iPhone 11 or 11 Pro. Which iPhone is right for you?

Jason Cipriani, CNN Underscored
Sat September 14, 2019

Earlier this week, Apple announced the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. This trio of new iPhones make up the 2019 portion of the lineup, however, Apple still sells the iPhone 8 and iPhone XR — giving buyers a total of six models to choose.

With a price range of $449-$1,099 and features ranging from Touch ID to Face ID, deciding which iPhone to buy can be confusing. But it doesn't have to be.

We'll walk you through the selling points of the entire iPhone lineup, highlighting strengths and weaknesses as we ultimately (spoiler alert!) come to the conclusion that the iPhone 11 offers the best value (as far as we can tell).

Keep in mind that we're basing this off specs and what we know about the device itself. Underscored will put it through its paces in a full review soon, and will update if needed. But we know some people out there, including members of our staff, want to jump on the wagon and preorder to get the latest and greatest come launch day.

What about the iPhone 8 and iPhone XR?

On the lower end of the iPhone lineup is the $449 iPhone 8 (debuted in 2017) and the $599 iPhone XR (launched last year). Both were, and still are, fine phones.

The iPhone 8 is the last model with the iconic home button and Touch ID, Apple's fingerprint reader. It has a 4.7-inch display, while the iPhone 8 Plus has a 5.5-inch screen. The smaller of the two has a single rear-facing camera, and the Plus model has an extra telephoto camera. Internally, the iPhone 8 has Apple's A11 Bionic processor and 64 GB or 128 GB of storage. It can survive being submerged in 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes.

The iPhone 8 is the most affordably priced smartphone Apple offers, but it's also the oldest. You won't suffer any performance issues, though apps won't load as fast and gaming performance will be lower when compared to newer processors. Apple will continue to keep it on the software updates support list for at least a few more years, but it's only a matter of time before the older models begin to show signs of age.

The iPhone XR was introduced in 2018 as a less expensive version of the iPhone XS, and for that matter, the iPhone X. Similar to other iPhone X models, the 6.1-inch display spans nearly the entire front of the phone, save for a cutout — commonly referred to as a "notch" — at the top, where Apple houses its TrueDepth camera system that powers Face ID and the front-facing camera. Apple's Face ID technology is said to provide extra security, scanning your face to unlock or authorize purchases with Apple Pay.

The iPhone XR has a single rear-facing camera, is powered by the A12 Bionic and has the same water resistance and storage options as the iPhone 8. It's also available in white, black, blue, yellow, coral and red.

When the iPhone XR was priced at $749, it was one of the best values in Apple's lineup. At its current price of $599, the iPhone XR is attractive, but here's the problem: Apple just announced the iPhone 11, essentially an updated iPhone XR by another name, and priced it at $699. With just $100 separating the iPhone XR — with last year's tech and camera features — from the iPhone 11, with new camera tricks, tech and colors, it's probably worth spending the extra cash.

It comes down to iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro?

The iPhone 11 takes what was most appealing about the iPhone XR and puts it in an even more affordable package. It has a 6.1-inch screen, Face ID with an improved front-facing camera (get ready for slow-motion selfie videos, or "sloffies," to take over Facebook), Apple's A13 Bionic processor, and storage options of 64 GB, 128 GB and 256 GB. It comes in new color options: purple, yellow, green, black, white and red.

Apple claims the glass used in all iPhone 11 models is the toughest glass ever used in a smartphone, which should help limit the number of cracked screens and backs from accidental drops. Adding to its durability is its ability to survive in 2 meters of water for 30 minutes.

There's now a second camera on the back of the iPhone 11. The added lens takes ultra-wide photos and videos with a 120-degree field of view. And there's a new night mode for taking photos in dimly lit environments.

The iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max start at $999 and $1,099, respectively. The overall design is similar to the iPhone 11, with screen size and colors being the biggest difference. The iPhone 11 Pro's screen measures 5.7 inches, and the Pro Max measures 6.5 inches. A new midnight green color option joins the silver, gold and a tweaked version of space gray. Water resistance goes up to 4 meters on the Pro models.

Apple gave the iPhone 11 Pro duo the "Pro" namesake partly because of its new camera setup. It's the first time an iPhone has shipped with three rear-facing cameras. There's the standard wide camera and a telephoto lens for 2x optical zoom, as well as the new ultra-wide camera. The three-camera setup is housed in a square camera array on the back of the phone.

Both Pro models use Apple's A13 Bionic processor and have storage options of 64 GB, 256 GB and 512 GB.

On paper, you'd be hard pressed to find many differences between the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro. Just scroll through Apple's iPhone comparison site. The comparison is almost identical, line for line.

Who should get the iPhone 11 Pro?

It comes down to two things: Better display and more cameras.

The iPhone 11 has a Liquid Retina HD LCD display and the iPhone Pro has a Super Retina XDR OLED display. That's a bunch of jargon that can be distilled down to this: The iPhone 11's display has a lower resolution, can't show as many colors and isn't as bright.

For most, the iPhone 11's display is going to be just fine. The iPhone 8 uses the old LCD displays, so if you're upgrading from that to the iPhone 11, you'll notice an improvement, even if it isn't quite as good as the Pro display.

It's hard to say how much of an impact the third lens will have on the overall experience with the iPhone 11 Pro. It's nice to have a telephoto lens, but the iPhone 11's lack of telephoto doesn't exclude it from taking portrait mode or night mode photos.

Last year's iPhone XR has the best battery life out of the 2018 crop of iPhones, and with Apple improving battery life across the board for this years' models, it's likely that will remain the case with the iPhone 11.

If you're particular about display quality and just have to have the best Apple has to offer, the iPhone 11 Pro or Pro Max are made for you. However, I suspect, for the vast majority of iPhone users, the iPhone 11 should be more than enough phone. And at $699, you're getting a great deal.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailers' listed prices at the time of publication.

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