review

Apple iPhone Long Term Review: The game changing godphone

Cutting price, but no corners

It has been a while since the iPhone 11 was released and in this time it has emerged as one of the highest-selling smartphones in the world, challenging even the high-profile and better specced iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. What makes it special – its relatively low price tag or its performance? We have been using the iPhone 11 for quite a while now and here are our answers to the most commonly asked queries about it in this period:

It is the lowest priced of the new iPhones. But does it look “cheap” by iPhone standards?

There was a time in the life cycle of the iPhone (specifically after the Home Button died) when the iPhone started to look “not as iPhone-y.” There were phones in the market that looked just like it and had it not been for the incomplete apple on the back of the phone, many might have mistaken the phone for its doppelgangers, which trust us, were very high in number.

That changed with the launch of the iPhone 11 series. The iPhone 11 is not only one of the most distinct iPhone line up that we have seen a couple of years but is actually one of the most standout series in terms of design that there is in the smartphone universe. That reflects on the iPhone 11 as well. It has the same size as the iPhone XR and basically the same front. Tall, notch-donned display, with noticeable bezels (especially by today’s standards). But what makes the phone really stand out is the dual-textured glass back, the dual cameras and their placement on the back. The square-ish camera unit is very weirdly put together in terms of sheer balance.

The two sensors and the flash all look like they were just randomly placed in that small box. That said, the camera unit has not taken away anything from the premium-ness that all iPhones carry in their DNA. While it does not have the fogged-glass back as its more expensive brother, the reflective glass back is still different kettle of fish as compared to the shiny, gradient finish designs that are very common these days.

To be honest, we did not really “love-love” the iPhone 11’s design initially but one gets used to it and there’s no doubting that there is nothing quite like it out there, so everyone knows which phone you are using. It is definitely slightly big in sheer by iPhone standards (which have now expanded in their own right) and at 150.9 mm in length, goes beyond the half-foot mark, so single hand operations might require some getting used to. If you were comfortable with the iPhone XR, we are pretty sure you are going to love this one, too.

The iPhone 11 lacks a Pro in its name. What all does that take away from the phone in terms of hardware?

The missing “Pro” in the iPhone 11’s title does take a few things away from it. The two phones run on the same chipset, Apple’s A13 Bionic with Third Generation Neural Engine, which means the 11 can take on pretty much every task you throw its way just as easily as the Pro but there are a few areas where the 11 is a step behind its Pro brother. The iPhone 11 comes with a 6.1-inch Liquid Retina display, which is a size bigger than the 11 Pro’s display but comes with just HD resolution as compared to the latter’s AMOLED full HD+ display. Along with a lower resolution display, the iPhone 11 also has a lower IP rating, which means it is not as water and dust resistant as its Pro avatar. The difference is not massive, though – the 11 can survive in 2 meters of water for up to 30 minutes, while the two Pros can survive for the same time in 4 meters of water.

But perhaps the most visible and important distinguishing element between the Pro and the 11 is the absence of the third camera on the back. There is a dual-camera setup on the back of the iPhone 11 as opposed to a triple one on the iPhone 11 Pro – the 11 lacks a telephoto sensor, which both Pro devices have in addition to the wide and ultrawide sensors which all three of them have. Another not-so-prominent difference between the two is that the frame of the 11 is made of stainless steel while that of the Pro is of Aluminum. The Aluminium one is smoother but we prefer the stainless steel one as it is slightly more grippy.

Is that lower-resolution LCD display a deal-breaker for iPhone fans?

It is pretty gutsy of Apple to be putting HD resolution displays in this day and age on a phone that costs this much, but as it showed with the iPhone XR, it can pull it off. And it has done so once again with the iPhone 11. By some tech sorcery, Apple’s HD displays are often so good that they can comfortably stand shoulder to shoulder with many quad HD displays of other brands, and sometimes make you even wonder if full HD itself is the sort of necessity that some make it out to be. Just as in the case of the iPhone XR and XS, unless you put the 11 Pro right next to the 11, squint your eyes well and look really hard, you will probably be able to tell the difference between its Super Retina AMOLED panel and the 11’s Liquid Retina LCD one. Yes, we said it!

The 11 has one less camera than the Pros do. Do those two cameras perform wonders?

It might be lacking the third camera in its primary camera arrangement but that has not kept the iPhone 11 from being one of the greatest camera setups on a smartphone today. It comes with two 12 megapixel sensors– an ultra-wide sensor with f/2.4 aperture and 120-degree field of view and a wide sensor with f/1.8 aperture. That might not sound as extravagant, but when have they ever on an iPhone. And when has it ever kept the iPhone from being one of the best camera phones in the business (if not the best). And that is because it combines its hardware muscle with some serious software magic.

The previous generation iPhones captured great detail, especially in good light conditions and the iPhone 11 takes this a step ahead and is not only able to capture a lot of detail in good light conditions but also in low light conditions. It has finally got on board with the whole Night Mode bandwagon. And in sheer night mode terms, it is one of the best we have come across, as it captures the essence of a scene well, although noise does creep in. Unlike others that have a dedicated mode for it, the night mode becomes available whenever the iPhone feels that there is not enough light – you have the option to switch it off if you still want a relatively dark shot. A lot has been said about the new Deep Fusion technology which is a sort of Super HDR mode that the new iPhone 11 series has. Perhaps it does play a role in delivering all that detail but there is no simple way of knowing when it is actually working (not unless you download a third-party app and tweak settings), or what REAL difference it makes.

[Click here for full resolution images]

Where the iPhone 11 steps slightly away from its traditional detail and color combination is in handling colors. The iPhones in the past have delivered true-to-setting colors which means the red you see with your eyes was often the red your iPhone camera captured. However, this has changed a little and we could spot shades of oversaturation seeping into our pictures. Is that a bad thing? For purists, yes, but general consumers are unlikely to mind as much. What we, however, would like to stress is that even with this slight nod to saturation, the colors reproduced by the iPhone cameras remain among the most realistic out there.

Apple has gone with a wide and ultrawide sensor arrangement on the iPhone 11, which means that you get a 2x optical “zoom-out” instead of a 2x zoom in that we experienced on the iPhone XS, which had a telephoto sensor. This changes the whole perspective of a picture, and Apple also allows you to capture slightly widened “capture outside the frame” shots, although the feature is hidden in settings and can be a little erratic. This wide and ultrawide set up is great for landscape shots and group photographs but we did miss the telephoto sensor, but then that could just be us.

Our love-hate relationship with Apple’s Portrait Mode continues, however, although it shifts a little to the love side with the iPhone 11. It has definitely improved and there are new lighting modes, but edges still get blurred and bokeh is inconsistent. Which is kind of sad, when you consider that Apple made Portrait Mode THE thing. Video remains among the best on a smartphone, and even the front camera delivers some very good selfies (no crazy beauty mode here, to make you look like your own worst anime). All in all, the results are a notch above the XR and even the XS but do not match the triple camera muscle that its Pro brothers possess.

While the cameras remain crazy good, what has tanked a little is the simplicity of their interface. The iPhone was lauded for its functional and super simple camera interface. And while on the surface, it might look the same, but hidden beneath those casual, cool outers are some really complex features and not all of them are intuitive to use, especially if you have been an iPhone user for a while. For instance, the capture outside the frame feature needs to be first activated in the Settings and using it involves going to the crop option in edits – not really easy peasy “Apple” squeezy, if you know what we mean.

The phone comes with the A13 Bionic top of the line processor. Does the chip live up to its reputation on the iPhone 11?

Absolutely! It has been a few months since we have been using the iPhone 11 as our primary device and it has shown no signs of slowing down. There were times when there are as many as 20 tabs open in the background and the iPhone 11 just would not care to pause or stutter and would keep going. From daily app hopping to not-so-routine heavy tasks like video editing, the iPhone 11 handled everything like a Pro (pun intended). iPhone 11 Pro Long Term Review: The iPhone…in Ten Commandments!And this was not so much of a surprise as the two (the iPhone 11 and the iPhone 11 Pro) basically share the same brain– the A13 Bionic chipset.

How good is gaming on the iPhone 11?

The iPhone 11 was expected to deliver a great gaming performance and that is exactly what it did. Both casual and high-end games on the phone were really impressive. We tried high-end games like PUBG and Call of Duty on it and boy, did they fly along merrily on it. That big beautiful display paired with stereo speakers took the whole gaming experience up to another level. We did not experience any frame drops or crashes and the phone never showed any sign of heating up. All in all, we would call the iPhone a cool gaming customer. Take a bow, A13 Bionic.

iOS 13 has had its share of critics. How well does it work on the iPhone 11?

We know we are tech reviewers and should not really have favorites, but we have a soft corner for iOS, as it has been awfully simple, functional and very regular when it comes to updates. Our faith in iOS was however tested a little in the early days of our using the iPhone 11. We came across a few weird blips – the camera would sometimes crash, dark mode wouldn’t affect wallpapers, and there were some really random app crashes – but all of those got fixed with the updates that Apple has been rolling out. At the time of writing, our iPhone 11 is on iOS 13.3, and iOS seems to be as good as ever if a little more complex (as we mentioned in the camera section).

The XR had a pretty good battery. Does the 11 carry that tradition forward?

Yes, it does. We could easily see off a day of heavy usage on a single charge, which was such a blessing when you consider the struggles that came along with XS, which sometimes needed to be charged as many as three times a day. We would actually say that battery life on the iPhone 11 was slightly better than even on the iPhone XR, which was a battery behemoth in iPhone terms.

The iPhone 11 lived to see a whole day on a single charge but charging it that one single time took almost as long. Okay, so we are exaggerating a bit (read A LOT) as it takes about three hours to charge with the regular in-the-box 5W charger. But that seems like an eternity when you have been surrounded by VOOC Charger, Fast Charger, Dash Charge, and whatnot, and when even its own Pro siblings charge much faster. It comes with support for fast charging and can be used with the 18W fast charger that comes with its Pro avatars, but you will have to shell out extra Ks in order to get your hands on that.

Big question: Is it worth the price?

At its starting price of Rs 64,900 for the 64 GB edition, the iPhone 11 is the most affordable new iPhone out there right now. It comes with some seriously good hardware, great cameras, and software that is now running smoothly and will be updated for at least the coming three years. Oh, and it also has a great battery life. No, it does not have all the features that its Pro versions have, but then those start at a much higher price – the iPhone 11 Pro starts at Rs 99,900.

In simple terms, if you want a current-generation iPhone and are not in splurge mode, then there finally is an option – the iPhone 11 (the iPhone XR, remember, started at a much higher price: Rs 76,900). In fact, if you are comfortable with the huge size (our biggest problem with the device) and can live without a telephoto, we would even recommend this over the iPhone 11 Pro. That price makes us not miss the Pro as much – heck, you could even buy an 18W charger and still be left with plenty of loose change.

But what of the Android competition?

Yes, we know you can get a number of high-end Android phones at comparable or even lower prices – the Samsung Galaxy Note 10, the Galaxy S10 and of course, the OnePlus 7T Pro. But if you were an Android fan, you would not have been reading this. Even if you are seriously torn between Android flagships and the iPhone 11, we would recommend the Apple device. Simply because the phone performs brilliantly, gets regular software updates which enable it to work smoothly over a longer period of time, and well even has better resale value. If you buy an iPhone 11, the chances are that you are sorted for the coming three years. We do not think you can say the same for too many Android flagships.

Buy Apple iPhone 11 on Amazon

Pros
  • Good cameras
  • Excellent performance
  • Long battery life
  • Relatively low price tag
Cons
  • Slightly more complex interface
  • Initially buggy, fixed by updates
  • Not a full HD display (for spec lovers)
  • No fast charger in the box
Review Overview
Build and design
Performance
Camera
Software
Price
SUMMARY

It has been a few months since Apple launched the iPhones. And the iPhone that has been making the most noise and sales, is the iPhone 11. Some are attributing this success of the phone to the surprisingly low price tag but is that really all to the iPhone 11? A relatively lighter price tag? Check our FAQ based on long term usage to find out.

4.1