Apple Unveils Lower-Priced iPhone 11 and Two New Premium Phones

Bree Fowler

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.

Apple says its trio of new iPhones offer better battery life, a new camera with an ultra-wide lens, faster performance, and sharper, brighter displays.

And one of them is actually (slightly) cheaper than last year's version. 

Apple also is rolling out updated editions of the Apple Watch and iPad and sharing new details about its Apple TV+ streaming service and Apple Arcade video game subscription service.

While most of the changes to the iPhones are incremental, it's notable that the iPhone 11, a reworking of last year’s iPhone XR, manages to offer both new features and a lower price. 

The iPhone 11 starts at $700. For the XR, the launch price was $750. The iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max hold steady at $1,000 and $1,100, respectively, just like last year's iPhone XS and XS Max.

The iPhone 11's price cut could be a sign that Apple is feeling a backlash from consumers frustrated with the rising prices on smartphones, and not just those made by Apple. Analyst firm IDC expects global sales of iPhones to drop about 15 percent this year.

So what new features can consumers look forward to this fall? And are they compelling enough to warrant the purchase of a new iPhone?

We can’t say for sure, until we get the new models into our labs, where we’ll test Apple’s claims of better battery life, increased durability, improved cameras, and more. Consumer Reports buys all the phones it tests at retail to ensure it’s getting the same products you are.

In the meantime, here’s a closer look at Apple's new offerings. Preorders for the iPhones start on Friday and the models will reach stores on Sept. 20. 

Key New iPhone Features

New ultra-wide camera. All three phones have a new 12-megapixel ultra-wide rear camera. The lens allows you to take a step back and fit more into your shot, whether it’s a dramatic landscape or a huge group selfie.

Sound familiar? The latest Samsung Galaxy phones, plus others on the market, already have that kind of camera.

All three iPhone models also have a 12MP rear camera with a traditional wide-angle lens. But the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max add a 2X lens, as well, which allows you to zoom in closer without using software that could distort the image.

That means you get a total of two rear cameras on the iPhone 11 and three on the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max. In comparison, the iPhone XR had just one wide-angle rear camera, while the XS and XS Max had a wide-angle camera and a 2X camera.

Apple also made improvements to its front-facing TrueDepth camera, giving it a wider field to capture more subject matter in selfie photos. It now records 4K video at up to 60 frames per second (fps) and 120 fps for that perfect slow-motion video selfie.

The cameras also include a new “Night Mode” that helps you take better photos in low light. The result is a twilight effect for images that under other circumstances would have been shrouded in darkness. Google’s Pixel phones do something similar.

Better battery life. Apple claims the iPhone 11’s battery will last an hour longer per charge than that of the XR. With the iPhone 11 Pro, it says you can get four more hours than the XS on a charge. And it says the iPhone 11 Pro Max will get 5 more hours than last year’s supersized model.

In our testing (which, admittedly, is different from Apple's), the iPhone XS lasted 27.5 hours and the XS Max 29.5 hours. We'll provide numbers for the new phones once they pass through our labs.

On a related note, the iPhone Pro and Pro Max models will come with an 18-watt power adapter—a big step up from the 5-watt charger packaged with Apple's phones for years. That should reduce the amount of time it takes to charge them.

New processor. As expected, the new phones include a new chip. Apple says the A13 Bionic boasts the fastest CPU and GPU ever in a smartphone. The result should be better performance, especially when it comes to graphics-heavy gaming and other operations that stress a phone’s processor.

Apple says the processor is also designed to boost power efficiency, helping to improve battery life.

Same sizes, new looks. While other smartphone makers keep shrinking bezels and stretching displays to give you just a teeny bit more screen space, Apple has chosen to hold steady on this year's phones. The Pro and Pro Max come with a 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch display, respectively. And the iPhone 11 has a 6.1-inch display.

And, while Samsung decided to give its lower-priced Galaxy S10e an OLED screen, Apple will stick with an LCD for the iPhone 11. The new OLED screens on the iPhone Pro and Pro Max are brighter than before, the company says, but more energy efficient.

The Pro models come in the usual white, gray, silver, and gold tones. But Apple is adding “Midnight Green,” which looks to be a grayish, sea-green color. The lower-priced iPhone 11 offers a palette of six bright, fun colors, including pastel yellow, green, and purple. 

Other New Products

Apple Watch Series 5. Apple continues to update its smartwatch amid increasing competition from the likes of Samsung and Fitbit.

With the new Apple Watch Series 5, the company will add ceramic and titanium models to the familiar lineup of aluminum and stainless steel. As you may recall, the Series 2 and Series 3 watches were also available in ceramic.

The Apple Watch Series 5 starts at $399 for WiFi-only models. They’re available for preorder now and will reach stores with the new iPhones on Sept 20. The new ceramic model starts at $1,299 and includes cellular connectivity. New watch band colors (pine green, Alaskan blue, etc.) were also announced. The bands cost $50.

The new watches feature an “always on” display, which dims without going to sleep, making it easier to check the time and notifications without having to raise your wrist or tap the display. The display on the recently announced Fitbit Versa 2 ($200) offers similar functionality.

As with all products we review, Consumer Reports will buy Apple Watch Series 5 at retail and test it in our labs, measuring how Apple’s claims hold up. Click here to view a segment from our TV show, “Consumer 101,” on how we test smartwatches.

A New iPad. Apple also introduced a 10.2-inch tablet, which will serve as the company’s entry-level model, replacing the 9.7-inch version from a year ago.

The new model, which starts at $330 and ships on Sept. 30, is aimed at consumers who want to use the tablet mainly for watching videos, reading books, viewing websites, and playing casual games. It ships with iPad OS, Apple’s new tablet-specific operating system, which better supports things like multiple windows and accessories.

Apple Arcade. Apple also did a quick preview of its new gaming service. Apple Arcade, which will cost $5 per month, will debut on Sept. 19 with some new games, including a revamped version of the arcade classic Frogger. You can test it out with a free one-month trial.

Others games will roll out over the coming weeks. The service will eventually have more than 100 titles playable across iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, and Apple TV. 

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