Gear of the Year 2019 – Allison’s choice: iPhone 11

11 Dec
Photo: Dan Bracaglia

In my defense, it was the beginning of a night of drinking when I dropped my phone in the toilet, not the end of the night. The humor isn’t lost on me: it was the same day we published my defense of small phones, specifically praising my iPhone SE for its ability to slip into my back pocket. That, unfortunately, was also its undoing.

I needed another phone quickly and ended up buying a Pixel 3a. Here were the primary factors that drove me to this decision:

  • The camera is very good
  • It’s only $ 400
  • It was in stock at Best Buy for same-day pickup, which meant minimal interaction with salespeople

Just like that, I became an Android user after almost a decade (!?) of owning Apple phones. But after using the iPhone 11, I’m not only comfortable declaring it my Gear of the Year – I’m also thinking of switching back. Here’s why.

Girls just wanna take wide-angle portraits

I have a pretty firm understanding of focal length and how it impacts your distance to a subject. I can even kind of explain equivalence. But for some reason I can never remember just how far the Pixel 3a crops in for portrait mode.

I find myself frequently sitting across the table from someone I want to photograph, pulling my phone up to take a picture and then realizing I’m way too close. I can either take an uncomfortably close photo of that person’s face, or stand up and move backward to get the framing I wanted in the first place. The iPhone 11 lets me take that across-the-table portrait without leaving my seat.

The ultra-wide lens is a draw for me too. I haven’t used the phone quite enough to decide whether its appeal would wear off, or if it would remain a feature I’d keep turning to. For now anyway, I’m into it.

No more crooked horizons

Some people can’t grasp the concept of a passing lane on the highway (looking at you, Washington drivers), just as some of us are prone to crooked horizons. It’s our lot in life, apparently. Thankfully, there are effective coping strategies. The one I like is a ‘spray and pray’ approach: I frame up my shot and take a series of photos while tilting the camera from one side to the other. There’s usually a frame in there that’s just about level. It also means that I end up with lots of what you see below in my photo archive.

Lots of the same photo slightly tilted one way and the other.

The iPhone 11’s ‘Photos Capture Outside of the Frame’ feature makes this unnecessary. It uses the ultra-wide lens to capture extra image data outside the frame, saving it alongside your original image. If you edit one of these images in the native camera app, the phone will automatically fix crooked horizons and fill in the edges of the image with that extra information: preserving your original framing.

Having that ability would save me quite a bit of time and digital storage space. Until then I’ll just be that weird lady in the park taking 200 photos of the sunset, hoping one of them isn’t crooked.

The Pixel 3a keyboard makes me ??

I’m not sure if Apple’s keyboard is better or I’m just too used to it, but I have a really hard time typing out messages with the Pixel 3a keyboard. I thought it might the bigger size of the phone compared to my last one, but switching to the similar-sized iPhone 11 for a while proved that theory false: I immediately noticed I was making fewer typos.

Even after months of use the Pixel 3a keyboard remains a challenge to me

Whatever the reason, I get along better with iPhone keyboards. Even after months of use the Pixel 3a keyboard remains a challenge to me, and I do not particularly like feeling challenged when I’m trying to type out a text.

We’ll meet again

Even if I do jump ship, Google knows it’s not losing me as a customer, not really. If I do get an iPhone 11, the first app I’ll download is Google Photos. When I arrive back at home that day, I’ll tell Google to play my favorite radio station, and start a timer when I put my frozen pizza in the oven. As I use Chrome to find Christmas presents for family, research the symptoms of whatever ailment I think I might have, plan my wedding and pay my bills, Google will be right there with me, watching.

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