iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max review: The iPhone for camera and battery lovers
Apple's iPhone 11 Pro models offer just a little bit extra, but some of those features matter a lot to extreme mobile users and pixel experts.
Scott SteinEditor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
ExpertiseVR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tabletsCredentials
Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
If the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max are out of your price range, check out the iPhone 11 review. It starts at only $700 and has many of the same features as the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max.
never put the "Pro" label on an iPhone the way it does with
. But that all changed this year. For Apple's other products, Pro often means better processors and bigger displays. The iPhone 11 Pro has the same processor as the iPhone 11, but its display is better. Apple touts the Pro phones' impressive photo and video chops, but many of those features are also available on the iPhone 11. The only functional benefit is that third camera on the iPhone Pro, which is part of the intimidating three-camera array on the back of the iPhone 11 Pro phones. The iPhone 11 doesn't have a third telephoto camera like the Pro does.
The best iPhone this year is the iPhone 11 Pro, but it's mostly because it has a full package of slightly better antennas, a better battery, a higher-quality OLED display, that added telephoto camera and an 18-watt charger in the box. (That charger should have been included with the iPhone 11 too.) But in most instances, except for that camera, I'm not sure I'd need it. I felt the same way last year when I compared the
with the iPhone XS.
Now that a few weeks have passed since reviewing the iPhones, I've gravitated to liking the smaller iPhone 11 Pro more than any other iPhone of this year's bunch, just because it's smaller and has that 2x telephoto. But for a lot of people, the nearly equally effective iPhone 11 will be more than enough. (Also, if you're iPhone budget shopping, you may just want to wait for the reported iPhone SE 2 next spring, which could cost even less and have the same A13 processor.)
Buying options for the 64GB iPhone 11 Pro are below. Note that CNET may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.
(Updated Oct. 11, 2019 with impressions after a few more weeks of use, and a new video shot on the 11 Pro Max.)
Watch this: iPhone 11: 3 phones, reviewed. Which do you choose?
All the latest Apple news delivered to your inbox. It's FREE!
What price and size?
Going with the 5.8- or 6.5-inch 11 Pro is just about picking screen size, with the larger Max model also having more pixels, for anyone who needs the phone as a good monitor for photos and video. The larger Pro Max should get roughly an extra hour of battery, too, but stay tuned for battery tests. Going larger costs an extra $100. I prefer the 5.8-inch one for its pocket size and easier one-hand use, but phablets have their fans.
Apple once again started with a 64GB entry level that costs $999 or $1,099 for the Pro Max (see chart below for UK and Australian pricing). That's way too little storage for most pro users if you're imagining this as a 4K video camera. Then you jump to 256GB for $1,149 or $1,249, which is the likely choice for anyone who shoots much video. The 512GB, $1,349 or $1,449 tier is strictly for someone who's using this thing to shoot 4K films for a living.
This year's colors? They're all industrial metal shades. I like the midnight green's green-gray look, but I'm a space gray guy normally. The matte glass back is an improvement from the over-glossy back on the standard iPhone 11, aesthetically. But it still slides off inclines too easily. Most of you will also put a case on a device you're spending this much money on.
Up close with the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max
You can read all about the ultrawide camera and other iPhone 11 series advantages in my full iPhone 11 review. The same principles apply here. I use the 2x optical zoom telephoto a lot, just like I did for all those years it was on the
iPhone 7 Plus
and 8 Plus and
and iPhone XS. It helps to get a bit of optical zoom because it results in higher-quality shots than digital zoom.
The telephoto camera has added Night Mode and the same video quality benefits as the wide camera. Both can be used interchangeably. The ultrawide camera has its own unique qualities, though it lacks Night Mode's amazing low-light effects, but the three cameras offer more options.
The Pro phones have two types of Portrait mode this year: There's the original zoomed-in type and a pulled-back wide type like the iPhone XR offered last year.
Yes, other phone cameras are amazing -- we've been wowed by the cameras on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10,
Google Pixel 3
. But Apple's new iPhones sport cameras I'd love to use every day. More in-depth comparisons will come in further coverage from CNET in the weeks and months ahead.
Take a look at photos from the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max
The iPhone XS and
lagged on battery life last year, while the iPhone XR stood out. This year, the iPhone 11 Pro phones are leaps ahead, and Apple claims to have added an extra 4 to 5 hours' battery life. They feel better so far: I've found that the iPhone 11 Pro phones are definitely lasting longer on a charge, which could be one of the key reasons to go for them. And if you want or need maximum battery life, then that's one of the main reasons to opt for the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
I've lived with the smaller 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro model, and its battery is good enough to eke out a day of heavy use. But still, I feel the need to recharge later in the day before my punishing NJ Transit commute, just to be safe.
3D Touch is gone (long live Haptic Touch)
Apple's funky pressure-sensitive display tech, 3D Touch, debuted back on the
. But now it's been completely removed from the new iPhones.
In its place is what Apple had on the iPhone XR last year: "Haptic Touch." This feature uses subtle taps that kick in when you hold a finger on the display, making it seem sort of like you pressed down. And iOS 13, this year's iPhone OS that comes installed on iPhone 11, has replaced the pop-up app menus that used to work when you pressed into the screen. Those peek and pop-up moves seem to take a bit longer now. I miss 3D Touch, but I didn't need it -- and Apple never figured out how to evolve iOS to make the most of it.
The two reasons to opt for iPhone 11 Pro Max
This year's most expensive iPhone is the $1,449 iPhone Pro Max with 512GB of storage. Even with 256GB of storage -- the minimum you'll likely want for a high-end phone like this -- it will set you back $1249. There are two main reasons to go for this year's most extreme iPhone: Either you want that larger OLED display (2,688x1,242 versus 2,436x1,125 for the Pro) or you want that extra hour of battery life.
I wouldn't want to spend this much. But if you really are using your phone as a professional camera and you want to see every pixel, you want the best viewfinder and editing display you can get. And, well, this would be that phone. It's also more fun for movies and games, but at these prices, I'd just buy a separate iPad for that.
By the way, if you're curious to see what the 11 Pro Max can do in the hands in a video pro, check out what CNET's video producer Nic Henry did with it.
I've gravitated to the 5.8-inch size of the iPhone XS, because its compactness and camera quality made it an easy tool. That makes me love the iPhone 11 Pro this year even more, because the battery life has gotten good enough to last almost a whole day, more or less. The way I'm glued to my phone, I gave the 11 Pro a bit of a top-off before I commuted home to be safe. It's super expensive, but the 11 Pro feels like the perfected iteration of the iPhone X formula.