Forget Apple’s new iPhone 11 Pro range, it’s a waste of money. Last year, the iPhone XR blew the iPhone XS models away and this year the iPhone 11 is a much smarter buy. But which of these budget-friendly marvels comes out on top and how has Apple upgraded the iPhone XR with the iPhone 11?
Here’s everything you need to know.
Displays – Same Old, Same Old
While Apple made a lot of noise about the Super Retina XDR displays in the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, the iPhone 11 panel has not changed from the iPhone XR:
- iPhone 11 / iPhone XR – 6.1-inch LCD, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, True Tone, 1792 x 828 pixels (326 ppi), 1,400:1 contrast ratio, Dolby Vision / HDR10, 79.0% screen-to-body ratio, 625 nits max brightness
For many, this will result in an audible groan. But the truth is the XR display surprised a lot of people last year and was better than many 1080p OLED panels. Furthermore, the lower pixel count means both the iPhone XR and iPhone 11 drive considerably fewer pixels than their premium stablemates and that helps battery life.
Where the iPhone 11 does hold an advantage over the iPhone XR, however, is Face ID. The top in the top of the display is no smaller but it has a next-generation Face ID module which is 30% faster. It is also better at recognising your face at angles, potentially including when the phone is flat on a table. Since unlocking your phone happens so often during a day, this is a big real-world benefit.
Like the iPhone 11 Pro range, the iPhone 11 and iPhone XR lack 90Hz panels which is a shame because the tech is brilliant but its omission is more understandable at their price points (more later). They also now share their haptic feedback with the iPhone Pros after Apple cancelled 3D Touch. So why pay more?
Read more – Apple iPhone 11 Pro Vs iPhone 11 Pro Max: What’s The Difference?
Design – Stronger But Uglier
On paper the iPhone 11 and iPhone XR appear identical:
- iPhone 11, iPhone XR – 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3 mm (5.94 x 2.98 x 0.33 in) and 194 g (6.84 oz)
This is somewhat surprising given the iPhone 11 Pro range’s weight gain and, from the front, nothing has changed. The iPhone 11 still has slightly thicker bezels due to its LCD display, it’s still made of aluminium (unlike the iPhone Pros) and it keeps the iPhone XR’s panel so it doesn’t match the “toughest glass in a smartphone” as Apple claims for the premium models.
Where the iPhone 11 does step up, however, is upgraded IP68 water resistance which means the phone can remain submerged in up to two metres of water for 30 minutes. The iPhone XR’s IP67 rating restricts it to one metre for the same period of time. Again, the iPhone Pros better them both but the iPhone 11 still has a welcome improvement over the XR.
Elsewhere, dual sims remain (physical nano-sim and internal eSIM), as does the Lightning port but the iPhone 11 does add ‘spatial audio playback’ for virtual surround sound and Dolby Atmos certification so the speakers have had a boost from the iPhone XR.
In terms of finishes, the iPhone 11 shares the black, white, yellow and (Product)Red finishes of the iPhone XR but it has ditched the XR’s blue and coral options for purple and green. They’re all a lot more interesting than the dull iPhone 11 Pro colours.
But what makes the iPhone 11 more ugly than its predecessor? The cameras…
Cameras – Double Trouble
The good news is there’s a clear benefit:
- iPhone 11 / iPhone XR – Primary Camera – 12 MP, f/1.8 aperture, 26mm, 1.4µm pixel size, Optical Image stabilisation (OIS), Quad-LED True Tone flash, 4K 60fps video
- iPhone 11 – Ultrawide Camera – 12 MP, f/2.4 aperture, 13mm
Yes, the iPhone 11 adds an ultrawide camera which is brilliant for shooting in both expansive landscapes and tight spaces while there’s a brighter True Tone flash. That said, you don’t get the telephoto lens (like the iPhone Pros) which is crucial to boosting the quality of Portrait mode shots so don’t expect a big upgrade over the iPhone XR here.
Video should be superior, however, as the iPhone 11 can edit in real-time and seamlessly switch between standard and ultrawide angle lenses which recording. The flipside is the dual lenses look awful because they sit on the same bulky square base as the iPhone 11 Pro range’s new triple cameras. It’s an undeniably odd design choice.
Thankfully, things are less controversial on the front:
- iPhone 11 – Front Camera – 12MP ‘TrueDepth’ module, f/2.2 aperture, 4K video
- iPhone XR – Front Camera – 7MP ‘TrueDepth’ module, f/2.2 aperture, 1080p video
Not only has Apple installed a higher-resolution front-facing camera in the iPhone 11 without changing the design for the worse, it also supports 4K video and a wider field of view which should make taking group selfies easier. Curiously, Apple has also added ‘slofies’ – a slo-mo selfie mode which is an answer to a request I don’t believe anyone asked.
On the software side, the long-awaited Night mode debuts with the iPhone 11 but it should also come to the iPhone XR with iOS 13. Less certain is Deep Fusion, Apple’s new computational image processing which hopes will compete with Google’s Pixel prowess. Again, this should come to the iPhone XR but we don’t yet know for sure.
Read more – Apple iPhone 11 Vs iPhone 11 Pro: What’s The Difference?
Performance – Powerfully Efficient
Apple’s A Series chipsets continue to dominate smartphone performance but the A13 looks set to do so in a different way.
- iPhone 11 – Apple A13 Bionic chipset: Six-Core CPU, Four-Core GPU, Neural Engine – 8 cores
- iPhone XR – Apple A12 ‘Bionic’ chipset: Six-Core CPU, Four-Core GPU, M12 motion coprocessor
This year, Apple dropped its usual focus on the raw performance of its latest A chip to talk about efficiency and with good reason: the A13 is 40% more efficient than the A12. That’s a jaw-dropping amount but, given the class-leading stamina of the iPhone XR last year, not a deal maker in itself.
Tip: ignore the term ‘Bionic’ because it’s marketing nonsense.
Curiously, the iPhone 11 lacks Apple’s mysterious new U1 Ultra-Wideband chip which is exclusive to the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. It enables ultra-precise location sharing which Apple boasts is “going to lead to amazing new capabilities” but details remain thin on the ground so it’s impossible to say whether this will be a big miss or not at this stage.
Lastly, a big one. The iPhone 11 has significantly faster 4G LTE speeds than the iPhone XR. While Apple controversially skipped 5G for its new iPhones, the whole range has upgraded 4G LTE performance which is 13% faster than the iPhone XS. And given the iPhone XR uses the slower iPhone X LTE, it’s going to be a lot more than 13% behind the iPhone 11.
I’d suggest this is a deal maker.
Battery Life – The Best Gets Better
The iPhone XR surprised many, and perhaps Apple customers most of all, by having the best battery life of any smartphone in 2018. And the iPhone 11 beats it.
- iPhone 11 – 3110 mAh
- iPhone XR – 2,942 mAh
Interestingly, the combination of its 5% larger battery and 40% more efficient chipset only see Apple claim an extra hour of battery life compared to the iPhone XR. The company has also (perhaps rightly) given huge boosts to the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max to make them the range’s new stamina champs. That said, any smartphone lasting one hour longer than the iPhone XR is a beast.
The bad news? While the iPhone 11 Pros (at long last) get bundled 18W USB-C fast chargers, the iPhone 11 (like the iPhone XR) is stuck with the ancient 5W USB-A charger which has plagued iPhones for years. This really is unacceptable in 2019 when fast chargers come with smartphones that are less than half the price (I’m looking at you Pocophone F1).
iPhone 11 wireless charging is also no great shakes, unchanged at 7.5W (rivals are hitting 15W) and ‘reverse’ wireless charging didn’t make it. Sorry, AirPods wireless case owners.
Read more – Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Vs Galaxy Note 10 Plus: What’s The Difference?
Storage and Price – Real Value For Money
But now the part which really helps the iPhone 11 and iPhone XR stand out:
- iPhone 11 – 64GB ($699), 128GB ($749), 256GB ($849)
- iPhone XR – 64GB ($599), 128GB ($649)
Yes, these are genuinely affordable iPhones and Apple has even cut the iPhone 11 by $50 at each capacity compared to the iPhone XR’s price at launch. As such, a 64GB iPhone 11 is now $300 less than a 64GB iPhone 11 Pro and $400 less than an iPhone 11 Pro Max. Crazy. Meanwhile, the 64GB iPhone XR is almost half the price of the 64GB iPhone 11 Pro Max/ Crazier still.
Why would you go Pro? There are some reasons, but none I find truly compelling. Expect the iPhone 11 and XR to dominate iPhone sales.
Last year, I said it would be foolish to consider any iPhone other than the iPhone XR. This year, I’d say the same about the iPhone 11 but at its lower price, the XR remains a compelling alternative.
For me, the iPhone 11 is worth the extra $100. The ultrawide camera, improved selfie camera, performance boost, battery boost and superior 4G speeds are all beneficial features that are worth another $20 each. In fact, it punches so close to the iPhone Pros as to make a mockery of their price tags.
Interestingly, the iPhone 11 and iPhone XR also make light of the biggest problems of the Pro range: no 90Hz displays and no 5G. These omissions won’t bother you in 2019 but they might by 2020 and definitely will by 2021 so spending much less on them in the first place will make a future upgrade less painful. Especially given the radical plans Apple has in store.
So buy the iPhone 11 first. Opt for the iPhone XR if you can’t afford the extra $100 and ignore the iPhone 11 Pros unless you have money to burn.
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