iPhone 11 vs. 11 Pro vs. 11 Pro Max: They're still worth it in 2021
We compare the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max to help you decide which Apple phone makes the most sense for you.
Patrick HollandManaging Editor
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
Patrick's play The Cowboy is included in the Best American Short Plays 2011-12 anthology. He co-wrote and starred in the short film Baden Krunk that won the Best Wisconsin Short Film award at the Milwaukee Short Film Festival.
Apple announced the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max in 2019 but they're still worth considering in 2021. The iPhone 11 phones have wonderful cameras, a blazing fast processor and excellent build quality. If you don't need 5G, you can probably pass on the newer iPhone 12 series. You can save some serious money, too. Apple sells the iPhone 11 for $599 which is $130 less than the iPhone 12. Apple doesn't sell the iPhone 11 Pro or 11 Pro Max but many carriers and retailers still do. And before the impending release of the heavily rumored iPhone 13, let's revisit the main differences among the iPhone 11 lineup.
It can be difficult to choose between the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max. All three phones have the same processor, same main, ultrawide and selfie cameras, and are compatible with iOS 15. In fact, the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max are identical in nearly every way aside from price, size, weight, battery life and screen resolution. The iPhone 11 represents one of the best values for a flagship phone you can buy today, and has many of the same 11 Pro features. On the other hand, the iPhone 11 Pro has a few key additions that make it stand out. And you may not have to pay full price: Walmart sells it for $575, which is $24 less than what Apple charges.
For over a year, I used the iPhone 11 as my daily driver and the 11 Pro as a work phone. I took numerous photos and videos with the ultrawide-angle camera and pushed the A13 processor to its max with games and photo edits.
For most people, including myself, the iPhone 11 is more than enough, and taking that one step further, I'd actually pay more for the 11 to upgrade the storage from 64GB to 128GB. But here is the wrinkle: size. The iPhone 11 Pro is a bit smaller and lighter than the 11, which I personally love, and it could be the reason to go Pro. (FYI, if you want something bigger though, with the longest battery life of the three, the
iPhone 11 Pro Max
is there waiting to fill your pocket and empty your bank account even more.)
The iPhone 11 is a great phone value for the price, second only to the iPhone SE 2020. Following in the footsteps of 2018's iPhone XR, Apple smartly pitched the 11 as the iPhone for most people. Despite a lower resolution LCD screen, the iPhone 11 has the same A13 processor and relatively the same camera setup (more on that later) as the more expensive 11 Pro. It also comes in six different colors, survived CNET's drop and water tests and earned a CNET Editors' Choice Award.
At the heart of the iPhone 11 Pro is an iPhone 11. But it gets the VIP treatment with upgrades such as a high-resolution OLED display, a matte-glass finish and a stainless steel side band. It has a third rear camera that, combined with Apple's Deep Fusion image processing, takes better zoomed-in photos. But probably the most-welcomed upgrade on the 11 Pro is how much longer battery life is over the previous-generation iPhone XS. The 11 Pro lasts almost as long on a single charge as the 11.
Watch this: iPhone 11: 3 phones, reviewed. Which do you choose?
The smaller iPhone was better
Perhaps the most obvious and important reason to buy the iPhone 11 Pro over the iPhone 11 is size. They are very differently sized phones and they will fit in your hands differently. With a 5.8-inch screen and a weight of 6.63 ounces (188 grams), the iPhone 11 Pro is the smallest of the three iPhone 11 devices. (Though, if a small phone is what you're after, the new iPhone SE might be a better option, at 4.7 inches and 5.22 ounces.) The solid-feeling phone is the easiest to use one-handed. Weighing 6.84 ounces the iPhone 11 is heavier than the 11 Pro but doesn't feel as dense. The iPhone 11 is 0.2 millimeters thicker than the 11 Pro, which makes it feel a tad chunky.
Everyone's hands and needs are different. I have large hands, but prefer the svelte feeling of the 11 Pro. But if you are willing to compromise a heavier weight for a larger screen, get the 11.
And if you want the absolute biggest screen you can have, go for the iPhone 11 Pro Max that has a 6.5-inch OLED screen but weighs 7.97 ounces (226 grams).
Winner: For its small size, the 11 Pro is the way to go for me.
The telephoto camera is nice to have
The iPhone 11 Pro (and 11 Pro Max) have a third camera with a telephoto lens that the iPhone 11 doesn't. At times it was nice switching to the telephoto camera. And compared to the
, the updated telephoto camera combined with Deep Fusion processing meant I took photos with better image quality.
There were times I framed a shot better with the 11 Pro's telephoto camera than I could with the main camera. For example, when I took a top-down shot of a plate of food with the main camera, I could see the phone's shadow on the plate. But when I switched to the telephoto camera and moved the phone higher away from the table there was no shadow.
There are a couple caveats about the iPhone 11 Pro's telephoto camera though. When you take Night Mode photos at 2x, the 11 Pro doesn't use the telephoto camera. Instead, it takes a crop of the main wide-angle camera. Also, the telephoto camera excels in bright conditions, but when taking photos in medium-to-low light, I noticed better image quality if I took the same photo with the main camera and cropped in.
All in all, the telephoto lens is useful on the 11 Pro, but I didn't miss having it when I used the 11. If I needed to zoom in on a photo, a 2x crop of a photo I took with the main camera worked fine. I do recommend looking at the photos you have on your current phone and see how many were taken zoomed in and how many photos would look better had you been able to zoom in a bit. If you have a lot of pictures where you wished you had a dedicated telephoto camera, then you should consider an iPhone 11 Pro.
For more on the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro cameras, check out our comparisons below:
The iPhone 11 Pro has a 5.8-inch OLED screen, while the 11 has a 6.1-inch LCD display. When I look at the phones side-by-side, the screen on the 11 Pro looked better, brighter and showed off more details. It is a joy to watch videos and edit photos on.
The OLED screen on the 11 Pro supports HDR and has a much higher
(the ratio of the brightest and darkest colors on a display). The 11 Pro has a contrast ratio of 2,000,000:1 compared to the 11's 1,400:1. On paper that means the iPhone 11 Pro is capable of darker black levels and more color saturation. That said, side-by-side, the differences between the two screens are sometimes hard to notice. In and of itself, the colors on the iPhone 11's LCD are accurate and videos look good.
The iPhone 11 Pro Max has a 6.5-inch OLED that has the same pixel density as the iPhone 11 Pro.
Winner: The screen on the iPhone 11 is good, but the one on the 11 Pro is even better.
Up close with the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max
We put both the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro through a test where we dropped them from different heights. After dropping them from 3-feet, 6-feet and 8-feet off the ground both phones survived without a single crack to their screens or glass backs. The only blemish was a small scuff to the iPhone 11's aluminum band and a few damaged pixels on the bottom of the 11 Pro's screen.
As far as water resistance, both of these phones are rated IP68. Apple claims the iPhone 11 can withstand being submerged at a depth of 6.5 feet (2 meters) up to 30 minutes and the 11 Pro can survive at a maximum depth of 13 feet (4 meters) up to 30 minutes. However, in our water tests with an underwater drone, the 11 and 11 Pro both survived being submerged for 30 minutes at 39 feet (11.9 meters).
Winner: Tie; both the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro are some of the most durable phones you can buy today,
Color, finish and extras
After six months of use without a case, the backs of both the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro still didn't have a single scratch or scuff. The textured matte glass back on the iPhone 11 Pro feels soft, smooth and durable. The phone is easy to grip and never feels like it's going to slip out of my hand (though again, its smaller size helps with this). I'm happy to say that fingerprint smudges don't accumulate easily.
The iPhone 11, meanwhile, has a glossy glass back, which does feel slippery in my hand and the phone is prone to smudges, too.
As far as colors, the iPhone 11 gets things more right than the 11 Pro. You can buy an iPhone 11 in six bright and fun colors. The 11 Pro is less flashy and comes in four rather serious finishes (space gray, silver, gold or midnight green). In a perfect world, I could have the matte glass finish of the 11 Pro and the color options of the 11.
The iPhones have wireless charging and support fast charging, but only the iPhone 11 Pro (and 11 Pro Max) comes with the 18-watt charger that's required for fast charging. It's aggravating that the 11 doesn't come with this charger and that you'll have to buy it separately if you want it. To make matters worse, Apple charges $29 (£29, AU$49) for the 18-watt fast charger and $19 (£19, AU$29) for the required cable, when cheaper compatible alternatives are available. Winner: On colors alone, the iPhone 11 takes this one.
Detailed comparison of iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max
iPhone 11 Pro
iPhone 11 Pro Max
Display size, resolution
6.1-inch LCD Liquid Retina; 1,792x828 pixels
5.8-inch OLED Super Retina XDR; 2,436x1,125 pixels
6.5-inch OLED Super Retina XDR; 2,688x1,242 pixels