iPhone 11 Pro Max review

iPhone 11 Pro Max review

Last Updated on by Daniel Osakwe

In spite of being Apple’s most expensive iPhone to date, the iPhone 11 Pro Max remains a compelling choice. The iPhone 11 Pro Max is the most expensive iPhone Apple has ever made, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This is the culmination of the company’s most dramatic changes to the phone to date. Apple fans can finally enjoy a 6.5-inch iPhone with the iPhone X. Finally, a phone that’s worth the hefty price tag.

Camera

iPhone 11 Pro Max

Normally, we don’t focus so much on the camera in our reviews, but in 2019’s iPhone line-up, image quality is the most notable change.

By including the ultra-wide camera on the back, the phone has three cameras in total.

On the back of the iPhone 11 Pro Max, three prominent black holes can be seen, surrounding them with a square of glass that matches the phone’s color, which reduces their impact.

There is a ‘normal’ wide-angle lens, a telephoto lens, and a new ultra-wide lens. When you use the telephoto option, you can zoom in 2x closer to your subject, while with the ultra-wide-angle lens, you can capture twice as much of what’s in front of you.

If you want a picture of a group of friends or an animal, but can’t move backward or forwards, the iPhone 11 Pro Max lets you crop in or pull back without moving.

In terms of resolution, all three cameras have 12MP sensors, which is pretty standard for smartphones today. This provides a good balance between pixel size (to capture more light) and resolution (to capture plenty of detail).

Additionally, the Pro Max can record 4K video at 60 frames per second (fps). It’s important to remember that capturing more information will result in smoother footage, but it will fill up your iPhone’s storage quicker.

There is a lot to be said about the iPhone’s – or any modern smartphone’s – camera these days, because they have so many features, and on the whole, you can’t hope to take a bad picture with any of them.

In order to make a market-leading cameraphone, any brand needs to fill the iPhone 6 with features.

Night mode

Night mode is the first feature – Apple’s previous models were unable to take stunning night photos, and other brands have taken the lead by providing camera phones that can virtually transform the night into day with advanced post-processing.

It is perhaps Apple’s greatest selling point – in our opinion, it is the single best reason to buy a new iPhone. It is important to hold the phone steady, brace it, or mount it on a tripod to take good pictures. However, if you do, you’ll see details your eyes cannot.

If you are using a tripod or not, your iPhone will normally ask you to hold still for 2-5 seconds to get a ‘fully bright’ shot. However, you can manually extend this up to 30 seconds (if your iPhone is on a tripod or against a wall).

The sharpness and brightness of the iPhone’s Night mode were often astounding.

Better portrait mode

Thanks to the extra depth sensor, the static camera is now able to work at a normal distance rather than zoomed in as before, as well as better capturing outlines of people, animals, and other subjects.

If you take photos of people in well-lit, contrasting environments, the results are usually pretty good – in fact, if these images are taken correctly, they can be breathtaking. As a result of the various lighting options available, you can hide blemishes or create a more ethereal, stylized image using the new High Key Mono option.

Despite this, some of the photos taken with the iPhone 11 Pro Max struggled to get the head of a cat fully sharp. Taking photographs of the objects would be preferable, but we found that they were also generally fuzzy around the edges.

The overall quality of the photos is much better than the iPhone XS Max from last year, especially when compared to it. The ultra-wide camera is great when you remember to use it. Unfortunately, the results are slightly distorted in some areas, despite Apple’s attempts to correct this with image processing.

With the ultra-wide sensor, the transition between modes wasn’t always smooth. When we turned on the camera, we were often greeted by a blank preview that needed to be fixed by switching modes.

This year, we skipped over the iPhone’s ‘normal’ camera mode results since they are just as good as last year. Pictures are typically bright, sharp, and filled with color and detail. When blown up, Apple’s photos look better than those from competitors because they are less saturated.

In the video mode, we see things improving – our impression is that the 4K, 60fps mode is more of a headline feature than a truly useful one, but if you’re a serious photographer or videographer, you’ll want to have such features; the details are richer, and – most importantly – the exposure is more balanced, resulting in better-looking videos.

In addition to those who are interested in shooting truly impressive footage with an iPhone, the social media elite will find this feature useful. Aside from that, the onboard editing suite lets you change the color and filter of the video directly on the device, which means there’s a lot to enjoy.

Design

Apple hasn’t changed the design of the 11 Pro Max on the front (compared with its predecessor, the XS Max), but it has a new matte glass back that feels noticeably different in hand – it’s less prone to smudges and fingerprints, and it feels like a real upgrade.

The rest of the phone looks similar to what we’ve seen from Apple in recent years: the notch is still present, the sides are stainless steel, and the bottom houses the Lightning connector and two speaker grilles (though only one actually fires sound).

If you’re used to Apple’s Plus or Max phones, the 11 Pro Max will feel manageable in your hands on a daily basis.

We have already discussed the main new design element: the camera bump on the back. Since it’s made by milling down the glass and rolling it into the rear, the edges are sharp. When you put this phone in your pocket with another device, it might get scratched.

This resulted in the iPhone 11 Pro Max design is pretty similar to the iPhone XS Max – so much so that we managed to factory reset the wrong phone during our testing process (much to our dismay).

The iPhone 11 Pro Max comes in four attractive colors: midnight green, space gray, silver, and gold. The dark green color draws our attention, and it is the most obvious way to announce ‘People of the City, I have a brand new iPhone!’

However, you’ll probably want to put it in an iPhone 11 Pro Max case to protect it, since it is expensive and you don’t want to tell your other half you ruined it in a week.

Display

Aside from the camera, the iPhone 11 Pro Max screen (we hate writing that name) is another selling point for this high-end, expensive phone.

Once again, Apple has refined the OLED panel on the 6.5-inch screen. Features True Tone technology (which adjusts white balance based on the lighting conditions) as well as a fluid screen – although it isn’t quite as fluid as the higher refresh rates found on the iPad Pro, for example.

The screen shows more yellow tint when viewing white scenes or viewing photographs – these tints aren’t present when viewing images on a computer screen, for example, so it may be a calibration issue.

Also, the slight tint can be seen when comparing the 11 Pro Max with the iPhone XS Max from 2018 – but it isn’t overly noticeable, and the images do not appear distorted.

The device supports Dolby Vision content – it might not seem like a significant step up from HDR10 (the regular high dynamic range playback most phones use to enhance the dark and light portions of a scene), but it does make a difference.

While watching films, the video playback is more cinematic – you can see more details, and the overall experience is more immersive. On a normal day, the iPhone displays only 800 nits of brightness (the metric for how bright the screen can be), but when you watch a Dolby Vision movie, the screen gets even brighter (up to 1200 nits).

If you are alone, you can enhance the cinematic experience by playing music from the speakers. Using Apple’s Virtual Surround Sound setup, the audio isn’t as good as it would be through headphones, but it definitely feels like it’s moving around your ears.

It is nothing new for the mobile industry, but it does show that Apple is still striving to offer the best possible media experience years after the iPod was released.

Battery

Apple claims the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s battery will last five hours longer than the iPhone XS Max’s.

It’s really strange – that’s a big increase in size without affecting the thickness of the device. Is it possible Apple intended to reveal reverse wireless charging at the iPhone 11 launch, but it didn’t work properly?

In any case, the battery life on the iPhone 11 Pro Max is outstanding indeed, and here’s how we did on the third day of testing…

After removing the iPhone from charge at 7 pm, we watched Dolby Vision-enabled movies on auto-brightness for nearly two hours, then used the phone to navigate us home for around 50 minutes; we also tried pairing a Garmin watch before going to bed just before midnight, at which point the phone was at 62%.

We began the day with more than 50% of the battery left after the standby mode lost only 5-6 percent of its charge overnight.

Despite a long day of testing, including playing games, watching streams of video, testing the camera, and running benchmarks (this last option was particularly demanding on the battery), the iPhone 11 finally shut down about 6 pm (we didn’t enable battery-saving mode).

This is impressive considering the performance of the iPhone XS Max last year – it seems Apple’s claim about the more powerful battery was correct after all.

Wireless charging (which we recommend investing in: get a wireless charger for the office and home, and you’ll never have to worry about a dead battery) and a fast charger are included with this phone.

Within 15 minutes, the iPhone 11 Pro was nearing 25%, which is enough to get you through an emergency. Even with the high price of the 11 Pro Max, fast charging certainly makes up for it, since a full charge took only 90 minutes.

iOS 13, iOS 14, iOS 15 and performance

Apple’s iPhone Pro 11 Max comes with iOS 13 out of the box, but iOS 15 can be downloaded after updating.

In iOS 15, FaceTime features are designed to make it easier to talk to people while improving audio and video quality. It is possible to make your recipients feel as if they are standing right next to you with 3D audio. Now you can isolate your voice from ambient noise, and your voice will be the only thing that is heard. Additionally, there is Wide Spectrum, which focuses on you and the environment around you.

Also, there’s SharePlay, where you can share music, TV shows, and movies, as well as your screen, so you can show someone how to use an app.

You can also now hide notifications for messages through Focus, which suggests which apps you may want to hide at specific times. This is basically Do Not Disturb with a lot more features.

Face ID has also been improved: not in terms of accuracy, but in terms of the field of view it can capture. Even though the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s front-facing camera can’t detect faces any better than last year’s model, you can unlock it while sitting at your desk – we didn’t need to pick up the phone as much as we did with 2018’s iPhone XS Max.

When you frequently switch between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections, a long press on the respective toggles in Control Center (the options you see when you drag from the top-right corner of the iPhone 11 Pro Max screen) will let you select the appropriate one.

There is a difference between ‘long press’ and ‘hard press’ – where previous high-end iPhones had used 3D Touch, letting users press harder on the screen to open other menus or launch the camera, the new iPhone 11 does not support that technology.

Instead, there is a haptic engine that makes the rumbles under the finger feel more like mechanical buttons, and a long-press system in which holding your finger on one option will enable additional menu options.

While using the iPhone 11 Pro Max feels intuitive very quickly, rearranging icons on the home screen can be a bit confusing at first – you’ll have to select from a menu or wiggle your finger.

As far as raw performance is concerned, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is one of the most powerful iPhones on the market.

A quick glance at Geekbench 5 shows a score of 3420 – which makes the iPhone 11 Pro Max around 10% more powerful than the iPhone 11 and more than 20% better than the iPhone XS Max from last year.

As a result, the Pro handsets have the most RAM of any iPhone, so the overall benchmarking scores are higher.

The numbers are only numbers – how does the iPhone 11 Pro Max perform in real life? Apps will not slow down if you open and close them frequently – any app you open will start working immediately. It is a pleasure to use the 11 Pro Max.

A few issues arise with the speed of the camera: it takes a second to load the app (and it can freeze sometimes) and when you’re taking photos, the zoomed-out shot outside the standard frame does not appear immediately once the shutter button is pressed.

Furthermore, loading a photo for editing takes a few seconds, as does saving some of the image manipulations – although we understand that much processing is occurring here, we’d expect things to run a little faster rather than have to watch a spinning progress wheel appear intermittently.

In addition, scrolling through a downloaded film to reach a specific scene would freeze the video. This was annoying when we were trying to find a brighter scene to test display brightness.

However, the phone’s media capabilities extend to its power as well. Despite streaming services like Spotify, the sound quality is still impressive; the sound felt rich and solid through headphones, with more detail in the audio than you might expect from smartphones.

Pros Cons
Reams of power Expensive
The night mode shines There is no clear innovation beyond the camera
Lovely back Design isn’t updated

CONCLUSION

Aside from the high-end screen, powerful speakers, and upgraded processor, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is the best iPhone Apple could fit into a smartphone in 2019. The iPhone 11 appears to be a more appealing option for Apple fans or customers who need an extra lens or extra battery life.