This article was published on December 3, 2020

The iPhone 11 Pro range: A retrospective on Apple’s best value phone

It's that rare word in the Apple ecosystem... a bargain?

Callum Booth
Story by

Callum Booth

Editor of Plugged by TNW

Callum is an Englishman in Amsterdam, but not in the way you're thinking. He's the Editor of Plugged, TNW's consumer tech vertical. He w Callum is an Englishman in Amsterdam, but not in the way you're thinking. He's the Editor of Plugged, TNW's consumer tech vertical. He writes about gear, gadgets, and apps — with a particular focus on Apple — and also makes the occasional odd video. Basically, he's halfway between an abrasive gadget nerd and thinky art boy.

I sometimes ponder how successful I’d be in charge of a phone that gets updated every year. In my less lucid moments, I believe I’d navigate the choppy waters magnificently, each year releasing an engineering marvel that’d send critics and the public into Dionysian revelry.

But, more likely, I’d end up releasing a FIFA-on-the-Switch-style upgrade one year, and then the smartphone version of The Homer one year after. What I’m saying is releasing a phone every 12 months is fucking tough.

The reason I bring this up is because of Apple. More specifically, its release of the new iPhone 12 range.

While this is an exciting time for everyone and led to a gamut of new reviews, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to take a break. Relax. And, specifically, look at the success — and failures — of last year’s iPhone 11 Pro range.

Before we go into the why, I should also let you know that we’ve released a corresponding video that you can watch above. It’s structured a bit differently to this article, but covers much of the same things. So go and watch that.

But if you want words? Sweet, tangy words? Well, we’ve got those in spades too.

iphone 11 pro range
Here are some people who are really happy about the iPhone 11 Pro range.

Why are you looking at the iPhone 11 Pro?

Two main reasons. The first is I genuinely think it’s useful to reflect on a device after it being in my life for a long time. At best, most reviews are published after a week or two of use. That really doesn’t tell you a huge amount about the long term implications of a device — especially one you use as much as your phone.

This iPhone 11 Pro range retrospective delivers that.

Doing this a year after its release also works as an indicator for how you can expect Apple’s current devices to fare in the future — something increasingly important as many of us have opted out of the yearly upgrade cycle.

The second reason is a bit different: I believe the iPhone 11 Pro range is the best value Apple device you can buy right now. I’m going to go over why this is the case at the base of the article — so scroll down if you’re after that. Until then? Well…

Welcome, friend, to the iPhone 11 Pro range retrospective

Let’s get the housekeeping in order. If you’re looking for details about what the iPhone 11 Pro range actually is, I’d go and watch this video. On top of that, I also wrote a review of the iPhone 11 Pro here — much of which still holds true today.

iPhone 11 Pro range

But that’s not what this piece is about. No, this is the iPhone 11 Pro range retrospective, where we’re going to talk about how the two devices (the Pro and Pro Max) have performed since their release date. So, in no particular order…

The phones are fucking tough

I’ve dropped my iPhone 11 Pro onto all kinds of surfaces: concrete, marble, wood, gravel — you name something hard, my handset has tasted it intimately. The same has happened with the standard iPhone 11.

And you know what? Zero breakages. Yeah, the phones are scratched and scraped, but they’ve not suffered in any proper way. I’d always recommend getting a case, but it’s reassuring to know that this is a baby you don’t need to swaddle.

The notch is still fucking annoying

When you love someone, their worst qualities are meant to morph into positives. That infuriating laugh, the way their teeth protrude from their lips, that old-milk odor they constantly exude; these crimes should evolve into quirks you quietly adore.

I love the iPhone 11 Pro range, but I’ve never found the notch anything but a fucking monstrosity. Apple, make it stop, please.

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

Battery life has remained consistent over the year

The bane of my life is an old phone that suddenly decides to switch itself off, or jump from 50% to 20% in a blink of an eye. Thankfully, the iPhone 11 Pro range hasn’t been impacted by this one bit.

I’ve had the most experience with the Pro Max and, although the time between charges has dropped, I still only need to juice it up once every 30 hours or so.

The Pro Max’s screen size is wasted

Admittedly, this has improved since the introduction of iOS14 and its widgets, but it’s utterly baffling to me that we have this huge screen you can’t use. Like, why can’t I increase the number of apps that fit on the dock? Or across the screen? Or even their sizes? Fucking ridiculous.

I love Night Mode, but I wish it was better at photographing people

Night Mode was a game changer on the iPhone 11 Pro range. Yeah, it was a bit behind night photography from other phone manufacturers, but it did a fantastic job. Well, if the scene was statue-esque.

Basically, you incorporate a tiny bit of movement while taking a picture at night and you may well have not bothered to take a fucking photo at all.

iphone 11 pro range night mode

I understand the incredible technical challenges of night photography in itself, let alone when you add movement into the mix, but I still expect better.

But I’m a big fan of ultra wide-angle camera on the iPhone 11 Pro range

Okay, maybe this won’t be music to the ears of actual photographers, but for someone who likes to point and shoot, the ultra wide-angle camera on the iPhone 11 Pro range is incredible.

With it, you can easily fit more people into a shot, or get a nice picture of a building, all without stepping into the road and perishing in a horrible Fleabag-esque incident. Thanks for that, Apple.

A baseline of 64GB of storage is stupid

It’s so fucking dumb. Honestly? Why? Well, okay, the “why” is because it meant Apple could keep the iPhone 11 Pro’s starting price under $1,000 — but this sort of shit is terrible for consumers.

64GB isn’t enough storage for anyone these days, let alone so-called “Pro” users.

iPhone 11 Pro range Tim Cook

The iPhone 11 Pro range is still fast as fuck

It’d be pathetic if the devices had slowed over the past year (they are meant to be for PROFESSIONALS after all), but I’m glad to report the phones as zippy as the day I got them.

I still miss TouchID

Look, FaceID is fantastic and is useful in loads of situations, but I really wish Apple included a fingerprint scanner. I thought this when the iPhone 11 Pro range was released, and I think it even more now I’m moving through the world in a mask.

I don’t want the return of the old fingerprint scanner on the front, and I’m not the hugest fan of them on the rear of phones, but why can’t we have one on the power button? Please? Pretty please!

The retrospective is over… but here’s why the iPhone 11 Pro range are the best value Apple phones around

It all comes down to Apple’s ever-increasing array of phones. I wrote about all this here, but I’ll sum it up again for you below, because I’m just that sort of guy.

Basically, Apple stopped selling the iPhone 11 Pro range on its own website when it released its latest devices. To understand why, we need to look at the starting prices of its current phone line-up:

  • iPhone 12 Pro Max: $1,099
  • iPhone 12 Pro: $999
  • iPhone 12: $829
  • iPhone 12 mini: $729
  • iPhone 11: $599
  • iPhone XR: $499
  • iPhone SE: $399

The iPhone 11 Pro range originally sold for the same price as its more recent counterparts. If Apple was going to continue selling them, it’d have cut the price of iPhone 11 Pro range  tosomewhere between $750 and $1,000.

If you take another look at those bullet points above, you can clearly see that doing so would muddy the line-up and most likely cannibalize the newer phones. Think of it this way: as a regular consumer how would you choose between an iPhone 12 and an iPhone 11 Pro? And, if you were Apple, how would you begin to communicate this decision?

It’s basically impossible, so Apple did the most sensible thing for the integrity of its product line and stopped selling the iPhone 11 Pro range.

But this has delivered a fantastic opportunity for the savvy buyer: an amazing phone for a reasonable price.

There’s little difference between the iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 Pro ranges — especially for the standard consumer. On balance, I’d say the iPhone 11 Pro range with its ultra wide-angle camera is still a better device than the bog-standard iPhone 12 — and if you play your cards right you can get one cheaper too.

The prices of the iPhone 11 Pro range are still fluctuating (there were some great deals around Black Friday, when the video at the top was filmed), and with a bit of patience you can get yourself an amazing Apple phone for a great price.

iPhone 11 Pro photography

Conclude this iPhone 11 Pro range retrospective

With pleasure! Basically, the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max are fantastic phones that can still go toe-to-toe with almost any handset put out today. On top of this, the fact Apple put out more devices this year, means it has tried to quietly brush these devices under the carpet — meaning there are some excellent deals on them

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