iPhone 11 review: The best iPhone for most people

iphone-11.jpg
  • Editors' rating
    9.5 Spectacular
  • $699.00

Pros

  • Fast performance
  • New camera features
  • Strong battery life

Cons

  • Starting storage of 64GB

A week after using the iPhone 11, I've concluded it is my ideal phone. It's affordable in today's market, where $1,000 phones reign supreme. It's a perfect size. It's fast. It has an ultra-wide-angle camera and another camera that can capture stunning photos at night. The iPhone 11 is, without a doubt, the best iPhone for most users. 

Now, before you head to the comments below, to remind me that I already described by dream phone, and the iPhone 11 isn't it, I know. But various facets of what I laid out as my dream phone will never exist, and iPhone 11 is as close as we're going to get to it right now. 

Arguably, the iPhone 11 isn't the best iPhone that Apple makes. On paper, that title would have to go to the iPhone 11 Pro (read ZDNet's review) or the iPhone 11 Pro Max. 

But the main pieces and parts that make up the iPhone 11 -- Pro or not -- are nearly identical. So much so that it feels as if buying the iPhone 11 is somehow pulling one over on Apple, or as if you're cheating it out of a couple of hundred dollars of revenue. 

What is it about iPhone 11 that makes it so dreamy? Let's take a look. 

It's all about the camera

Looking at the iPhone 11 from the front, not a lot has changed compared to the iPhone XR. The notch is still there, centered on the 6.1-inch Liquid Retina LCD Display, with Apple's TrueDepth camera system that enables Face ID to unlock the phone or complete Apple Pay purchases. 

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The TrueDepth camera on the front of the phone now features a wide-angle mode that's triggered by rotating the phone sideways. Instead of a 70-degree field of view, as is the case when the phone is vertical, the FOV is increased to 85 degrees, making it easier to fit several people in your selfie without having to stretch your arm too far. Apple also improved the slow-motion capabilities of the front-facing camera and dubbed the end product "slofies."

The side button, volume buttons, and mute switch are all in their normal spots. A headphone jack is still missing on the bottom, and Apple's proprietary Lightning port didn't get replaced with a USB-C port. Maybe next year. 

Apple says the glass used on the front and back of iPhone 11 is the toughest glass ever used in a phone, and that it should be able to withstand more of our accidental drops and overall abuse, and I'll have to take its word for it. The iPhone 11 also has improved water resistance to 2m for up to 30 minutes. 

It's not until you look at the back of iPhone 11 that you begin to see a difference. Specifically, the iPhone 11's camera array is now square and features two lenses -- instead of one like the iPhone XR had. 

iphone-11-ultra-wide-angle.jpg

Ultra-wide photo taken with iPhone 11. 

(Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

The second lens is an ultra-wide-angle camera with a 120-degree field of view. The added FOV means you can, essentially, zoom out on a subject, capturing more of the surroundings in the photo. This is a feature that many Android devices have added over the past few years, and it's one of my favorite features of any camera. 

Another area that Apple caught up with camera features in competing against Android devices is with Night mode. Night mode is only possible with the wide camera on iPhone 11, so you shouldn't take ultra-wide-angle shots at night with any phone expect the same results. But here's how it works: You open the camera app, and it detects whether there's enough light for a normal photo. If so, you tap the shutter button and take your picture. 

d38e274e-0ede-4e78-960d-e74050bf43d9.jpg

(Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

If your iPhone decides it needs more light, a small moon icon shows up with an amount of time. Sometimes it's one second, nine seconds, or any number in between. When you see that is present, you press the shutter button and then hold still. How many ever seconds later, the iPhone 11 will capture a photo in a low-light environment, and more often than not, it looks as if it was well-lit room. 

Google's Pixel phones were the first to have a similar feature, and in my test shots, the iPhone 11 has surpassed the Pixel 3 XL every single time. 

Performance

iphone-11-camera-bumps.jpg

iPhone 11 camera bump.

(Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

The iPhone 11 is powered by Apple's A13 Bionic processor, has 4GB of memory (according to iFixit), and comes in configurations of 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB of storage. While 64GB is a decent amount of storage, it's no longer enough. The starting point should be 128GB, if not 256GB, especially when you consider Apple's latest services push with Apple Arcade and Apple TV Plus, both of which require storage space to play games or to view TV shows and movies offline. 

But I've yet to feel like the iPhone 11 is underpowered, or that it suffers from performance issues not due to buggy software. I've downloaded several Apple Arcade titles, some of which are basic, while others, like Oceanhorn 2, are full of complex graphics and quick movements, and the iPhone 11 stayed one step ahead of me at all times. 

Battery life on iPhone 11 has been superb. My days start around 6am, and I usually put my phone on the charger around 10pm. I've yet to see iPhone 11 have less than 34% charge left, and that's after close to five hours of screen-on time. 

Software

The iPhone 11 runs iOS 13, which itself includes a ton of new features for the iOS platform as a whole. Apple Maps, Reminders, Mail, and Safari are just a few apps that have received significant upgrades with the update. 

In iOS 13.1, Apple also added a new feature called User Enrollment for BYOD scenarios. This allows the user to keep their Apple ID on the device, along with a corporate-managed Apple ID for things like configuring accounts, app-based VPN, passcode requirements, and remote wipe of corporate accounts and data. It's a huge boost for BYOD users, right in time for an iPhone that's priced under $700. 

Overall, iOS 13 (and its iOS 13.1 update) is promising, but it needs more refinement. I still have issues with the Mail app, and right now, I have three or four apps that keep removing and then reinstalling themselves from my Apple Watch, without any interaction on my part. 

We'll surely continue to see frequent updates from Apple, ironing out the rest of the bugs and issues, as is often the case after a big update from the iPhone maker. 

CNET

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To go Pro or not?

The differences between iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro are the display and a telephoto camera. The Pro line uses Apple's Super Retina XDR OLED display. It's a much brighter screen, capable of displaying more colors at a higher resolution. 

Comparing the two screens next to each other, the differences are fairly obvious. However, after using iPhone 11 for a week, I've fully adjusted to the screen and don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. I'd wager that most users would have the same experience. 

Then there's the additional camera on the Pro. It's a telephoto lens that boasts a 2x optical zoom. It's another tool on your iPhone belt, so to speak, and for some, that's an important factor. 

At the end of the day, most people don't need the iPhone 11 Pro or even the iPhone Pro Max. The iPhone 11 is one of the best iPhones I've used, and it's half the price of the iPhone 11 Pro Max that will arrive at my door via UPS any minute now.

Specifications

Phone Features
Phone Functions Speakerphone, voice control, call timer, conference call, flight mode, voice dialing, vibrating alert
Sensors Accelerometer, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, 3-axis gyro sensor, digital compass, barometer
Additional Features TTY compatible, FaceTime, iCloud Photo Sharing, MIMO technology, Wi-Fi Calling, iBeacon microlocation, QuickType keyboard, Apple TV support (2nd or later), Neural Engine, AirPlay Mirroring
Security Devices Face ID
Details
Integrated Components Front-facing camera, voice recorder, stereo speakers, navigation, dual rear-facing camera, digital player
Body Color Black
Cellular
Technology CDMA2000 1X / GSM / WCDMA (UMTS)
Type smartphone
Integrated Components digital player, dual rear-facing camera, front-facing camera, navigation, stereo speakers, voice recorder
Navigation GLONASS, GPS
Band WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM 850/900/1800/1900 / CDMA2000 1X 1900/800
Mobile Broadband Generation 4G
Phone Form Factor touch
Service Provider not specified, AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, Sprint
Operating System Family iOS
Payment Technology Apple Pay
Intelligent Assistant Siri
SIM Card Type Electronic SIM card (e-SIM), nano SIM
SIM Card Slot Qty dual-SIM
Input Device Multi-touch, capacitive
Miscellaneous
Sensors accelerometer, ambient light sensor, barometer, digital compass, proximity sensor, three-axis gyro sensor
Messaging & Internet
Messaging Services MMS, SMS
Supported Social Networks and Blogs Yes
Communications
Data Transmission DC-HSDPA, EDGE, EV-DO, FDD-LTE, GPRS, HSDPA, HSPA+, HSUPA, LTE, TDD-LTE, VoLTE, VoWiFi
Wireless Interface Bluetooth 5.0, NFC
Processor
Type Apple A13 Bionic
Manufacturer Apple
Processor Core Qty 6-core
64-bit Architecture Yes
Display
Type LCD display
Technology Liquid Retina HD display
Pixel Density (ppi) 326
Contrast Ratio 1400:1
Diagonal Size 6.1 in
Diagonal Size (metric) 15.5 cm
Smartphone Diagonal Size 6.1 in
Protection fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating
Color Support color
Display Languages Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Catalan, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, UK English, US English, Ukrainian, Vietnamese
Features Dolby Vision, HDR10, True Tone display
Manufacturer Warranty
Service & Support Limited warranty - 1 year
Technical support - consulting - 90 days
Media Player
Supported Digital Video Standards M-JPEG, H.264, HEVC, MPEG-4 Part 2, HEIF
Supported Digital Audio Standards Audible, MP3, FLAC, Apple Lossless, AC-3, AAC-LC, LPCM, HE-AAC, Audible AAX, Audible AAX+, protected AAC, EAC3, HE-AAC v2
Environmental Parameters
Min Operating Temperature 32 °F
Max Operating Temperature 95 °F
Humidity Range Operating 5 - 95% (non-condensing)
Battery
Run Time Details Playback (video): up to 17 hrs
Playback (wireless video): up to 10 hrs
Playback: up to 65 hrs
Run Time Details Playback (video): up to 17 hrs
Playback (wireless video): up to 10 hrs
Playback: up to 65 hrs
Fast Charging Technology Apple fast charging technology
Wireless Charging Yes
Digital Camera
Special Effects High Key, Natural
Header
Brand Apple
Product Line Apple iPhone
Packaged Quantity 1
CE Input Device
Type touch sensitive screen (multi-touch)
Touchscreen Technology capacitive
Features
Sensors accelerometer, ambient light sensor, barometer, digital compass, proximity sensor, three-axis gyro sensor
Phone Functions call timer, conference call, flight mode, speakerphone, vibrating alert, voice control, voice dialing
Security Devices Face ID
Additional Features Apple TV support (2nd or later), FaceTime, MIMO technology, Neural Engine, QuickType keyboard, TTY compatible, Wi-Fi Calling, iBeacon microlocation, iCloud Photo Sharing
Digital Player (Recorder)
Supported Digital Audio Standards AAC-LC, AC-3, Apple Lossless, Audible, Audible AAX, EAC3, FLAC, HE-AAC, HE-AAC v2, LPCM, MP3, protected AAC
Supported Digital Video Standards H.264, HEIF, HEVC, M-JPEG, MPEG-4 Part 2
Sound Enhancements Dolby Digital Plus sound, Dolby Digital sound
Flash Memory
Internal Memory Capacity 64 GB
Service & Support Details
Type limited warranty, technical support
Service Included consulting
Full Contract Period 1 year, 90 days
Front-facing Camera
Sensor Resolution 12 Megapixel
Lens Aperture f/2.2
Features Animoji, Auto image stabilization, Exposure control, FaceTime HD camera
Second Rear Camera
Sensor Type BSI
Service & Support
Type 1 year warranty

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Where To Buy

Apple iPhone 11 (Black, 64GB)

Part Number: MWL72LL/A
Price
$699.00