The iPhone 11 Pro is the first and probably the last of its kind. It is the first Pro model of the iPhone and joins the ranks of the iPad Pro, MacBook Pro and Mac Pro. An "iPhone for professionals". An iPhone for those for whom a smartphone is a tool and instrument. An iPhone for those who are willing to dig a little deeper into their pockets for the maximum feature set. This is the best iPhone Apple has to offer, isn't it?
- Triple camera system
- Equal front camera
- Brightest smartphone HDR display
- Precise workmanship, high-quality materials
- Faster Face ID
- Battery life
- A13 Bionic with top performance
- Wi-Fi 6
- Bluetooth 5.0 with beamforming, two antennas for longer range
- USB 2.0 Lightning port, no USB-C, no USB 3.*
- Display only 60 Hertz, no Pro-Motion
- Entry-level model is only 64GB
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max release date and price
The iPhone 11 Pro Max is already available in stores. At a minimum of $1099/£1140 it is not exactly cheap - there is only 64 GB memory for that price too. For 256 GB, $1249/£1299 is due. The real Pro-version with 512 GB costs $1449/£1499. Apple also offers a trade-in program. We have summarized prices and purchase possibilities in a separate article:
More than a just an old design
The iPhone 11 Pro is probably the last iPhone of this design generation, but its more than just an old model. It's an iPhone that Apple developed based learnings it gathered from iPhone X and iPhone XS, and basically all previous generations of iPhone.
Apple has been pursuing this product strategy since the first iPhone generation but has now expanded the upgrade pattern of the so-called S-Class models from two to at least three device generations. Instead of spending development resources every year on a basic case redesign, every few years you concentrate more on a new exterior, then build on it for several generations, and then move on to focus on further developing and improving the inner values.
This can make the iPhone 11 Pro appear at first glance as a boring update. But in addition to the third camera on the back, Apple's latest top model brings with it many more fundamental innovations that will not only accompany us for several generations to come, but will also become standard across the industry.
Yes, the notch is still there and still big. The display bezels are also unchanged. Well, if you look very closely, the bezels are even a few micrometers wider. Basically, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max have grown in all dimensions by a few micrometers compared to their direct predecessors.
The back of the new Pro models now features a matt glass finish consisting of the "toughest glass in a smartphone," according to Apple, which was developed in collaboration with Corning, the company behind Gorilla Glass. This new glass feels pleasant and high-quality, looks subjectively good and is objectively quite scratch-resistant. It is also amazingly resistant to fingerprints.
Apple offers the Pro models in four colors: Gold, Silver, Space Gray and a new Night Green. The latter shade has something of a hunter's touch and is reminiscent of British wax jackets. Discreetly noble.
The new triple camera system is embedded in the new glass back and the square area around it is not an enclosure, but part of the same piece of glass, which only has a different finish. Yeah, the cameras are sticking out a bit, if only by a hair's breadth. Personally, I find the design of the triple camera appealing. Judging by the comments, not everyone sees it that way. Not even my colleague Shu, who is reminded of his beloved induction stove when he sees the camera system. It reminds me of a lens revolver of old film cameras from the early days of television. Apple obviously doesn't want to hide the cameras at all, but to highlight them according to their performance. Tastes are different.
But design not only describes what something looks like, it also describes how something works. One of the biggest design flaws of the iPhone 11 Pro and Max model does not affect the look, but actually the function. The first iPhone specifically for professionals is equipped with a USB 2.0 Lightning port. Every other Pro device in Apple's portfolio, including the iPad Pro, has a USB-C port that is at least USB 3.0 compatible.
This means that if you want to drag all the photo and video footage you'll be shooting with the impressive iPhone 11 Pro cameras gigabyte by gigabyte, in uncompressed lossless form, locally from the iPhone to e.g. a computer, you either have to go the wireless Airdrop route or squeeze everything through a USB 2.0 cable connection. Fortunately, Airdrop is now a solid feature, but it's not always available as an option either.
And let's be honest, a large part of those who choose an iPhone 11 Pro and put so much money on the table are so-called "pros" and want to and will take gigabytes of photos and videos with it. I could overlook that on the regular iPhone 11, but not on this model. As much courage Apple has shown in the spread of USB Type-C, especially with its MacBook models that only have USB-C ports, Apple's adherence to USB 2.0 Lightning is incomprehensible, especially with this iPhone model.
The IP68 certification of the Pro models should also be mentioned. In contrast to the industry standard water resistance of up to two meters, Apple promises four meters to 30 minutes. Our device unit survived several splashes and divings, as you'll see in our seperate iPhone 11 Pro camera review.
The best smartphone display currently available
While we're on the subject of honesty, we can't test displays better than the experts at DisplayMate. According to their analysis, the Super Retina XDR display of the iPhone 11 Pro (Max) is by far the best display in a smartphone. Not surprisingly, Apple's displays have been regarded as the best in the industry for many years.
The Super Retina XDR Display achieves the highest A+ rating from DisplayMate to date, thanks in part to precise calibration ex works. It achieves a typical maximum brightness of 800 nits and a maximum brightness of 1200 nits. This makes the display around 50 percent brighter than most other displays of current flagship smartphones. This is clearly visible when using iPhone 11 Pro outdoors, in direct sunlight, and in bright environments in general. In addition, this OLED panel offers an impressive contrast ratio of 2,000,000:1, coupled with absolute color accuracy, support for HDR10 and Dolby Vision.
3D Touch, Apple's pressure-sensitive display technology, is no longer part of the construction. It is replaced by "Haptic Touch", a combination of Taptic Engine (the built-in linear actuator) and software. This combination is supposed to imitate the user experience of 3D Touch to a large extent, without the necessary hardware, but unfortunately doesn't quite make it. I used 3D Touch with pleasure, especially for the trackpad function of the keyboard to set the cursor. The absence of the 3D touch hardware has also created room for a larger battery. You win some, you lose some.
Resolutions, screen sizes and pixel density of 458 ppi each are unchanged compared to the predecessor models. Consequently a 5.8-inch OLED with its 1125 x 2436 pixel resolution for the iPhone 11 Pro and a 6.5-inch OLED display with 1242 x 2688 pixel for the iPhone 11 Pro Max. Each with True Tone technology, which automatically adjusts the white level to the ambient light, and extended color space.
I'm not really complaining about this display , except maybe that the notch still claims a piece of this great screen for itself. If only all the displays around us were this good.
Face ID unlocks faster
Without wanting to butter someone up, Apple's Face ID is still the benchmark for secure, mobile face recognition. Many manufacturers offer similar solutions in their smartphones, but only very few go the extra mile to make face recognition as secure, reliable and easy to use as Face ID is. The notch is therefore a necessary evil, at least for now.
The advanced sensor technology in the iPhone 11 Pro and Max models is designed to make face-scanning unlocking up to 30 percent faster. In everyday life, the procedure feels a little bit faster. Where an improvement is more noticeable, is at the extended scan angles. This does not necessarily mean, as initially assumed, the inclination of the device relative to the face, but rather the rotation. In other words, you no longer have to align the front of the device so precisely and parallel to your face in order to successfully unlock the iPhone.
iOS 13 brings dark fashion and more privacy
Apple's official PDF document with all the new features in iOS 13 includes 28 A4 pages, and even then it is not very detailed. Therefore we will only fly over the most important new features here:
iOS 13 comes with a system-wide dark mode that can be switched on and off either automatically according to time of day or manually. It also includes numerous third-party apps that easily connect to the dark mode system. One dark mode switch for everything.
The official camera and photo apps of iOS 13 have been revised to accommodate the new camera functions. The new photo app automatically curates all photo and video material and, thanks to the Neural Engine, sorts it, groups it into events and presents it comparatively clearly.
With the new privacy protection function "Log in with Apple", Apple is competing with Google, Facebook and Co. who have been allowing their users to log in to other services with a single click for years. Apple's counterpart, however, relies entirely on privacy, masks the user's e-mail address and is intended to make overall advertising and social tracking more difficult, while at the same time facilitating registration with online services and apps. Overall, Apple's analytics companies such as Google, Facebook and other trackers should not be happy about this push.
Siri has also been further improved. The voice of Apple's voice-controlled assistants now sounds a little more natural. It also now offers better proactive suggestions for content and apps. Siri also gets on even better with Apple's Shortcuts Automation app. Not really a Siri feature, but still a bit like it, is the new voice control in iOS 13. This function is hidden under the operating aid, with which the entire iOS, including almost all third-party apps, can be controlled exclusively by voice.
A13 Bionic does well
The iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max are all powered by Apple's latest in-house A13 bionic chip. Its 6-core CPU consists of two high-performance cores with a maximum clock rate of 2.66 GHz and four power-saving cores. Apple internally refers to the former as "Lightning" and the latter as "Thunder". So if someone should ask you what technology is in the new iPhones, you can seriously say "thunder and lightning".
A quad-core chip also developed by Apple takes care of the graphics performance. Apple also improved its Neural Engine in the A13, according to its own statement. This refers to an eight-core chip that houses an artificial neural network, or artificial intelligence if you will. This is used system-wide, mostly intentionally unnoticed, but is also used, for example, for real-time analysis of photo and video recordings, including functions such as HDR and scene recognition.
After its predecessor, the A12, the A13 is the second SoC developed by Apple to be manufactured by TSMC using the 7-nanometer process. According to Apple, the A13 Bionic offers 20 percent more performance than the A12, but consumes about 30-40 percent less energy. The same applies to the GPU.
iPhone 11 Pro Max benchmark comparison
|Samsung Galaxy Note 10||OnePlus 7 Pro||iPhone 11 Pro Max|
|3D Mark Sling Shot Extreme ES 3.1||4.905||5.374||5.396|
|3D Mark Sling Shot ES 3.0||4.872||6.958||5.419|
|3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited ES 2.0||53.189||65.808||96.915|
|Geekbench 5 (Single / Multi)||704 / 2.283||733 / 2.748||1.338 / 3512|
In everyday life, this means shorter loading and rendering times. There are only a few scenarios in which you can really make the most of the A13. The performance potential is usually slumbering. During my tests, I never had the feeling that performance wasn't enough or that the iPhone 11 Pro Max was slowing me down on what I wanted to do with it.
One mystery so far is the actual size of the memory used. Four gigabytes are confirmed, two more gigabytes are supposed to hide somewhere, according to Apple's development environment Xcode, and exclusively be available to the camera system. iFixit couldn't find it in their teardown.
The iPhones and iPads are generally less RAM-hungry than Android devices and can also cope better with little, so possible comparisons are not easy.
Better than expected audio
A loudspeaker is recessed into the notch and another one next to the Lightning port. New this year is an audio virtualizer for an "immersive experience" Apple calls "Spatial Audio". The stereo speakers also officially support Dolby Atmos.
I catch myself smiling when someone connects two small smartphone speakers with Dolby Atmos. Nevertheless, they sound amazingly good for what they are. One evening I watched the whole movie "The Martian" in Super-Duper-Dolby-Atmos-HDR-iTunes-Extra version on the iPhone 11 Pro Max without headphones and it was a better experience than expected.
A very, very good camera
We have dedicated our own extensive camera test to the new cameras of the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max. The scope of which go beyond this review. In short, they are very good.
More battery than you think
As reviewers, we don't try to sound like fanboys, even if we love technology, but to judge the respective product seriously and objectively and to let well-founded opinions flow in. But sometimes you just have to and can only call things by their name and say how they are. The battery life of the iPhone 11 Pro Max is simply fantastic.
As part of my camera test, I recorded several gigabytes of photos and videos on individual days, edited these videos on the iPhone 11 Pro, edited photos, synchronized all recordings permanently and primarily via LTE into the iCloud and simultaneously to Google Photos, streamed YouTube videos and music and everything else you do.
Since I have an unlimited LTE contract, I have generally enabled all background processes and updates for the mobile Internet. Since the beginning of my iPhone 11 Pro test about a week and a half ago I have accumulated a mobile data consumption of over 77 GB. Just to put the results into perspective.
Over eight and a half hours of screen-on-time or screen time without (!) power-saving mode with almost purely LTE use are not exceptional when using the iPhone 11 Pro Max intensively. At times I found it really hard to bring the battery of the iPhone 11 Pro Max to its knees within a day so that I could test the quick charge function. With comparatively normal, everyday and conservative usage behavior, including power-saving mode, you can easily do without a charger for two days, despite a significantly more powerful Apple A13 Bionic and the currently brightest smartphone display.
Now the modems necessary for the upcoming 5G mobile radio standard are at least currently still extremely power hungry, which is why they are currently only found in correspondingly large, high-priced flagship smartphones equipped with huge batteries. But Apple seems to be prepared for the 5G power guzzlers in the upcoming iPhones when it comes to power management.
Speaking of quick charging, Apple has included an 18-watt USB-C charger and a USB-C to Lightning quick charging cable with the Pro models for the first time. With this combination, an iPhone 11 Pro can be recharged to 50 percent in half an hour, an iPhone 11 Pro Max takes almost five minutes longer, i.e. 35 minutes to 50 percent. These values were also achieved in our test with the Max model.
From the 50 percent mark on, however, things progress noticeably slower, probably in order to conserve the battery and increase its service life. After one hour, a charge of between 78 and 80 percent can be achieved, depending on the general conditions. A complete charge from 0 to 100 percent takes about two hours.
We also tested whether charging with Apple's optional 30-watt USB-C power supply would be faster, but that's not the case. All current iPhones can be recharged wirelessly, although not as fast as some of the competition's smartphones.
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max technical specifications
The true Pro model
In times when all manufacturers feel like they are just throwing around the "Pro" term, the iPhone 11 Pro (Max) is one of the few that actually deserves the name suffix. The camera system is the best you can currently find in a smartphone. The quality of the photos and videos in some situations is reminiscent of those of mid-range mirrorless system cameras, not to mention the greater versatility of an iPhone 11 Pro Max.
The Super Retina XDR display is a proverbial landmark, despite the fact that notch remains unchanged. The battery life is simply impressive. And the A13 Bionic has enough power for everything you want to do with the iPhone 11 Pro (Max) now and three years from now.
Less future-proof is the Lightning connection with its USB 2.0 transfer speed. You don't really enjoy it now, let alone three years from now. Even if the iPhones will probably switch to USB-C next year, Apple could have installed at least Lightning with USB 3.0 with this first iPhone Pro, as it did with the first iPad Pro at that time.
Apart from that, the iPhone 11 Pro (Max) is a rock-solid device for users with high demands. We've known the design for a few years, and the fact that it's copied by half the industry doesn't really help. But the latest iPhone combines everything Apple has learned in the past decade and combines it with the latest technology - except for the port.