There’s a lot to like in the new iPhone 11 series, but there are reasons to be disappointed, too. Some features that should be a part of any handset released in 2019 are missing, and a few rumored improvements didn’t appear.
Here are four ways the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro models fell short of the mark.
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Missing iPhone 11 features
Before anyone tries to dismiss this as an anti-Apple rant, be sure to read my quite positive review of the iPhone 11. As good as this handset is, though, all the 2019 iOS models could — and should — have been better.
1. No USB-C
It’s long past time for the Lighting port to die. It has vastly outlived its usefulness. The 2019 iPhones should have had USB-C ports, just like the MacBook and iPad Pro.
Many years ago, Lightning was superior to the other option: micro-USB. But then USB-C came out, and it brought all the advantages of Lightning, plus more. It’s reversible and offers fast charging and speedy data transfers. Just as importantly, it’s an industry standard, and one used in most of Apple’s other computers.
iOS 13 brings robust support for third-party accessories. With it, an iPhone can read and write the full contents of a USB drive, and make full use of SD card readers. But doing so requires the misnamed and very clunky Apple Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter that sells for $39.
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That’s horrible design, especially for a product that calls itself an iPhone Pro. A professional-grade handset should have a USB-C port to make accessing accessories far simpler.
2. No Face ID in landscape orientation
The iPhone 11 series includes the third generation of Face ID, so it’s ridiculous that this feature still doesn’t work in landscape mode. Especially as the 2018 iPad Pro can use this facial recognition system in both portrait and landscape. There is clearly a solution, and there’s no excuse for it not to be in the latest iPhones.
Admittedly, handsets are mostly used in portrait mode. But iOS has made great strides in increasing landscape support. Forcing users to flip their phones to portrait for Face ID every single time is very bad design.
3. No bokeh mode for videos
The iPhone 7 Plus in 2016 sported Apple’s first camera with the bokeh effect — images with foreground objects in focus but a blurred background. (Apple calls these Portrait images for some reason.) Years later, this feature should be available when recording videos, too. But it’s not.
This gave Samsung an opening to mock the iPhone 11 series because the Galaxy Note can record bokeh video.
The iPhone 11 series is primarily a camera upgrade, which makes it so disappointing that bokeh video wasn’t included.
4. No reverse wireless charging
Apple clearly needs to hire engineers with more wireless charging expertise. First there was the AirPower debacle, in which the company couldn’t produce a multi-coil charger. And then Apple wasn’t able to build bilateral wireless charging into the iPhone 11 series.
There’s evidence buried in the iPhone 11 Pro models that Apple tried but couldn’t pull it off. And while the company hasn’t talked about it, respected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said reverse charging had been planned but was nixed because “charging efficiency may not meet Apple’s requirements.”
Admittedly, the ability for one iPhone to wirelessly send power to another wouldn’t have been a game changer, but it would have certainly made the iPhone 11 Pro models more useful. As it is, this is a swing and a miss.
Honorable mention: 5G
Looked at one way, phones introduced in 2019 don’t need to include high-speed 5G cellular networking. As carriers continue to build their networks, 5G service is available almost nowhere. That’s why it’s not really disappointing that the iPhone 11 is 4G.
But consider the long term. iPhones last for years. Apple is still providing operating system upgrades for devices launched in 2014. Next year, 5G will be more widespread in urban areas, and by 2021 it should be spreading into the suburbs. And there’ll still be millions of iPhone 11 units in use that can’t connect to them.
Consider this a missed opportunity to be ahead of the game.
Honorable mention: No Apple Pencil support
There were only a couple of shaky reports that Apple Pencil support would be in the 2019 iPhones, but it’s a feature a sub-set of Apple fans have desired for years. This group looks at Samsung’s long-running Galaxy Note series and wants their own phone with an active stylus.
While these people are surely disappointed that the iPhone 11 Pro Max does not support Apple Pencil, they likely don’t make up a very large percentage of iPhone buyers. And that’s probably why Apple has so far shown no interest in adding support for a pressure-sensitive stylus to the iPhone.
This wouldn’t be a simple software tweak. Apple Pencil requires adding a layer to the touchscreen, either making the device slightly thicker or shaving off some of the battery. Neither of those are changes Apple is likely to make to satisfy a small percentage of potential buyers.
Call this a to-do list for the iPhone 12
Apple’s Industrial Design team is surely hard at work already on the 2020 iPhone. 5G is virtually assured, but USB-C, landscape support for Face ID, and these other enhancements should also be at the top of the ID team’s to-do list.
That said, even without these features, the 2019 iPhones are a stellar collection. The iPhone 11 Pro has the best display ever in a smartphone, a battery that lasts much longer than its competitors, and a processor that blows away the newest Android models. But it still could have been better.