iPhone 11 hands-on: Still cheap and cheerful

When it comes to pure performance, the 11 uses the same A13 Bionic chipset as its Pro siblings, and I didn’t notice any substantive difference in how well the 11 and the 11 Pros played games and launched apps. Apple’s more basic phones tend to use slightly less RAM than the more expensive models, but I couldn’t confirm that on the ground. If there is a power gap between Apple’s new iPhones, it’ll never really leap out at you — that’s good news for phone shoppers trying to save a little cash.

The biggest aesthetic change here — aside from a handful of new colors, like a neat minty green — is the dual camera around back. Most of the rumors going into the event suggested we’d be getting a telephoto camera here but Apple zagged on all of us with a 12-megapixel ultra-wide cam, and that was probably for the best. When you want to mix up your shots with different perspectives, going wide beats going tight — for me, anyway. The few photos we get to take looked plenty slick on this 6.1-inch LCD display, as did some of the 4K60 sample footage we captured.

Apple didn’t load up the iPhone 11 segment of the show with superlatives the way it did for the Pros, but the camera setup here already seems like a valuable one. The bigger question is how well it actually performs in the field against the competition, though, and we just can’t vouch for that yet.

While the iPhone 11 wound up being exactly the phone we were expected, I still wish Apple had managed to improve things on a few fronts. I loved the iPhone XR’s battery because it tended to last longer than all other iPhones, but the 11 is now rated for about additional one hour of power — the Pros got battery range boosts of between four and five hours. It also would’ve been nice to see Apple pump up the resolution of its Liquid Retina display, especially since the iPhone Pros’ Super Retina XDR display seems to pack a handful of improvements (subtle as they are). Even so, it’s hard to argue with Appledidmanage to deliver here: More power and an extra camera for marginally less money than before.

Strange as it sounds, Appledidmanage one change I was really hoping it would make. After the XR’s release last year, some people began to regard the “R” as the signifier of a lesser device. The XR was, after all, not quite as powerful as the XS series, and “R” precedes “S” alphabetically. The symbolism couldn’t be ignored. Now, that’s over. Since the iPhone XR’s successor is just the iPhone 11, there’s now alphabetical albatross around its neck. It isn’t the lesser iPhone, it’s justtheiPhone. This might not be the most substantive change, but if it helps people get over the labels and embrace a perfectly good phone, then I’m all for it.

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