iPhone 11 review roundup: impressive Night Mode, ultra-wide camera is a useful addition, great price

The iPhone 11 Pro has garnered most of the attention, featuring its three-camera system, and you can see general thoughts specific to that model in our roundup.

However, the iPhone 11 is the phone that almost all the technology reviewers say is the one you should buy. The iPhone 11 packs in most of the iPhone 11 Pro’s improvements, at a price that is the cheapest we’ve seen for a new iPhone for more than three years…

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The main upgrade to the iPhone 11 is the addition of a new ultra-wide lens to the rear camera. The Verge described it as a really fun thing to play with but noted that the quality of the ultra-wide lens is not as good as the main wide angle camera. If you can, you should simply walk further back to capture the full scene. The ultra-wide lens quality is good, but not on the same par as the ‘primary’ rear camera.

Considering how poor iPhones performed in low-light situations up to now, there was a lot of doubt about whether Apple’s Night Mode would be able to catch up enough to be competitive. However, the feature is being widely praised. The Night Mode on the iPhone comes on automatically, so there’s no need to manually switch modes, and the resultant photos are illuminating.

TechRadar says that the iPhone will now surpass its rivals in many low-light situations.

Whether you’re in a sort-of-dark situation, or focusing a tripod-mounted phone at the night sky, there’s a setting that enables you to make what would normally be a badly-lit photo look as clear as… well not quite as clear as day, but wonderfully bright.

The results are startling, elevating Apple to the level of Huawei, Samsung and Google when it comes to taking low-light and night photos – and in some ways enabling it to surpass its rivals. Night mode can make photos shot at 1am look as if they were taken in late afternoon, and if you can get your subjects to remain still, you’ll take great snaps.

Apple continues its prowess in the video department. Both iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro can now shoot 4K 60FPS video with extended dynamic range, and the front camera can record 4K 60 FPS video as well. The Verge noted that Apple has perfectly calibrated the lenses so that switching between the wide and ultra-wide lens is seamless.

I was also extremely impressed with the iPhone 11’s video capabilities. All three cameras can take 4K60 now, and if you record in anything less than 60 frames per second, you can switch between the wide and ultra-wide lenses with no color shifts or exposure changes, which is impressive. The only Android phones that compete with Apple in video are from Samsung. But Apple’s still ahead, and the gap is getting wider.

As mentioned, we spent a ton of time testing photo and video in our iPhone 11 Pro review, including a deep dive into video, so if you want more, go check it out there. But I think the iPhone 11 cameras are so good that they’re worth a year-over-year upgrade from the XR; I don’t usually say that.

The upgrades to the front camera are also universally praised. The front camera now shoots 12-megapixel images, and it has a wider field-of-view when taking landscape selfies.

Apple didn’t really demo this on stage but the iPhone 11 does include new features where you can adjust the framing of an image after it has been taken. This means when you are taking a 1x photo, the phone is also saving image data from the ultra-wide lens. Here’s how USA Today describes it:

I also like that you can capture an area “outside the frame” of the photo or video you’ve shot, visible through a new interface. This gives you a chance to make adjustments to the way these are composed after the fact. If you’re worried about taking up extra space on the phone with this unused material, what you’ve captured outside the frame is automatically deleted after 30 days, if you haven’t used it within that time.

Apple has also improved the capabilities of Portrait Mode on the iPhone 11. Pocket-lint describes it as a welcome jump over what Apple previously offered in the iPhone XR.

In good lighting conditions, the iPhone 11’s results are excellent with plenty of detail, vibrant colours and minimal noise. The ultra wide angle is great, offering plenty more in the shot, and the wider selfie camera is brilliant for group selfies too. Portrait Lighting now offers six effects compared to the iPhone XR’s three effects and Portrait mode returns too. The blurred background is still not 100 per cent on the money every time, as with most smartphones, but it’s significantly improved over the iPhone XR and it’s available for more than just people. Cat pictures with blurred backgrounds – who doesn’t want that?

The iPhone 11 features the same A13 chip as the iPhone 11 Pro, which means it offers best-in-class CPU and GPU performance. This may be the ‘cheap’ iPhone but it outclasses the top Android flagships when it comes to raw performance.

Reviewers unsurprisingly criticized Apple’s decision to continue to include a paltry 5W charger with the iPhone 11. The iPhone 11 Pro does include an 18W fast charger, but buyers of the non-Pro phone will still have to splash out extra if they want to take advantage of their fast-charging capable device.

Another black mark was … iOS 13. The Verge was fairly critical of Apple’s latest software release, encountering several app crashes and general glitchiness. Hopefully, these issues can be cleaned up with software updates in the coming weeks. Apple has already promised that iOS 13.1 will be released on September 30.


In conclusion, the iPhone 11 is hard to beat. You really have to love the deep blacks of an OLED display or have an affinity for the 2x telephoto lens to warrant spending the extra $300+ to go Pro. The iPhone 11 offers better battery life than the iPhone XR, a handy secondary ultra-wide lens, improvements to the front selfie camera, better video recording, and the latest A13 chip.

For $699, it’s the best value-for-money iPhone Apple has offered in many years.

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Avatar for Benjamin Mayo Benjamin Mayo

Benjamin develops iOS apps professionally and covers Apple news and rumors for 9to5Mac. Listen to Benjamin, every week, on the Happy Hour podcast. Check out his personal blog. Message Benjamin over email or Twitter.