The iPhone 11 hit the market in September 2019, and surprised us all with a flagship release that didn’t make your bank account cringe. The iPhone 11 price sits at $699 / £729 / AU$1,199 for the 64GB model – with the XR now available for $599 / £629 / AU$1,049. You’re only paying $100 more for the newest release, and picking up a powerful, feature-conscious main release now a year out of its infancy. It’s certainly not as cheap as the iPhone SE prices, but the iPhone 11 is certainly one of the most cost-effective iPhones to pick up right now. It’s certainly cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra deals too.
There’s some pretty incredible value all the way through the iPhone 11. Though it still sits at the same dimensions as the iPhone XR, its previous placeholder in this price range, everything feels snappier and more responsive, with the camera’s upgrades leaping out the most.
That’s not the say you should immediately run out and swap your XR, in fact if you’re upgrading from Apple’s budget version of the iPhone X you may not notice these differences immediately. However, if you’re picking up a new phone and the decision comes down to it, the 11 is offering substantially more for only a slightly higher price tag in 2020.
The design of the iPhone 11 remains unchanged from the iPhone XR before it. That means you’re still getting that gorgeous full-device display, but grabbing those thicker bezels as well. They’re not exactly getting in the way of the 6.1-inch Liquid Retina display (the same found on the XR), but it would have been nice to see more separation between the budget XR and slightly more expensive 11 in this regard.
The 11 comes in a new array of colors, and while the black, white, yellow and Project Red versions still exist, you’ll find the XR’s blue and coral variants have been swapped for green and purple on the new release. That means most people will still be able to grab their color of choice, but if you had your eye on that impressive bright blue you might be disappointed with the 11’s options. The reviewed black unit here also holds a slightly different hue compared to the black iPhone XR. It’s slightly lighter, making for more a more silver-ish appearance around the sides and corners and more of a grey tinge on the back. The Apple logo has also dropped to the middle of the device, doing away with the iPhone branding towards the bottom of the XR as well.
While you’re looking at the back of the iPhone 11, you’ll notice the only way to quickly tell the 2019 release from the XR – the camera. The camera is perhaps one of the best reasons to grab the 11 over the older model, as Apple has doubled up your lenses here. That serves to improve the photography experience on the new model by a long way, but in design the addition of a new lense also means you’re picking up the square camera window in the upper left corner of the device. The camera bumps themselves, however, are far more flush with the device than seen previously as well.
The iPhone 11 has spent all its new feature points in the camera department. The addition of that second 12MP lense opens you up to 2x optical zoom and ultra-wide angle with 120 degree field of view, which work surprisingly well even compared to the three camera iPhone 11 Pro. Not only that, but you’re getting full Portrait Mode here as well.
The selfie-focused depth effect was half-skipped on the XR, only offering facial detection and ignoring pets and objects, but you’ll find the full feature returns for the 11. If you’re buying a new phone based on camera alone, there’s enough tech packed in here to make the iPhone 11 excellent value for money.
Aside from the camera, you’re also picking up some boosted specs under the hood here as well. There’s a new A13 Bionic chip in here, and the 11 also offers bigger storage options if you’re looking to record plenty of 4K footage (at up to 60fps), or fill your device with the latest Apple Arcade games. You’ll find it available in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB configurations.
With the new A13 chip, you’d expect the iPhone 11 to be faster than the older XR, and it is, but only by a heartbeat per app. It’s certainly noticeable side by side, and will make flicking through apps all the more seamless and enjoyable, but there weren’t any dizzying improvements in our testing. We did, however, notice that the device boots up considerably faster than its predecessor – so good news if you regularly run out of juice.
That won’t be too often, though, because the iPhone 11 builds on the impressive battery life of the X range with an extra hour of battery life. Apple estimates you’ll get 17 hours worth of battery on video playback here, and that sounds about right considering we got between 22 and 24 hours out of the device on regular usage and 15 hours with a few heavier gaming sessions streaming audio out, running background app refreshes and all. It’s certainly a hot pick for one of the best gaming phones out there.
Overall, the iPhone 11 does offer excellent performance that improves on the XR in just about every way. Some of those upgrades are minimal, but others, like the camera, are instantly noticeable.
Photography results are impressive, outperforming older and cheaper models in color, clarity, sharpness, detail and low light performance. You’re not getting the premium performance of the iPhone 11 Pro here, but unless you’re a content creator or specialist photographer you won’t notice the difference or necessarily require some of the missing features.
Overall – should you buy?
Apple has clearly invested in the camera of its latest budget flagship, and if you like many others also see this as a worthy allocation of cash then you really can’t beat the iPhone 11 in value. To keep that cost down you are keeping an older design, bezels and all, and only picking up a 5w plug (still no-fast charging straight out the box). Plus, Apple isn’t including the lightning to 3.5mm jack in these newer phones so you’ll have to pick up that, somewhat necessary, accessory separately if you don’t want to rely on Bluetooth headphones.
If you’re upgrading from an iPhone 8 Plus or older it’s a no-brainer. If you’re looking to trade in your XR you’ll notice less of an improvement in performance and experience straight out the box but it might well be worth the extra cash for the photography enhancements.