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Hands on: iPhone 11 review

The best value iPhone since the XR?

What is a hands on review?
iPhone 11 hands on review
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

On paper, the iPhone 11 could be the pick of Apple's new brood - we just need to be sure its audio and video are up to scratch.


  • Attractive price
  • Improved camera
  • Good battery


  • Design hasn't really changed
  • iPhone XR price has dropped

Is anyone else feeling a slight sense of deja vu? Apple’s 2019 iPhone launch has a lot in common with its previous effort. Two flagship models joined by a more colourful model with a slightly weaker camera but excellent battery life. This year it’s the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max stealing the show with the iPhone 11 playing the part of more affordable upstart.

But like the iPhone XR from last year, could the iPhone 11 actually steal the show? What it loses in some areas against the iPhone 11 Pro(s) e.g screen technology, resolution and camera quality, it gains in other areas e.g battery life. And after all, who doesn’t want a more powerful, more affordable iPhone?

iPhone 11 release date and price

iPhone 11 review

(Image credit: Future)

First thing's first. The iPhone 11 costs £729/$699 (64GB), £779/$749 (128GB) and £879/$849 (256GB) with pre-orders starting Friday 13th September, and phones shipping on 20th September.

Design and build

iPhone 11 review

(Image credit: Future)

At first glance you might think there aren’t that many differences between the iPhone 11 and the iPhone XR. And it’s especially interesting that Apple has decided to continue with the older model instead of killing it off completely.

After all, it’s exactly the same dimensions and weight as the XR, so put them side by side and they should feel pretty similar, even if some of the finishes are new. There are six in total: black, green, yellow, purple, white and red.

Having said that, the iPhone 11 still feels like a relatively premium handset which is all you can really ask, given the price. It’s a little bulkier that its Pro siblings, but still more than desirable enough in the current smartphone market.

The screen size is the same as the XR (6.1in) as is the resolution (1792 x 828pixels) and pixel density (326ppi). You’re still getting a True Tone, Wide colour display with 625 nits of maximum brightness and a contrast ratio of 1400:1. So far, so similar and, perhaps, so disappointing.

But, according to Apple, major improvements have been made elsewhere.


iPhone 11 review

(Image credit: Future)

There are more storage options with the iPhone 11 with the new model getting a 256GB version in addition to the 64GB, and 128GB variants.

The new model is now IP68 rated instead of IP67 which means it can withstand being submerged at a maximum depth of up to two metres for up to 30 minutes instead of just one metre.

But the big news is under the hood, where the iPhone 11 gets a new processor and new camera system.

It’s powered by a new A13 Bionic chip, and third-generation Neural engine, which supposedly puts more processing power at your fingertips and also allows for greater efficiency in how the phone’s GPU and CPU work.

iOS 13 will be the software that ships with the new phones, and during our brief demo, the handset didn’t have any major issues carrying to the flurry of tasks we sent in its direction. Admittedly, though, we’ll be able to get a better sense of its capabilities away from the demo floor and in our test rooms.


iPhone 11 review

(Image credit: Future)

You also get dual 12MP Wide and Ultra Wide lenses on the rear of the iPhone 11, where the XR had to make do with just a single 12MP Wide offering. Apple claims the True Tone flash on the iPhone 11 is brighter, while the new Night Mode should in theory give better performance in low light conditions, although we were unable to test this at the event. Video recording should see an improvement too, with more advanced stabilisation at 4K resolution and 24, 30 or 60fps.

The front-facing snapper gets a big lift from 7MP to 12MP although its video capabilities are limited to 1080p resolution at 30 or 60fps.

On the brightly lit demo floor, pictures taken looked perfectly good. They weren’t quite up to the same standard of the more powerful iPhone 11 Pro’s camera rig, but that’s only to be expected. There wasn’t any real opportunity to test the Night Mode, though.

Battery life is a claimed one hour longer than the iPhone XR which means you should get around 17 hours of video playback from the hard drive (compared to 16 on the XR). Strangely, the 65 hours of audio playback is identical, so we assume the difference in video is down to the more efficient processors in the new A13 Bionic chipset. Again, we’ll have to put it to the test over a more prolonged period to really get a true feel for its battery’s capabilities.


iPhone 11 review

(Image credit: Future)

On the audio front, the new iPhone 11 supports Apple’s new ‘spatial audio’ playback, which Apple promises delivers an ‘immersive surround sound experience” and also Dolby Atmos. It looks like the new spatial audio processing replaces the wider stereo sound of the iPhone XR, but we weren’t able to test this properly in the packed (and extremely noisy) demo area. Apple has really nailed the sound of its most recent iPhones so we’re just hoping the iPhone 11 also follows suit.


iPhone 11 review

(Image credit: Future)

HDR video is on the menu, with both HDR10 and Dolby Vision support available for suitably encoded content. Again, the amount of relevant content available during the demos was extremely limited. We’re hoping for a similar picture balance to the iPhone XR although we doubt its LCD screen technology will quite be able to match the black depth overall punch of the OLED-toting iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max.

Initial verdict

Despite not being the most glamorous of the new releases, the iPhone 11 is still arguably the most intriguing. The iPhone XR has impressed a lot of people over the last 12 months, especially given its more palatable price tag and we wouldn’t be surprised if the iPhone 11 achieved similar acclaim. The low price with improved camera performance and battery life could be a clincher for many.


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What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view.