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Hands-on: Apple's first Pro iPhones, the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max

By Kenny Yeo - 14 Sep 2019

Hands-on: Apple's first Pro iPhones, the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max

Note: This article was first published on 11th September 2019.

Behold, the first iPhones to sport the "Pro" moniker.

The iPhone goes Pro

As you may have surmised from the names, the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max are the successors to last year’ iPhone XS and XS Max.

In terms of design, there are some subtle changes. There’s a new Midnight Green finish that, to my eyes, looks like olive and a bit military. The phone itself is still made out of a combination of stainless steel and glass but the finish on the back is no longer glossy. It's matte. It feels grippier in the hands. In terms of dimensions and weight, the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max are a little heavier and a little thicker. This could be due to the glass, which Apple says its the hardest that they have ever put on an iPhone. Hopefully, this means less cracked screens.

There's a new finish called Midnight Green.

Speaking of screens, screen sizes and resolution are unchanged, so the iPhone 11 Pro sports a 5.8-inch screen with a resolution of 2,436 x 1,125 pixels. The iPhone 11 Pro Max, on the other hand, has a 6.5-inch screen with a resolution of 2,688 x 1,242 pixels. Both phones’ displays have a pixel density count of 458ppi.

There are, however, improvements under the hood. It can now get even brighter ― up to 1,200 nits ― and it has a 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio. Apple calls this new display Super Retina XDR display, after the Pro Display XDR that was unveiled at WWDC 2019 earlier this year.

Gold is probably still my favourite of the bunch.

Yes, the notch is still there. I have mixed feelings about this because on the one hand Face ID is really convenient, fast to use, and secure. But on the other, I dig the full-screen displays that modern Android flagship phones have. Still, the displays are HDR-certified, supports the DCI-P3 colour space, and therefore looks mighty gorgeous. It’s crisp and sharp with bright, vivid, punchy colours.

The iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max are the first iPhones to have three cameras.

The big change is to the camera system. The iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max both have a triple-camera system consisting of three 12MP cameras. They are as follows:

  • 12MP wide ― 26mm / f1.8 / OIS / 100% focus pixels
  • 12MP telephoto ― 52mm / f2.0 / OIS / focus pixels
  • 12MP ultra wide ― 13mm / f2.4 / 120° field of view

The front camera has been improved too. It now shoots at 12MP and, for the first time ever, can record video in slow-motion. Apple calls these resulting slow-motion selfie videos "slowfies."

The camera bump is contentious. It’s big and conspicuous and some people loathe it. I’m indifferent, though I can definitely appreciate the engineering that has gone into it. The enclosure is actually a single piece of sculpted glass which is hard to do.

All three cameras will shoot at 4K 60fps.

Obviously, these three cameras will give you greater freedom and creativity in framing your shots. But to be honest, Apple is playing catch-up here as Android phones with triple-camera systems are commonplace these days. Still, Apple’s system looks mighty refined and results, at least in the sample images that I have seen, look really nice. We’ll have to put the cameras through their paces to really see what’s what.

Also worth mentioning is that all three cameras can record videos at up to 4K 60fps. And there’s a Night Mode too that turns on automatically in the dark but I have been told that this only works with the wide camera and not the other two. As you'd expect, the sample photos that I saw looked great and it will be intriguing to see how it stacks up against Google's Night Sight.

Inside, the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max are both powered by Apple’s new A13 Bionic processor. Apple says its the most powerful CPU and GPU ever to be found in a smartphone, and considering their track record in designing smartphone chips, I don’t find that hard to believe. It’s built using a second-generation 7nm process and consists of over 8.5 billion transistors. More importantly, it promises better performance and efficiency. It will be very interesting to see how it stacks up against Qualcomm’s best seeing that the A12 Bionic is still highly competitive.

The connector is still Lightning.

I should also mention is that the connector is still Lightning, although the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max will come with a more powerful 18W charger which should provide a 50% charge in 30 minutes.

There are numerous other improvements that I won’t get into here, such as improved water and dust resistance, longer battery lives, support for Wi-Fi 6, faster Face ID, and that new U1 chip. That’ll have to wait for the full review. As it is, the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max look like really solid phones even if there aren't exactly groundbreaking.

There's loads more to cover but that will have to wait until the full review.

For now, I'll leave you with pricing, which, fortunately, Apple has sensibly kept the same as last year's iPhone XS and XS Max. They are as follows:

  • iPhone 11 Pro: 64GB (S$1,649) / 256GB (S$1,889) / 512GB (S$2,199)
     
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max: 64GB (S$1,799) / 256GB (S$2,039) / 512GB (S$2,349)

Pre-orders start this Friday at 8pm (SG time) and the first units will be delivered the following Friday on 20 September.
 

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