Tuesday, January 14, 2020

iPhone 11 Pro Max Review - Tips, Tricks and Useful Features

For my birthday on December 24th my husband got me the iPhone 11 Pro Max. I know most of people can’t survive a day without their smart phone but this two thousand dollar device cost more than any of the other gifts I received including a 65” Samsung Smart TV, tickets to a Broadway show and a gorgeous new dresser (Christmas Eve birthday’s aren’t so bad).

It took me a long time to decide between Android and Apple but it came down to functionality, camera quality and being able to sync files and photos between my phone and 2 iPads using DropBox. I am not a tech expert but photography and social media is part of my job so I use my devices a lot.

Battery Life
A durable battery is important to me because my Samsung phone barely held a charge towards the end. Of course battery life depends on how much screen time you rack up and the applications you have running but usually I only recharge every other day.

The Pro Max has the best battery in the 11 series. It charges quickly but the adapter is large and the outlet prongs don’t fold in like previous models.

Face Recognition
In an attempt to improve security, Apple has integrated Face Recognition to unlock the phone. Personally I think the fingerprint scan was good enough but this works too.

The phone will not open if your eyes are closed which prevents people from using it if you are unconscious or sleeping. It also fails to unlock when I am wearing a sheet mask (obviously).

Occasionally you will be required to enter a numerical pass code which functions as backup security and you can disable Face Recognition at any time. 

If you’d like someone else to be able to unlock your phone in case of an emergency, go to SettingsFace IDPasscode and select Set up Alternative Appearance. You can also configure what Face Recognition should be used for, e.g. - downloading apps, Apple pay, and password auto fill. 


The features on this phone are quite standard. Apple does not usually incorporate the bells and whistles Samsung and other brands promote but I never really used them. For example – swiping your hand over the screen (without touching it) to scroll or automatic page adjustments in response to how your eyes move down the page.  

With the removal of the home button, transitioning between apps and closing programs requires some getting used to, especially if you’ve just made the switch from Android. For example – to close an app swipe up normally and to show all open applications swipe up slowly with a bit of a drag.

Swiping down from the top right corner brings up the Control Center with your music, WiFi, Bluetooth, Screen Mirroring, Brightness, Volume and other shortcuts. Press and hold the boxes or icons to display even more options including Airdrop. I like using the mirroring tool to project the screen onto my Smart TV.

The iPhone 11 Pro Max is simple to use but the first thing I noticed was its weight. The phone is quite heavy and the screen is not edgeless. It can be cumbersome to hold while typing and with a case it feels a tad bulky. 

If you like the large screen but have trouble navigating, activate Reachability via SettingsAccessibility→Touch. To use it, swipe down at the bottom of the screen and all the apps at the top will slide down within reach.

For writing long messages you can press and hold the first letter of the word you are typing and quickly drag your finger to the next few letters to automatically bring up the word.

Note: Some of the functions I've listed are updates for iOS 13 and higher.

Useful Call Features
I like that I can easily block unwanted calls from the recent callers list. You can also reject
telemarketers before their calls come through by going to SettingsPhone and turning on Silence Unknown Callers.

I don't use Siri very much on my iPad but on the phone she is actually quite helpful. You can read more about her functions and responses on Apple’s website but I mostly ask her to text, set alarms, relay the time, read messages get weather updates, answer random questions and call people hands free via speaker phone while I’m driving, cooking or applying makeup.

Screen Recording
I’ve tested Screen Recording but never had to use it. For quick access to this tool go to SettingsControl CenterCustomize Controls. Scroll down and press the + next to Screen Recording so the button shows up in your shortcut menu. You can also use this method to add more useful icons including voice notes, flashlight, calculator and magnifier.

-To use Screen Recording simply swipe down from the top right corner to bring up your customized Control Center and press the screen record button.
-To record your voice/sound as well, press and hold the record button to access microphone options.
-Stop recording by pressing the red time bar on the top left corner of the screen.

Dark Mode
Since Apple introduced Dark Mode it has become one of the most popular features. Turning it on will make the background black and the text white which is supposed to be easy on the eyes and ideal for people who spend a lot of time on their devices.

To access more hands-free commands you can turn on Voice Control in the Accessibility Menu. This basically allows you to use your phone without touching it.

My Case
I purchased the Case-Mate Twinkle Stardust from my provider (Bell Canada) for $40.00. If you like this design I suggest shopping around. It retails for $50.00 + shipping on the brand's website and may also be available at Target for less than half the price.

Make sure to keep your receipt because Case-Mate offers a lifetime warranty with proof of purchase from reputable suppliers (this may not include Amazon vendors).

I haven’t tested its durability but the one piece seamless design is shock absorbing with cushioned corners for 10 foot drop protection. If you aren’t concerned about aesthetics, Otterbox cases are supposed to be some of the best on the market for complete protection.


The most popular feature on the iPhone 11 Pro and Max is the camera. Some people find 3 lenses odd and confusing but I like it.

Night Mode
The best thing about the camera (in my opinion) is the Night Mode setting. It turns on automatically in low light and has greatly improved.

Even in a dark room with minimal light I am able to take photos that appear sharp and detailed instead of fuzzy and out of focus. Just make sure to hold the phone very still or use a tripod for best results. The camera may take a few seconds to capture the image depending on how dark it is.

If the night mode does not come on and you would like to use it, simply press the circle next to the flash symbol on the top left corner (it looks like a crescent moon with lines beside it).

iPad Pro 10.5 Camera Comparison
Professional photographers often message me on social media to ask what lens I use (assuming I shoot with an expensive DSLR camera) but I take most photos with the iPad Pro 10.5. 

Photo of Prague taken with my iPad

The zoom on the iPad isn’t great, in fact it's terrible but the large screen makes images appear closer and allows me to see things much clearer. Whether you have a top of the line camera or an expensive phone, the screen is still much smaller than an iPad so you may not notice out of focus details until the images are uploaded to a computer. On the iPad I can immediately tell if a shot is good even though the lens is not as high-tech.

Unfortunately the iPad also falls short in low light settings and images appear fuzzy. I never publish pictures without making them look their best but I want to show you a drastic comparison.

Quick low light photo on the iPad - no editing

Same photo taken with the iPhone 11 Pro Max in night mode - low light no editing.

In natural light/sunlight the difference is less noticeable with slight discrepancies in illumination and definition.

Photo taken in a sunny room using the iPad 

Same photo taken in sunny room with iPhone 11 Pro Max 

Telephoto Lens and Zoom Features
At the bottom of your photo screen (in the middle) you will see 3 numbers: 0.5 (makes images appear further away), 1x (normal) and 2 (makes images appear closer). Switching between these settings allows you to customize depth, perspective and angle.

Note: If you select 0.5x the night mode will not function.

Press and hold any of the numbers to bring up the zoom wheel. The closer you zoom, the lower the picture quality becomes but the telephoto lens is quite good so don’t be afraid to test its limits, especially on clear sunny days.

The lens can also capture ultra wide photos to include details outside of the frame but you must enable this feature in camera settings. This comes in handy when editing and cropping because you don't have to cut out much of the background. In Settings you can also turn on the photo grid to align your shots.

In Photo Mode you will notice an upward arrow at the very top of the screen. Clicking it will bring up more functions.

The front facing camera on the iPhone 11 Pro and Max is probably one of the best on the market but despite the rave reviews I still don’t think it is comparable to the back lens. In good lighting it works efficiently but but in dim settings Night Mode will not activate so you don’t get the same level of illumination in low light. There is a flash on the front camera but it doesn't seem to improve the outcome.

Portrait Mode
I use this setting when taking photos of people because it brings them to the forefront and blurs background noise. Unlike previous iPhones, this mode now has a 1x option which allows you to zoom further out. You can also adjust the blur by clicking on the f icon in the top right corner of the screen

The light filters in Portrait Mode come in handy for changing tone, adding cool effects and focusing on one object to enhance its presence. They appear as circles at the bottom of the screen.

Editing Tools and Filters
I use several photo editing apps but for quick uploads, the new camera comes with useful tools. You can adjust the exposure, brilliance, highlights, shadow, contrast, brightness, blank point, saturation, vibrancy, warmth, tint, sharpness, definition, noise reduction, and vignette. There are a range of filters and you can rotate from vertical to square while altering the size ratio.

For some reason when I edit a photo it never looks exactly the same when uploaded to social media (Twitter, Instagram etc) or messaging apps. The tone always appears warmer which is annoying when trying to achieve a specific look.


While driving along the Icefields Parkway in Banff, a black bear emerged from the underbrush and started walking alongside the car. I wanted to take a photo and record video at the same time but my Samsung phone couldn’t do it.

Captured with the iPad Pro 10.5

With the 11 Pro and Max you can record without holding the button. Simply tap and slide the shutter to the right so it locks in place. To take a photo while recording video, tap the white shutter button off to the side. I never thought this feature would come in handy until I actually needed it.

Burst Photos
If you tap the shutter and slide it to the left, the camera shoots a burst of photos. This is great for capturing action and moving objects. To edit - tap the burst photo in your gallery, click select at the bottom of the screen and choose which photos you want to keep or delete.

I wish there was a way to pause and resume video recording without having to start an entirely new clip but from my understanding the only way to do this is by downloading an app.

The 11 Pro Max can shoot 4K video at 24, 30 or 60 fps (frames per second). Most movies are filmed at 24 fps for cinematic flicker. For vlogs and personal use 30 fps is fine and 60 fps works best for action and sports. To change the fps setting in Video Mode, simply click on the number beside 4K in the top right corner of the screen. If you tap 4K it will change to HD which shoots at 30 and 60. Keep in mind that higher settings take up more space on your phone.

Audio Zoom
This feature allows you to zoom in and isolate sound. For example, you can pan into a building and hear the sound/music coming from inside even if you aren’t within earshot. This seems a bit like spyware since it also works on people and their conversations but it does improve sound quality.

During Toronto's last snow fall I tested the slow motion feature and was able to capture large fluffy flakes fluttering down in my backyard. The quality wasn’t great but this mode only shoots in HD.

Live Photos
Live Photo can be turned on in Photo Mode and the effects are pretty cool. Simply press the circle symbol with the dots and line through it on the top right corner of the screen. The photo will appear normal but when you scroll through your gallery, it will show any movement that occurred when the picture was taken - like a short clip.

To reveal special editing tools for live photos, select the image and swipe up. You now have the option of looping the action like a GIF, bouncing it and applying long exposure which works well for waterfalls and flowing rivers. Many people don’t know about these extra features so have fun testing them.

Apple has made it easier than ever to edit videos on your phone. Now you can rotate, add audio, crop, change color, apply filters, trim and tweak exposure, shadow, highlight, contrast, saturation and more.

These are a few of my favorite features but there are many others. The iPhone 11 Pro Max is great for amateur and professional photographers, bloggers, vloggers and anyone who enjoys capturing special moments with crispness and clarity. There may be room for improvement but I like this phone and look forward to discovering what else it can do.

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