As absurd it may sound but Apple erred big time when it launched the iPhone XR. Now you may think that it’s us and not Apple that’s being absurd here as the iPhone XR ended up being the most popular smartphone of the year, as per IHS Market. So why are we calling it an error from Apple? There was absolutely nothing wrong with the iPhone XR, except that when it was launched it came with a starting price of Rs 76,900. Even in Apple’s own ‘special’ universe this wasn’t an affordable iPhone from any standards. More so when you consider the fact that OnePlus was selling its flagship at half the price, Samsung’s best smartphone the Galaxy Note 9 was priced cheaper than the iPhone XR in India. However, as they say a wise man — company in this case — is one who realises the mistake and rectifies it. Almost six months after its launch, Apple ‘unofficially’ dropped the prices of iPhone XR and voila there you had a complete package of an iPhone.
A wise man not only corrects his mistake but also ensures that he never repeats. Apple became that wise man and launched the iPhone 11 at the starting price of Rs 64,900. Apple’s ‘affordable’ iPhone trick might have backfired initially but this year it has got it bang on. Most people genuinely don’t care if Apple puts an LCD display which has thick bezels or it lacked certain features as long as it’s a great iPhone. The XR was that great iPhone — largely due to its price cut and not because of its original price — and that puts enormous pressure on the iPhone 11. Perhaps that’s why the iPhone 11 is the most significant device to come out of Apple Park in Cupertino as it claims to balance price, features and everything that an iPhone buyer will look for. Read our review to find out if with the iPhone 11 Apple has a winner on its hands or whether it will take another price cut for it to succeed:
iPhone 11 Design review: United Colours of Apple
Apple made quite a splash of colours with the iPhone XR. With the iPhone 11, it continues that splash with two new colours — a lovely shade of purple and a different green. The thing with iPhone 11 is that it will be compared to iPhone XR as well as the iPhone 11 Pro series of phones. Compared to the iPhone XR, Apple hasn’t changed much in terms of design. The iPhone 11 is made of aluminium — not stainless steel that’s found in the Pro iPhones — and is relatively thicker than the expensive iPhones.
The design change has happened at the back of the iPhone 11. There’s a dual rear camera setup found in a squircle bump and the iPhone 11 doesn’t have a matte finish. So, there are bound to be more smudges and fingerprints though most people would end up using the iPhone 11 with a protective case. Apple has also pushed its logo to the centre of the device and the words ‘iPhone’ have also disappeared from the iPhone 11. For those who like to dig deeper into differences between the two new iPhones this year, then the iPhone 11 Pro has a glass camera bump whereas the iPhone 11 has a matte finish to the camera bump.
The display still sports the same thick bezels which surprisingly don’t look too out of the place. Having said that, it would’ve been nice to have a slightly bezel-less display in the iPhone 11. Though Apple has to keep a certain level of differentiation with the iPhone 11 Pro series, so iPhone 11 gets bezels while the expensive ones look more better.
Despite its thickness, thick bezels, lack of matte finish, the iPhone 11 is a really good looking phone and it’s the colours that give it a distinctive look and feel. The Purple shade is the one that will in all probability catch the fancy of a lot of buyers and one can never, ever discount the allure of Product RED in iPhones.
iPhone 11 Display review: Shine on you crazy diamond
LCD displays are generally scoffed at these days. Yet, Apple’s arrogant enough to still put it in a phone that costs Rs 64,900. There’s a reason for that arrogance as Apple doesn’t really believe in specifications that sound really great on paper. The iPhone 11 packs in an LCD display that has a resolution of 1792 x 828 pixels. Now if you are one of those buyers who believes in doing a spec-by-spec comparison before buying a phone then the iPhone 11 will never make the cut, on paper. However, it’s not always about specs but what you really do with them and this is where the iPhone 11 — just like the iPhone XR — has the edge. It’s quite crazy how this doesn’t really look like a LCD display and not an OLED.
The 6.1-inch Liquid Retina Display is really good to look at as long as you are not comparing it with iPhone 11 Pro. For daily content consumption and use, the iPhone 11 will not give anyone a reason to have a single complaint. The colours look punchy, the viewing angles and contrasts also stand out. Apple’s haters and critics will continue to hammer it on putting an LCD display but that’s a non-issue for us as really we had zero complaints with the display of the iPhone 11. It’s size is also ideal for watching multimedia content though the iPhone 11 Pro (5.8-inch displays) continues to be the most ideal-sized iPhone.
Let’s not forget that Apple is selling this as an ‘affordable’ iPhone and now that it has put the Pro moniker, you won’t get the best of Apple in the iPhone 11. But even the second-best from Apple continues to be great and the display is a testament to it. It’s not the best you can find in the market but it is great to look at, though it would’ve been nice to see the thick bezels be a thing of the past. Well, there’s always next year for that.
iPhone 11 camera review: Pro level performance. Almost
While a lot of people genuinely cribbed a lot about the display with the iPhone XR, we were disappointed to see a single camera. Although yet again Apple confounded everyone with delivering competent performance with a single lens camera when dual cameras were found in phones that cost a fraction of the iPhone XR. The litmus test for us in recommending or not recommending the iPhone 11 lays largely on how good the cameras are.
The iPhone 11 doesn’t get step brotherly treatment from Apple this time as it boasts of two cameras that are found in the iPhone 11 Pro series. There’s a 12-megapixel ultra-wide lens and a 12-megapixel wide lens in the iPhone 11. The only thing missing is a 12-megapixel telephoto lens. That’s about it. Rest, everything — and we mean everything — remains the same in terms of features found in the more expensive iPhone 11 Pro series.
The ultra-wide lens is a great addition to the iPhone 11 as it manages to capture 120-degree field of view. What this means is those who love to click landscapes will see the iPhone 11 at its best. Of course, one can capture more in a scene with an ultra-wide lens but there is a certain loss of details when you zoom in the images. However, it must be said that unless you really nitpick in the image or look at it on a bigger screen, you won’t notice anything. The ultra-wide lens in the iPhone 11 does a fine job in capturing more in a scene and it is as good as the iPhone 11 Pro series.
The iPhone XR faltered when it came to shooting portraits as it didn’t have the capability to click anything but human faces. That was because of the one lens and relied on computational and machine learning heavily to deliver portrait shots. The iPhone 11 doesn’t suffer from any issues and that because of the depth-of-field that the second lens adds to it. It also gets all the modes that are available in the Portrait feature, which wasn’t the case with the iPhone XR. We clicked a whole lot of portraits with iPhone 11 and the results were truly delightful, especially ones that were clicked in the natural sunlight. The iPhone 11 clicks as good a portrait that the expensive iPhone 11 Pro series of phones do.
The much-wanted Night mode also makes its way to the iPhone 11 and uses the wide-angle lens to click images in dimly-lit conditions. The good thing is that just like iPhone 11 Pro series — and unlike any other Android phone — you don’t have to switch on the Night mode separately as the iPhone 11 automatically clicks images in it as soon as it detects there’s not enough light. The result is that you get really good images and ones that will impress one and all. Are they as good as the iPhone 11 Pro series? One can’t help but feel that the iPhone 11 Pro series does a better job with the Night mode but that could be because you are actually looking at an image on an OLED display and one on an LCD display. Or simply the Pro moniker does alter perceptions at times. Apple must be given credit, however, to not cut any sort of corners with the iPhone 11. Yes, the lack of telephoto lens might disappoint a few but then you don’t get everything, do you? If you want everything then you are always welcome to shell Rs 35,000 or so extra on the iPhone 11 Pro series. Or a OnePlus 7 Pro or Samsung Galaxy Note 10, if Android floats your boat. Apple has always bet big on the video quality of iPhone XR and it’s no different with the iPhone 11. Even shooting 4K videos is a very good experience on the iPhone 11 and it offers enough stabilisation as well. During the keynote at the launch of these iPhones, Apple did tout the video capabilities of iPhone 11 and it doesn’t disappoint at all.
The front 12MP camera is also an upgrade from the iPhone XR and is the same as the Pro series. Join the cringeworthily titled “slofie” brigade and you’ll be more than happy to show off the selfies clicked by the iPhone 11.
There’s a tremendous amount of improvement in this year’s ‘affordable’ iPhone. If you’re a nitpicker then the iPhone 11 Pro will of course satiate your needs more but for an average iPhone user, the iPhone 11 is a great bet as far as the camera is concerned.
iPhone 11 performance review: As good as it gets
Apple has packed in the same A13 Bionic processor in the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro series. This makes the iPhone 11 one of the most powerful phones out there. As we said in our review of the iPhone 11 Pro Max, that those who are upgrading from an older iPhone will really find the differences in the performance. If you’re upgrading from the iPhone XR, you won’t notice too much of a difference. The neural engine that powers the A13 chip also makes a lot of difference to the iPhone 11. For instance, iPhone 11’s FaceID is much faster than that of the iPhone XR.
Apps open quickly and there’s absolutely no question of any sort of lags or stutters. Gaming on the iPhone 11 is also a pleasure, even the LCD screen doesn’t mar the experience. All sorts of graphic-intensive games are handled with consummate ease by the iPhone 11. We spent a lot of time playing Apple Arcade games on the iPhone 11 and could not find any flaw with the performance of the iPhone 11.
Last year also, the iPhone XR boasted of the same processor as the XS range of devices and it does make a lot of difference. Compare this processor to any high-end Android smartphone and you will see the iPhone 11 has an edge. And here’s where Apple did well in knocking off the price of the iPhone 11 from the outset only. Not many detractors of Apple will also be able to find too many flaws with the performance of the iPhone 11. The A13 is one of those features in the iPhone 11 that puts it in the same bracket as the iPhone 11 Pro series. Blame Apple for cost cutting in other areas but it has certainly hasn’t made any compromises when it comes to performance. The cameras and displays differ and the experience is also different but for everyday tasks, the iPhone 11 is totally at par with the best smartphones out there.
The other stellar part of the iPhone 11 is its battery. Apple claims that it has improved it by more than 1.5 hours than the iPhone XR. Considering that the iPhone XR had a really long-lasting battery, the iPhone 11 is a commendable improvement. For 15-16 hours, the iPhone 11 can easily last on a single charge. Most users of the iPhone XR, however, won’t be able to notice too much of difference between the two. It does support fast-charging but doesn’t come with a fast charger. Why it doesn’t come with a fast charger though is still a mystery. It won’t have hurt Apple to put another feature that is found in the iPhone 11 Pro series, would it?
iPhone 11 review: Verdict
It’s been a while since the term value-for-money was associated with an iPhone. We began the review with absurdities and would like to end with one as well. So, as absurd as it may sound the iPhone 11 is a value-for-money, bang for the buck — whatever you want to call it — smartphone of the year. And yes, we are including the premium Android smartphones in this as well. The simple reason being that no other Android phone brings the aspirational value an iPhone does along with a stellar processor, excellent cameras and a long-lasting battery.
Consider this: if an ordinary person with no preferences or cultish fan following towards Apple or Android were to be given a choice of a OnePlus 7 Pro (no offence to OnePlus as they make excellent smartphones) or an Apple iPhone, which one is she likely to buy? Chances are most people will pump for the latter as the aspirational value of Apple can’t be quantified yet holds immense sway.
What works more in the iPhone 11 is that it has got almost every feature — that matters to the masses — which is found in the iPhone 11 Pro series. Of course, if you want to splurge, go for the iPhone 11 Pro series as they are terrific devices but practicality is thy name for Indian buying behaviour. And for all the practical reasons, the iPhone 11 is an excellent phone that most people will buy and it doesn’t take Nostradamus to predict that. It’s all about being wise, just like Apple has been with the iPhone 11.