Apple iPhone 11 first impressions: Faster, better-looking camera setup, ultra-wide angle is a welcome addition

Apple’s iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max are now available. The trio of new iPhones boasts improved battery life, faster performance, and impressive new camera features. 

All three iPhones look like their predecessors, save for the new camera setup on the back. A notch cutout is centered on the iPhone 11’s 6.1-inch display, with the side button on the right, and a volume rocker and mute switch on the left. Looking at the front, you’d probably be hard-pressed to tell the difference between an iPhone XR and an iPhone 11. 

Also: Best iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR deals now that iPhone 11 is here 

This morning, a box from Apple arrived containing an Apple Watch Series 5, an iPhone 11, and an iPhone 11 Pro Max. I set up the iPhone 11 just a few hours ago but thought I’d offer my initial impressions of Apple’s $699 iPhone that feels like the best smartphone value we’ve seen in the last year.

Below are some of my thoughts about the iPhone 11, in no particular order. 

The display

It’s been nearly a year since I last used the iPhone XR and its LCD display. The first thing I noticed when powering up the iPhone 11 was its display. The 6.1-inch Liquid Retina LCD display’s resolution is lower than the iPhone XS Max, and the colors feel somewhat muted. But that’s to be expected. It was just more jarring for the first five minutes of setup than I anticipated. 

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I’m sure after a day or two of use, the display of the iPhone 11 will feel just as familiar as the XS Max display I’ve been staring at for a year now. Then again, maybe not. We’ll see.  

It does feel faster

Maybe it’s a placebo effect, but the iPhone 11 and its A13 Bionic does feel faster than my iPhone XS Max. Restoring the phone from a backup took little time, and launching apps feels instantaneous. 


iPhone 11 camera bump.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

The camera bump

The iPhone 11 gained an ultra-wide-angle camera, and it’s now part of a square camera bump on the back of the phone. Pictures and videos of the iPhone 11 make it look like the camera lenses stick out from the back of the phone, but in person, it’s not all that significant. 

I happen to like the new look of the iPhone 11’s camera arrangement. It’s a nice break from the horizontal or vertical lines of camera lenses we’ve seen on nearly every smartphone for the last couple of years. 


Top: iPhone 11 ultra-wide  camera. Bottom: Wide camera.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Finally! An ultra-wide camera on an iPhone

The first thing I did after setting up the iPhone 11 was to check out the new ultra-wide camera. This has been a feature I’ve wanted to see Apple bring to iPhone for years now, and my initial impression is that it’s done really well. There’s a “.5x” button near the shutter button you press to switch between cameras, bouncing between ultra-wide or the normal wide camera with little delay. 

I haven’t been able to test the Night Mode camera quite yet, because, well it’s the middle of the day. I did, however, turn off all the lights in my office to see if I the iPhone would prompt me to turn on Night Mode. Indeed the Night Mode button showed up, and it seems straightforward to use. Tap the button to turn on Night Mode, press the shutter button and hold the phone still until the photo is captured. 

I can’t wait to try out the Night Mode camera this weekend.

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