Episode 120 - Hands on with the iPhone 11 Pro

In the 120th episode, David shares his experiences after four days of owning the iPhone 11 Pro. From Night Mode low-light photography to the Midnight Green glass finish, tune in to learn everything there is to know about Apple's newest flagship phone. Premium content includes tips for message search in iOS 13 and for switching from beta software to the official release.

Special Discount for Podcast Listeners!

Want more iOS how-to content that's designed to make your life easier and more productive? Subscribe to iPhone Life Insider! Visit iPhoneLife.com/PodcastDiscount and get 50 percent off in celebration of Apple's iOS 13 release. We now also offer an additional $12 savings for seniors, service members, and veterans.

Question of the week:

For those of you who ordered early, how are you liking your new iPhone 11, 11 Pro, or 11 Pro Max? Email your answer to podcasts@iphonelife.com.

Articles referred to in this episode:

Apps and gear referred to in this episode:

Useful links:

Transcript of episode 120:

Donna Cleveland:          Hi and welcome to episode 120 of the iPhone Life podcast. I'm Donna Cleveland, editor in chief at iPhone Life.

David Averbach:            and I'm David Averbach, CEO and publisher.

Donna Cleveland:          Today we are going to talk about hands-on experiences with the iPhone 11 Pro. David got his Pro over the weekend and so he's going to tell you about... How many days has it been? Like four days?

David Averbach:            It's been about four days.

Donna Cleveland:          Four days with the new phone.

David Averbach:            Four days with my new phone. I woke up... Thanks to Apple's new preorder, I could get up at seven in the morning and do it and it was pretty luxurious.

Donna Cleveland:          Used to be 2:00 AM, right?

David Averbach:            Yeah, it used to be like 2:00 AM and I never did it and then my phone would come like a month later. So I had got my phone right on the first day I possibly could, and I've been enjoying it, so I'm happy to tell you guys about it.

Donna Cleveland:          Awesome. Before we start getting into the hands-on experiences with the iPhone 11 Pro, David's going to tell you about our sponsor for this episode.

David Averbach:            Yeah. And it's a very applicable sponsor because I'm going to tell you guys about Element Case, which, as all of you all are getting your new phones or even for your existing phones, Element Case has a really awesome line of cases. They have a whole line for the iPhone 11 Pro and the iPhone 11. They call it the X2 line, and they have really affordable cases, you know, starting at $25 up to...

David Averbach:            And this one I want to show you. This one is one of the most protective cases I've ever seen. It's really sleek. It's called the Element Case Black Ops Elite. So I'm going to read it to you because there's so many crazy specs that I had to just write it all down. So it has machined G10 and aircraft grade aluminum on the chassis, which provides a rugged foundation, and then they apply a tough black type III hard anodized coating on top of all of it to give it this really cool matte finish. It's really solid. It's really sleek looking case. Make sure you check it out, or if you want a more affordable option, they have that as well. Go to elementcase.com, or we'll link to it in the show notes at iphonelife.com/podcast.

Donna Cleveland:          Cool. Yeah, I know cases are a whole new thing you have to think about when you get a new phone. Even if you get like I'm upgrading from the iPhone 10 to the iPhone 11 Pro and it has the same screen size, but now with the new camera array, you still do need to get a new case, so it's something you do have to think about.

Donna Cleveland:          I wanted to tell all of you about a special promotion that we have going on right now. iOS 13 came out last week as many of you know, and to celebrate the operating system release, we're doing a special discount off of iPhone Life Insider. That's our premium educational service for iPhone users. On the day of the release, we came out with a guide for iOS 13 that teaches you all of the new features, and so it's a great time to sign up to learn how to use your new operating system and you get 50% off with our special promotion.

David Averbach:            And we have a secondary promotion that we're really excited about. If you are a senior, if you're a service member, or a veteran, you get an additional 10% off, so that's 60% total. So they're stacking promotions.

Donna Cleveland:          Yeah, so we have this a discount applied with our usual URL, which is iphonelife.com/podcastdiscount. So go to that and you'll get 50 to 60% off depending on whether you're a senior, if you have a military background, and it's 60 years old and older, the senior discount applies to you. So really excited to add that. That's something that people have been requesting for awhile. So iphonelife.com/podcastdiscount and you can learn all the new features of iOS 13.

Donna Cleveland:          Now I want to talk about our daily tip. This week we thought an obvious one to do would be how to update to iOS 13. A lot of you've probably have already done this, but some of you haven't. Sometimes it takes Apple a few days to roll out the new operating system, so you may just be seeing that in your updates.

Donna Cleveland:          And also I think a lot of people just hesitate to go through with the process because they want to hear how it goes for their friends first. So I know some people have been waiting on that. So if you go into your Settings app on your phone, and then General, then Software update, you'll see if iOS 13 is there. But there are a couple steps you want to take first. And that's when I wanted to talk about.

Donna Cleveland:          First you want to make an iCloud backup. So if you go into your Settings app, tap your account profile at the top, then tap iCloud, then iCloud backup. You'll have the option to backup now. You'll need to be connected to Wi-Fi in order to do that. You'll also want to make sure you have enough local storage freed up on your device. So you'll go into your local storage settings to check on that and you want to make sure you have at least four to five gigabytes free on your device.

David Averbach:            And to do that, you go into Settings in General and then iPhone Storage, and there's a lot of photo management or storage management settings. That's a Freudian slip because that's always interesting photo management in the end.

Donna Cleveland:          Yeah, you can clear some photos potentially. And then yeah, once you're ready, you go to Settings, general, Software update. You'll need to make sure your phone has at least 50% power or is plugged in to a power source. You'll need to be connected to Wi-Fi and then also make sure that you're just not planning on leaving your Wi-Fi network for the next half hour or so while your phone completes the update. And then you'll have to restart your phone at the end and you'll have iOS 13.

David Averbach:            And as a bonus tip, we have a whole workshop on this where we go through each of those steps in a lot more detail. So we will link to that. So if anybody hasn't updated and they want to watch that workshop, then feel free to check that out at iphonelife.com/podcast.

Donna Cleveland:          That's right. Okay, so now we are ready to talk about the iPhone 11 Pro. So what have been your impressions so far, David?

David Averbach:            I would say overall I am liking it. I am a little bit, I don't want to say underwhelmed, but it feels like I'm enjoying it, but it's not a life changing update. Now I'm updating from the iPhone 10, so I already have a lot of the features that might, people might already... If you are updated from an older phone would make a really big difference. Like my partner got the 11 as well, 11 Pro and she updated from an 8 and so having LED display, having a no button so you have a full screen on your phones, those types of updates I hd already experienced, which are really amazing. But for me the biggest difference was of course the camera.

Donna Cleveland:          The camera. So let's get into the camera. What are the differences you've noticed besides the camera?

David Averbach:            Okay. Well, let me back up and give you guys kind of the technical what is different. First of all, for those watching, I'm going to take my case off and show you guys the new green, so that I got the midnight green display and I'm enjoying it.

Donna Cleveland:          Interesting. It's actually-

David Averbach:            It looks a little bit less green than the photos may-

Donna Cleveland:          It looks way less green to me than the photos.

David Averbach:            I feel like if somebody had not told me it was called midnight green, I would have thought of it as being pretty close to like the slate gray.

Donna Cleveland:          Yeah. It's way more, it's like gray. It has a slight kind of iridescent shimmer to the back of it. The camera area looks more green than the rest of it.

David Averbach:            Yeah. Well it's interesting because it's a matte back finish except for the camera, which is glossy, which in general, I think it looks really nice. I'm happy. My concern was that it would be too green.

Donna Cleveland:          Yeah. The pictures did make it look almost a little-

David Averbach:            I'm going to hold this up for you guys. We were all staring at it

Donna Cleveland:          Like it might be a little over the top green like army green.

David Averbach:            Yeah.

Donna Cleveland:          It doesn't look like that.

David Averbach:            So let me describe the cameras to you. If you guys are regular listeners, you'll be used to this. But it has three cameras, and I actually don't know which one's which, so I'm not going to try to point to it. But the three cameras are the wide angle lens, which is the standard camera that's been on the iPhone for years and years, the two time optical zoom, which is the same camera that is on the iPhone 10 and in 10S, and then has a super wide angle lens, and that one of course is, as the name would imply, let's you be even more wide angle than the wide angle lens. So that's the three cameras that are there. In general, what I would say about it, here's sort of my likes and dislikes about it. The super wide angle I feel like will be really awesome for when I'm traveling kind of nature pictures for everyday use.

David Averbach:            I found myself not using it very much, and it's because if there is something close to you, it distorts the image a little bit to get that super wide angle. Like I tried doing it. I was at like a parade and my stepson was right in front of me and I tried to do the wide angle and it, it gave me obviously a nice wide view of it, but it also just made him who is standing right in front of me look a little bit distorted.

Donna Cleveland:          Interesting. Yeah that's not good.

David Averbach:            I mean sort of like... And we're all kind of used to this with like,, you know, fisheye is a very extreme example of that same distortion. But like in order to get that really wide view, you have to kind of tweak it a little bit. So I feel like it'll be useful in some circumstances, but I have not yet found to be useful in my day to day.

Donna Cleveland:          So like maybe more useful if it's a landscape without a person in it.

David Averbach:            Or if the person is a little farther away. It doesn't distort it like always. It's just that if you have something really close to you and something really far away from you, it has a hard time with that.

Donna Cleveland:          Okay. That's good to know.

David Averbach:            What I actually found myself really enjoying about the super wide angle, they didn't talk about this up front. So I discovered it is that I use portrait mode a lot, and with portrait mode the default is to go to two times zoom because then it uses both cameras to give you that blended portrait mode effect where you're blurring the background. Well now, because I have that super wide angle, I have the option of doing a two times zoom or a one time zoom on the portrait mode. So you don't always have to be super zoomed because sometimes I'd be wanting to take a picture of somebody who's right in front of me and do portrait mode, and ,as soon as I put it in portrait mode it's like way too close and I'm having to back up and get just the right angle.

David Averbach:            And so now it gives you more options and makes it easier to get the right distance for portrait mode to actually take effect.

Donna Cleveland:          Yeah. That's one reason I don't use portrait mode that much is it makes you move eight feet away, and a lot of times you're trying to take a picture of something closer. So you don't have to be that far away.

David Averbach:            Yeah. You don't have to be that far that way anymore.

Donna Cleveland:          That's really nice.

David Averbach:            I think. I'm still messing around with what the limitations are. It certainly from a visual perspective means you're not sometimes when I go to portrait mode-

Donna Cleveland:          Like jumping in on someone.

David Averbach:            Yeah. And I'm like too close and then I already feel a little bit annoyed with portrait mode that I have to fuss with it while somebody's sitting there waiting and I think it cuts down on that, which is really nice.

Donna Cleveland:          Okay, cool. Yeah. The other setting that I wanted to ask you about was night mode. Low light photography for a long time has been sort of a pain point on the iPhone. I think the iPhone takes really great photos, but Android phones for a while have had similar features to what the new phones have called Night Sight in the Google Pixel and night mode and the iPhone that uses... I'm not sure exactly how it works.

David Averbach:            It uses computational photography. So rather than how traditionally you're taking a photo at night would be either you're using a flash or you're using what's called a long exposure, which means you're leaving the shutter open in your camera for a long time. Now that's on an SLR camera. It doesn't work on a digital camera to do that very easily. And if you do a long exposure, it means that if you have someone in the photo, they get blurred because any movement while your shutters open blurs it. So it replicates what would have been a long exposure, but it does it in a way that can work on digital and it does that using artificial intelligence. So it kind of looks pixel by pixel and attempts to say what would have happened if this were a more traditional long exposure shot, which is really cool.

Donna Cleveland:          It is really cool.

David Averbach:            Like it's fun to geek out on this. And how it works is it actually, and this surprised me, in the evening, it gives you a little button to allow you to turn it on, and you can set it between one to three seconds. So it's sort of actually replicating the long exposure experience.

Donna Cleveland:          So it's not automatic. It doesn't just go on as soon as the light is low.

David Averbach:            It is not automatic.

Donna Cleveland:          Interesting.

David Averbach:            It's something you can toggle on or off like you would either live photo or a flash. And I don't know if the default is on or not. I'd have to check. But you can set it between one to 10 seconds. The default is three seconds. And so you hold it, you take a photo, and first of all, I guess to back up with the new Pro, the photos take instantly generally, which is really nice.

David Averbach:            They do a lot of clever things in the background to be able to be... When you push that shutter on your phone, it takes the photo instantly. With what's called night mode?

Donna Cleveland:          Night mode, yeah.

David Averbach:            Night mode, it takes three seconds. So you're standing there and you're watching it fill in in three seconds, and you can set it up to 10 seconds.

Donna Cleveland:          Interesting.

David Averbach:            So that's how it works. My experience, I have yet to make it work well. I think some of that is that you need to be the right circumstance. So I did one in my room. I have a salt lamp in my room and salt lamp is a very red light.

Donna Cleveland:          Pinkish red.

David Averbach:            Yeah. And so it filled in and it was like too red the photo. The night mode worked very well in the sense that like it clearly had captured a crisp photo in a lighting circumstance where it would not have been able to do that otherwise.

Donna Cleveland:          Yeah. David showed me this photo and it was interesting.

David Averbach:            It was a weird color photo but I think it's a unique situation in that it's unusual to have a lighting source. The only lighting source of the room was a red light, and so I think that was why but we'll have to see. I also then later did a couple like... I took a few photos of my dog. I went down to let her out at night and I took a photo and there was like no light. Like I could not see my dog and I used it and you could see it.

Donna Cleveland:          Really?

David Averbach:            It's not a high quality photo. Like it looks like kind of like almost like like a criminal shot of like somebody in the background. But it was pretty impressive that it worked at all because I, with my eye, could not see my dog and my camera could without using a flash.

Donna Cleveland:          Yeah. I'm excited to try out this feature because I do feel like as it stands now, photos in lighting where you can see everything perfectly fine can turn out really dark.

David Averbach:            Yeah. I feel like it'll be like... I'm very optimistic that it'll have a very useful use case, but I just have yet to get into a circumstance where I'm trying to take a photo in low light but enough light where it'll work, you know? So it's not perfect.

Donna Cleveland:          It's not perfect.

David Averbach:            But it seems pretty cool.

Donna Cleveland:          Yeah. Early reviews online have like said it compares pretty favorably to Night Sight. That's the Google Pixel one. And I'm excited cause one of my best friends has the Google Pixel. My phone's coming in a week. And so we can compare side by side like go out and shoot pictures in our night modes together.

David Averbach:            Part of why I'm being a little bit more generous with the feature is that it has reviewed well online, so people who have taken out and tested it more thoroughly than I have have found that it works really well. So my assumption is that it will do what it's supposed to do. I just haven't had the opportunity to test it yet.

Donna Cleveland:          Other things like the faster processor, would you say that's something you've noticed a difference between the 10 and the 11 Pro or is it pretty minimal?

David Averbach:            Yeah, so again, I'm upgrading from a pretty new phone, but I will say that everything has worked as promised. So it definitely is a snappier phone. I've been really appreciating that it is faster and it's one of those little things we talk about every year. But yes, it only saves you microseconds, but it saves you microseconds in every interaction with your phone you have. And so it really adds up and it's really satisfying because it's fast enough where you don't find yourself waiting for it to load. It just is loading. And I have noticed face ID is faster.

Donna Cleveland:          It's 30% faster. Does that sound about right?

David Averbach:            I didn't clock it, you know. No, it definitely is noticeably faster, which again is really nice. Like yeah it's not that big of a deal. It doesn't take that long. But I'd always find myself staring at my phone for that split second waiting for everything to load.

David Averbach:            And now like previews for my phone because I have it set to the previous only show up with my phone's unlocked and that happens like almost instantly. I can unlock my phone almost instantly. So I have noticed it's faster. I'm particularly appreciating the battery life because the battery quality on my iPhone 10 was down to 86%, and I wasn't making it through the day and I've had no problems with my battery, and it's been a particularly trying time for my battery because when you get a new phone you're like downloading all your apps. And I had to be on call with Verizon customer service for a few hours. It's a whole story for another day. But I haven't gone easy on my phone and my battery's lasted great.

Donna Cleveland:          That's great. Yeah. The other thing that I doubt you've tested that much is that the new phones have tough glass that's supposed to be a lot stronger. If you drop your phone, do you have any thoughts on that or is that something... I see you still have the screen protector and the case on.

David Averbach:            Yeah, for those watching, I have a screen protector and a case, and when we talk about our gear, I'll tell you guys about it. But I clearly took the decision not to trust it. I debated trusting it, and then my partner is like "We have a seven year old. You're crazy." And so I didn't. Yeah. And he's already dropped my phone. So, yeah, I mean I'm not, but I'm pretty tempted.

Donna Cleveland:          I kind of want to link... Apple has a funny commercial that just came out for the iPhone 11 where they have like the new phone up on a tripod and a bunch of stuff being launched at it like a wedding cake being dropped on it, toys and stuff and food hitting it, and I was like yeah, I mean I still think I'll use an iPhone case. But it is comforting to know that it's more durable than past iPhones.

David Averbach:            Yeah, it is comforting. It does make me sad to cover it up because it is such a beautiful phone.

Donna Cleveland:          Yeah. I have to say I really like the midnight green. I think if it was overly green I'd get sick of it.

David Averbach:            I agree.

Donna Cleveland:          And this color is like nice and subtle.

David Averbach:            I agree. A couple other things. I think we've basically covered it. I will say the audio quality is supposed to be better when you're just projecting the audio. I have not found that to be true. I mean I'm sure it is true but it wasn't noticeable to me because I actually do pretty frequently. Like if I'm listening to a podcast, sometimes I get lazy and don't connect it to a speaker. And so I tested it pretty thoroughly. It's fine. I can hear it, but it's not like, "Oh my gosh, this is so much better than my iPhone 10 in terms of the audio quality."

Donna Cleveland:          That's good to know.

David Averbach:            I think that covers it. Anything else that I missed?

Donna Cleveland:          No, I think those were the main, the key features. I think like once I have mine too, if we have anything to add we can talk about in a future episode.

David Averbach:            Yeah, loop back. I'm getting my Apple watch delivered soon. We'll have a hands on with my Apple watch pretty soon, which I'm excited about.

Donna Cleveland:          That'll be fun. Let's talk about apps and gear that can go with... I know for you you have new gear for your 11 Pro.

David Averbach:            Yeah. So I thought this would be a convenient time to tell you guys what I have on my phone, and a little bit of a caveat is I sort of just, as a publisher of iPhone-related content, we get a lot of gear in house. So I sort of just raided our box. So I will be swapping out and testing a bunch of stuff more thoroughly and give you guys a little bit more. But I've been pretty happy with what I got. I have the Nomad rugged case on and it has leather back. I think I'm pretty happy with it because it looks classy. It's a little bit of unique look. A lot of the ones that have leather back either I get worried about how it's going to age, but one of their things they do on their website is they show you what it looks like in a hundred days, kind of a typical use case. And with leather, I mean because it's a high quality leather, I like when leather gets a little scuffed up kind of weathered a little bit, you know what I mean?

Donna Cleveland:          And Nomad really talks about... I like goes for that luck.

David Averbach:            Yeah. And they use what they claim as a high quality leather, and it feels high quality, but it's also like pretty resistant, which is nice and it's water resistant as well. So that case is $50. I'm enjoying it. In general, Nomad has high quality products. It's also one of those funny things when you're in the industry, we go to conferences and we meet them and they're very nice people, so I always like recommending companies that are also nice people.

Donna Cleveland:          It's a nice mix of looking like business-y but also kind of rugged.

David Averbach:            Yeah.

Donna Cleveland:          One thing in the tests that I was reading online about the durability of the 11 Pro said the camera is the most breakable part, so it's nice that it looks like it has a lip over the camera, so if you dropped on its back, the camera most likely wouldn't break.

David Averbach:            Yeah, that's true. And I will say that typically I use a Sag screen protector in this eye partly because it was available to me. I use the Otter Box one, but they have a new screen protector. I'm just looking up the name of it real quick. They have a new screen protector. It's called the Amplify and they use Corning glass. So kind of a little bit behind the scenes in the glass screen protector industry. Almost everybody uses what's called soda glass. So most of the glass screen protectors you use are going to be pretty much generic glass. But this is a higher quality glass, a little bit more scratch resistant, less likely to break. Because in the past, I'd used Otter Boxes Alpha screen protectors and they tended to break on me. So I've been happy with it.

David Averbach:            And the thing that I loved about it, and it's such a little thing, but it comes with a screen applicator where it lines up your glass screen protector with your phone. It's like a little plastic thing you dock your phone in when you apply it and it's so nice to not have to, like... I always mess it up.

Donna Cleveland:          I need one of these.

David Averbach:            I always get it wrong.

Donna Cleveland:          So do I.

David Averbach:            It probably cost them like literally 2 cents to do this, and it made such a difference to me. So I'm enjoying it. I'm enjoying it. It's a higher quality glass, at least trusting that it will work better because of that. It's a little more expensive. So it's called the Otter Box Amplify and it's $50.

Donna Cleveland:          Yeah, that is pricey. But if it works.

David Averbach:            Yeah, exactly. And I think in general I liked the little higher quality ones, so I don't recommend, to be honest, I don't recommend their Alpha screen protector.

Donna Cleveland:          Good to know. So the accessories that I chose today, you actually probably don't want to get, if you have the 11 Pro or 11 Pro Max because you'll already have one. And that's the USBC chargers for the phones. If you have an iPhone 8 or later, you have fast charging, a fast charging capable phone. That means that if you use a lightning to USBC cable with it, you can charge it up to 50% in 30 minutes. So it's significantly faster than a regular lightning to USBA cable. It doesn't include that in the box though when you buy an iPhone, unless you get an iPhone 11 line, then Apple now includes those fast charging cables. But anyways, I've been using... Belkin has a boost charge USBC to lightning wall adapter and cable and it's $49.99 for the adapter.

Donna Cleveland:          It's $29.99 for the cable. It's a little bit pricey but the cable is super nice. It has a braided nylon outside and a tough interior that's as tough as Kevlar, and it has a little has a little snap closure too, so it's easy for travel, and they come in like nice colors, nice kind of natural woven colors. The wall adapter has a USBC port as well as the USBA port, so a lot of times I'll be charging my Bluetooth speaker while I also am charging my iPhone, and I just think that it's awesome to be able to charge your phone that fast and a lot of people don't know about.

David Averbach:            Yeah, I know. We've been sort of on an advocate advocacy mission lately. Do yourself a favor. If you did not get the new phone and you have a phone that supports rapid charge, go buy one of these products because it really makes such a difference. I find especially like when I'm traveling and I stopped by the hotel for half an hour and I need to top off my phone because I'm traveling, it's like a lot of times I'm using GPS and drains my phone, it's such a lifesaver, like sometimes literally because I need to be able to go back out and navigate and get home at the end of the day and use my maps and being able to actually get enough charge to make that all happen is so nice.

Donna Cleveland:          Yeah. I think for traveling it's essential. It also would make a really nice gift going into the holiday season.

David Averbach:            It would. Make sure they don't have the Pro because it comes by default with the these charging solutions. Although I will say I love Apple, their charging cables are terrible. [inaudible 00:26:15] so quickly so it still would make a good gift.

Donna Cleveland:          That's true. Again, if you go to iphonelife.com/podcast, we'll have links to all the products we talked about here. For the question of the week, let's find out from people how they're liking their iPhone. Whether you have the iPhone 11 or the Pro or Pro max, let us know how you're liking it because I bet some of our listeners here are Apple fans enough that they also woke up early and ordered like you did.

David Averbach:            I bet they did. And do us a send us some night mode shots. I'm curious to see if the lighting works for you.

Donna Cleveland:          Yes, that would be awesome. And I think that wraps up our episode for this week. We have a quick one for you.

David Averbach:            Unless you're an insider and then stick around and I've got a really juicy complaint. I'm so excited.

Donna Cleveland:          Okay, awesome. All right. Thank you so much.

David Averbach:            Thanks everyone.

Donna Cleveland:          Remember to leave a review for our show if you enjoy it on Apple podcasts.

David Averbach:            It helps other people discover it.

Donna Cleveland:          All right. Bye.

David Averbach:            Bye.