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Last September, Apple announced the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max as updates to the iPhone XR , XS and XS Max, respectively. The new phones have significantly upgraded cameras, a blazing fast processor and overall better build quality. To top it all off, the iPhone 11, which starts at $699 (£729, AU$1,199), is $50 cheaper than the iPhone XR was when it was first released. And just FYI, there’s a new $399 iPhone SE for 2020.
Between the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, it may be difficult to figure out which one you should get. All three phones have the same processor, same main, ultrawide and selfie cameras, and run iOS 13. In fact the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max are identical in nearly every way aside from price, size, weight, battery life and screen resolution. The iPhone 11 represents one of the best values for a flagship phone you can buy today, and has many of the same 11 Pro features. On the other hand, the iPhone 11 Pro has a few key additions that make it the best iPhone ever made. At $999 (£1,049, AU$1,749), it also starts at $300 more than the iPhone 11.
For six months I used the iPhone 11 as my daily driver and the 11 Pro as my work phone. I took lots of photos and videos with the new ultrawide-angle camera, pushed the A13 processor to its max with games and photo edits and explored all of what iOS 13 has to offer.
For most people, including myself, the iPhone 11 is more than enough, and taking that one step further, I’d actually pay $50 more for the 11 to upgrade the storage from 64GB to 128GB. But here is the wrinkle: size. The iPhone 11 Pro is a bit smaller and lighter than the 11, which I personally love, and it could be the reason to go Pro. (FYI, if you want something bigger though, with the longest battery life, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is there waiting to fill your pocket and empty your bank account even more.)
The iPhone 11 is a great phone value for the price, second only to the iPhone SE 2020. Following in the footsteps of 2018’s iPhone XR, Apple smartly pitched the 11 as the iPhone for most people. Despite a lower resolution LCD screen, the iPhone 11 has the same A13 processor and relatively the same camera setup (more on that later) as the more expensive 11 Pro. It also comes in six different colors, survived CNET’s drop and water tests and earned a CNET Editors’ Choice Award. Read our Apple iPhone 11 review.
At the heart of the iPhone 11 Pro is an iPhone 11. But with upgrades such as a high-resolution OLED display, a matte-glass finish and a stainless steel side band it gets the VIP treatment. It has a third rear camera that, combined with Apple’s new Deep Fusion image processing, takes better zoomed-in photos. But probably the most-welcomed upgrade on the 11 Pro is how much longer battery life is over the previous-generation iPhone XS. In fact, the 11 Pro lasts almost as long on a single charge as the 11. Read our iPhone 11 Pro review.
How we tested
Detailed comparison of iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max
|iPhone 11||iPhone 11 Pro||iPhone 11 Pro Max|
|Display size, resolution||6.1-inch LCD Liquid Retina; 1,792×828 pixels||5.8-inch OLED Super Retina XDR; 2,436×1,125 pixels||6.5-inch OLED Super Retina XDR; 2,688×1,242 pixels|
|Pixel density||326 ppi||458 ppi||458 ppi|
|Dimensions (Inches)||5.94×2.98×0.33 in||5.67×2.81×0.32 in||6.22×3.06×0.32 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||150.9×75.7×8.3 mm||144×71.4×8.1 mm||158×77.8×8.1 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||6.84 oz; 194g||6.63 oz; 188g||7.97 oz; 226g|
|Mobile software||iOS 13||iOS 13||iOS 13|
|Camera||12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide)||12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), 12-megapixel (telephoto)||12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), 12-megapixel (telephoto)|
|Front-facing camera||12-megapixel with Face ID||12-megapixel with Face ID||12-megapixel with Face ID|
|Processor||Apple A13 Bionic||Apple A13 Bionic||Apple A13 Bionic|
|Storage||64GB, 128GB, 256GB||64GB, 256GB, 512GB||64GB, 256GB, 512GB|
|RAM||Not disclosed||Not disclosed||Not disclosed|
|Battery||Not disclosed, but Apple claims it will last 1 hour longer than iPhone XR||Not disclosed, but Apple claims it will last 4 hours longer than iPhone XS||Not disclosed, but Apple claims it will last 5 hours longer than iPhone XS Max|
|Fingerprint sensor||None (Face ID)||None (Face ID)||None (Face ID)|
|Special features||Water resistant (IP68); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging||Water resistant (IP68); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging||Water resistant (IP68); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging|
|Price off-contract (USD)||$699 (64GB), $749 (128GB), $849 (256GB)||$999 (64GB), $1,149 (256GB), $1,349 (512GB)||$1,099 (64GB), $1,249 (256GB), $1,449 (512GB)|
The smaller iPhone was better
Perhaps the most obvious and important reason to buy the iPhone 11 Pro over the iPhone 11 is size. They are very differently sized phones and they will fit in your hands differently.
With a 5.8-inch screen and a weight of 6.63 ounces (188 grams), the iPhone 11 Pro is the smallest of the three iPhone 11 devices. (Though, if a small phone is what you’re after, the new iPhone SE might be a better option, at 4.7 inches and 5.22 ounces.) The solid-feeling phone is the easiest to use one-handed. Weighing 6.84 ounces the iPhone 11 is heavier than the 11 Pro but doesn’t feel as dense. The iPhone 11 is 0.2 millimeters thicker than the 11 Pro, which makes it feel a tad chunky.
Everyone’s hands and needs are different. I have large hands, but prefer the svelte feeling of the 11 Pro. But if you are willing to compromise a heavier weight for a larger screen, get the 11 and save $300.
And if you want the absolute biggest screen you can have, go for the $1,099 iPhone 11 Max that has a 6.5-inch OLED screen but weighs 7.97 ounces (226 grams).
Winner: For its small size, the 11 Pro is the way to go for me.
Telephoto camera is nice to have
The iPhone 11 Pro (and 11 Pro Max) has a third telephoto camera that the iPhone 11 doesn’t. At times it was nice switching to the telephoto camera. And compared to the iPhone XS, the updated telephoto camera combined with Deep Fusion processing meant I took photos with better image quality.
There were also times when I framed a shot better with the 11 Pro’s telephoto camera than I could with the main camera. For example, when I took a top-down shot of a plate of food with the main camera, I could see the phone’s shadow on the plate. But when I switched to the telephoto camera and moved the phone higher away from the table there was no shadow.
There are a couple caveats about the iPhone 11 Pro’s telephoto camera though. When you take Night Mode photos at 2x, the 11 Pro doesn’t use the telephoto camera. Instead, it takes a crop of the main wide-angle camera. Also, the telephoto camera excels in bright conditions, but when taking photos in medium-to-low light, I noticed better image quality when I took the same photo with the main camera and cropped in.
All in all, the telephoto lens is useful on the 11 Pro, but I didn’t miss having it when I used the 11. If I needed to zoom in on a photo, a 2x crop of a photo I took with the main camera worked fine. I do recommend looking at the photos you have on your current phone and see how many were taken zoomed in and how many photos would look better had you been able to zoom in a bit. If you have a lot of pictures where you wished you had a dedicated telephoto camera, then you should consider an iPhone 11 Pro.
For more on the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro cameras, check out our comparisons below:
- iPhone camera comparison: iPhone 11 with Deep Fusion vs. iPhone XR
- Apple iPhone 11 Pro vs. iPhone XS: Camera and Night Mode comparison
- iPhone 11 Pro Max: Taking the camera skateboarding
- iPhone 11 goes Pro with photography
Winner: The 11 Pro’s telephoto camera is a nice-to-have if you value iPhone photography, but it’s certainly not necessary
Take a look at photos from the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max
The iPhone 11 Pro has a gorgeous OLED display
The iPhone 11 Pro has a 5.8-inch OLED screen, while the 11 has a 6.1-inch LCD display. When I look at the phones side-by-side, the screen on the 11 Pro looked better, brighter and showed off more details. It is a joy to watch videos and edit photos on.
The OLED screen on the 11 Pro supports HDR and has a contrast ratio (the ratio of the brightest and darkest colors on a display) of 2,000,000:1 compared to the 11’s 1,400:1. On paper that means the iPhone 11 Pro is capable of darker black levels and more color saturation. That said, side-by-side, the differences between the two screens are sometimes hard to notice. In and of itself, the colors on the iPhone 11’s LCD are accurate and videos look good.
The iPhone 11 Pro Max has a 6.5-inch OLED that has the same pixel density as the iPhone 11 Pro.
Winner: The screen on the iPhone 11 is good, but the one on the 11 Pro is even better.
Up close with the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max
Cracked screens and waterproofing
We put both the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro through a test where we dropped them from different heights. After dropping them from 3-feet, 6-feet and 8-feet off the ground both phones survived without a single crack to their screens or glass backs. The only blemish was a small scuff to the iPhone 11’s aluminum band and a few damaged pixels on the bottom of the 11 Pro’s screen.
As far as water resistance, both of these phones are rated IP68. Apple claims the iPhone 11 can withstand being submerged at a depth of 6.5 feet (2 meters) up to 30 minutes and the 11 Pro can survive at a maximum depth of 13 feet (4 meters) up to 30 minutes. However, in our water tests with an underwater drone, the 11 and 11 Pro both survived being submerged for 30 minutes at 39 feet (11.9 meters).
Winner: Tie; both the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro are some of the most durable phones you can buy today,
Color, finish and extras
After six months of use without a case, the backs of both the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro still didn’t have a single scratch or scuff. The textured matte glass back on the iPhone 11 Pro feels soft, smooth and durable. The phone is easy to grip and never feels like it’s going to slip out of my hand (though again, its smaller size helps with this). I’m happy to say that fingerprint smudges don’t accumulate easily.
The iPhone 11, meanwhile, has a glossy glass back, which does feel slippery in my hand and the phone is prone to smudges, too.
As far as colors, the iPhone 11 gets things more right than the 11 Pro. You can buy an iPhone 11 in six bright and fun colors. The 11 Pro is less flashy and comes in four rather serious finishes (space gray, silver, gold or midnight green). In a perfect world, I could have the matte glass finish of the 11 Pro and the color options of the 11.
The iPhones have wireless charging and support fast charging, but only the iPhone 11 Pro (and 11 Pro Max) comes with the 18-watt charger that’s required for fast charging. It’s aggravating that the 11 doesn’t come with this charger and that you’ll have to buy it separately if you want it. To make matters worse, Apple charges $29 (£29, AU$49) for the 18-watt fast charger and $19 (£19, AU$29) for the cable, when cheaper compatible alternatives are available.
Winner: On colors alone, the iPhone 11 takes this one.