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iPhone 11 review

With so few compromises made with Apple’s iPhone 11, it feels impossible not to recommend, even against its "Pro" brother.

iPhone 11 review
(Image: © Apple)

Our Verdict

With a great camera, impressive performance, and surprisingly good battery life, the iPhone 11 is one of the better smartphones out there in 2020.

For

  • Great price
  • Fantastic camera
  • Great battery life

Against

  • LCD display
  • Still no headphone jack
Tech Specs

Average Price: $699
Operating System: iOS 13
Screen Size: 5.8-inch Super Retina XDR Display
Storage: 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB
5G Ready? No
Headphone Jack? No
Charging Type: Lightning by USB-C
Also consider: iPhone 11

Ever since Apple introduced the $1000 smartphone with the iPhone X, many people have gravitated towards the company’s excellent "budget" smartphones, like the iPhone XR. Now that Apple has blurred the lines between the affordable and flagship product lines, the iPhone 11 is the point where those two offerings intersect. In truth, it offers almost everything that the much more expensive iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max have, but with a saving of at least $300. That alone means it makes our list of the best smartphones. It’s worth pointing out that it’s still $300 more than the roughly equivalent Google Pixel 3a, though, so isn't perhaps the best value.

With a sizeable 6.1-inch display, a fantastic Ultra Wide camera, and true all-day battery life, the iPhone 11 is the best iPhone you can buy right now if you’re in the market for an iOS device.

iPhone 11 review: Design and styling

  • Available in Purple, Yellow, Green, Black, White and Red
  • No home button, toughest glass in an iPhone

If you’ve come from any other iPhone in the last couple of years, you’ll feel right at home with the iPhone 11. There’s no home button, which means flicking up from the bottom of the screen is the way to unlock the device. Our review unit is the Green option (which looks like a metallic, minty sort of hue), but whichever of the six colors you choose from you’ll find the case made of what the company calls "aerospace-grade aluminum".

Both the front and back panels are cut from a single sheet of glass, and that glass is strengthened to be the strongest you’ll find in any iPhone (aside from the Pro and Pro Max versions).

iPhone 11 is available in six colors

iPhone 11 is available in six colors. (Image credit: Apple)

On the subject of durability, the iPhone 11 is water-resistant up to two meters for up to 30 minutes, and despite it being a mid-range handset, it feels impressively put together – no flimsiness to be found anywhere.

One consideration is the size of the device. Measuring at 5.94 inches long and 2.98 inches wide, it’s not the smallest of devices and has a much more sizeable footprint than the iPhone 11 Pro (weirdly, the Pro is smaller than the iPhone 11). It also weighs over an ounce more than the Pixel 3a (the iPhone 11 is 6.84 ounces), but that’s perhaps to be expected with the sturdier feel.

iPhone 11 review: Battery

  • Fast charging offers 50% of battery life in 30 minutes but requires an extra adapter
  • Excellent battery life can last a full day

Where the iPhone 11 might surprise longtime Apple fans is in its battery life which offers a sizable step up on previous iPhones. For one, the iPhone 11 can happily keep going past the 25-hour mark with low-to-moderate use, but even on a busier day, it’ll easily hit the 20-hour milestone.

Another key improvement is the addition of fast-charging, which means the iPhone 11 can draw extra power when connected to an 18W adapter (or higher) to boost its battery more quickly. The downside here is that while you can hit 50% of battery in 30 minutes, you’ll need to buy the aforementioned adapter separately. It seems a little cruel for Apple to not include a fast-charger with the handset, but you’ll need to plump for the iPhone 11 Pro for that privilege.

iPhone 11 review: Screen and audio

  • 6.1-inch display offers good color accuracy
  • No headphone jack, but the stereo speakers are good

While the included charger is an example of a small compromise made, the main way Apple has kept the cost of the iPhone 11 down is by using an LCD screen that the company dubs ‘Liquid Retina’ with a resolution of 1792 x 828 pixels.

This 6.1-inch panel doesn’t hit the incredible highs (and deep blacks) of the OLED screens on the more expensive iPhone 11 Pro, but it does still offer a clear and sharp screen that the vast majority of users would struggle to spot the difference with.

iPhone 11's screen is lower-res, but you're unlikely to notice

iPhone 11's screen is lower-res, but you're unlikely to notice. (Image credit: Apple)

If you’re the kind of user that enjoys streaming Netflix or YouTube to your phone, you’ll find it more than up to the task, with the iPhone 11 offering impressive color accuracy and plenty of brightness (625 nits), although the bezel around the display can ruin immersion in your favorite content by reminding you that you’re watching on a phone.

As with all iPhones since the iPhone 7, you won’t find a headphone jack on the phone as Apple continues to forge ahead with its plan to push wireless connectivity. If you have a pair of wired earbuds or headphones you want to use, you’re out of luck as there’s not even an adapter included in the box now – although there is a complementary pair of EarPods that connect through the Lightning port.

iPhone 11 review: Camera

  • Two 12MP lenses on the back, one 12MP lens on front
  • Night mode is a huge boost to an already great camera setup

Perhaps the biggest surprise with the iPhone 11 is its excellent camera. Apple has tended to offer solid, if unspectacular, cameras on its devices, but this could be the year that Apple overtakes Google’s Pixel range.

While the two lenses on the rear of the device may make things feel a little too complex, we’re pleased to report that switching between the ‘standard’ wide-angle camera (the kind you find on any phone) and the wonderful new ultra-wide-angle lens is as simple as tapping the button in the camera app.

Both cameras offer 12MP sensors, and the Ultra Wide lens allows you to capture much more of any given shot, essentially removing the borders you’d find in a standard image.

iPhone 11's camera is surprisingly good

iPhone 11's camera is surprisingly good. (Image credit: Apple)

It’s not all lenses, though. While the iPhone 11 still offers Portrait mode (now enhanced with a technique called ‘Deep Fusion’ that melds multiple images together), but it finally offers a 'Night mode’ that enhances photos in low-light situations. There’s a noticeable difference, and while it feels like we’ve been waiting for this feature for years, we’re glad it’s here.

On the video front, the iPhone 11 can record 4K video (at 60 frames per second for added fluidity) but the real draw is Slofies. These slow-motion videos recorded from the front camera are more for fun than anything else, but they look great with the 12MP front-facing camera.

iPhone 11 review: Software and assistant features

  • iOS remains secure and stable
  • Siri lags behind many assistants

Despite some early bugs, iOS 13 is now a stable release with plenty of fresh features. For one, iPhone users can now enjoy Dark Mode, making the phone a little easier on the eyes (or making for a nice change of scenery). Elsewhere, the Photos app has been reimagined to make it easier to navigate, as has Maps – although Google still feels a little more useful in our testing.

Where iOS lags behind Android, specifically Google, is in Siri. Apple’s long-serving voice assistant may have beaten many others to market, but its utility still feels limited and it always feels like the assistant makes its own mind up about things when you’re halfway through a sentence.

iPhone 11 has Siri, which is a solid - if unpolished - voice assistant

iPhone 11 has Siri, which is a solid - if unpolished - voice assistant. (Image credit: Apple)

While the Siri Shortcuts app allows you to create new ways to integrate it into your daily life, it feels unintuitive and a little like Apple is asking a lot of the average consumer. Thankfully more and more apps, including Spotify, are beginning to bake Siri into their own updates.

iPhone 11 review: Security

  • FaceID tech works instantly
  • Sign in with Apple prevents websites accessing your data

With the removal of the home button, iPhones have switched to facial recognition tech that Apple calls FaceID. It’s said to be more accurate than even the TouchID fingerprint recognition of yesteryear, and in our testing, it wasn’t fooled. Thankfully, setting it up is simple when you first power up the phone and it works so quickly it often feels like the phone unlocks magically.

With iOS 13, you can sign into sites using your AppleID. Doing so gives you the option to create a ‘spoof’ email address so that you can avoid spam in the future, and it works really well.

Should you buy the iPhone 11?

The iPhone 11 is a great iPhone. In fact, it’s likely the iPhone that most people will pick up this year and is absolutely the right choice for the pro-Apple crowd. The camera is worth the upgrade alone for many, while the great new colors make it a fashionable choice, too. There are some compromises made, notably with the lower-resolution display, but it remains an excellent deal and is significantly cheaper than the Pro and Pro Max.