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I used the iPhone 11 for a month — here's what it does better than Android flagships

iPhone 11
(Image: © Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

Aside from a cursory interest in the iOS ecosystem, I haven't cared much for iPhones over the years. The last iPhone I used with any regularity was the iPhone 6 Plus, and even then, it ended up being a secondary phone. Since then, I've used over a hundred Android phones, from $100 budget models to the best that Samsung, Google, and Huawei have to offer.

I like using Android phones because of the sheer variety of options available from a hardware point of view — Xiaomi's 108MP Mi Note 10 is a perfect illustration of this. From bezel-less designs to RGB lighting and exciting gradient finishes, Android is what it is today because of its diversity.

The iPhone looks boring by comparison: the notch hasn't changed in two years, the design at the back is far from enticing, and Apple hasn't switched to USB-C on its phones yet. But as I found out in the month that I used the iPhone 11, it gets a lot of things right — particularly those that Android makers still continue to struggle with.

Performance that's in a class of its own

iPhone 11

Source: Harish Jonnalagadda/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Harish Jonnalagadda/Android Central)

Apple is in a unique situation where it has full control over both hardware and software, allowing it to create a user experience that's currently unmatched. The iPhone 11 features Apple's A13 Bionic chipset, and in the mobile space, it has no equal. If you're using an Android phone, it is powered by designs from one of four manufacturers: Qualcomm (Snapdragon), Samsung (Exynos), HiSilicon (Kirin), and MediaTek.

Apple's A13 Bionic is the fastest mobile chipset in the world today — the Snapdragon 855+ doesn't come close.

It doesn't matter what SoC your Android phone is using — it could be the Snapdragon 855+ or the Kirin 980 — it isn't as fast as the A13 Bionic. Heck, the latest chipsets from the likes of Qualcomm and HiSilicon are still not on par with last year's A12 Bionic.

Just by looking at the specs, the A13 Bionic doesn't seem all that impressive: it has a six-core design with two powerful cores at 2.66GHz (dubbed Lightning) and four energy-efficient cores that go up to 1.80GHz (called Thunder). By contrast, the Snapdragon 855+ has eight cores, with the high-performance core hitting 2.96GHz.

But the differentiation with the A13 Bionic comes in the way it is put to use. Unlike Android chip vendors like Qualcomm — who need to cater to a wide variety of manufacturers — Apple is able to control every facet of the chip design from the transistor level all the way to the software and system architecture, leading to performance and energy efficiency that you just won't find on Android. Year after year, Apple introduces faster and more energy-efficient designs that raise the bar for the mobile SoC segment.

This year is particularly interesting, because the A13 Bionic brings huge improvements in both performance and efficiency. The chipset is 20% faster than the A12 while consuming 30% less energy, resulting in much better battery life for the iPhone 11 series. Sure, this year's iPhones have larger batteries as well, but the A13 offers sizable gains in this front as well. Oh, and the A13 Bionic also has a custom eight-core neural engine that enables computational photography with the new Night Mode and Deep Fusion.

OnePlus is the only Android manufacturer that comes close to emulating the iPhone's responsiveness.

So, even though the iPhone 11 has just 4GB of RAM, you won't see any slowdowns because of the way iOS is built. 4GB of RAM gives you more than enough headroom for multitasking, and in the month I used the iPhone 11, there was never a time where it felt laggy.

The only Android maker that comes close to delivering iPhone levels of fluidity is OnePlus. The Chinese manufacturer has done a remarkable job optimizing OxygenOS, and the clean interface coupled with top-notch hardware and a 90Hz display gives OnePlus an edge over its Android rivals.

So will you be able to see this kind of vertical integration on Android anytime soon? Not likely. Only three manufacturers have the resources to pull this off — Google, Samsung, and Huawei — and even then, it is a monumental undertaking.

The ability to control hardware and software is unique to Apple, and that won't change anytime soon.

Samsung has been making custom Mongoose cores for its high-end Exynos chipsets for four years now, but the going has been tough. Last year's Galaxy S9 had several battery life issues, and it had to throttle the design to make it usable. This year's M4 core was a more modest update, and it now looks like Samsung is winding down development of its custom core and will instead use ARM's Cortex designs going forward.

And while Huawei subsidiary HiSilicon makes its own chipsets, it uses off-the-shelf ARM Cortex cores instead of a semi-custom design like Qualcomm. With Huawei's current tribulations in the U.S., it doesn't look like making its own custom cores is a priority for the brand.

That leaves Google. You'd think that Google is the ideal manufacturer to come up with its own line of chipsets given how much the Pixels take after iPhones. But four years of releases have shown that Google just doesn't have the ambition to innovate on the hardware front. The search giant is instead leveraging its software might to provide differentiation, and while it has dabbled in its own hardware in the form of the Pixel Visual Core, don't hold out for custom silicon from Google.

Seamless updates for five years

iPhone 11

Source: Harish Jonnalagadda/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Harish Jonnalagadda/Android Central)

Updates continue to be a sore point on Android, with most manufacturers yet to roll out an update to Android 10. You'll have to wait until January to see the latest version of Android on your Galaxy S10+ or Note 10+, and most new phones that are launching right now feature Android 9.0 Pie out of the box.

iPhones are continually updated with new features for five years — Android phones barely get two platform updates.

By contrast, the latest iOS updates are available immediately for iPhones going back five years, and the adoption figures put Android manufacturers to shame. This is another area where Apple's vertical integration plays into its favor. With the company able to manage both hardware and software effectively, it can roll out updates to earlier models faster. The numbers back it up: 55% of all iPhones released in the last four years are running iOS 13.

One of the main reasons for picking up an iPhone is seamless updates. You'll be guaranteed updates for five to six years, and those updates will be available as soon as they're released; no waiting necessary. Sure, older devices may not get all the latest features, but the fact that they're continually updated for five years makes them a much better long-term investment.

You won't find that level of software support on Android. At best, you'll see two platform updates for any given Android phone, with three years of security updates. It was a big deal that Google delivered the Android 10 update to the first-gen Pixel, but it looks like that was the last official update for the phone.

If you're paying over $1,000 for a phone, you'd want to get the latest software updates on time for several years. Project Mainline is the solution we've been waiting on Android as it makes updates more modular, thereby allowing companies to roll out updates faster. Even then, it is unlikely Android manufacturers will be able to match Apple's five-year update window.

Biometrics that just work

iPhone 11

Source: Harish Jonnalagadda/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Harish Jonnalagadda/Android Central)

Apple was late to biometric authentication, but its face unlock system is one of the best you'll find on any phone today. Face ID is the default mode of authentication on the iPhone 11, and it relies on an IR camera sensor and a dot projector to project 30,000 invisible dots over your face, creating an accurate 3D model. The A13 Bionic's neural engine then compares the model to your facial features every time you unlock your phone.

Face ID continues to lead the way for biometric authentication on phones.

Face ID worked unerringly in the month I used the iPhone 11, and that's surprising because I've had issues with most face unlock solutions I've tried on Android over the years. I have a large beard, and for whatever reason, that always messes up facial recognition models, particularly in the dark. Even the Pixel 4 XL — which uses a similar system like Face ID — failed to authenticate my features several times in the last two weeks.

Samsung and Huawei had secure face unlock designs that were just as secure, but they ditched them to free up space at the front. Samsung's method relied on iris recognition, while Huawei used a system similar to that of Apple in last year's Mate 20 Pro.

So that leaves Google as the only Android manufacturer with a secure facial unlock system, but it isn't without its issues. Face unlock on the Pixel 4 XL works even with your eyes closed, and this move was predictably met with a backlash. Google has mentioned that it will require eye detection for Pixel 4's face unlock, but that the feature will only be rolled out in a few months' time.

Privacy first

iPhone 11

Source: Harish Jonnalagadda/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Harish Jonnalagadda/Android Central)

Apple has always touted privacy as a differentiator for iOS, and after using the iPhone 11, I understand what that entails. iOS 13 delivers notifications about which apps track your location in the background, and you get the ability to limit location access to when the app is running. Android 10 also offers a similar feature, but in iOS 13, you get the option of allowing location access just once to an app.

iOS 13 comes with an array of privacy-focused features that safeguard your data.

iOS 13 also locks down access to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and apps that need to use Bluetooth will trigger a notification. The default Maps app doesn't store a history of all the locations you've been to, and the data isn't associated with your Apple ID. Safari also comes with Intelligent Tracking Prevention that uses on-device machine learning to prevent browser fingerprinting, throwing off advertising trackers.

You're not going to see many of these features on Android because Google's entire business relies on advertising. It needs user data to deliver relevant ads, and for its part, it does a great job telling you what it does with your data. Google has gotten better at privacy — the changes to location access in Android 10 in particular highlight its commitment to privacy — but iOS is leagues ahead in this area.

Video recording you'll want to use

iPhone 11

Source: Harish Jonnalagadda/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Harish Jonnalagadda/Android Central)

Whenever I need to take a photo, I inevitably reach for my Pixel 3 XL (the battery life on the Pixel 4 XL is horrendous and Google should feel bad for releasing it). And now, when I need to take a video, I take the iPhone 11 out. The video stabilization is better than anything I've seen on Android.

The iPhone 11 shoots 4K footage at 60fps with stereo sound, and you also get slow-mo 1080p at 240fps. That's not quite on the same level as the 960fps you get on the P30 Pro, but the quality of footage makes up for it. The feature I particularly like is where you can take a video by long-pressing on the shutter button while in Photo mode — ideal for capturing ephemeral moments.

Imaging, in general, is great on the iPhone 11 — the primary camera is on par with the Pixel 4 XL. Then there's the fact that you also get a wide-angle lens, making the phone that much more versatile. I'm still annoyed that Google is offering a 2x zoom lens on the Pixel 4 XL instead of a wide-angle shooter.

Overall, the iPhone 11 is a fantastic phone for $700. That's just $100 more than what you end up paying for the OnePlus 7T, and you get rock-solid internals, a much better camera, better battery life, continual software updates, and robust biometrics. I didn't think that I would like the iPhone 11 as much as I did, but this year's model in particular is a standout offering, and an enticing alternative if you're using an Android phone.

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.

73 Comments
  • Nope, never going back to the walled world of Apple. And why are folks so obsessed with "speed" or "cores" or whatever? Dear God, what are they doing with their phone that they are so obsessed with the phones "speed"?? I use my G8 to surf the web on occasion, shop via store apps now and then, text, make some calls, listen to Spotify and that's about it. I never once thought, "gee I wish my phone was faster!" I'd venture to guess that 99% of iphone users just buy iphones to "look cooler", just like little sheep. They couldn't care less about specs.
  • 99% of users buy iPhones to "look cooler"? Really? LOL. How about iMessage, cameras, battery life, security, privacy, early access to apps, continuity with other Apple products, multi-year software support, resale value, familiarity, durability and, oh yeah, user experience? But I do agree with you that they don't care much about specs which seems to be the focus of many Android phones.
  • Well said. Agreed.
  • Durability? Lol you iFanboys are pathetic, drop an iPhone and watch it's screen shatter. We actually have an iMessage alternative on Android now.
  • Bio-metrics was a sad, and failed, attempt at a "better". Taking away finger print reading and only offering face id is a fail no matter how well it works.
  • And the comparison is not fair either. If Samsung or Huawei keeps a big and ugly as hell notch like Apple does, they can and already did offer better and more secure biometric.
  • Huh? Have you seen any of Huawei's "pro" models? Notch city just like the iPhones. They've all been proven to be less secure, ages ago at this point.
  • A Chinese phone can by definition never be secure because of their laws and legal system.
  • Agreed. Will never consider using an iPhone until they put a fingerprint reader on it without MASSIVE bezels. Also one of the main reasons I never considered the Pixel 4. I stuck with Pixel 3 for now.
  • FaceID works better than any fingerprint sensor I ever used.
  • Well, for me FaceID works as well as (not better than) any fingerprint sensor. I don’t like having to lean way over my phone on the desk so it sees me. In all other cases it’s great on my 11 Pro Max.
  • I agree face recognition is overrated. Fingerprint scanners are just as good and they don't have to be in the screen.
  • Face ID is definitely not overrated.
    Used to love fingerprint recognition until I reluctantly got the iPhone XS Max. Now I understand why. There’s just something about an authentication system that you almost don’t have to think about.
    And then you have the 100% flawless accuracy in all lighting conditions as well. However, I still think Xiaomi’s lightning fast implementation of the capacitive fingerprint scanner was amazing and would have no qualms using it as a daily driver.
  • This morning someone sent me a link to subscribe to their Apple photos album and you needed to subscribe using an Apple device. Seriously Apple / iCloud? I don't hate Apple but I get so frustrated using their software. I immediately put all Google services on the device and try to avoid using Apple services.
  • I switched to iPhone using Google's services. That made switching back and forth relatively simple. https://forums.androidcentral.com/showthread.php?t=985321&p=6696688&view... tl;dr - it's the apps that really matter, not the platform.
  • I just moved to an iPhone myself. I have to concur. Google’s apps on the iPhone are outstanding. I’m very happy so far.
  • I'm trying to AVOID apps from Google and Facebook for privacy reasons. Google is an advertising company first, their objectives are not aligned with yours.
  • You can switch your scenario and say the exact same thing about Google services.
  • Not true. Google plays very nicely with iOS.
  • I agree that Google access on iPhone is easier. They at least have all the Google apps as an option on the iPhone. That person you shared Google photos with would still have to create an account if they didn't have one to view your Google photos on an iPhone. You can view iCloud on android at iCloud.com. You can also create an iCloud account without a device.
  • Not true. You can share a link to a group of photos and the recipient can access the photos without a Google account.
  • They may get software (bugs) updates fast, but they take years for the latest hardware updates..
  • iPhone 11 Pro has a wide angle camera lens on top of telephoto and standard lens. Does the Pixel 4 have a wide angle lens?
  • I wouldn't ever compare a pixel to an iPhone. Pixels are barely mid rangers at best. But yes Android flagships get the latest hardware years before Tim crook invents it for his iPhones.
  • This is a tricky scenario on Android if you haven't been paying attention because Samsung is the one who is leading innovation on Android Google copies all their services and then put some in a update they're the ones who are actually behind.
  • Yet they have faster and more modern silicon than ANY Android phone?
  • Faster at doing nothing. Multitasking is non existent on iPhones.
  • iPhones continually get updated with "new" features.
  • Features that have been on Android or even Windows phones for years I may add.
  • Still not seeing slowdowns on the previous A12 Bionic in my iPhone XR. Also, it wouldn't surprise me to see the iPhone 11 supported with OS updates for seven years.
  • If you look at their update history it is quite possible that they continue to improve on how long they support a device. Seven years is certainly possible.
  • I agree with everything said. Being fairly new to iPad and a new iPhone for work it has swayed me. I can hold out until the Pixel 5 announcements. If it doesn't impress me I will be switching sides.
  • iPhone isn't that good: all iOS 13.x updates have been disastrous for many users (just look at the forums, news coverage, and online outcry) there are many many reports, probably several hundred thousand, about how the 4GM of ram on iPhones has led to TONS of apps being kicked out of memory and reloading (look at forums and news again for this coverage), and let's reiterate how you have almost ZERO flexibility to customize icons, default apps, granular theme settings, or firmware/kernel-level customizations. iPhones are for those who are completely tech inept or were never taught how to figure something out intellectually. Who wants to be told how they are allowed to use and customize their $1,000 device? Not me.
  • iOS 13 is buggy as hell. But this has happened before. Maybe folks were spoiled at how stable iOS 12 was.
  • Fake news. I've had many apps open on my iPhone 11 Pro Max and none of them were kicked out of memory.
  • He's refering to a bug that has nothing to do with the amount or RAM that had since been fixed.
  • Try actually being constructive in criticism rather than insulting towards an entire subset of people. That's not how people who figure things out intellectually behave in society.
  • Thats the whole point of iOS, its designed to be that way. People like you want to be able to throw whatever launcher, icon pack, theme, etc. on your phones. iOS users dont give a crap about that. They want a phone that is simple to use, nothing more.....nothing less.
  • Unfortunately, one has to contend with iOS. If you've used anything else is is horrible.
  • I love the Android platform my only problem is that Android manufacturers seem to focus more on photography than videography. That's something Apple does well, even going as far as to bring out the makers of Filmic Pro on stage with them while the Pixel hasn't been fully compatible with the app since the Pixel 2. Apple's focus on video is the reason that so many short films are filmed with an iPhone instead of an Android one. Yes I know there are mirrorless, dlsr and even inexpensive cinema cameras now but mobile filmmaking is also taking off and Android manufacturers could seem to care less. I really wanted the Pixel 4 to be the one to step the video game up on the platform but alas that wasn't to be.
  • This is a good take.
  • You obviously haven't used any LG phone since the V30 LG has implemented manual controls for video as well as HiFi audio. The iPhone by comparison still records 128k AAC for videos.
  • I actually was gonna say, that LG's V series gives content creators tons of control over their photos and videos. I skipped the V20/40/50.....hopefully they have a few surprises up their sleeve with the V60.
  • Google can still improve the video quality of the Pixel 4......if they can do as much as they've done with the photo's, they can still do the same with video.
  • With these five reasons, why would anyone ever use an Android phone? I'd gladly sacrifice customization for privacy, great biometrics, 5 years of updates, and seamless handoff between devices.
  • Go away iFanboy, show me an iPhone that can display 2 apps on screen simultaneously while watching a YouTube or Facebook video.
  • Great battery life trumps any of this niche stuff all day. The new iPhones are pretty great. There’s nothing wrong with saying so. More than 1 platform can be good.
  • Not niche until you've actually used it or needed to use it and found yourself without it.
  • All of these updates and yet there are no groundbreaking feature on iOS that we don't have on our Android devices.
  • It's funny to me how people are so emotional about these os's like it gives them Life or something . Do the research figure out which one you want to use and go on with your life. Both os's are great in their own ways.
  • Except for standby battery life, an official update schedule, face unlock support from developers on pixel 4, a good wearable experience, standards for usb c headphones and chargers, 4k60 on from camera with no limit, etc
  • Some people are really into "customizations". If that's a priority it's Android hands down.
  • I'd LOVE to see Google implement "Seamless updates for five years." Google provides Chrome hardware with 6.5 years of auto-update (AUE) support. Perhaps once Project Treble evolves we'll see this.
  • All of these updates and yet there are no groundbreaking feature on iOS that we don't have on our Android devices.
  • The video recording on my LG V40 greatly exceeds anything iPhone can do. Manual controls, HiFi audio
  • LG is one of the worst android phones.
    Should I continue?
  • Not even. My V40 has served me well and continues to do so after a year. Doesn't stumble or anything.
  • My G8 has been an outstanding phone. Audio on it is amazing.
  • Who the fudge uses a phone for 5 years anyway? I've got an iPhone 11 and a pixel 4 xl and the difference isn't even close. The 4 xl is smoother, better designed, better stills, plenty good enough videos, and highly customisable. The iPhone battery is definitely better though. Lasts me about 5 days cos I never want to pick the POS up. Selling it soon (when I get £1 eBay seller fees 😁). I only got it because of idiot reviewers like this one talking BS so I had to see what the fun was all about. Oh and the face id on the pixel is way more accurate and faster
  • Anecdotally, I see tons of folks using iPhones with TouchID.
  • I like when a comment is so **** you don’t even need to get analytical to tell the person is just biased. Yeah compare a top-of-the-line pixel to the cheapest iPhone.
    Better designed. “Plenty good enough videos”.
  • Lmao cmon If u look around km sure u will see plenty of iPhone 6s phones around. Also face unlock in the pixel 4 is fast but maybe 7 apps actually support it so what’s the point when u still have to type a pin or password to log in?
  • 5 years of updates that cripple older iphone's and render them useless so you have to go and buy another $1000 + iPhone because you are locked in their ecosystem and can't get out? And who keeps a phone for 5 years anyway besides grandma who don't give a crap about phones in the first place. And If apple came out with half of the innovation that Android has over the years they would be considered a technological marvel, a technological marvel that nickel and dimes their users every sleazy way they can ,no thanks!
  • A surprising amount of people keep phones 5 years when they continue to work great and have the latest OS... something Android users probay can't relate to.
  • I bought an iPhone 6S (4 year old device) each for 3 friends this year running IOS 13 every bit as smooth (I kid you not) as my iPhone XS Max. Your comment is total BS.
  • iPhones are mostly for kids, blind followers, and poor people who pretend to be rich and sophisticated cause they have a phone with a piece of fruit on the back of it.
  • 91% of Porsche owners in the US use iPhone. I wonder why?
  • I think you are over-obsessing about the Iphone... Granted it has great technology & superior software, and 5 year update. However , where I live (India) , it costs almost US $400 more than the OnePlus 7T (which I recently bought, after using Iphone 6) .... $400 Frigging dollars ! The Only reason why I will not Buy Iphone is because of the Exorbitant cost ! The base model of Iphone 11 costs frigging US $900 equivalent in India.... While the OnePlus 7T costs $525 equivalent in India. And I do miss the sophistication of Apple IOS , but the nice thing I love about Oxygen OS is the Notifications... Notifications on Android are simply incredible in the level of customization. And the Camera is pretty good too on OnePlus 7T ! And the Face Unlock works like magic and is super fast.
  • There are many downsides of Iphones too -
    1) Notch still there (ridiculous ) 2) The OS is so tightly built that any changes are impossible 3) Any new updates of IOS bring a ton of problems , like battery life ! 4) The OS is outright boring, because it has remained more or less same for long time, with no change in design. 5) I do not like the notifications in IOS. 6) Apple also tends to make things complex in many aspects of the UI, which causes the OS to slow down over time.
  • New iOS updates don't bring problems or make things slow... in fact for the last couple years they've made even older phones significantly faster.
  • Ok... So this will be more list than comment.
    My argument is that the 2019 iPhones are basically refined versions of my OG Moto razer. There are no more capabilities than on that almost 15 yo phone.
    iPhone: games, web, phone, messages, email camera.
    Android:all that plus. Emulators, apks, roms, TASKER, I can control anything with my device including the device. React to magnetic fields, pressure changes, proximity changes, run terminal servers, mine bit coin, run a node red server, download convert edit audio and video.
    I mean if all you want is a phone then sure they are really great. But if you actually want to use all that silicone then I can't see how they are even in the same league.
    P.s took a pic of tower bridge at dusk next to my wife's iPhone 11 pro and my point and shoot pic is the one everyone says wow at.
  • There's definitely stuff you can do on Android that you can't do on iOS, however most people don't want to do those things.
  • I like the iPhone design and the fact that the notch hasn’t changes in three years is more than ok and better imo than other gimmicks... i let change for the sake of change To android :)