Apple just made the phone I've wanted Samsung to make for years

Credit: Apple

Those who know me know that I’m pretty critical of everything Apple does around the iPhone.

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t say I’m quite a hater. I’ve jumped in and out of Apple’s walled garden over the years. Like many others, I fell for the dorky-looking iMacs in the computer labs at school and coveted my own Macbook for years before later cheating on it with one of Google’s early Chromebooks (sorry, Tim). 

I’ll be the first to admit that Apple make nice things. My original iPad Mini - scored on on-sale at Big W - made getting through my university degree a treat and I’m endlessly envious of my friends and their Apple Watches. 

So if we’re being honest, it’s the iPhone that’s really driven my angst towards Apple. 

I just don’t have the same love for the smartphone that changed it all as I do any of Apple’s other hardware. The software is slick and the build quality is immaculate. However, the technology inside the iPhone has always felt a little behind the curve compared to Android. 

Sure, the original iPhone got the ball rolling but since then Apple just haven’t seemed interested in leading the way for what a smartphone can be or what it can do. They do things their own pace. While that’s all well and good, it feels choosing to go with (and stay with Apple) means you won’t get the latest technology first.

You’ll get it when Apple decides to act like they invented it. 

Credit: Apple

You get what you’re given and, unless you’re willing to leave the entire iOS ecosystem behind, there’s no point expecting anything more or less. When Apple decides it’s important, they’ll get around to it. Until then, you pay a premium price up-front for the privilege of paying more over the long run.

I’m hardly the first to say it but the iPhone is less of a phone and more of a lifestyle choice.

And the complaints that dogged me about the last iPhone I bought - an iPhone 4S - are pretty close to the complaints I had about the last iPhone I reviewed. The screen size might change from year to year but the story with each iPhone is always oh-so-familiar. The battery life is usually bad and the tech inside the iPhone’s camera almost-always lags behind increased competition from Huawei and Google. 

With all that said, I get the sense that this year might be a little different.

Sure, the cheaper iPhone 11 (AKA “The People’s iPhone”) is sure to be the better selling model but the iPhone 11 Pro is the phone I’m actually finding myself most excited about. In some ways, it feels like the smartphone I keep expecting - and hoping - Samsung will make. 

Like the name suggests, the iPhone 11 Pro is Apple’s first "Pro" grade smartphone - and even compared to the luxe devices of the last year, it comes across as remarkably premium. The frosted glass back design keeps fingerprints and everyday scratches at bay while the stainless steel edges give the 11 Pro a suitably expensive edge. 

Taken together, these touches leaves you with something that looks visibly different to pretty much every other flagship phone out there - which, given the tendency of certain vendors to just copy Apple’s designs year-on-year, is actually pretty impressive. 

Credit: Apple

Perhaps most endearingly, the iPhone 11 Pro doesn’t think that being Pro is the same as being large. If you opt for the regular Pro rather than the Max, you’re actually getting a smaller device than the regular iPhone 11. Unlike the last few years, you can get the best phone without getting the big phone. 

The iPhone 11 Pro isn’t just good at all the things you expect an iPhone to be good at, it feels like the first iPhone in a few years that genuinely begins to address the things that Apple’s phones haven’t been great at. 

The battery life is noticeably better (though not as beastly as something like Huawei’s Mate and P-series devices) and the camera might just be the best triple-lens kit to launch in 2019. In daylight, shots on this thing look incredible and, at night, I was shocked to find it more or less keeps pace with the Pixel 3’s Night Sight. 

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

The one point I’ll dock from Apple here is zoom. Keen eyes may have noticed the promise of 4x optical zoom during Apple’s most-recent announcement keynote. That number actually refers to the wide-angle lens - which is considered 0.5x zoom. 

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Even in its most professional incarnation, the new iPhone 11 can only go up to 2x lossless optical zoom. Go any further than that, and you’re going to lose fidelity pretty fast. 

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Of course, there’s deep fusion to consider. While this feature hasn’t officially launched, the things that Apple are saying about it sound significant enough that photography fanatics are probably going to want to sit up and pay attention. 

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

According to Apple, Deep Fusion is an ambitious evolution of the HDR tech you’ll find in most modern smartphone cameras. The company says the feature “uses advanced machine learning to do pixel-by-pixel processing of photos, optimising for texture, details and noise in every part of the photo.”

I can't wait to find out what the results of that wizardry look like.

Now, the narrative around this year’s S10 and Note 10 has hardly been overwhelmingly negative. Both devices are pretty great Android smartphones!

But if any of the five flagship handsets that Apple’s biggest rival released this year offered the same proportional leap forward in camera quality and battery life that the iPhone 11 Pro does relative to last year’s iPhone XS, I think that we’d be talking about Samsung’s place in the wider pantheon of Android smartphone manufacturers in a very different way. 

Credit: Apple

What's more, after spending a few days using the iPhone 11 Pro as my daily driver, I’m having a low-key existential crisis. If Apple finally have a phone with better software, an outstanding camera, good battery life and a price that - while hardly affordable - isn't that far off the alternatives, then what's my excuse?

I feel like I might have to start looking at Apple Watch bands now because this thing feels like a smartphone designed and engineered to win over Android tragics like myself. It dismantles the logic that's kept me away from the company's walled garden for years now.

Credit: Apple

If buying an iPhone no longer comes with the caveat of shorter battery life and an inferior camera, that calculus begins to rearrange itself in a pretty compelling way. Once you begin to subtract the usual compromises from the equation, the holistic appeal of something like an iPhone 11 Pro seems all the more seductive.

With the arrival of the iPhone 11 Pro, it seems like Apple are making tangible and real progress towards addressing the quality-of-life issues that have typically driven users like myself out from their ecosystem in the past. I suspect that's going to resonate with the market in a big way.

Previous iPhones have given me ideas about what to expect from my next Android phone. The iPhone 11 Pro feels like the first iPhone in a long time that might actually given me a good enough reason to seriously consider buying back in.

The iPhone 11 Pro is priced a little higher than the mainline iPhone 11. It starts at a recommended retail price of AU$1149 for the 64GB model. 

If you want more storage, you're looking at paying AU$1999 for the 256GB version of the iPhone 11 Pro or AU$2349 for the 512GB version. For more info, click here.

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Fergus Halliday
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