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© Rakhesh Sasidharan

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From iPhone 7 Plus to iPhone 11 Pro Max

So I bit the bullet and upgraded from my trusty iPhone 7 Plus to the just released iPhone 11 Pro Max. I was having second thoughts about going to the Max size but I am glad I did. It suits my hand better. (I had second thoughts about the size because I had used an iPhone 8 as part of work and felt that the smaller size was better).

I had skipped the X series because I wasn’t a fan of the notch and Face ID. I understand why Apple went with a notch (at least it wasn’t just for the heck of it like most Android phones) but I didn’t like it. Felt very ugly. And then with the iPhone 11 Pro the stove/ fidget spinner/ big gun/ <insert favorite meme> camera trilogy… brr, so ugly! Why couldn’t they have just put it on a straight line horizontally or vertically. For these reasons I was against jumping to the iPhone 11 Pro series.

But then I started seeing all the YouTube reviews and hearing the iPhone 11 camera praise in podcasts. That started changing my mind. Surprisingly no one made any fun of the cameras! It wasn’t an issue at all.

I was perfectly happy with the iPhone 7 Plus cameras, but still… the iPhone 11 seemed better in low light, it had a new ultra wide camera, a lot of camera tricks, etc. Reviewers like Nilay Patel of The Verge were gushing over how much better the camera is over last years’ iPhone XS and how they recommend it as an upgrade even for iPhone XS users (if the camera mattered to them).

Then I read somewhere that next years’ iPhone is going to be a major refresh. I knew that already, but what I didn’t know what that there’s a good chance Touch ID was making a comeback – possibly in conjunction with Face ID. That’s great news, but then again do I want to buy a Gen 1 refresh? As a general rule of thumb it’s a good idea to skip the Gen 1 product with Apple – be it the first Apple Watch, or even a product line refresh such as the iPhone X or previously the non-S versions. And as much as I love Face ID, and the idea of using both as two factors of authentication, I’d rather wait one or two Gens after that for things to improve (similar to how Touch ID progressively improved, or Face ID is supposedly better in iPhone 11).

So that settled it. But what really clinched the deal was that one of the UAE online retailers started selling the Hong Kong version of the phone. The advantage of these is that they have two physical SIMs (as opposed to a physical SIM and an eSIM). I don’t know if the model has any issues because of the LTE band variations in the model – I didn’t read up too much on it. This made the iPhone 11 a good purchase coz now I can put in my second SIM too in the same phone.

I only got the device a few hours back so this is more of a first impressions from the point of view of someone who’s jumping iPhones after a long time. First off, setting up the device was a breeze as it easily migrated everything off my old iPhone, including the connection to my Apple Watch. That was so easy! Within an hour I had the new iPhone exactly as my old one – all the apps, wallpapers, settings, etc carried over. Putting in both SIMs was easy – both go into the same tray with one on top and the other below – and iOS gives you options like letting you switch between data providers automatically depending on the connection, or assigning preferred SIM for various contacts.

The phone heavier than the iPhone 7 Plus. Not too much, just a bit. I had heard about that and the battery improvements it brings, so that’s fine. I went with the Gold version (as that was the cheapest) but it’s nice how the front of the phone is identical for all colors – there’s no difference like gold borders or white in the front. Yes there’s Gold on the sides but you never see that, and the front is fully black so it goes well with the dark mode. The notch doesn’t trouble me at all like I expected it to. I have forgotten about it already, it’s just a part of the top of the phone. The phone feels larger due to the lack of bezels etc., but not too fancy as if it’s curving into the edge or anything. Overall it is very familiar to the iPhone 7 Plus but with the sort of improvements you would expect after 4 years. Familiar yet slightly better, and easy to get used to.

Speaking of getting used to, Face ID is convenient. Just look at the phone and apps unlock, nice! That is way easier than using your finger. Yup, I am going to miss the finger at night or when I can’t just unlock the phone without looking at it; but for the times when I can look it is futuristic and easy.

(Update: I wear glasses and I realized that Face ID doesn’t recognize me without them. Turns out I can add an alternate identity, so that helped).

I find it a good touch that when I unlock the phone with Face ID it doesn’t just go into the home screen. It needs a swipe up. Not sure why I like that coz it would seem that going into the home screen when I unlock is the more convenient thing to do. I think with this method I can have my notifications hidden when locked, but when I unlock I can see them; and if I want to go into the home screen I can then swipe up.

The back of the phone feels good. Glass but with a different feel. That’s the new matte finish. It’s not slippery, which is good. And doesn’t seem like a fingerprint magnet. My hands sweat when holding the phone and this back lets them sweat without feeling too icky. It’s comfortable holding the phone. (Holding the 7 Plus too was comfortable, so this is more to the fact that I was concerned maybe the 11 Pro back is more slippery or not similar – which is not the case here).

The bottom of the keyboard is better in that I now have a mic and emoji selector there itself thanks to the extra height. The phone feels snappier than the 7 Plus (which wasn’t snappy to begin with but had started showing signs of slowness or stuttering since iOS 13).

I hate the fact that the control center is now on the top rather than at the bottom. The latter was easier. But it’s no biggie I hope. I enjoy the swipe gestures that have replaced the home button – I was kind of used to them from my iPad so this was an easy thing to get used to.

That’s it for now I think. I haven’t actually taken a photo yet or even launched the camera app for that matter! Waiting for a better opportunity tomorrow outside.

I love the screen compared to the iPhone 7 Plus. This is my first OLED and I had heard how good they are and how they make the blacks stand out, now I see it. Am in love with the dark mode themes of most apps now as they look gorgeous.

This is a good post on the new home screen gestures since iPhone X. Good to know I can turn off the phone and press the side switch and any volume button to temporarily disable Face ID and force use of a passcode. That should be useful in a hostile environment I guess where someone could show the phone to your face and unlock it. (Or maybe not, they’d torture the passcode out of me anyways!)

Updates:

(4 days later)

  • No comment on the camera. I haven’t gone out much to take pics on it. The few pics I took in a park seems good (but then they always do with an iPhone). I tried some photos at home in the low lighting. Difficult to judge how good it is. First impressions are that I wasn’t too blown away, but that maybe coz I had some high expectations. Compared to the same scene in my iPhone 7 Plus I didn’t notice any huge improvement. And compared to the same scene from a Pixel 3a (which I have from work) I actually felt the Pixel 3a picture to be better. Anyways, more later. I haven’t take much low lights photos at home before anyways so that’s the best thing for me to judge currently.
  • What irritates me a lot though is the fact that I have to swipe from top for the control center. Boy, I hate that! Aargh. That’s probably my most common gesture on the iPhone, as I like to swipe up the play/ pause/ rewind. Now I have to swipe down from the top right corner so that makes it a balancing act or a two hand act wherein I hold the phone with one hand so it doesn’t fall. I tried swiping down on the home bar so it brings the screen down (the Reachability feature and I then swipe down the now reachable) top right corner, but that’s two gestures and I don’t always manage to swipe down the home bar correctly and instead end up triggering whatever app action is beneath it currently. What I am now experimenting with is the AssistiveTouch option of having the very dim circle at the bottom left of my screen which I can tap to open the control center.
  • Moving around text. Previously I could long press text and that gave a helpful magnifying circle and a pointer I can move around to select the precise word. Now it’s a mess. Got to tap a lot of times and try moving the cursor around to get the right place. Yes I know the long press on spacebar trick, so that’s what I do currently. Doesn’t feel the same though as just tapping around on the screen where the text is.

From iPhone 7 Plus to iPhone 11 Pro Max by rakhesh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.