If you’ve been anywhere near a television over the last month and a half, you know what to expect from the iPhone 11 Pro when you pick it up. There on the back is a cluster of three cameras arranged in a triangle. This is similar in concept to the lens arrangement on the Bell & Howell film cameras I used to use when I was working in television news. When you need to change your view, you just rotate the lens cluster, or in the case of the iPhone Pro, you need to select the camera and lens you want from a choice on the camera screen.
Of course the iPhone’s camera system is far more sophisticated than those old film cameras, allowing it to include features such as showing you what’s outside the frame when you’re editing, capturing a range of shots and selecting the best in Night Mode and taking studio-like portraits that make use of the multiple cameras to throw the background out of focus while enhancing the view of the main subject.
Apple has designed the new camera system to focus faster, add dynamic range and record 4K video at 60 frames per second. You’ll get a better view of those videos because the high dynamic range screen is brighter than the previous iPhone XS model.
There's More to It Than Just the Triple Camera
The triple camera back is the first thing you’ll notice when you look at the iPhone 11 Pro, but there are other features that Apple says are important, such as the matte finish on the rear glass, which is supposed to make the phone less slippery. Checking it against an iPhone XS shows that the matte finish does indeed make a difference, but it’s only a marginal difference. By the time you add a case to the phone, there is no difference.
Beyond the camera system, the really important changes are inside the iPhone Pro. These include improved communications including support for WiFi 6 and gig-speed LTE. Apple has also added support for LTE Band 71, which is T-Mobile’s much hyped 600 MHz signal, which covers much longer ranges than do LTE signals at higher frequencies. T-Mobile provides a list of areas with this coverage.
Apple’s new processor, the A13 Bionic, is faster than its predecessor, and it includes a number of coprocessors that will make things, such as the Face ID system, run faster. The iPhone 11 Pro is also supposed to have stronger glass and better water protection than the XS, although I didn’t test either, primarily because Apple wanted its review product returned intact.
The A13 Bionic chip is designed to use less power than the previous versions, and the battery on both the standard Pro and the Pro Max should last longer than on previous versions. On the test iPhone, which is a 512 GHz iPhone Pro Max, which has the larger screen, the battery life was remarkable. As an example, I charged the battery when the phone first arrived from Apple. Then I rested it and used it for routine activities. But I totally forgot to charge it during the following week. When I remembered on Saturday of that week, it still had about 20% charge. The iPhone does this by having a more efficient set of low-power processor cores, and the ability to lower some tasks in priority, so that they don’t use as much power.
Recharge the Phone in 20 Minutes
The charger on the iPhone Pro is able to substantially recharge the phone in about 20 minutes. This is because the phone includes an 18-Watt USB-C charger, which connects using a USB-C to Lightning cable. However, you can also charge the 11 Pro using a standard iPhone charger and it will work just fine, although it will be slower. This will solve some logistics issues in the IT department, because you won’t need to keep track of which charger goes with what phone. What you have now will still work.
For users that already have an iPhone X or XS, the differences may not be enough to initiate a switch. The iPhone 11 Pro acts and feels a lot like the XS and the X before it. That is unless your application can make use of the advanced cameras. For some users and some job functions, the camera system will provide great flexibility and will make the iPhone 11 Pro more useful. You may well be able to make your corporate videos using just this phone instead of expensive studio gear.
However, despite Apple’s frequent comparison with SLRs, there’s only so much you can do with the limited sensor size that can fit on a phone. So while it may compare with a professional video camera or a professional grade SLR for some functions, for critical quality requirements, the real professional equipment is still better. When I compared images taken with my Nikon D500, for example, you could see the difference. But it’s important to note that the Nikon costs three times the cost of the iPhone.
A Smart Buy Until iPhone 12 Comes Out
If you need a new phone with the capabilities of the iPhone 11 Pro, then this is a smart addition to your IT inventory. But keep in mind that they iPhone 12 will come out in a year, and it promises to have significant improvements beyond what’s available with the iPhone 11 Pro. Also, note that the differences between the Pro and the Pro Max are limited to the greater screen size on the Max--and the greater battery capacity because of the larger case. Otherwise, they are identical.
Prices for the iPhone 11 Pro are the same price as the iPhone XS from last year, starting at $999.00.
Wayne Rash, a former editor of eWEEK, is a longtime contributor to our publication and a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing.