The magic of the ‘incredible’ upgrade that is Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro Max is its new software, writes Noel Campion.
The last iPhone I reviewed was the iPhone 8 Plus, and I feel that the majority of people considering an upgrade from this, or even the iPhone 7 Plus, will be looking seriously at the new iPhone 11, 11 pro or 11 Pro Max. Unlike most other manufacturers, iPhones just last longer between upgrades and — while I’m sure there are plenty of iPhone X and X Max users considering an upgrade, or who have done so already — or already upgraded, most of those will wait until next September for the next big update. So, going from the iPhone 8 Plus, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is an incredible upgrade and not just in hardware.
If you’re coming from the iPhone 8 Plus, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is an incredible upgrade and not just in hardware.
There’s no fingerprint scanner for one, but because I’ve tested so many phones with face unlock over the last two years, having to unlock the iPhone 11 with Face ID wasn’t a big deal.
In the six weeks of using the iPhone 11 every day, I can’t remember an occasion where it failed to recognise my face, and it’s incredibly fast.
Those familiar with the iPhone X and X Max won’t see too many differences on the front of the new iPhone 11 Pro Max as it has the same aluminium and glass design — although Apple say the glass is even tougher.
There’s still a notch which houses the improved Face ID tech, a front selfie camera, and of course, there’s no home button.
On the bottom, there’s a Lightning port and, thankfully, you now get an 18 watt fast charger along with a USB-C to Lightning cable. I would love to see Apple move to USB-C for their next iPhone like they’ve done on the iPad Pro.
I just love the look of the polished aluminium frame, which looks like chrome on the Max, and my review unit has the frosted white back and it looks gorgeous. Unlike the iPhone 8 Plus, which had the regulatory text, iPhone name and Apple Logo, the 11 Pro Max only has the Apple logo. The entire back of the Pro Max is frosted except for the Apple logo which is polished glass. Although the iPhone 11 Pro Max has a bigger 6.5-inch screen compared to the iPhone 8 Plus’s 5.5-inch, it is slightly smaller overall.
Also on the back is the new triple-lens camera array. This is positioned and squared off on the top left of the back and really stands out. I won’t lie, I wasn’t a fan of the look when I first saw the photos online. However, in the flesh and after using the phone it isn’t even a consideration.
The 6.5-inch OLED panel on the Max is simply stunning. It’s incredibly sharp, has black hole level blacks and can get as bright as 1,200 nits when outside in sunny conditions or when watching HDR content. Apple call it the Super Retina XDR OLED screen and it sports a pixel density of 458ppi.
My review unit of the iPhone 11 Pro Max came with 512GB of onboard storage and there’s a 256GB option. However, the base model only comes with 64GB. For most users, 64GB is enough thanks to online streaming and cloud storage, but I feel that the Pro models of the iPhone should come with at least 128GB as the base.
I’ve always been reasonable happy with the battery performance on the iPhone 8 Plus, but most of the flagships in the last year have come with monster batteries with incredible endurance.
The iPhone 11 Pro Max lives up to its name, and I’ve often managed to get two days between charges and I’ve had no problem getting through a heavy days use without reaching for the charger.
Also, the fast charger makes a big difference too when you do need a quick top-up. I was able to get from 20% to 70% in 30 minutes and to 95% in 90 minutes. Thankfully, there’s still wireless charging, which I use a lot when I’m at home or in the office. The latest version of iOS 13 has clever battery optimisations built in to preserve battery life and improve performance based on your usage. This should help to maximise battery life without taking a massive hit on performance. The new OLED screen and features like Dark mode also helps to minimise battery drain.
The iPhone 11 Pro Max is a massive phone with a big screen and, although I have large hands, some tasks are difficult to do single-handed. There is a one-handed screen option that makes reaching things easier and you can also use split-screen view in Mail, Calendar, Messages, and others to make the most of the larger display. Personally, I love the big screen and although it can be unwieldy at times, I’m happy to make the trade-off, but you may not be.
In some ways, I’m leaving the best stuff for last as I’m a massive camera enthusiast. Apple are far from being first to the triple lens camera on a phone but, in typical Apple fashion, they know how to do it best.
On the Max you get three 12MP cameras as with the smaller 11 Pro. This comprises of an ultra-wide (13mm 0.5x f/2.4), wide (26mm 1x f/1.8) and telephoto (52mm 2x f/2.0) along with digital zoom up to 10x.
Hardware is one thing, but the real magic now happens in the software. New features, for the iPhone include Night Mode and Deep Fusion. Again, Apple were not the first to bring out a night mode, that accolade falls to Huawei, but it’s there implementation that makes the difference.
I love the fact that users don’t need to worry about modes, technical specifications and such. It’s really all about the experience and not having technology getting in the way of being able to capture that moment.
Honestly, the cameras on the iPhone 11 Pro Max are amazing, but so too are most of the rest of the flagships out there. What makes Apple different is the simplicity — anybody can take great photos, and that’s the key to why the iPhone is the most popular camera on the market today.
The addition of the ultra-wide angle lens comes into its own in cityscapes and landscapes, and it’s great for those who like to get more creative with their photography.
Night mode is impressive and allows you to take shots of dark environments, without the need of a tripod. It brings darkness into the light and makes shots that would otherwise not have been possible, possible.
Night mode comes on automatically, so you don’t have to think about it as another mode as such, but when it’s just a little too dark for a normal shot and not dark enough for Night mode, Deep fusion kicks in. This works by taking several shots in quick succession and then merging them together. The result is a photo that is sharper and with less noise.
Video is just as impressive and a major upgrade from the iPhone 8 Plus. You now have up to 4K at 60fps and you can now change both the resolution and frame rate from within the camera app. Video stabilisation is smooth and makes more professional-looking videos possible for everybody.
The iPhone Pro Max has an improved stereo speaker setup that’s louder than in previous models. What impressed me the most is how spatial the sound is. Watching movies is more immersive and although I would like to hear a little more bass, the speakers make up for this in loudness.
Of course, just like all the iPhones since the iPhone 7, there’s no 3.5mm headphone jack, but you do get Lightning headphones in the box. Unfortunately, this year you don’t get any Lightning to 3.5mm jack adaptor.
Overall, the cameras on the iPhone 11 Pro Max offers best-in-class for video and incredible stills photography, often rivaling much more expensive DSLR and mirrorless cameras for versatility and features.
It’s a massive phone, so it won’t be for everyone, and that’s why there’s a smaller 5.8-inch version the iPhone 11 Pro. If the price is a prohibiting factor in your decision-making then check out the iPhone 11 with 6.1-inch screen, which boasts most of the same features except it has an LCD screen, and drops the 2x lens.
The iPhone 11 Pro Max costs €1,279 for 64GB of storage, €1,449 for 256GB or €1,679 for 512GB in Space Grey, Silver, Midnight Green or Gold.
The smaller smaller 5.8-inchiPhone 11 Pro costs €100 less. The iPhone 11 starts at €829.