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iPhone 11 Pro + Apple Watch Series 5
iPhone 11 Pro
Following my review last year of the iPhone Xs and Apple Watch Series 4 here are my thoughts on the latest hardware from Cupertino.
I continue to feel that the iPhone X was the best phone Apple made, and the Xs and 11 Pro are clear descendants from this excellent phone. The iPhone Xs was a nice improvement on the X. Apple introduced us to the new Max size, which is what I have been carrying for the past year. The Xs also launched a new camera - the 2x telephoto camera. The 11 Pro adds a third camera - the wide-angle - and Apple has many more tricks up its sleeve.
iOS 13 - a quick note on iOS 13. My feeling is that this is one of the biggest collections of small upgrades Apple has made. It's pretty overwhelming to explore and discover the hundreds of changes in the new OS. So whether you have a new phone or an older phone running iOS 13 you will have a lot of new capabilities to play with. I'm thrilled with the range of improvements that make every day tasks like sharing, messaging, and browsing better.
Three cameras - there is now an ultra-wide camera (13mm and 120 degrees field of view) in addition to last year's 26mm and 52 mm. Note that I said camera and not lens cause each of these has everything needed to take a photo meaning the phone can capture from all three cameras at the same time. And it will for various tricks.
To visualize what this means, you can see the incredible range of focal lengths on this phone. Have you ever taken a photo of someone and then found that a face or person was cropped out? Well, Apple will save the image from the ultra-wide, letting you zoom out after the fact for up to 30 days before the extra data is deleted. This is unheard of on a camera, and you won't find on your $5000 Sony Mirrorless setup.
The new camera app on the phone gets its most significant upgrade! It has many notable features such as the ability to seamlessly record videos and photos, a live photo auto mode that lets you shoot live photos always but only when needed, and improvements to video support.
The biggest crowd-pleaser is going to be night mode which uses fancy tricks to expose those night shots.
I can tell you that the cumulative effect of all of these camera capabilities is a phone that is a camera with capabilities you won't find anywhere else.
HDR on the iPhone was already in a class of its own - often beating what my fancy cameras can do without any post-processing. This past summer, I found that the iPhone consistently produced better in-camera results 9/10 times when it came to capturing the full dynamic range of a photo. This gets better on the Pro.
This is a fantastic review detailing some of the wonders of the new camera.
Faster Face ID - Apple has an excellent track record of making everyday things a little bit better. The weight of all these improvements really shines on this phone and iOS 13. Face ID is an excellent example of it's a little bit faster and better, and that matters.
More Battery life - perhaps the most significant change we will all feel is the improved battery life. Apple did this by adding larger batteries on both phones (Max and regular). My iPhone probably lasted about 8-12 hours on an average day. This isn't enough for some days and indeed vacation and travel days not enough at all as Google Maps and the Camera hammer the battery.
The impact of that decision is that the phones are a bit thicker and heavier.
I loved reading this real-world review to challenge Apple's claim of more battery life.
Design - Every iPhone has a signature design element. In this case Apple chose the camera bump but they also introduces a new finish on the back. A single piece of milled glass in matte. It’s beautiful.
Color - Apple added a new color - Green. I hear green is an insanely popular color in China, and since China is one of Apple's biggest markets, this makes sense. I know a lot of people that chose this color. For me - I got tired of the white color and went back to space gray and Lora got the gold again.
What should I get?
Here is my standard operating procedure:
"I upgrade every single year and don't think for 2 seconds about this. I sell my old phone (trade-in value to Apple of $550) to a friend or sell back to Apple, and that pays for 40% of the new phone. I do this every year. You will always get 40% and possibly more as a trade-in credit. If you wait 2 years you get less."
My advice to you comes down to the following:
Did you skip the iPhone Xs? Upgrade.
Do you have a phone older than the X? Upgrade.
Do you care genuinely about your photos? Upgrade.
Do you want the latest tech and capabilities? Upgrade.
Max vs. regular?
This one comes down to personal preference. I would LOVE something in -between - but that is the iPhone 11, and it has less cool stuff and only 2 cameras. So I size up as I like having the bigger screen and battery. It's not for everyone, though.
Pro vs. 11?
Pro unless you are trying to save some $$. Besides the extra camera with the Pro I don’t even know what the differences are.
I always get the $9.99 monthly Apple Care since I only own the phone for a year. This ensures that if I break the screen or phone I can replace it for an affordable price. Last year I scratched my screen pretty badly and was able to replace it for $29. The sticker price on these phone repairs are jaw dropping.
If you buy the phone from Apple using their monthly payment plan - I believe AppleCare+ is included which makes that a smart choice.
Want to learn more?
This is not a full in-depth review. I am still learning a lot of new features and capabilities. There are some excellent reviews available to read.
The Apple Watch is an impressive product for Apple. It has become the signature health and fitness product in the industry. I have owned every single Apple Watch since the original series 0, and each generation brings subtle improvements.
Apple has maintained band compatibility since the original Apple Watch - even as they changed the casing size last year from 38mm to 40mm and 42mm to 44mm.
Always-on-display - There have been some breakthrough capabilities such as cellular in Series 3 - and Series 5 brings us an always-on-display. Finally, for the first time, the Apple Watch works as an analog watch.
New Finishes - Apple brings back the ceramic watch (but in white only) and introduces titanium in natural and black.
The ceramic is honestly stunning. Apple made this in the Series 3 watch in white and gray and then removed it in the Series 4.
The titanium is noticeably lighter than the stainless-steel and ceramic, which really changes the feel of the watch. I opted for the black titanium and am really happy with that choice.
What should I get?
If you have a Series 4 watch, the only real reason to upgrade is for Always-On. If you skipped Series 4 and have anything older, then I think this is a smart upgrade.
I will always recommend the stainless, titanium, or ceramic over the aluminum watch as those come with a sapphire crystal. Watches are on your wrist all day long and get beat up. I have never scratched my Apple watch display in 4 years of wearing one daily.