Apple iPhone XS vs iPhone 11 Pro: Is it worth the upgrade?

Apple just announced the first iPhone with a Pro name. But is it really that much better than the iPhone XS?
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer

Apple on Tuesday announced the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max. The iPhone 11 takes the place of the iPhone XR, and the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max replace the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max.

Leading up to the event, we'd heard rumors and speculation about a wide range of features that the new iPhone 11 Pro models would have. One such feature was reverse wireless charging that would allow users to charge their AirPods or Apple Watch using the back of the iPhone.

Another rumor, briefly, speculated that Apple Pencil support would finally come to the iPhone. Both features are something we would expect to be in a pro-level product, yet neither of them was announced on Tuesday.

Instead, Apple played up the camera setup of iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max as the reason the phones had earned the Pro moniker.

Every iPhone release touts the same core things: faster performance, improved display, longer battery life, and a better camera. Indeed, the iPhone 11 Pro upgrade follows those same basic improvements, but in some areas, it goes a bit further.

If you, like me, already have an iPhone XS or XS Max, is the iPhone 11 Pro worth the upgrade? Let's take a look at a few of the major differences.


Apple iPhone 11 Pro. 

Apple, Inc.

Improved battery life

Apple moved away from providing hour estimates for iPhone battery life a couple of years ago. Instead of saying an iPhone could last 12 hours surfing the web, the company now says how much longer the battery will last when compared to older models.

For example, the iPhone 11 Pro Max will last five hours longer than the iPhone XS Max. The iPhone 11 Pro will last four hours longer than the iPhone XS.

Also: Best iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR deals now that iPhone 11 is here

Those numbers are fairly significant, assuming real-world testing is in line with their estimates. After a year of using the iPhone XS Max, I've yet to have issues with battery life. It routinely lasts the entire day, often with 20% or 30% left at the end of the day -- and I'm not a light user.

Adding five hours of battery life is impressive, especially if you're someone who is constantly on the go for work.


The new iPhone 11 Pro camera. 

Apple, Inc.

Better cameras

The new camera setup on the iPhone 11 Pro line is, without a doubt, the headlining addition. The most significant change is the third lens, capable of taking ultra-wide-angle photos and videos. The 120-degree lens can effectively zoom-out on a subject, putting more of your surroundings into the shot -- either for artistic reasons or if you're doing site surveys or similar.

Also: Apple iPhone 11, Pro, and Pro Max: How to pre-order and where to find the best deals

Apple, of course, added a lot more to the camera system of the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max. There are new video editing features, improved photo and video quality, and improved photography at night.

The camera, on paper at least, is a big upgrade from the iPhone XS line -- and if your job is one that depends on taking photos and videos, it'll surely make it easier.


One of the new colors debuting with the iPhone 11 Pro. 

Apple, Inc.

A sturdier design

Apple claims that it's using the toughest glass ever used in a smartphone with the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max. The new glass is precision milled and uses a dual-ion exchange process to get its strength. I'm not sure what any of that means exactly, only to say that it should add to an iPhone that can withstand more drops without having to worry about cracking the glass.

If you put a case on your phone anyways, this probably doesn't matter to you all that much -- but it's worth noting that there's some extra peace of mind with the iPhone 11 Pro.

Apple also improved the water-resistance of the iPhone 11 Pro, going from 2 meters at 30 minutes to 4 meters at 30 minutes.

But... is it worth it?

Going into the iPhone announcement, I was convinced that the new phones would be pretty boring, and a lot of regards, they are. The design is basically the same, save for the new camera array on the back. They still use Apple's proprietary Lightning port for charging, although an 18W power adapter is now included for fast-charging.

I've been telling ZDNet contributor Jason Perlow for the past few weeks I wasn't going to upgrade this year. That I would be sitting it out, partly because phones are pretty boring right now, and I want to protest the endless payment scheme I've found myself in.

But I think the improvements to the camera are enough -- for me -- to justify the upgrade. I'm not sure which model I'm going with yet, but it will be an iPhone 11 Pro.

If you're happy with your iPhone XS or XS Max and it does everything you need from it, I would not blame you for sitting this year's iPhone out. It could have been so much more.

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