I (begrudgingly) moved from an iPhone SE to an 11 Pro. Here’s my thoughts on why I did so and whether I think it was worth it
**What I’m looking for**
What I want out of a phone: iphone ecosystem, good cameras, reasonably future-proof wireless connectivity, good battery, small enough to use one-handed, and enough expected life to use it for the next 3-4 years. Screen quality, 3D touch, wireless charging, and touch ID vs face ID are completely unimportant to me, and while I’d like to pay as little as possible, I don’t mind shelling out more to meet my feature wishes. The headphone jack is a plus for me, but it’s not too hard to buy a aux-lightening adapter and keep it stuck it on the end of my wired headphones. To this end, the iphone SE was perfect for me when it came out, and I’ve been using it as my daily driver for the last 4 years.
Unfortunately, it’s really showing its age – the camera protective lens has gotten pitted (not just dusty – I’ve opened it up to clean it recently) so all my pictures are coming out foggy, the battery life is down to 2-5 hours of normal use, and I have a strong hunch that Apple is going to drop support when iOS 14 comes out. Plus, I hate to admit caving to status/peer pressure, but the number of comments on “what phone is that”/”you need a new phone” has really increased in the last year. The nail in the coffin is that the screen has started to peel up, and I’m afraid that it’ll get caught on my keys or something and rip off. This little guy isn’t going to last to next September.
**Failed experiment in grabbing the 11 non-pro**
The 11 series has a lot that I like – the cameras are stellar, the battery life is great, I like the waterproofing as a safety measure, and I think the U1 chip will be useful in the future. But I went out and bought the 11 non-pro and it just felt comically large. Mind you, I’m not a small person – I’m 6’4″ with proportionally sized hands, but that phone is impossible to use one-handed. I returned it the next day. I tried the 11 Pro on for size and it seemed a little more reasonable, though still larger than I’d like.
**Cost / Options**
I was hoping to hold out to next year’s 5.4″ phone. But it’s not looking like my SE is not going to last the next year, and I need to do something. Here’s what I see as my options:
1. Buy a replacement battery and screen and fix my current phone. Cost – resell value: $35 – $40 = -$5, but that wouldn’t fix the pitting in my camera cover.
2. Buy a used SE off Swappa. Cost – resell value: $140 – $40 = $100
3. Buy a used newer model off Swappa. Cost: >$140, but IMO no real additional benefits over the above (even the Xs doesn’t have the night mode of the 11 Pro).
4. Buy a near-new 11 Pro off Swappa. Cost – resale value: $920 phone + $30 accessories – $650 = $300
My real choice is between 2 and 4. The resale value of an 11 Pro in November of next year is a guess based off of Swappa history, but I’m confident that the phone will not get damaged in that time – I religiously use screen protectors and cases and have never gotten a single scratch on any of my phones over the last 8 years. So the difference in expected cost between those two is options is $300 – $100 = $200. I looked at that number and decided that it was worth that price to be able to (primarily) have the much improved cameras and (secondarily) to avoid the questions from others about the old phone for the next year.
**Thoughts on the 11 Pro**
The cameras in this thing are great, and worth the upgrade alone. Pictures in the dark especially are a night-and-day difference. I’m sure I’m going to use both the wide-angle and telephoto a lot. I really like the snapchat-esque quick video in the camera app. Face ID works better than I thought I would. The speakers are a little louder than the SE, which is nice. I don’t miss the home button – the swiping gestures are pretty intuitive. The flashlight is brighter. I miss being able to toss around the SE a little carelessly – I put a case on this but I still feel like I need to baby it a bit. I don’t know if I like the haptic feedback or not yet. Apps and websites seem better sized for the screen (eg on TikTok the text is no longer covering half the video).
But it’s still too damn big. With the phone in my right and and my pinky on the bottom edge as support, I can’t reach the top left icon on the home screen with my thumb, and only barely reach the two icons to the bottom and right of that. And most frustrating of all is not being able to hit the top left corner. Do you know how many apps use the top left corner for important actions?? Most of them! You have burger menus, back buttons, iOS’s ‘go back to last app’ button, profile/settings icons, and more. With one hand, anything in that corner becomes cumbersome and a pain to use. It boggles my mind that this is the smallest new iPhone I can buy these days. Again, I have *large* hands. This shouldn’t be an issue. IMO the 5/SE size is perfect, and I’m worried after using this one that the 5.4″ next year will still be too big as well. Give the 5 body an edge-to-edge screen, 5g, and the newest cameras, and that’s literally perfect.
Yes, but barely. Apple doesn’t currently sell a phone that fits my corner of the market. My theory is either a) people like me who want to be able to one-hand a phone are surprisingly a small segment of the market, or b) Apple’s feedback that people prefer bigger phones is from focus groups where people don’t actually have to use it in their daily life, and are going to 2-hand naturally.
Maybe I should get a pop socket so I can change up my grip. But that means biting the bullet of having extra crap hanging off the back of my phone. Argh.