Almost one year ago, I made the leap from my Samsung Galaxy s9+ to an iPhone 11. To say the change was dramatic would be an understatement. I went from a device that I used begrudgingly to consume media and talk to friends to a device that I use every single day for work, study, and play. Furthermore, I actually enjoy using it. I published a review a week after switching, and now that it’s been (just about) a full year, I’m prepared to give my final verdict.
I’ve been using a 128GB iPhone 11, AirPods Pro, and a 44mm Apple Watch SE with cellular. I’ll work in 3 sections: The good, the bad, and the ugly. In each section, I'll talk about my experience with each of my devices. Here we go.
The iPhone’s been great. The hardware has held up beautifully, and my battery health on iOS 14.8 is at 88%. While the battery doesn’t last as long as it used to and I find it nagging me about low levels more often than I’d like (and frankly 88% health after a year seems strangely low), especially with my erratic use patterns, it does still comfortably last me through one day, even if I don’t leave the house at 100%. Mind you, I make very light use of the camera, and I keep screen curtain enabled, so your results may vary. I suspect that the battery would not be enough if I made heavier use of the thing. It certainly lasted less while I obsessively played Swordy Quest for several weeks. Phone calls sound crisp and clear, and the mics have come in handy for recording more times than I can count. Sending snippets of songs I’m working on to friends on Telegram? Done. Victor Reader Stream died in the middle of a math lecture? iPhone to the rescue (thinking of putting that thing down, to be honest. It’s painfully slow). Nobody I’ve shown pictures and videos to have any complaints. The LED’s come in handy for squinting really hard at colors… mainly my nails whenever I get them done. The haptic motor is incredible, and I shall never again accept anything of lesser quality. Lastly, I thought that the Intel XMM7660 modem would be problematic for me, but I experienced no worse service than on my Galaxy s9+. Wherever I don’t get service, I usually have Wi-Fi, and that has been rock-solid since day 1. So, the hardware’s been pretty good. What about the software? Considering that my mobile productivity has risen dramatically, I’d have to say that it’s quite good. I foolishly updated to iOS 15.0.1 with the promise of more Garageband accessibility features and am now faced with a wall of bugs and a Siri that’s suddenly even more useless than before, so for this article I’ll base my opinions on iOS 14.8. It’s accessible and snappy. Whereas the sighted lambast Apple’s restrictive home screen, it’s a real boon when you can’t see and rely on regularity. Recently, I’ve even managed to organize my clutter of apps into something that makes it easy to reach everything I need. I experimented with widgets, but I found them much more useful when put on the today view all the way to the left… actually, I’m not even sure what that screen is called. Either way, I can access my upcoming events, pending reminders, weather for home and school, fitness goals, battery levels, and the two Telegram chats that I would otherwise have ignored if they weren’t there (which is why I put them there, so that they can feel included). The app library to the far right is a familiar carryover from my Android days and makes organization much easier than olden times where my iPod Touch was filled with folders named “useless crap” and other such similar labels.
How about that fancy computer on my wrist and techno-earrings? The Apple Watch SE has been fantastic, and it’s only become even more useful as I venture out into the world. You see, women aren’t blessed with pockets the size of gym bags, so we’ve got to get clever. Fortunately, this overpriced pebble of electronics lets me access the essentials while I’m on the go. Need to send off a quick message? There’s the app. Need to know when the next train is coming? Just open Moovit and check. Need to input your authentication code to log into your perfectly wholesome and work-safe literature site? Just pop open Authy. Okay, okay, how’s it held up? Battery life is still pretty good, lasting me just shy of two days with screen curtain enabled and airplane mode on. Yes, yes, I very smartly purchased the LTE variant, thinking I’d get so much use out of it. Well, the modem remains unactivated on my network. That said, I’m still glad I have it. The past month has shown me that I do make genuine use of my watch. I send texts, take calls, check messages, and get quick bits of info that I need. It’s also nice having a device that’ll prevent my phone from lighting up every time somebody posts a meme on Discord or whatever. The rest of the hardware has stayed in good shape. The microphone is clear enough for calls. The speaker is just barely loud enough. The black sport loop has stayed in shockingly good condition despite being worn almost 24/7. I don’t put a case on this thing, by the way. I did at first, but frankly, paying an extra 50 bucks for Apple Care+ proved far easier and less anxiety-inducing. I regularly clock (ha-ha) this thing against door frames, and so far, the biggest injury is a scuff on the glass just above the digital crown. Not too bad, all things considered. Oh yes, fitness. I like tracking my workouts. I enjoy knowing how much activity I’ve done throughout the day, and I like hearing those numbers go up. It’s genuinely motivated me to be more active. Now, I’d like to touch on how the watch has helped me personally, as in stuff that’s a bit more unique to my situation than the basics. While I started out on the pride face, because hey I wanna be proud of my happiness, I moved over to the Utility face to get more complications. I’ve used it, along with other apps, to my advantage. First, cycle tracking. I don’t… shed, for several complicated medical reasons, but being able to look at the history of mood changes and bloating lets me get an idea of the ebb and flow of my body. Second, noise levels. I’m a musician. Knowing whether the distorted quadruple sawtooth waves I’m blasting around my bedro… I mean professional studio are at safe levels or not is invaluable. It’s also fun to compare how loud different sounds are. Sometimes, I’ve been surprised by how much higher or lower the numbers are compared to what I imagined in my head. Third, over the course of the summer I had a lot of very inconvenient situations thrust upon me by life. My vaccine left me half-deaf in one ear for about 3 months, and doctors put me on a cocktail of medications for vestibular conditions and panic attacks. Turns out those medicines didn’t like each other very much, and my Apple Watch was kind enough to let me know that my heartrate was dipping dangerously low while I slept. I’m doing much, much better now. Lesson learned: keep the volume extra low right after getting your covid shot and don’t listen to synths with closed-back headphones. What about the LTE modem? Well, since stuff is opening back up, I think I might give it a spin. I’d like to have a backup on my person in case my phone gets lost or stolen, especially if I were to be travelling abroad. Speaking of being out and about, and the last good thing about the Watch, I love Apple Pay. It works really well. I typically use my Amazon Rewards card to buy stuff, and it’s as easy as tapping the side button twice and holding it against the reader. Moving to my credit union debit card when I don’t want credit or my Revolut card when I’m abroad (ha, that’s a thing we used to do) is just a few swipes away. Now, an awful lot of terminals insist on being criminally inaccessible, but that’s a whole can of worms for another day. I like Apple Pay. Now, if only my transit service would adopt it.
So, what about the AirPods Pro? They’re good. Not good sound quality, mind you. My $100 Audio-Technica ATH-M40x Monitors eat them for breakfast, but I’d like to see them go with me on the train and stay powered for hours at a time with no wires, all while keeping me connected to my phone. There’s not much to say here, at least in this section. They are good, and I am very happy I ponied up for them.
So, that’s the good out of the way. What about the bad? There’s no way around it. iOS has problems. I’m going to throw all the various bugs under the “annoying” category and only mention a few highlights. Let’s start with the iPhone. Recently, I’ve had issues with reordering apps on the home screen. “Move app before other app” sometimes does the opposite, and it’s confusing and frustrating. Siri often doesn’t say the time when I press the side button to wake the device up, and sometimes haptic feedback just stops working for no discernable reason. Sometimes, I’ll click the side button only for nothing to happen. When I click it again, Apple Pay shows up. Excuse me, what? Occasionally, swiping up to go home will trigger reachability mode. That feature is helpful when I want it, but when it decides to show up unannounced, it wastes precious moments.
As for the Apple Watch, I’ve not got much to add that won’t be going in the ugly category. My biggest beef is that apps can sometimes take a long time to load. In particular, the move progress notifications will regularly take several seconds to pop up, and Siri often greets me with “Working on it… Sorry, could you try that again?” When she does work, Voiceover feels the need to repeat everything she says. Another issue I have is that not all apps are fully featured. Want to listen to a WhatsApp or Telegram voice message? Get that phone out of your purse, bud. Swiping on an Outlook notification does nothing until you scroll the crown and explore by touch to find the content, and you have to refocus Voiceover way more than should be acceptable.
The AirPods Pro have this issue where they won’t show their battery status on screen when I open the lid. I can check easily in the battery widget or by asking Siri, but more than half the time, that little white prompt just fails to open. When it does, Voiceover struggles to navigate it. I must explore by touch. Lastly, I once said that I would feel comfortable walking around with these. I must retract that statement. As helpful as ambient mode is, the fact of the matter is that the occlusion effect is still too prominent. The occlusion effect occurs when low frequencies can’t escape your ear and end up drowning out higher frequencies because of the structure of your hearing organ. The result is a very boomy sound. The moving of my jaw, the pounding of my footsteps, the noise of air rushing around between my throat and lungs proves to be enough to drown out external sounds. I would not, could not, walk down the street with these. Moreover, they seem to slide out, regardless of which ear tips I try.
Now, on to my favorite part. Let’s start with the iPhone. There’s no headphone jack, and I’m still salty about that. I’m so salty, in fact, that I now have about 60 jacks on my audio equipment in my room. Sure, most of them are mono and quarter inch-XLR combo connectors, but still. If Zach from JerryRigEverything says that accessible Xbox controller has 20, then these count as well. The lightning port that’s now prominently featured on the bottom of the device is also inferior to USB type C in almost every way, but at this point, I’ll bet a hundred bucks that Apple abolishes the port entirely before doing something so radical as adopting a standardized connector on their most profitable device. It’s a shame because the USB 2.0 speeds really make you think twice before springing for higher storage tiers. Next, Siri has never once announced who’s calling. It’s supposed to, but it doesn’t. I once switched away from Samantha, and it did work, but honestly, I can’t find a voice that I hate less. Alex is the obvious choice, but for whatever reason he simply doesn’t sound as good as his Mac OS counterpart to me. Apple, please please please let us use different voices. Windows OneCore, Vocalizer Expressive, Google TTS, anything. While on the subject of Siri, she continues to be useless for anything beyond local devices control. I get great use by asking her to open apps and send texts, and she was great at controlling workouts on my Apple Watch back on iOS 14. If you rely on her at all, don’t update to iOS 15. Lastly on the iPhone front, I don’t appreciate having to buy a charger separately. I don’t buy this whole environmental shtick, especially since wireless charging is objectively less efficient. Not only that, but they also changed the cable included in the box in the same release while keeping the type A connector on the watch charger. This is me ranting at this point, so I’ll stop. I don’t like paying the same amount of money to get less, especially from a company as valuable and focused on luxury as Apple.
I said I had beef with the Apple Watch, and it comes in the form of the initial setup. It was so bad that I seriously considered returning the device. It took me 17 hours and countless wipes to figure out that it would freak out just because my phone was on the 5GHz network during setup. In the end, I got it working, and I’m glad I didn’t return it, but yikes. I consider myself to be extremely tech-savvy. I work with computers daily, operate audio-recording equipment, and generally stay up to date on tech happenings. Maybe I just had a brain fart that day? Oh, right, also the focus issues. Sometimes, Voiceover straight up thinks there’s nothing on the screen until I reposition focus manually. Why is this still happening? It’s not as bad as the early days of WatchOS 7, but this shouldn’t be an issue at all. I am a paying customer. I expect these things to work with a certain level of ease. Part of the appeal of Apple products for me is that I don’t have to play IT monkey for hours on end. I already do that with my audio rack. Please don’t make me do it with my watch.
Last, but not least, AirPods. I don’t like noise cancellation. It’s not the discomfort or anything. It just doesn’t do anything. I’ve experimented with every eartip in the box. Noise cancellation sucks. I’ve heard there’s a service program. It’s possible my unit might be defective, so I’ll have to investigate it. I really hope it fixes the other problem I have. Occasionally, my AirPods will just flip out. A long squeeze won’t switch between transparency and noise cancellation. I can’t get them to connect. They just refuse to work. Once, I took them with me on the train, only to find that they hadn’t charged the previous night because they decided to soft-brick themselves. Only when I got home could I connect them to power and factory-reset them… 3 times. Apple, I paid $200. This is ridiculous.
So, that’s that. Overall, I’m very well chuffed with my purchases. So well chuffed, in fact, that I’m upgrading to an iPhone 13 Pro Max in about a month once it ships. I like the accessibility of iOS, and it’s brought a great deal of value to my life. I expect that value to climb as I move more of my workflow to my phone. At the moment, I’m experimenting with taking notes on it and leaving my ginormous gaming laptop at home in order to save my back. As I travel independently more, I also want reassurance that my device won’t die and leave me stranded in the middle of a transit route. Having that ability without a massive battery case is very valuable to me, so I decided to upgrade. My 11 will be going to my family, bringing yet one more person in my life into the cult of blue bubbles. Fingers crossed Apple will replace the battery just before my year of warranty expires.
No, I am still not a fan of Apple. I despise many of their policies, but the simple fact of the matter is that I need a device that fits to my lifestyle and workflow. The iPhone, in part, can be that device. The learning curve is shallow for the most part, and there are many accessible apps. I also have an entire community at my disposal to figure out what works, what’s temperamental, and which apps made no effort whatsoever to follow Apple’s guidelines for building software and instead chucked something together in Electron or whatever. Anybody who has spent enough time around electronics will know the… challenges that come with using them blind. I have a cabinet of legal depressants and a lexical repertoire of choice words that would earn you a mouthful of soap from your parents to back up my experiences. It’s nice to know that there are at least a few devices that happen to come from the big fruit that can make the experience a little less frustrating.
So, is the iPhone good? Yeah, I like it. I mean, Android’s fine, but when I was on team green, I never looked forward to doing much of anything beyond YouTube and Twitter. Nowadays, I open Outlook, Baking Scale, my transit app, my college app, Zoom, half a dozen payment apps (even PayPal which is oh-so-wonderful and has no flaws at all), and a whole bunch of others. Yes, I am a fan of SeeingAI and Dystopia. Mind you, I still do pull out that lexical repertoire, especially when I forget that I can’t input all 6 dots on BSI and it misinterprets my O as a U for the seven-thousandth time in a row, but it’s much less so. I spend much more time doing the things I want to do. I’ve even improved my life by using the calendar and reminders apps. Seriously, they’re fantastic, especially when balancing school, streaming, music, and the crushing grind of medical visits. So yes, the iPhone is good. I’m staying for the foreseeable future. Just don’t expect me to praise Tim Apple every time he tells me the new iPhone is better than ever and he thinks I’m gonna love it.
I spent almost one full year with an iPhone 11 128GB, Apple Watch SE 44mm GPS+Cellular, and AirPods Pro. I bought all of these products with my own money and used them almost every day as my primary devices. Your results may vary from mine based on your unique usage. Nobody has been given early viewing or editing rights to this review. I am not a member of the editorial or blog team. I’m just some idiot on the internet who loves tech.