The name doesn’t really convey anything about the phone itself. Actually, it’s a little ridiculous in my opinion, because what is a “Pro” phone anyway. While I may find the way the term “Pro” is being used here highly debatable, the term “Max” makes even less sense to me. But I’m not here to debate naming conventions because, well, it just a name. It doesn’t affect how the phone works or if it’s good or not. I am however, looking at what Apple is doing to the iPhone.
It’s All About Design, Design, Design
It seems that the most talked about feature of the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max are the cameras. How could it not be? Both have a triple camera system comprised of three 12MP cameras which include a 13mm Ultra Wide lens with an ƒ/2.4 aperture, a 26mm Wide lens with a ƒ/1.8 aperture, and a 52mm Telephoto lens with an ƒ/2.0 aperture. Each one capable of up to 2x optical zoom and up to 10x digital zoom. The Wide and Telephoto both have Apple’s custom six-element lens design and the Ultra Wide having a five-element lens design. And if you include the front facing 12MP TrueDepth adjustable camera with a ƒ/2.2 aperture. It’s the biggest upgrade Apple has done with their cameras in a while.
I could go on about the camera system which would make for a good read because there’s a lot going on there but right now the geek in me is more interested how it all works together due to Apple’s seamless integration of hardware and software. Unlike their competitors, Apple owns and designs the hardware, the software and the silicone that it runs on. That being said, this also puts Apple in a unique position of having the ability to do just about anything they can conceive of by not being constrained by using all off-the-shelf parts and components. There’s a good article on Wired called An Exclusive Look Inside Apple’s A13 Bionic Chip about this.
At its’ core, Apple’s latest System-on-a-Chip (SoC), the A13 Bionic seems to have power management writtten into it’s DNA. It’s faster, and larger in terms of transistors; 8.5 billion in total and containing six CPU cores (two power cores and four efficiency cores), a quad-core GPU, an LTE modem, Apple’s custom image processor and an even smarter octa-core neural engine processor. Its able to handle processes up to 30% more efficiently while using less power to perform than the A12 from last year.
For example, controlling the hardware such as the newer and also more power efficient OLED display by lighting up only the areas that’s necessary and not using unnecessary CPU and GPU power further reduces the total amount of power being used. This type of intelligent power management seems to extend into all aspects of the phone. Email for example doesn’t require as much power to read as does playing an FPS game. The A13 manages the power needed for each task through machine learning. The combination of intelligent power management of the A13, more power efficient components and a larger battery is what allows the iPhone 11 Pro Max to get up to 5 more hours of runtime.
Apple is applying machine learning to more than just improving Siri in order to make the iPhone work even better. You can’t simply apply more processing power to a task to solve every computing problem. Components have to work together and the only way to do that is to create the underlining software, along with your own hardware. This is the type of design I find not only more important but more interesting as a whole. While I do think a phone should be designed well on the outside, it should be equally well designed on the inside.