Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Answering a few questions about the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro

I’ve got the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max in hand. Since most people get these phones tomorrow, I thought I’d take a few initial questions from Six Colors subscribers about the devices. Here’s a first set of questions and answers. I welcome more questions from anyone who is curious — send them to me at jsnell@sixcolors.com or tweet them to me at @jsnell.

Craig: Does the iPhone 11 Pro really feel that much heavier in the hand?

To me it’s imperceptible. I popped a leather case onto both models and found that I couldn’t tell the difference between the two of them at all.

Michael: Does it feel weird to have the volume buttons moved just a little bit?

As with the weight, the answer is no. Your brain will reach for that button and discover it in a very slightly different place and then edit all your memories accordingly. Muscle memory is funny.

Tom: I haven’t seen any closeups of grain in night mode yet, compared to non-night mode or the XS.

Here’s a close-up of a shot in night mode and its corresponding version on the XS.

Geof: How does the AirDrop interface differ between two iPhones 11 with the U1 chip?

Apple has shown us mock-ups that indicate it’s a bit different, with the proximate phone popping into prominence, but that feature doesn’t ship on these phones. It’ll be enabled by iOS 13.1 in a few weeks.

Geof: Is there anything in settings to choose the default camera lens or zoom when the camera app is opened up?

Nope! You always start at 1x.

Geof: Is there anything telling you that you got a free year of Apple TV+? Is there an Apple TV+ app pre-installed?

Apple TV+ is viewed through the TV app, which has been standard on iOS for a while now. I saw no notifications about Apple TV+, though I assume we will all be notified around November 1 that there’s an amazing subscription opportunity available.

Geof: Is Apple Arcade pre-installed?

Apple Arcade is a tab in the App Store app, not its own app, and it’s enabled on all my iOS 13.0 and 13.1 devices, including these new phones.

Dan: Does the direct transfer work if the two phones are running 13 and 13.1 respectively?

New in iOS 13 is a feature that lets you transfer most of the data from one iPhone to another directly—either via Wi-Fi or a wired connection—rather than from an iCloud backup. Though it’s slower than using iCloud if you’ve got a fast connection, it’s useful if your Internet connection is slow or metered, or if you don’t use iCloud to back up your phone. I’m really glad this feature is here.

That said, you do need to be on the same system software version to do the complete transfer. If you’ve got a phone running the iOS 13.1 beta, it won’t offer to do a direct transfer with a new iPhone running iOS 13.0. The workaround is probably to install the beta on the new phone and then re-run initial setup. Not ideal, I know, but here we are.

Eugene:Are you able to dynamically zoom in/out switching between lenses while shooting video?

Not a seamless transition between cameras.

Yes, you can zoom in and out while shooting video and the camera will dynamically switch between lenses. Apple suggests this is more or less flawless, though when I zoomed out I noticed a color shift and loss of quality that indicated my video was now being shot on the ultra-wide lens of the iPhone 11 Pro.

Michael: Does Face ID open when the phone is flat?

This is the big question, since Apple touted a wider field of view for Face ID. I can report that the Face ID camera does unlock at a wider angle than the iPhone XS, but… it’s a close thing. A very close thing. So much that in most cases I’m not sure you’d notice.

Steve: Can you tell a difference in screen quality between the XS and the 11 Pro?

I just spent a few minutes staring intently at “Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse” playing on both phones at full brightness, and you know what? I can’t. I’m sure Apple continues to push the quality of the display forward, and I’m sure there are specific examples where you could notice an improvement in quality. But Apple’s thing is iterative improvement. You’ll really notice the difference coming from a phone that’s three years old, which is sort of their plan at this point.

The iPhone 11 takes greater leaps in several areas, most notably battery life, but on the screen front I’d say it’s more of an incremental improvement.

Jeff: Does the iPhone 11 Pro seem noticeably brighter than than the XS?

Yes, if you look closely it’s a little brighter, but it’s a very small thing.

Brian: What’s the texture of the frosted glass back like?

The back of the iPhone 11 Pro feels almost metallic, a bit like anodized aluminum. On the Space Gray models I’ve got, it might as well be a metal back. It’s a very nice texture that you’ll appreciate if you don’t put a case on your phone the moment you get it. (As an aside, the sides of the Pro models are still stainless steel, so if you felt like the iPhone X or iPhone XS were a bit too slippery for your taste, the iPhone 11 Pro won’t change matters. You don’t grip the back surface of your phone, you grip the sides, and the sides are largely unchanged.)

Cody: Is Portrait Mode available on all three lenses?

The way to think about Portrait Mode on these phones is that in order to use it, you need a lens wider than the lens you’re using to provide depth information. So on the iPhone 11, you shoot Portrait Mode on the 1x “wide” camera. (By the way, this is a major upgrade from the iPhone XR that isn’t getting as much play as it should—on the XR, Portrait Mode used machine learning to make guesses about what items should be in focus, since it only had a single camera. This means it only worked on human subjects and the results could be spotty. On the iPhone 11, there’s a second lens so the depth map is being created by using the parallax between the two cameras, the same way having two eyes provides depth perception.)

On the iPhone 11 Pro, you can now shoot Portrait Mode on both the 1x “wide” and 2x “telephoto” lenses. If you’ve ever tried to shoot a Portrait Mode photo only to be told you need to step back away from your subject, this will come as a relief.

Dani: I just wanna know if it’s worth trading in my iPhone XS for the 11 Pro, mainly for the cameras.

Well, this is the question, isn’t it? Most people aren’t buying a new phone every year. But some people do, and trade-ins and upgrade programs make it a better value to do so. This year, the two features that will drive upgrades are battery life and the improved photography features. Is it worth it? Consider your feelings about battery life and better cameras with better image-processing hardware and software and judge accordingly.

Oh, and I’ll just throw this in—the U1 chip may eventually be another reason to upgrade to these phones, assuming Apple begins using that technology for something other than a bit of a parlor trick involving AirDrop. But right at this moment, it’s not a reason to upgrade.

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