Test of Liphone 11 Pro Dapple: a Lightning Port of Perfection

Louise Audry for Numerama


The iPhone 11 Pro is the high-end Apple smartphone for 2019-2020. To a market that plays on eccentricity and exorbitant prices, Apple responds with a controlled formula… and one that is difficult to match.

Tick tock tock. It’s not the sound of rain, but the sound of Apple’s major product renewal cycle. The tic is a new product, the toc is an evolution. Sometimes the score even plays tic toc toc toc toc (iPhone 6, 6S, 7 and 8). In any case, there are customers for every type of product: those who like radical novelty will taketic,products at the risk of wiping the plaster casts. Those who prefer refined and mastered concepts will prefer thetocgenerations. The iPhone 11 Pro, iteration 2019 of the iPhone X released in 2017 and successor of the iPhone XS released in 2018 is a toc.

In the age of rolling screens, cameras in all directions, prices approaching €2,000 and ambitious notch concepts, can the iPhone, so sober and so equal to itself, still compete?

  • TOread: our 2019 iPhonespecial buying guide

Elegance in the service of quality

By reusing its “iPhone X” model on the look side, Apple knew it would come in for criticism. Detractors, but also brands that have all laughed at the notch before reproducing it. During the presentation of his Mate 30, Huawei did not fail to compare the sizes of the notches, showing how much smaller his was.

But then again, it doesn’t make sense to look at the details of a design reproduction over three years. In an era where technology is rightly accused of pushing fashion effects to make people buy useless products, Apple offers its designs for longer and longer and an unequalled follow-up of its models, breaking the cycle of vanity: from the front, you can’t tell the difference between an iPhone from 2 years ago and the latest model.

In doing so, the manufacturer is refining its mastery of industrial design. This year, Apple has chosen polished, matte glass for its back: the effect is devastating and the touch is incomparable with what we’ve already had. For a product that will often be in this position, this is essential. The finishes are exemplary and nothing is out of place in this heavy structure, which exudes quality.

Louise Audry for Numerama

The finishes are irreproachable // Source: Louise Audry for Numerama

Louise Audry for Numerama

The front is known // Source: Louise Audry for Numerama

Even the three cameras on the dreaded back are arranged in such a way – an equilateral triangle – that nothing shocks the eye. The logo, brought down for the occasion in the centre, completes a harmonious picture. The 2019 iPhone looks great: no matter how small the border, the most discreet notch, or the most foldable screen. Apple is partly to blame for the design of technological objects and the brand proves it again: good design is not made of absolutes. A smartphone that can be used on a screen does not have to be just a screen. Physical buttons, such as borders and their materials, can make sense. You feel no less in 2019 with an iPhone 11 Pro than with a Galaxy Fold.

Louise Audry for Numerama

The back of the iPhone 11 Pro does not swear // Source: Louise Audry for Numerama

All this while continuing to offer a functional design that leaves nothing out. The smartphone is IP68 and is resistant to immersion and dust, offers wireless induction charging, does not skimp on biometric security with the TrueDepth camera and leaves physical controls at your fingertips.

The only shadow in the picture appears when you toggle the device: a Lightning port is always the only connector on the iPhone. One remembers the outcry caused by the introduction of this standard, which has shown its interest in the world of technology: we now want it to disappear. Apple has adopted USB-C for its MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, and then for its iPad Pro. The standard is very practical and one would have dreamed of being able to walk around with a single cable. For the first time ever, Apple is putting an 18w quick charging battery and a USB-C to Lightning cable in its iPhone box – no need to buy an adapter to connect it to a newer MacBook. But this is definitely a paragraph that we hope to write for the last time.

Louise Audry for Numerama

The Port of Discord // Source: Louise Audry for Numerama

Louise Audry for Numerama

The edges exist… and ensure an optimal grip // Source: Louise Audry for Numerama

iPhone 11 Pro: A Pixel to Kill

Before Google’s arrival on the smartphone market, Apple had no use for critics who criticized it for not adopting the latest fashionable gadgets: iPhone, generation after generation, remained the kings of mobile photography. Clever, because it’s also the most sought-after feature of a smartphone. But the ambitious Pixels have upset the established order: a Pixel 3 or Pixel 3a at €399 does better in many situations than a 2018 generation iPhone.

In 2019, Apple had to react to this intruder who, to top it all off, only played with software weapons. The answer was unveiled with the iPhone 11 Pro: three factory-calibrated 12MP sensors, each designed for a specific use. The 26mm wide-angle, 52mm telephoto and 13mm ultra-wide angle lenses meet individual needs and work together when needed. It should not be thought that Apple has simply added a sensor to the equation: all the software in the Camera application has been redesigned to increase the possibilities of shooting and the software guts of image processing have been reviewed. It is this software and hardware experience that is the essence of Apple’s proposal.

But does she know how to answer Google?

Louise Audry for Numerama

Three sensors to steer them all // Source: Louise Audry for Numerama

Louise Audry for Numerama

The apple is now centred // Source: Louise Audry for Numerama

A word first about the position of the objectives. Apple chose a triangle in this position for practical reasons: it allows for a glitch-free transition between the different lenses and shows a preview of what the ultra-wide-angle lens can do when using the wide-angle lens – it overflows under the interface. However, it is regrettable that the 13 mm lens, at the edge of the fisheye, has taken the right position. If you hold the smartphone to take a classic photo and switch from wide-angle to ultra-wide-angle, your finger will inevitably appear on the shot. Putting it at the top would have avoided these mistakes – Apple’s extreme attention to detail that we sometimes like to find.

In a nutshell: yes, the iPhone 11 Pro takes the lead on the photo side of the race. The details of the software and the comfort of the three sensors to take all possible pictures make it a first choice for mobile photography. As always, it’s the complete experience that takes precedence over the technical details:likes taking pictures with the iPhone 11 Pro. The interface is pleasant with its apparent simplicity, which hides a complexity (a complete photo retouching software) when you want to go into details.

The telephoto lens

Telephoto lens

The wide angle

The Wide Angle

The ultra wide angle

The ultra-wide angle

On a daily basis, users will only have to aim and shoot to have a really successful shot. And you have to admit that, if you think about its angles, the iPhone 11 Pro is at ease in everything : architecture enhanced thanks to intelligent HDR, beautiful and well-cut portraits, with just enough retouching to flatter the ego and textures that Pixel 3 would dream of, dazzling macro sharpness, fine bokeh on animals or objects … with a Pixel 3 in the same pocket, it’s the iPhone 11 Pro that we’re going to take out, when the iPhone XS Max had left its place.

Zoom

Zoom

Dézoom

De-zoom

Again!

Again!

Did you say Smart HDR?

Did you say Smart HDR?

Can he be caught at fault? Yes. Apple has promised a new mode before the end of the year, called Deep Fusion, which reconstructs a picture pixel by pixel in low light – or even total darkness – to give it the best possible shape. Until then, the iPhone 11 Pro doesn’t do well in low light conditions. The portrait mode, for example, is disabled as soon as the light goes out. Similarly, some night photos are quite dull compared to what Google offers, especially in the restitution of strong lights (urban lighting, etc.).

Portrait mode is satisfactory

Portrait mode is satisfactory

The textures are worked - look at the sweater

The textures are worked – look at the sweater

The animals are well highlighted

Animals are well highlighted

Even when they're crashing

Even when they’re pawning

Complex details (hair here) are handled with finesse

Complex details (hair here) are handled with finesse

And the algorithms are convincing enough to freeze movements

And the algorithms are convincing enough to freeze motions

Apple has announced it without hiding its ambitions: it wants its night photos to remainnight photos. Pixel 3 has a tendency to overexpose night shots, makingAmerican Nightsinstead, which cuts all realism. Against all expectations and in response to the cinematography of Pixel 3, the iPhone 11 Pro sometimes responds in the most beautiful way.

You can’t put your finger on what generates randomness when taking pictures in low light, but when the smartphone comes out with good shots, they’re top-notch: details, stitching, perfect stabilization, texture, lack of grain… Pixel 3 is left on the side of the camera. The “night mode”, automatically offered by Apple, follows this philosophy: more light, but not too much. On the other hand, when it’s bad, it’s very bad (see below).

Night shots retain detail...

Night shots retain detail

But the night mode barely pushes the brightness

But the night mode barely pushes the brightness

Poor lighting (night + a shop illuminated in the background) causes problems in portrait mode.

Poor lighting (night + a shop illuminated in the background) causes problems in portrait mode.

It’s harder for us to test video – it’s less of a medium that we work on with ease. However, with Louise Audry, our director, we noticed three things with the iPhone 11 Pro, which shoots up to 4K at 60 frames per second.

  • In 4K30, the stabilization is prodigious: in a bus or in an airplane, the parasitic tremors are neutralized. It’s very nice.
  • On applications such as the next version of FilMic, it will be possible to film with 2 streams at the same time – front camera included. It’s amazing and it will save precious time for amateurs and professionals alike.
  • The promise of a “smooth” live transition between the three sensors is not 100% fulfilled: even though the colorimetry is supposed to have been factory calibrated, one can perceive the minimal changes between the 3 lenses when switching from one to the other without stopping a sequence. It is therefore better to change before filming again – a detail.

All displayed on a screen with unparalleled brilliance. In full sunlight, the 1,200 nits deployed for the HDR finally make it possible to see something, and you get a great view of it at every moment by watching pictures and videos on this OLED display.

iOS 13, a pleasant safe

It’s something you get used to all too easily on an iPhone, and with iOS 13, the iPhone 11 Pro is no exception: comfort of use. It’s only when you try to pair a wireless headset with a competing smartphone and make frictionless use of it or transfer data from one device to another that you notice how carefully Apple has designed its ecosystem.

Unpacked, just open the case of the AirPods and put them in his ears so that they are paired and ready to be used with Siri on an iPhone. This simplicity of use, made possible by a total mastery of software and hardware is always exhilarating the first time, but years of use make us forget how much iOS, in return for its closure, is well done. It’s the same thing when you configure the iPhone 11 Pro from an XS Max: put the smartphone on it, iOS takes care of the rest. As a comparison, it takes a cable and downloading third-party applications on both smartphones, without being sure of the result, to do pretty much the same thing on Android – recently tested from a Pixel 3 to a Galaxy Fold.

Louise Audry for Numerama

The iPhone 11 Pro under iOS 13.1 // Source : Louise Audry for Numerama

And all these finishes are everywhere: in this keyboard so pleasant to use, with a typing that allows finger position errors and corrects them, the Home menu that allows you to control your home automation devices without having to go through the badly made applications of the builders, the photo gallery that now offers the best shots of a period, the dark mode adapted to all applications, the quick shortcuts that fall under the fingers, touch gestures copied by the whole industry, AirDrop which transmits your files in one click or allows you to copy a text on your Mac and paste it on your iPhone, native applications all synchronized on iCloud (Notes, Dictaphone…), the ultra powerful free office suite, the smart file sharing menu for speed and complexity when you want to be more precise, etc.

Everything always seems to be in the right place when you master the codes: the iPhone fades away to be at your service.

For professionals, the iPhone is so efficient that it replaces the computer for many tasks. On a daily basis, we use it to sort our emails, to animate Numerama’s social networks, to take pictures of our tests and vehicle trials, to communicate with our teams, to manage schedules, to follow our audiences, to make video screenshots of Mario Kart Tour. Everything is so simple and so well integrated that we take it for granted: going back for our tests on an Android smartphone proves the opposite every time – despite all the qualities of Google’s operating system.

Everyone will also find their account on applications like FaceTime (enhanced by the new front camera) or Messages, which has its own App Store and the only “Animojis” and “Memojis” that don’t fall into the valley of the strange.

A video screenshot is taken in one second, natively

Especially since Apple has put the security of its users, whether professionals or not, at the heart of all interactions. Messages sent by iMessage are encrypted end-to-end by default, the biometric unlocking, faster and allowing new angles of view (on a desk, Face ID recognizes us from our chair), is contained in a dedicated encrypted chip and, this year, Apple has put obstacles in the way of all apps asking for undue permissions on your geolocation. Yes, iOS 13 is an operating system where you often enter your password and are often asked for consent, but it is the right price to pay for surfing a healthy web.

With Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade at the end of 2019, Apple’s offering of multimedia services is also expanding and the services already tested swim above the competition. In short: don’t try iOS 13 for too long if you don’t want to stay there, the return to other platforms could be painful. And this ecosystem alone would justify the choice of an iPhone.

The iPhone 11 Pro is available from €1,159.

In brief

Apple iPhone 11 Pro

Indicative note : 5/5

In 2019, Apple will only disappoint those who do not understand the iPhone. With innovations, whether small (the coating, the TrueDepth camera) or radical (the camera, the screen, the still unused U1 chip…), the iPhone 11 Pro actually fulfills two needs: to serve as a very high-end receptacle for a hardly equalled iOS 13 and to act as the mobile center of the Apple ecosystem. From home automation to services, including apps, configurations and policies related to user security.

In these conditions, regaining leadership in the photo is just the icing on the cake, and while waiting for a more efficient and accurate night mode, the iPhone 11 Pro is a treat every time. Rare are the conditions that will fail him — even if, unlike Pixel 3, he puts realism before cinematography. To do better this year, the competition has its work cut out for it.

Top

  • The triple camera, mastered like never before
  • The sumptuous OLED display
  • iOS 13 and the Apple ecosystem, so far ahead of the competition

Bof

  • Port Lightning
  • Transparent shell catches dust
  • Doesn’t do as well as Pixel 3 in dim light

Article originally published on 27 September 2019

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