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This article was published on November 27, 2019

[Best of 2019] An iPhone 11 Pro Max review especially for you, human

The words should be read to the accompaniment of People Music

[Best of 2019] An iPhone 11 Pro Max review especially for you, human
Callum Booth
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Callum Booth

Managing Editor

Callum is the Managing Editor of TNW. He covers the full spectrum of technology, looks after editorial newsletters, and makes the occasional Callum is the Managing Editor of TNW. He covers the full spectrum of technology, looks after editorial newsletters, and makes the occasional odd video.

Reviewing an iPhone is not like covering any other device. People who are already in the Apple ecosystem will probably upgrade when they’re ready, not when you say so. And Android folks? Well, they aren’t going to suddenly jump ship because of a single article.

Then you have specs. While companies like Huawei, Samsung, and OnePlus brandish what’s under the hood of their handsets as a marketing tactic, Apple have quietly tried to remove themselves from this arm’s race.

I mean, how many of our relatives or friends genuinely care about camera megapixels, processors, or display technology? They just want a phone that works and works well — the reason many of them choose Apple devices in the first place.

This puts the writer (hereafter referred to as “me” or “I”) in a strange situation. Should I focus on new features? Technical specs? Should I gear it towards Apple fans? Android devotees? Undecided phone buyers?

The answer? None of them.

At the risk of sounding corny, phones have become our companions. I mean, I never go anywhere without mine. So even though they’re mass-produced bits of plastic and metal, they’ve become these weirdly personal things.

So, if this article is going to make any sense, it has to focus on the human element of the phone. Less specs and performance (although that’s bound to make an appearance), more about the good and bad parts of actually using the iPhone 11 Pro Max, of living with it, and it being a part of my existence.

In other words, a review that takes a decidedly human approach to technology.

The photography on the iPhone 11 Pro Max is fantastic

iphone 11 pro max cameras
This is the part of the iPhone 11 Pro Max that takes the photo. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.

I’ll put this out there and say the iPhone 11 Pro Max has the most fun camera to use of any phone I’ve used. It’s great at picking out contrast, plus the wide angle lens is great for group shots, or in situations where you don’t have much space.

Night Mode is seriously impressive (in certain conditions) and completely changes how you take pictures in low light.

iphone 11 pro max night mode
This just shows what Night Mode can do in dark situations.

Basically, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is perfect for just pointing and shooting — exactly as a human is wont to do.

In most cases, you don’t have to mess with any settings, or really do anything but change the zoom and press a button. In other words, it takes shots that look amazing on Instagram.

Despite this, some more photography settings would be cool

Night Mode is a great feature, but is only really suitable for situations where folks are stationary. If you’re snapping some people moving around (i.e. possibly a bit drunk), faces blur and the the photo gets messy.

iphone 11 pro max night mode fail
When Night Mode goes wrong.

Now, you can turn off Night Mode while you’re shooting (much like you can with the flash), but as soon as you close the camera app and open it up again, it’s back on.

It’d be great if you could turn off Night Mode in settings, so you can quickly take snaps over the course of an evening.

Also, I know if there are any actual photographers amongst the humans reading this, the lack of a “pro mode” on the iPhone (AKA where you can change the ISO, aperture, and other professional settings) is a bit limiting for people who want to really explore the camera’s capabilities.

It has the best battery life of any phone I’ve used

iphone 11 pro max side angle
No, this has nothing to do with the battery, but it is inside there… somewhere.

Honestly, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is an absolute machine. Currently I charge my iPhone once every two days, and I use the damn thing constantly.

Of course this will dip over time, but it’s the most impressed I’ve been with a phone’s battery in a long time. I’ve even stopped charging my phone overnight, knowing that it’ll easily last me

And there’s a fast charger in the box

A life changing addition. A 30 minute charge will give you enough juice for hours. Genuinely, I find going back to standard charging tiresome. You’re gonna love it.

apple 18w fast charger
Okay, so I didn’t actually take a picture of my own fast charger, but it looks almost identical to this. Soak it up, friends.

But there’s no headphone dongle

Considering the cost of the iPhone 11 Pro Max (it starts from $1099), it’s ridiculous that Apple doesn’t include the dongle.

There are still plenty of people of folks out there with wired headphones and the fact they need to shell out $9 (I know it’s not that much, but it’s the principle) for the privilege of using them is just straight-up bullshit.

headphone dongle iphone
Again, I don’t actually have a headphone dongle (THANKS, APPLE) so here’s a marketing photo of one.

It’s so, so easy to set-up

Moving to a new phone used to be a huge fucking hassle. And while things have gotten better, I still find migrating to Android devices a bit of pain.

That isn’t the case with the iPhone though. Oh not at all.

All I had to do was move my previous iPhone close to the Pro 11 Max, it recognised it, and then ported everything over perfectly. The positions of apps, data, settings — pretty much everything was exactly the same.

Listen, fellow humans, it’s miraculous, and a solid reason to stay within the iPhone bubble.

apple iphone 11 pro max from rear
The camera layout might be ugly, but the rest of the phone is delicious.

Day-to-day life with the iPhone 11 Pro Max is a dream

Often, all you want from a phone is for it to just do phone things, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max excels at that.

The screen is crisp and bright, apps load quickly, and everything just feels polished. The phone feels weighty, and everything about it is well made and durable. Hell, the thing’s even water resistant, so you can take it into the bathroom with you without worrying it’s going to explode.

From start to finish, my whole experience using the phone is so natural, there are times when I can’t imagine why anyone would want to use something other than an Apple phone.

But iOS13 has been a bit of a mess

Whether you like it or not, iOS is an integral part of the iPhone experience. Its smoothness, security, and reliability is one reason why people keep coming back to Apple devices.

But iOS13 (the software that was launched roughly alongside the iPhone 11 Pro Max) has, for all intents and purposes, been a shitshow.

While I’ve not actually experienced any problems, I can’t ignore the number of people who have had to live with constant bugs and crashing. While these issues should be ironed out now — meaning it shouldn’t impact you if you do decide to purchase an iPhone — it does still bear mentioning.

iphone pro max sample shot
Here’s another example of the fantastic photography you can get with the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

FaceID is delicious…

In most instances, unlocking the iPhone 11 Pro Max with your ugly mug works quickly, efficiently, and intuitively.

… but I still miss TouchID

While FaceID works well the majority of the time, it’s nowhere near as intuitive as TouchID.

For example, it sucks if you’re lying in bed in low light. Or if your phone’s flat on the table when you’re sitting down. Nothing beats the reliability of just unlocking the phone with your thumb.

The iPhone 11 Pro Max’s screen got scratched quickly

Within a week of use, the gorgeous iPhone 11 Pro Max screen had scratches on it. I have no idea where they came from because I was careful as hell.

When you’re paying this much for a phone, it’d be nice to have glass that was a bit tougher.

Still, this could’ve just been bad luck, but I have seen this issue crop up online. Yeah, I know that a phone screen is bound to get scratched at some point, but the speed at which is happened actually bummed me out for a few days.

Yes, fellow humans, I know that’s sad, but here we are.

iphone 11 pro max other side
Oh wow! Would you look at that, it’s another picture of the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Aside from that, the iPhone 11 Pro Max does seem durable

After the first month or so of being insanely protective of the device, I got a bit looser. In other words, I’ve accidentally dropped this thing a lot.

And you know what? It’s still in excellent shape.

But the notch sucks balls

I’m so fucking over notches. They look ugly and are constantly distracting. I thought I’d just get used to the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s notch, but I haven’t.

There’s something inelegant and annoying about not being able to see your battery percentage without pulling down a menu, or just having this ugly box breaking up the screen. Just put a bigger bezel on the phone, it’s not hard.

Yeah, It might not bother you, human person, but it sure as hell bothers me.

iphone 11 pro max notch
Ugh, that notch truly is ugly as sin.

The iPhone 11 Pro Max is big

I mean, you probably knew that anyway. If you have small hands, this might not be the product for you.

I really do love it though

It is, hands-down, the best phone I’ve ever used.

It might not be perfect, but I’ve not used a device that does as many things consistently well as the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

So, the question comes if it’s worth upgrading to get one. I think if you have an iPhone 8 or an earlier model, you’re going to see a huge step-up. You won’t regret it.

But if you have an X or an Xs? There’s a definite improvement here, but it’s not monumental. Plus, you know Apple’s most likely going to release an even better phone in 2020, so you may as well wait for that.

Still, the iPhone 11 Pro Max makes this human very happy — and you can’t really ask for much more than that.

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