Smartphones have now hit a sweet spot. Their feature sets have been fine-tuned to perfection, performance is at the pinnacle of what a user might want and pain points are at a minimum. In a state like this, it becomes even more tougher to bring out a new device… after all how do you improve on something that was already good. Over the past couple of years, this has been a visible trend with at least the flagship phones.
They are certainly getting better, but there is not much that can be called really new. The iPhone 11 Pro Max solves that problem by offering an additional camera with a very different perspective and better results, adding more powerful processor and improving the battery. But is that good enough for iPhone users to go in for an upgrade?
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max review
The iPhone 11 Pro Max has a design that is very similar to the iPhone XS Max which it is replacing. The only big difference is the camera module which is now a square with curved corners and with the three lenses staring at you. In fact, the camera module is very distinctive and the only feature that you need to identify this phone. The back panel is still glass, but with a matte finish which gives is a very sophisticated look.
The Super Retina XDR display is pretty good and works well even under the bright California sun. In fact, I was wondering why the iPhone 11 photos looked a bit dull when I was viewing them later on a different screen. This is ideal for consuming video and with the new Arcade games the screen sort of comes to life with a wide array of colours. Also, the phone offers a good speaker that gives a spatial effect with even some audio movement of across the screen.
Read more: Apple iPhone 11 review
Apple has moved on from 3D Touch to Haptic Touch. The two should ideally work the same way. However, I somehow missed the former, even though I did not use it much. But when I tried to long press and get to delete or move some apps, the mini app menu would pop up. So getting to the long press on haptic was a bit of a frustrating experience for me.
One of the best aspects of the iPhone 11 series is the fact that the cameras are the same across the three devices. And one of the biggest improvements of the series is with the front facing camera, which is now a 12MP one. Apple is ushering in a new way of taking selfies, with slow motion, and calling it “slowfie”.
The feature works well, though I don’t think it is a feature you can use all the time. There is also the wide angle on the selfie camera which can get more people into the frame and hence has more practical use. The front camera can capture selfies that look natural and not as if you have spent a day at the beauty parlour whitening up.
But no, you are not buying this phone for its selfie camera. If there is something here that can sell the phone, it is the ultra wide mode and the night shot in the rear camera. The ultra wide mode is identical to the one on the iPhone 11, giving a very different perspective than most other wide angles out there.
And if you look at the frame you will realise the iPhone photos have a wider field of view than competition, despite its 4:3 aspect ration. However, in low light the mode tends to throw some noise, but nothing you can’t ignore.
The regular wide mode gives very natural shots and does not bring in unnecessary saturation like some of the competition. But it still manages complex compositions well, with shadows and highlights where they should be. The zoom mode is a bit unremarkable and does its job as advertised.
The Night Shot is where Apple is showcasing what can be achieved in a smartphone when the processor is in sync with the camera or any other hardware feature. So the camera takes an array of photos and stitches them together within three seconds to create a composite photo. I found that the mode — which activates on its own — can take a decent photo when there is no light at all. However, where it goes beyond others who do the same is with its ability to showcase colours and other details in these low-light shots.
And best of all, you can shoot video on all three lenses with the same colour profile and results, even slow motion and time-lapse. In fact, with the power of the A13 Bionic processor, third-party apps will be able to record video 4K video streaming from all the cameras at the same time. That could change the way we plan and execute multi-camera shoots.
The camera is not the only place where the A13 Bionic processor shows its prowess. Couple this processor with Apple’s new Arcade as well as other top games available on iOS and you have maybe the best gaming phone that does not call itself a gaming phone. The experience of gaming, with the display, audio playback and processing power is something else.
The iPhone 11 Pro Max has a vastly improved battery, which at 3969 mAh is much bigger than what was there on the iPhone XS Max. This is the first iPhone I have brought back home with 30 per cent battery running 12 hours after my work day started. The network issues in India sap the juice out of most phones and the iPhone is finally able to hold its head above water when it comes to battery life.
The new iOS 13 too adds a lot of improvements, which make life easier and lets you do things faster. The one new feature I used the most was the ability to edit photos and videos in gallery itself.
Overall, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is the best offering Apple has at the moment when it comes to the sheer experience of using a phone — power, a camera combo that covers all your imaging needs and a battery that lasts all day. However, in India this is the benchmark premium phone in every sense of the term.
Even if there are phones like the OnePlus 7t and Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus that offer similar features, there is no match when it comes to pricing. The phone is a good upgrade for those on older iPhone like the iPhone 8 or anything that came before. Others should ideally wait a year to see what Apple has for the 5G generation.