Hands-on with Apple’s latest and greatest smartphone.
I’ve had the Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max for about a week and while it clearly impresses, I wanted to spend more time with it to see if the upgrades are all worth it. Let’s cut to the chase: yes, the iPhone 11 Pro Max (even its smaller brother the iPhone 11 Pro and the less expensive iPhone 11) is a worthy upgrade. It seems Apple has fine-tuned everything that was good on the iPhone X and iPhone XS and put it on the iPhone 11. The result is a smartphone that stands out on all aspects.
The iPhone 11 Pro Max looks pretty much like the iPhone XS Max from last year if you look at the front. The back part is where you’d notice the difference, primarily the frosted matte finish and the square-shaped, three-lens camera array. It also comes with a new Midnight Green color that looks gorgeous along with the usual Gold, Silver and Space Gray (tested here) color options.
You have a choice between 64 GB, 256 GB and 512 GB for storage. Despite the Pro naming convention, we wonder why Apple still stuck with the 64 GB option, considering increasing sizes of apps and media to which this entry-level storage option isn’t enough.
It’s expensive too, with the top-tier version of the iPhone 11 Pro Max costing more than 6,000 AED. You can argue about the increasing prices of these gadgets, but it looks like it is here to stay. Apple does sell the iPhone 11 at around 2,900 AED which is cheaper than the iPhone XR when it was launched last year, but if you want all the bells and whistles of the high-end model, prepare to shell out some extra cash.
The iPhone 11 Pro Max’s screen is basically the same size as the iPhone XS Max, but that’s where the similarity ends. Apple rebrands the screen on the iPhone 11 Pro Max as ‘Super Retina XDR’ and it definitely shows. It’s brighter and more vivid, even when you’re using it outside in bright sunlight. It supports HDR (HDR10 and Dolby Vision) so that blacks are darks and whites are so bright you’d squint your eyes. It’s truly one of the best displays you’ve seen on a smartphone.
That being said, when Apple announced a ‘Pro’ in the name I thought that they’ll include a ProMotion display similar to what was done on the iPad Pro. Unfortunately, that’s the one thing missing from this truly awesome display. OnePlus has already included a similar display on their flagship line so I’m not sure why Apple chose not to include it.
External ports and buttons remain the same: volume rockers on the right, a side button on the left along with the Lightning port at the bottom. The iPhone 11 Pro Max also has a new spatial audio feature that compliments the HDR display. It’s loud and stereo separation is present and it even supports Dolby Atmos so there’s no reason for you not to enjoy watching movies on this smartphone.
The A13 Bionic CPU that powers the iPhone 11 Pro Max is a beast and judging from recent benchmarks it is leaps and bounds different from what the competition has. Average users may not feel the beefed-up specs, but you’ll notice it when you realize that apps launch faster and even rendering images and videos all happen in a fraction of time.
It runs iOS 13, and finally gives us a bunch of user-centric features like Dark Mode and improved privacy settings that truly make it one of the most powerful mobile operating systems available. My personal favorite is the ability to download files from Safari – this easily makes the iPhone be more like a computer.
But of course the main highlight of this iPhone is the new three-lens camera array. There’s a standard wide-angle lens and telephoto lens that both got a new sensor and a new ultra-wide lens that offers a 120-degree field of view. The addition of a new lens also required Apple to revamp the stock Camera app to highlight the new features.
There are more options available in each shooting mode, and while the bulk of the functions can be configured right from the app, you would still need to go through the Settings app if you want to change camera resolutions for image and video. It can be annoying when you want to shoot in 1080p60 and then to 2160p30 because you’d literally spend more time just going through the settings when they could’ve just placed an option right inside the app.
But thankfully these cameras produced some of the best images we’ve seen on a smartphone. Skin tones are almost perfect, colors are well-reproduced and HDR is near-perfect. The addition of the wide-angle lens also gave a new perspective on how you can shoot images and video, something makes the camera even better.
Additionally, Night Mode is now officially part of the Camera app. While we’d always say that the iPhone camera takes decent images at night, other smartphones could take even better ones. Night Mode dramatically improves low light images by allowing more light into the sensor, and the best thing is that this function kicks off automatically so you don’t have to go to any mode or setting to turn it on. We will have a more detailed analysis of the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s on another article so stay tuned.
Apple didn’t give exact numbers on how long the battery lasts on the iPhone 11 Pro Max and instead advertised that the battery will last up to 5 hours longer than the iPhone XS Max. In the first few days that I had it, I’d notice that I still have enough battery to last me until the night, different from the XS Max where it has become a routine for me to charge it in the afternoon. The battery improvements are largely due to the power efficiency improvements offered by the A13 processor and iOS 13. In short, it’s one of the longest-lasting iPhones I’ve used in a while. And don’t worry about charging, because Apple has finally included an 18W fast charger in the box.
When you look at it, every flaw of previous iPhone models was fine-tuned and improved on the iPhone 11 Pro Max, which really meant that this is one of the best iPhones Apple has made. Despite using the same design and the lack of 5G support (rumor says it will come next year), everything about the iPhone 11 Pro Max is great in our opinion.
That being said, the price may be one of the main deciding factors, which is why most users will opt for the less expensive iPhone 11. But just like Apple’s line of notebooks and tablets, if you want the best performance you have to go ‘Pro’.
+ Gorgeous screen
+ Blazing fast processor
+ Great battery life
+ Improved cameras
+ Loud audio output
– Still no 5G support
– It would‘ve benefited from a ProMotion display
– No major design changes
Final Rating: 4.5/5