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iPhone 11 vs iPhone 11 Pro: which is the best buy?

iPhone 11 vs iPhone 11 Pro: iPhone 11 (left) and iPhone 11 Pro (right) on a pink and purple template
(Image credit: Future / Apple)

They may be getting a little old, but iPhone 11 vs iPhone 11 Pro is still worth comparing if you want an iPhone at a cheaper price than the latest model. Many iPhone generations introduce only incremental upgrades that not all users need, and Apple phones receive support for software updates longer than Andriod phones do, so these 2019 models are worth considering if you don't need the latest cameras or the fastest possible processing.

Apple has four versions of its last two iPhone generations. However, the iPhone 11 had only three models, with the iPhone mini only introduced with the iPhone 12 in 2020. The iPhone 11 comes in the standard model plus the premium iPhone 11 Pro and the iPhone 11 Pro Max, which is essentially just a larger version of the iPhone 11 Pro. Apple, which released the iPhone 13 last year, no longer sells any of them directly, but you can still find iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro at some other retailers, and often with decent discounts.

Below we compare the similarities and differences in iPhone 11 vs iPhone 11 Pro and Max to help you decide which is best for you. You might also want to compare iPhone 11 vs iPhone 12 and see our iPhone 13 review. But if you opt for one of these older phones after reading the comparison below, make sure you check our roundup of the best iPhone 11 deals to search for 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.

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iPhone 11 vs iPhone 11 Pro: design

iPhone 11 vs iphone 11 pro collage

The standard iPhone 11 has more colour options than the Pro (Image credit: Apple)

The iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro clearly share the same design philosophy, but it's clear in the finish why the Pro is more expensive. 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.

That said, the standard iPhone 11 still looks and feels like a top-quality Apple device. But the iPhone 11 Pro is notably more refined even before we turn to the internals. You do get more colour options with the standard iPhone though. 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 holds the iPhone 11 Pro (Image credit: Basil Kronfli)

One of the main battlegrounds in iPhone 11 vs iPhone 11 Pro is the screen, both in terms of technology and size and resolution. Starting with size, the iPhone 11 screen measures 6.1 inches (the same as the Phone 12 and 13). The iPhone 11 Pro is slightly smaller at 5.8 inches, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max measures 6.5 inches. The difference between the latter two, which have the same internals, makes the Pro 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 are actually fairly close to each other 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 perfectly decent but not 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 at 458ppi. 

Also, the iPhone 11 has an LCD screen, while the iPhone 11 Pro uses OLED, which offers better contrast and more vibrant colours. It's brighter: typically 800 nits compared to 625 on the iPhone 11 (625 is plenty, but for the best visibility, especially outside, brighter is better). Both screens excel in terms of colour accuracy and 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 your setting.

The 11 Pro’s screen is excellent for HDR too, reaching a peak brightness of 1,200 nits in HDR video. 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.

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, for detail, the Pro wins. And once you've made that decision, your choice between the Pro and Pro max will depend on size.

iPhone 11 vs iPhone 11 Pro: battery life

iPhone 11

Bigger size, 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 (thus 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 days 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)

The cameras then, which are a factor many people will be here for, and it's something where we often expect the most improvements in each iPhone. 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 comparing iPhone 11 vs iPhone 11 Pro easier, the ultra-wide and wide cameras are the same on all three 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 big difference in iPhone 11 vs iPhone 11 Pro as far as the cameras are concerned is that the Pro and Pro Max models add a telephoto lens, which is a 2x zoom compared to the wide, with a f/2.0 aperture. This makes for the one other notable difference, 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.

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.

Both iPhones are capable of taking raw shots, which may be welcomed by some photographers but won't mean much to anyone who doesn't do post-production work. 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.

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, not surpassed until Apple’s follow-up, the 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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Matt has been testing technology for over a decade, working in specialist Apple publications as well general technology and creative journalism. By day, you can find him covering TV, audio, smart home gear and more at T3.com, as Home Tech Editor. By night, he's probably updating or pairing or installing some new piece of technology in the quest for the perfect setup.

Topics
Apple
Tools
Photography
Digital Art

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