations and lighting looked console quality to me, and the animations were super smooth on the new Super Retina XDR display. 

iPhone 11 Pro battery life: A big boost and fast charging

Apple hasn't said if it's increased the size of the batteries in its Pro models, but it is promising longer battery life over last year's iPhones. The iPhone 11 Pro should outlast the iPhone XS by 4 hours, according to Apple, while the iPhone 11 Pro Max should feature a 5 hour improvement over its big-screen predecessor. 

Any improvement would be welcome — while the iPhone XS Max lasted more than 10 hours on our battery test, the iPhone XS's sub 10-hour result was lower than the average smartphone. 

The iPhone 11 Pro models will ship with a 18-watt fast-charger accessory included — a welcome change from the past when iPhone shoppers had to buy their own charger if they wanted to take advantage of the phone's fast-charging support.

Outlook

iPhone 11 Pro front

(Image credit: Future)

Overall, the iPhone 11 Pro looks like a beast of a smartphone. And personally I'm most excited about two things: the improved cameras and longer battery life. Apple has a chance here to close the gap with the likes of Google, Huawei and Samsung on the camera front (or surpass them) while extending its performance lead with the A13 Bionic chip.

But the icing on the cake could be the increased endurance. Promising 4 to 5 hours of longer endurance on the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, respectively, is a pretty big claim. And it's one I look forward to putting to the test. 

I would like to see more than 64GB of storage out the box, especially since the Galaxy Note 10 starts with 256GB. And Apple didn't deliver some rumored features like Apple Pencil support and reverse wireless charging. But overall the two iPhone 11 Pros look like they could be the flagship phones to beat.

Senior Editor Philip Michaels contributed to this report.