Design Notes: iPhone 11 Pro
Apple officially announced the iPhone 11 on September 10, 2019 in an event at the Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California. The phone is available in three variations: iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max. The iPhone 11 Pro is the focus of this article.
From what I could see on the livestream, the event was typical of the company's more recent announcement and unveiling shows. The company announced a variety of products–from services like Apple Arcade and Apple TV Plus to Products like the Apple Watch Series 5 and the iPhone 11 Pro. The announcement of the Apple Watch Series 5 and the iPhone 11 Pro were the most interesting, in my opinion. These products appeared in Apple Store retail locations about a week later, on Friday, September 20, 2019. A few days later, I stopped by to pick up a second power adapter for my MacBook Pro and got a chance to see the new phones in person, and I snapped a few photos of the new hardware in the process.
In terms of size and shape, the iPhone 11 Pro is nearly identical to the iPhone XS, which I currently use. The front sides are effectively the same, event down to the size of the notch, which I closely examined for comparison. The sides are also basically the same, with the only appreciable differences being slight variations in color and finish; button placement, speaker and mic placement, and antenna design appeared to be identical in the two units. The major differences were in the camera configuration and the finish of the back surface—both of which are significant improvements over the earlier model. (The chipset is also a huge upgrade in the iPhone 11 Pro, though that is one that is largely invisible on casual inspection.)
The updated design of the back surface has a look and feel like frosted glass, with a soft texture and a translucent appearance that shows depth in this outermost layer. Personally, I love the look of this. It's absolutely beautiful. Also noteworthy is that Apple dropped the "iPhone" moniker from the back of the unit, so the surface is now entirely clean with the only marking being the simple Apple logo itself.
The iPhone 11 Pro comes in the standard three colors–Space Grey, Silver, and gold—that Apple as used in recent years. This season, Apple also released a new fourth color called Midnight Green, which is a dark grey olive drab green color. It's a beautiful color and I love the look of it. Everyone that I know who has upgraded their phones at this point has opted for Midnight Green. However, I would still go with Space Grey if I were to move to the new model.
The most significant improvement in the iPhone 11 Pro is the camera. The new model has three lenses instead of two, allowing for the same standard and 2x field of views of the previous model, with the addition of an ultra-wide ½x view facilitated by the third lens in the new model. Reports also say that the iPhone 11 Pro has superior low light performance over the previous iPhone models, as well. These new camera features are the most compelling reasons to upgrade, in my opinion.
It's unfortunate that the most beautiful design update (the finish of the iPhone's back surface) is one that would be mostly hidden from view in everyday use. The new silicone cases are functional—essentially big, bulky, Nerfy, highly-functional protective housings for some pretty advanced and delicate consumer hardware. Generally, one would have to be crazy not to put the phone in a case, considering how prone things like phones are to being dropped, and how unergonomic the iPhone is for routine tasks in its bare state. The silicone cases are the most pragmatic, though Apple's clear case might be an option to go with if aesthetic considerations have weight in the decision.
For me, while I keep my phone's software features pared down to a minimum, it continues to primarily be a camera that can text and post content to the Internet more than being a phone, as it's name would suggest. And honestly, the phone capability is one that I'd prefer to do away with, for the most part. So, seeing things like the camera evolve in a way that it has is pretty exciting.
If you'd like to read some other takes on Apple's September 10, 2019 event and the new iPhone 11 Pro, I've added links below to some of the better ones that I've found.
- My Apple Event Notes by Om Malik
- Good summary of the event announcements, as well as some endearing candid shots of Jony Ive in the product demo area after the official announcements were made. (om.co)
- iPhones 11 and Apple Watch Series 5 Q&A by John Gruber
- In-depth discussion of new camera features, as well as the new Apple Watch Series 5. (daringfireball.net)
- An Exclusive Look Inside Apple’s A13 Bionic Chip by Om Malik
- The chipset in the iPhone 11 is next level. This article does a good job of explaining why. (wired.com)
- The Clever New Design Technique in the iPhone 11 Pro by Arun Venkatesan
- A closer look at how Apple's industrial designers achieved the matte finish and logo appearance on the back surface. (arun.is)