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iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max: hands-on with Apple’s new flagship phones

The glass is nice, but we can’t judge the cameras yet

Apple just announced the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. They’re upgrades to last year’s iPhone XS and XS Max phones, respectively, but with a new camera system that upgrades the old sensors and adds a third, ultra-wide camera with a 120-degree depth of field.

From the outside, the phones look and feel slightly better than the iPhone XS, though quite a lot of that is the matte finish on the back, which I really prefer (though sometimes matte glass can be more slippy than glossy). Apple says the glass is more durable, and I really do like how it is one piece, with no seam on the camera bump.

So let’s talk about the camera bump: it’s big. But Apple has designed the lenses on it in such a way that it isn’t trying to hide the giant square on the back. I don’t love it, but everybody uses a case anyway, so that will help.

Obviously, Apple is very good at lighting its hands-on areas, so I haven’t had a chance to really test the cameras. But I did play with the new camera interface a bit, and it’s great. When you’re in the standard “wide” zoom, the viewfinder fills the whole screen, so you can more easily see what mode you’re in. And if you slide through the wide and telephoto lenses instead of tapping, it shows you a dial with your zoom level in both multiples and millimeters.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test out Night mode, but the camera was fast to open and even faster to take shots. Even if the forthcoming Pixel 4 is able to match or beat Apple on photo quality here, it might not be able to beat it on speed. If you’d like to see a slo-mo “slofie,” here’s Nilay:

And really, that’s been the story with the iPhone for some time. Apple talked big game about how the A13 Bionic processor is the fastest CPU and GPU ever put in a phone, but it felt just as speedy as the iPhone XS to me. Apple is just so far ahead here that it can afford to focus on more than just speed. Specifically, it focused on machine learning and battery life, and I dearly hope the promise that the iPhone 11 Pro lasts four hours longer than the iPhone XS bears out.

The screen looks basically the same to me. The phone feels fast, but then again, so does every modern iPhone. It’s supposed to be able to get way brighter in sunlight and also help with battery life. As with the processor bump, I’m much more excited about the potential for better battery life than I am about the greater brightness.

There is no 3D Touch. I did not miss it.

In all, the iPhone 11 Pro strikes me as yet another excellent, well-made, and impressive iPhone. I’m not 100 percent sure, however, that I buy all of Apple’s arguments about what makes this “Pro” compared to the regular iPhone 11. That’s something that’ll be borne out in the review, which you can bet we are very eager to get started on.

iPhone square camera

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