The iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro are now official as the successors to the iPhone XR and iPhone XS, respectively. Apple spent a lot of time detailing the feature sets of these new phones. In the end, it turns out there’s a lot of overlap between Apple’s 2019 iPhones, but the iPhone 11 starts at $699, while the iPhone 11 Pro starts at $999.
The iPhone 11 Pro features the new A13 bionic chip, 12MP wide and 12MP ultra wide camera lenses, night mode, 4K 60-fps extended dynamic range video, 12MP TrueDepth front facing camera, enhanced face ID, next generation smart HDR, IP68 water and dust resistance, wireless charging, spatial audio, brighter true tone flash, Wi-Fi 6, U1 chip, faster LTE, and the “toughest glass on a smartphone”. The iPhone 11 contains all of the as well. It turns out that the list of differences is shorter than similarities between the two devices.
The first true distinguisher of the iPhone Pro is the screen with the new “Super Retina XDR” that enhances the already outstanding OLED screen of the iPhone XS. Apple has taken cues from the MacBook Pro to double the contrast ratio (2,000,000:1), and increase the peak brightness of the 11 Pro, though it’s the same 458PPI of the XS. The iPhone 11 continues the enhanced LCD display of the XR at 326PPI and 1400:1 contrast ratio. That is a major difference, and the biggest selling point of the 11 Pro over the 11. With that said, the XR screen made major strides in LCD technology, and while it’s not the 11 Pro OLED, it’s still a great display.
The display isn’t the only difference as the iPhone 11 Pro comes in 6.5” and 5.8” screen sizes with sculpted glass and stainless steel enclosures. The iPhone 11 is 6.1” with a glass and aluminum enclosure. The enclosures also come in different colors with six brighter colors on the iPhone 11 and four different muted colors on the Pro, that are also textured matte finishes. Literally, some of the biggest differences are the look and material of the iPhones bodies.
The other major difference is the new third camera lens on the iPhone 11 Pro. Both new iPhones include the same two cameras with the Ultra Wide: ƒ/2.4 aperture and 120° field of view, and the Wide: ƒ/1.8 aperture. The iPhone 11 Pro adds in a third lens, the telephoto ƒ/2.0 aperture to increase the scale you can adjust your shots. There’s all new photo potential on the iPhone 11 Pro, but many of the new photo features displayed on stage including ultra-wide, night mode, and next generation smart HDR are also available on the iPhone 11.
Apple did touch on battery life, but there may not actually be a difference between the new iPhones. The iPhone 11 Pro is said to last four more hours than the iPhone XS. The iPhone 11 claims to last an hour longer than the iPhone XR. It turns out though, that the iPhone XR has 15% better battery life and lasts over two hours longer of real world use compared to the iPhone XS. So, an hour longer than the two hour longer XR leaves the iPhone 11 very close to the iPhone 11 Pro, and not a noticeable difference or selling point between the two devices.
To recap, the iPhone 11 Pro has a much better display, a third telephoto lens, and stainless steel instead of aluminum. Display and a subset of photo opportunities might be enough for some people, and there are other people that will buy the top of the line, just to say they have the top of the line. Through it all though, Apple has not offered $300 in value in the differences between the two devices. I’m not sure if it’s more a testament to the upgrades from the XR to the 11 or the lack of upgrades from the XS to 11 Pro, but the end result is very similar phones with a $300 price difference.
Unless you need the best phone that Apple offers, or the Max screen size that is actually $400 more, then save yourself some money* if you’re looking to upgrade your phone this year.
*Some may argue that you can save $699 by not getting a new phone at all, but this is written under the assumption that your current phone isn’t cutting it any longer.
**In the images below, a green outline indicates a shared feature, while a red outline indicates an exclusive feature.