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iPhone 11 review: The best iPhone for most people Review

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A week after using the iPhone 11, I’ve concluded it is my ideal phone. It’s affordable in today’s market, where $1,000 phones reign supreme. It’s a perfect size. It’s fast. It has an ultra-wide-angle camera and another camera that can capture stunning photos at night. The iPhone 11 is, without a doubt, the best iPhone for most users. 

Now, before you head to the comments below, to remind me that I already described by dream phone, and the iPhone 11 isn’t it, I know. But various facets of what I laid out as my dream phone will never exist, and iPhone 11 is as close as we’re going to get to it right now. 

Arguably, the iPhone 11 isn’t the best iPhone that Apple makes. On paper, that title would have to go to the iPhone 11 Pro (read ZDNet’s review) or the iPhone 11 Pro Max. 

But the main pieces and parts that make up the iPhone 11 — Pro or not — are nearly identical. So much so that it feels as if buying the iPhone 11 is somehow pulling one over on Apple, or as if you’re cheating it out of a couple of hundred dollars of revenue. 

What is it about iPhone 11 that makes it so dreamy? Let’s take a look. 

It’s all about the camera

Looking at the iPhone 11 from the front, not a lot has changed compared to the iPhone XR. The notch is still there, centered on the 6.1-inch Liquid Retina LCD Display, with Apple’s TrueDepth camera system that enables Face ID to unlock the phone or complete Apple Pay purchases. 

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The TrueDepth camera on the front of the phone now features a wide-angle mode that’s triggered by rotating the phone sideways. Instead of a 70-degree field of view, as is the case when the phone is vertical, the FOV is increased to 85 degrees, making it easier to fit several people in your selfie without having to stretch your arm too far. Apple also improved the slow-motion capabilities of the front-facing camera and dubbed the end product “slofies.”

The side button, volume buttons, and mute switch are all in their normal spots. A headphone jack is still missing on the bottom, and Apple’s proprietary Lightning port didn’t get replaced with a USB-C port. Maybe next year. 

Apple says the glass used on the front and back of iPhone 11 is the toughest glass ever used in a phone, and that it should be able to withstand more of our accidental drops and overall abuse, and I’ll have to take its word for it. The iPhone 11 also has improved water resistance to 2m for up to 30 minutes. 

It’s not until you look at the back of iPhone 11 that you begin to see a difference. Specifically, the iPhone 11’s camera array is now square and features two lenses — instead of one like the iPhone XR had. 

Ultra-wide photo taken with iPhone 11. 


(Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

The second lens is an ultra-wide-angle camera with a 120-degree field of view. The added FOV means you can, essentially, zoom out on a subject, capturing more of the surroundings in the photo. This is a feature that many Android devices have added over the past few years, and it’s one of my favorite features of any camera. 

Another area that Apple caught up with camera features in competing against Android devices is with Night mode. Night mode is only possible with the wide camera on iPhone 11, so you shouldn’t take ultra-wide-angle shots at night with any phone expect the same results. But here’s how it works: You open the camera app, and it detects whether there’s enough light for a normal photo. If so, you tap the shutter button and take your picture. 

d38e274e-0ede-4e78-960d-e74050bf43d9.jpg

(Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

If your iPhone decides it needs more light, a small moon icon shows up with an amount of time. Sometimes it’s one second, nine seconds, or any number in between. When you see that is present, you press the shutter button and then hold still. How many ever seconds later, the iPhone 11 will capture a photo in a low-light environment, and more often than not, it looks as if it was well-lit room. 

Google’s Pixel phones were the first to have a similar feature, and in my test shots, the iPhone 11 has surpassed the Pixel 3 XL every single time. 

Performance

iphone-11-camera-bumps.jpg

iPhone 11 camera bump.


(Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

The iPhone 11 is powered by Apple’s A13 Bionic processor, has 4GB of memory (according to iFixit), and comes in configurations of 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB of storage. While 64GB is a decent amount of storage, it’s no longer enough. The starting point should be 128GB, if not 256GB, especially when you consider Apple’s latest services push with Apple Arcade and Apple TV Plus, both of which require storage space to play games or to view TV shows and movies offline. 

But I’ve yet to feel like the iPhone 11 is underpowered, or that it suffers from performance issues not due to buggy software. I’ve downloaded several Apple Arcade titles, some of which are basic, while others, like Oceanhorn 2, are full of complex graphics and quick movements, and the iPhone 11 stayed one step ahead of me at all times. 

Battery life on iPhone 11 has been superb. My days start around 6am, and I usually put my phone on the charger around 10pm. I’ve yet to see iPhone 11 have less than 34% charge left, and that’s after close to five hours of screen-on time. 

Software

The iPhone 11 runs iOS 13, which itself includes a ton of new features for the iOS platform as a whole. Apple Maps, Reminders, Mail, and Safari are just a few apps that have received significant upgrades with the update. 

In iOS 13.1, Apple also added a new feature called User Enrollment for BYOD scenarios. This allows the user to keep their Apple ID on the device, along with a corporate-managed Apple ID for things like configuring accounts, app-based VPN, passcode requirements, and remote wipe of corporate accounts and data. It’s a huge boost for BYOD users, right in time for an iPhone that’s priced under $700. 

Overall, iOS 13 (and its iOS 13.1 update) is promising, but it needs more refinement. I still have issues with the Mail app, and right now, I have three or four apps that keep removing and then reinstalling themselves from my Apple Watch, without any interaction on my part. 

We’ll surely continue to see frequent updates from Apple, ironing out the rest of the bugs and issues, as is often the case after a big update from the iPhone maker. 

To go Pro or not?

The differences between iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro are the display and a telephoto camera. The Pro line uses Apple’s Super Retina XDR OLED display. It’s a much brighter screen, capable of displaying more colors at a higher resolution. 

Comparing the two screens next to each other, the differences are fairly obvious. However, after using iPhone 11 for a week, I’ve fully adjusted to the screen and don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. I’d wager that most users would have the same experience. 

Then there’s the additional camera on the Pro. It’s a telephoto lens that boasts a 2x optical zoom. It’s another tool on your iPhone belt, so to speak, and for some, that’s an important factor. 

At the end of the day, most people don’t need the iPhone 11 Pro or even the iPhone Pro Max. The iPhone 11 is one of the best iPhones I’ve used, and it’s half the price of the iPhone 11 Pro Max that will arrive at my door via UPS any minute now.



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Facebook launches BARS, a TikTok-like app for creating and sharing raps – TechCrunch

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Facebook’s internal R&D group, NPE Team, is today launching its next experimental app, called BARS. The app makes it possible for rappers to create and share their raps using professionally created beats, and is the NPE Team’s second launch in the music space following its recent public debut of music video app Collab.

While Collab focuses on making music with others online, BARS is instead aimed at would-be rappers looking to create and share their own videos. In the app, users will select from any of the hundreds of professionally created beats, then write their own lyrics and record a video. BARS can also automatically suggest rhymes as you’re writing out lyrics, and offers different audio and visual filters to accompany videos as well as an autotune feature.

There’s also a “Challenge mode” available, where you can freestyle with auto-suggested word cues, which has more of a game-like element to it. The experience is designed to be accommodating to people who just want to have fun with rap, similar to something like Smule’s AutoRap, perhaps, which also offers beats for users’ own recordings.

Image Credits: Facebook

The videos themselves can be up to 60 seconds in length and can then be saved to your Camera Roll or shared out on other social media platforms.

Like NPE’s Collab, the pandemic played a role in BARS’ creation. The pandemic shut down access to live music and places where rappers could experiment, explains NPE Team member DJ Iyler, who also ghostwrites hip-hop songs under the alias “D-Lucks.”

“I know access to high-priced recording studios and production equipment can be limited for aspiring rappers. On top of that, the global pandemic shut down live performances where we often create and share our work,” he says.

BARS was built with a team of aspiring rappers, and today launched into a closed beta.

Image Credits: Facebook

Despite the focus on music, and rap in particular, the new app in a way can be seen as yet another attempt by Facebook to develop a TikTok competitor — at least in this content category.

TikTok has already become a launchpad for up-and-coming musicians, including rappers; it has helped rappers test their verses, is favored by many beatmakers and is even influencing what sort of music is being made. Diss tracks have also become a hugely popular format on TikTok, mainly as a way for influencers to stir up drama and chase views. In other words, there’s already a large social community around rap on TikTok, and Facebook wants to shift some of that attention back its way.

The app also resembles TikTok in terms of its user interface. It’s a two-tabbed vertical video interface — in its case, it has  “Featured” and “New” feeds instead of TikTok’s “Following” and “For You.” And BARS places the engagement buttons on the lower-right corner of the screen with the creator name on the lower-left, just like TikTok.

However, in place of hearts for favoriting videos, your taps on a video give it “Fire” — a fire emoji keeps track. You can tap “Fire” as many times as you want, too. But because there’s (annoyingly) no tap-to-pause feature, you may accidentally “fire” a video when you were looking for a way to stop its playback. To advance in BARS, you swipe vertically, but the interface is lacking an obvious “Follow” button to track your favorite creators. It’s hidden under the top-right three-dot menu.

The app is seeded with content from NPE Team members, which includes other aspiring rappers, former music producers and publishers.

Currently, the BARS beta is live on the iOS App Store in the U.S., and is opening its waitlist. Facebook says it will open access to BARS invites in batches, starting in the U.S. Updates and news about invites, meanwhile, will be announced on Instagram.

Facebook’s recent launches from its experimental apps division include Collab and collage maker E.gg, among others. Not all apps stick around. If they fail to gain traction, Facebook shuts them down — as it did last year with the Pinterest-like video app Hobbi.

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Brandwatch is acquired by Cision for $450M, creating a PR, marketing and social listening giant – TechCrunch

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Online consumer intelligence and social media listening platform Brandwatch has been acquired by Cision, best known for its media monitoring and media contact database services, for $450 million, in a combined cash and shares deal. TechCrunch understands Brandwatch’s key executive team will be staying on. The move combines two large players to offer a broad range of services, from PR to marketing and online customer engagement. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2021.

Cision has a media contact database of approximately 1 million journalists and media outlets and claims to have over 75,000 customers. Brandwatch applies AI and machine learning to the practice known as “social listening”.

Along the way, Brandwatch raised a total of around $65 million. It was Series A-funded by Nauta Capital, followed by Highland Europe and then Partech.

In a statement, Giles Palmer, founder, and CEO of Brandwatch said: “We have always built Brandwatch with ambition… Now is the time to take the next step – joining a company of significant scale to create a business and a suite of products that can have an important global impact.”

Abel Clark, CEO of Cision said: “The continued digital shift and widespread adoption of social media is rapidly and fundamentally changing how brands and organizations engage with their customers. This is driving the imperative that PR, marketing, social, and customer care teams fully incorporate the unique insights now available into consumer-led strategies. Together, Cision and Brandwatch will help our clients to more deeply understand, connect and engage with their customers at scale across every channel.”

Brandwatch has been on an almost case-study of a journey from fundraising to acquisition to a merger, but less characteristically for a well-funded tech company, it did much of it from its hometown of Brighton, on the southern coast of England.

The financing journey began for Giles Palmer, with angel funding in 2006. In 2010 Brandwatch raised $1.5 million from Durrants, a marketing and PR firm, and a Series A round from Nauta Capital. In 2014 it raised $22 million in funding in a Series B round led by Highland Europe. That was followed by a $33 million Series C financing led by Partech Ventures in 2015.

With the war chest, it went on to acquire BuzzSumo in 2017, a content marketing and influencer identification platform, for an undisclosed sum. And in 2019 Brandwatch merged with a similar business, Crimson Hexagon, creating a business with around $100 million in ARR. It also acquired the London-based SaaS research platform Qriously.

Brandwatch was recently named a leader in Forrester’s guide for buyers of social listening solutions.

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Twitter announces ‘Super Follow’ subscriptions – TechCrunch

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Twitter reveals its move into paid subscriptions, Australia passes its media bargaining law and Coinbase files its S-1. This is your Daily Crunch for February 25, 2021.

The big story: Twitter announces ‘Super Follow’ subscriptions

Twitter announced its first paid product at an investor event today, showing off screenshots of a feature that will allow users to subscribe to their favorite creators in exchange for things like exclusive content, subscriber-only newsletters and a supporter badge.

The company also announced a feature called Communities, which could compete with Facebook Groups and enable Super Follow networks to interact, plus a Safety Mode for auto-blocking and muting abusive accounts. On top of all that, Twitter said it plans to double revenue by 2023.

Not announced: launch dates for any of these features.

The tech giants

After Facebook’s news flex, Australia passes bargaining code for platforms and publishers — This requires platform giants like Facebook and Google to negotiate to remunerate local news publishers for their content.

New Facebook ad campaign extols the benefits of personalized ads — The sentiments are similar to a campaign that Facebook launched last year in opposition to Apple’s upcoming App Tracking Transparency feature.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Sergey Brin’s airship aims to use world’s biggest mobile hydrogen fuel cell — The Google co-founder’s secretive airship company LTA Research and Exploration is planning to power a huge disaster relief airship with an equally record-breaking hydrogen fuel cell.

Coinbase files to go public in a key listing for the cryptocurrency category — Coinbase’s financials show a company that grew rapidly from 2019 to 2020 while also crossing the threshold into unadjusted profitability.

Boosted by the pandemic, meeting transcription service Otter.ai raises $50M — With convenient timing, Otter.ai added Zoom integration back in April 2020.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

DigitalOcean’s IPO filing shows a two-class cloud market — The company intends to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “DOCN.”

Pilot CEO Waseem Daher tears down his company’s $60M Series C pitch deck — For founders aiming to entice investors, the pitch deck remains the best way to communicate their startup’s progress and potential.

Five takeaways from Coinbase’s S-1 — We dig into Coinbase’s user numbers, its asset mix, its growing subscription incomes, its competitive landscape and who owns what in the company.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Paramount+ will cost $4.99 per month with ads — The new streaming service launches on March 4.

Register for TC Sessions: Justice for a conversation on diversity, equity and inclusion in the startup world — This is just one week away!

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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