iPhone 11 vs iPhone 11 Pro: which is best for you?

They’re getting a little long in the tooth now, but iPhone 11 vs iPhone 11 Pro is still a valid comparison for phone buyers. Apple’s upgrades often involve only incremental upgrades on previous models, and Apple phones are so well built, that they last. So if you don’t want the best possible camera and the fastest processing, these 2019 phones can be a good deal for anyone who doesn’t want to splash out on the iPhone 12 or iPhone 13.

Apple’s released four versions of its last two iPhone generations. However, there were three models of the iPhone 11, since the iPhone mini was only introduced with the iPhone 12. With the 11, there’s the basic iPhone 11, the premium iPhone 11 Pro and then the iPhone 11 Pro Max, which is essentially just a larger version of the iPhone 11 Pro. None of these is directly sold anymore by Apple, which released the iPhone 13 last year, but you might be able to find significant discounts on the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro at other retailers.

In our head-to-head comparison below, we weigh up the similarities and differences in iPhone 11 vs iPhone 11 Pro and Max. If you’re trying to decide whether to go for one of these or a newer iPhone, you might also want to compare iPhone 11 vs iPhone 12 and see our iPhone 13 review. If you do decide to go for these older phones, make sure you take a glance at our regularly updated roundup of the best iPhone 11 deals to find the best price. For more phone options, see our picks of the best smartphones and the best iPhone for photography. In the meantime, here’s our comparison of iPhone 11 vs iPhone 11 Pro vs iPhone 11 Pro Max.

iPhone 11 vs iPhone 11 Pro: design

iPhone 11 vs iphone 11 pro collage

There are more colour options available for the standard iPhone 11 (Image credit: Apple)

The iPhone 11 and 11 Pro clearly share the same design philosophy, but the fact that the Pro is more expensive can be seen in the finish. Both phones have an all-screen design with no buttons on the front, a notch in the display for the Face ID facial recognition camera and curved metal edges, wrapping around to the flat rear of the phone.

However, the iPhone 11 has slightly larger borders at the edge of the screen and has aluminium rather than stainless steel sides. It also has a smooth, glossy glass back, whereas the 11 Pro and Pro Max have frosted, matt-textured glass backs.

The standard iPhone 11 looks and feels like a Quality Apple device, there’s no question about that, but the iPhone 11 Pro is a notably more refined version, even if that in itself offers no immediate practical benefit. Just note that the colour options vary too. The iPhone 11 comes in black, white, yellow, green, purple and red, whereas with the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, you’re limited to black, silver, gold and green.

iPhone 11 vs iPhone 11 Pro: display

iPhone 11 Pro

Our reviewer with the iPhone 11 Pro (Image credit: Basil Kronfli)

One of the biggest battlegrounds in iPhone 11 vs iPhone 11 Pro is the screen, both in terms of the technology involved and the size and resolution. Starting with size, the iPhone 11 measures 6.1 inches (the same size as the Phone 12, incidentally). The iPhone 11 Pro measures 5.8 inches, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max 6.5 inches. As such, the Pro is reasonably one-hand friendly while the Pro Max is definitely a two-hander. That said, the iPhone 11 has wider bezels than the 11 Pro, so the 6.1-inch iPhone 11 and the 6.5-inch iPhone 11 Pro Max end up being fairly close in overall size.

But there’s more than just size to consider. The iPhone 11 has a resolution of 1,792 x 828 and a pixel density of 326ppi. That’s good, but it isn’t cutting edge for detail. The 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro has a significantly sharper 2,436 x 1125 display at 458ppi and the 6.5-inch Max has a 2,688 x 1,242 resolution, again 458ppi. Meanwhile, the iPhone 11 has an LCD screen, while the iPhone 11 Pro uses OLED, which offers better contrast and more vibrant colours. When we reviewed the iPhone 11 Pro, we found the OLED screen suffers slightly from more of a colour cast when viewed at an angle, but since you mostly look at a phone head-on, that’s not a huge issue. So, if you want better detail, you need a Pro Once you’ve made that decision, it comes down to size.

The 11 Pro’s screen is also excellent for HDR, reaching a peak brightness in HDR video of 1,200 nits. The iPhone works with Dolby Vision video, so you get real HDR performance here from the OLED. The iPhone 11 screen doesn’t do HDR at all. The iPhone 11 Pro OLED screen is also brighter outside of HDR than the iPhone 11 LCD screen: 800 nits typically on the Pro compared to 625 on the 11 (625 is actually plenty, but for the best visibility outside especially, brighter is better). That said, both screens excel in terms of colour accuracy. All iPhone 11 models support the P3 colour gamut, and Apple’s True Tone tech for adjusting the colour temperature to the ambient lighting of the room you’re in.

iPhone 11 vs iPhone 11 Pro: battery life

iPhone 11

Bigger size means bigger battery (Image credit: Apple)

We can sum this one up fairly succinctly. The bigger the iPhone, the longer the battery life. This means the smaller iPhone 11 Pro has the shortest battery life of the trio, although it should still give you a full day’s use under normal conditions. The iPhone 11 does better, thanks to its bigger body (so a physically larger battery) and lower-res screen. You’ll get several extra hours from the Pro, but the iPhone 11 Pro Max does even better, cramming in the most battery capacity to offer two day’s of use if you use it carefully.

Of course, this will vary considerably depending on use. Downloading files over 4G uses lots of battery power, as does taking a lot of pictures and video or editing multi-layer images, but the 11 Pro Max gives you the most flexibility to do all that and still check social media before bed.

iPhone 11 vs iPhone 11 Pro: camera

iPhone 11 Pro camera

The iPhone 11 Pro camera has three lenses (Image credit: Basil Kronfli)

Let’s turn to the cameras then, which is what a lot of people will be here for. The iPhone 11 has a dual-lens rear camera system, while the iPhone 11 Pro has a triple-lens system. All models include an ultra-wide lens and a wide lens, but the 11 Pro adds a telephoto too.

To make things easy, the ultra-wide and wide cameras are the same on all devices. The ultra-wide lens is f/2.4 with a 120° field of view and a 12MP sensor, and it gives you a 0.5x zoom compared to the wide. The wide is f/1.8, again with a 12MP sensor. 

There are a lot of features that combine hardware with software, including Night Mode for detailed shots in extremely low light, Portrait Mode to add fake depth of field, and Apple’s Smart HDR and Deep Fusion systems to mix data from multiple images every time you press the button, creating create sharper and better-exposed shots.

The iPhone 11 Pro models add a telephoto lens, which is a 2x zoom compared to the wide, with a f/2.0 aperture. This provides makes for the one other notable difference from the iPhone 11, which is that the Pro can take Portrait Mode shots with anything as the subject because it uses its bigger array of lenses to create a real depth map and detect edges in 3D; the iPhone 11 can only take Portrait Mode shots of people and pets because it uses software-based detection to detect edges and estimate the depth map.

Both iPhones are capable of taking raw shots, which may be welcomed by some photographers but aren’t really anything to write home about. The camera is very much designed around Apple’s processing being part of the results. The newer 12 Pro introduced a ‘ProRaw’ file, which outputs a raw photo after Apple applies its HDR and Deep Fusion tech, giving the best of both worlds.

The front cameras on iPhone 11 and 11 Pro are identical, too – a 12MP sensor with f/2.2 lens. You can take 4K video at 60fps on any camera of all iPhone 11 models. There’s no true HDR video recording, but Apple does use ‘Extended Dynamic Range’ to better capture difficult exposures in scenes. It’s like recording in HDR but outputting to SDR using the extra information captured for a stronger balance.

iPhone 11 vs iPhone 11 Pro: performance

iPhone 11 Pro

The iPhone 11 is still pretty speedy (Image credit: Apple)

All three iPhone 11 models use Apple’s A13 Bionic processor, at the same speed, with the same 4GB of RAM. This was the fastest phone processor on the planet when the phone were released, only surpassed by Apple’s own A14 processor in iPhone 12. It remains a very strong chip, near laptop strength in terms of power. It can handle 4K video editing, processing large files, opening and editing complex images with real-time changes, and, well, messaging and stuff, is that what phones used to be for? 

The only limitation you’re likely to come across is the RAM, and even then the only problem we’ve ever seen is that in image editing apps, the maximum number of layers you can have depends on the canvas size – the multiplication of the two can fill the RAM. But you have to be 1) doing much more than just mid-tier photo edits, and 2) slightly bonkers to want to get that involved on a phone screen.

iPhone 11 vs iPhone 11 Pro: conclusion

iPhone 11 vs iPhone 11 Pro

It’s a close one (Image credit: Apple)

When it comes to pure capability, there’s no doubt that the iPhone 11 Pro is the better option for creatives owing to its more flexible triple-lens camera system and OLED screen, which offers superior brightness and sharpness (and, if you choose the iPhone 11 Pro Max, the biggest screen of the iPhone 11 models). The Max also offers the best battery life of the three, which can be vital for intense days working out of the office or home. 

However, both iPhone 11 Pro options are a lot more expensive, and given that the iPhone 11 offers the same colour accuracy on the screen, is just as capable at running apps and opening large files for viewing, and offers better battery life than the smaller 11 Pro, it’s still a great buy. Also consider that the iPhone 11 Pro is no longer in production, which means a new, factory-sealed handset may be harder to come by – if you care about that, of course.

We think most people will choose which to go for based on the budget they have in mind. In all cases, you’ll get a powerful phone with excellent screen quality and high-quality cameras. Of course, the iPhone 12 and 13 do offer upgrades in many areas, which many will be prepared to pay for, but if you’re bargain hunting, the iPhone 13 still offers a solid smartphone. Take a look at today’s best prices on the iPhone 11, iPhone Pro and iPhone Pro Max below.

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