Boladadu.com- The iPhone 12 is like an album of Apple’s greatest iPhone hits. It combines the well-regarded design aesthetic of the iPhone 5, the promised generational leap in wireless technology of the iPhone 3G, and the dense camera system and large OLED screen of more modern flagships.
The iPhone 12 wraps up so many attractive features, in fact, that it makes it hard to recommend the iPhone 12 Pro to any but a very small number of people. There’s just not much to differentiate them, and that’s a good thing. The cheaper iPhone 12 is more than good enough for just about anyone.
That’s where things stand today, anyway. But it will all change again in a few weeks. The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro are the middle children between the two models that will later generate the most buzz, I think—the iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
I say that because, in my experience, most people fall into one of two camps: they either want the largest phone screen they can get their (two) hands on (the 12 Pro Max), or they want their phones to be as small and one-hand-friendly as possible (the 12 mini).
Unfortunately, we don’t yet have those phones in hand to review. But apart from screen size differences and some camera improvements on the 12 Pro Max, they won’t differ much from the two 6.1-inch phones we’re reviewing today.
All the new iPhones sport Apple’s A14 system-on-a-chip, which includes a CPU, a GPU, the Neural Engine, and more.
Manufactured on a 5nm process—likely the same that will be used for upcoming Apple Silicon Macs—the A14 is an iterative step forward in terms of CPU and GPU speeds, but it's a big leap (Apple says) for the Neural Engine, which handles most machine learning processing. (Some is done on the CPU or GPU, depending on the task.)
Apple has doubled the cores in the Neural Engine from eight to 16, and the company claims a 70-percent increase in performance as such.
The iPhone 12 claims up to 17 hours of battery life for local video playback and just 11 hours for streaming video for both devices. That’s roughly comparable to other recent high-end iPhones, but it's just a bit below what the iPhone 11 promised.
As far as ports go, there’s still just one, and it’s still Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector—even as almost everyone else in the industry has adopted USB-C, including Apple’s own Mac and iPad teams.
Combined with the introduction of MagSafe, Apple's doggedness in sticking with Lightning for yet another year makes me think that the company's next play is to forgo the charging cable entirely. If they were going to switch to USB-C, it feels like this would have been the design to do so. The fact it wasn’t suggests that Apple may try to skip USB-C and go straight to fully wireless. If that happens, there will obviously be some big pros and big cons.
We'll cross that bridge when and if we come to it. For now, the bright side is that if you're coming from a previous iPhone model, you don't have to replace your existing wired accessories and charging cables.
Moving on to the displays, both the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro have 6.1-inch, 2,532×1,170-pixel OLED screens. Both support HDR (though like other recent iPhones, the panels are 8-bit, not the 10-bit typically associated with HDR panels) and have a maximum HDR brightness of 1,200 cd/m2. They’re not exactly the same, though, because the maximum typical brightness (when not viewing HDR content) for the iPhone 12 is 625 cd/m2. It’s 800 for the iPhone 12 Pro.
The 12’s display is an enormous step up over the lower-resolution LCD screen of the iPhone 11. But even though I’m an obsessive videophile and a display tech geek, I couldn’t see a significant difference anecdotally between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro screens in normal usage.
I all but sneered with derision at last year’s iPhone 11 screen in my review when comparing it to the 11 Pro, even as I acknowledged most people won’t care so much. If I don’t see a significant difference this time around, I imagine few will.
Much noise will be made about the fact that the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro do not have 120Hz screens, while many Android competitors do, in some form or another (albeit often with some big compromises). A 120Hz display—which refreshes twice as fast as the 60Hz displays that have been standard for years—feels a bit nicer when scrolling through websites and the like, but it’s a subtle difference. If you’re used to 60Hz, you won’t miss it. In the unlikely event you’re already used to 120Hz, you’ll probably adjust, but it’s a compromise.
Often, Android phones running in 120Hz mode take a significant hit to battery life; the screen is usually the #1 battery drainer, and it’s working twice as hard in this mode, after all. My guess is that Apple skipped 120Hz because it’s already hitting battery life pretty hard with 5G, and it deemed 5G a higher priority. The combination of 5G and a 120Hz display might have been too much to bear at once for the iPhone’s battery life, in Apple’s estimation.
So while 120Hz would have been nice, no one really needs it. Still, it would have been cool.
That aside, Apple’s displays are top-notch. DisplayMate’s deep dives give them the best possible marks, and while they are beaten in some specific measures by Samsung’s best, they have a commitment to color accuracy and tuning that Samsung’s don’t. It’s a matter of preference, but it suffices to say that the iPhone 12’s display is as good as it gets.
If you’re looking for a differentiator between these two devices, look no further than the storage options. The iPhone 12 comes in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB configurations. For the 12 Pro, it’s 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB.
64GB is not going to be enough for a lot of people, while 128GB or 256GB will be optimal for most people. But for a few select users, even 256GB won’t be enough—those folks will have to consider splurging for the Pro. Apart from a few additional camera features, this is the best reason I can think of to spend extra for the Pro.
Speaking of cameras: the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro share many of the same specs. The difference, primarily, is the Pro’s inclusion of a third telephoto lens—and its ability to capture HDR video at 60 frames per second (the iPhone 12 is limited to 30fps when HDR is enabled).
On both phones, you have a 12MP wide-angle lens (ƒ/1.6 aperture, seven-element) and a 12MP ultra-wide angle (ƒ/2.4, 5-element). The latter is for use cases like photographing groups of friends in tight spaces, since it enables 2x optical zoom out. The iPhone 12 Pro adds that 12MP telephoto lens (ƒ/2.0 aperture, six-element) to enable 2x optical zoom in.
The 12 Pro also adds a lidar scanner, which can be used both for more realistic augmented reality experiences and to improve some features like the speed of autofocus in dark environs.
As for video capture, both phones support HDR video in Dolby Vision—Apple claims these are the first smartphones to do so—but as noted above, the iPhone 12 Pro can do this at 60fps while the iPhone 12 is limited to 30fps.
Otherwise, the video capture features are quite similar. Both can shoot 4K video at 24fps, 30fps, or 60fps, and 1080p at 30 or 60fps. They can also capture slow-motion video at 1080p and either 120fps or 240fps.
Finally, both phones include a front-facing camera at 12MP (ƒ/2.2 aperture), as well as the TrueDepth sensor array found in flagship phones since the iPhone X, which facilitates the phones’ face recognition features.
We’ll move beyond the specs and get more into the cameras and their differentiating features in the cameras section of the review.
Wireless and 5G
Spoiler alert: We're not going to talk about 5G as much as you might expect, given that it was Apple's main focus when announcing these phones. That's mainly because most people can't take very much advantage of it.
5G is positioned as the next-generation cellular network technology, and its proposed final form promises dramatically faster downloads, competitive gaming-worthy latency, and (perhaps most practically) much better performance in crowded areas like football stadiums—that last bit is not a concern now, obviously, but we're all hoping it will be again someday. (I can't tell you how sad I was to not be able to attend my beloved Dodgers' long-deserved World Series win in person, but I digress.)
The real promise of 5G lies in the high-frequency mmWave spectrum, but carrier networks have a long, long—seriously, very long—way to go before the majority of iPhone owners have access to that. The iPhone 12 supports this, but whether it's useful to you will be super hit-and-miss. It might even come down to individual city blocks and street corners at this stage.
We'll use Verizon as an example here, both because it was the carrier Apple highlighted when it announced the phones, and because it's my carrier, for better or worse. Here's a map of Verizon's 5G coverage in two US cities that are fairly close to each other:
Verizon's "5G Ultra-Wideband" network—the one represented by the deepest crimson on the map—is essentially the mmWave option. As you can see, an alpha world city has spotty but respectable service in its deepest urban core, but a respectably-sized nearby city can make no such claim. Like I said: we've got a ways to go.
On the bright side, the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro support a ton of 5G bands, including:
- 5G NR (Bands n1, n2, n3, n5, n7, n8, n12, n20, n25, n28, n38, n40, n41, n66, n71, n77, n78, n79)
- 5G NR mmWave (Bands n260, n261)
So you're probably set, whatever ends up in your area, though, if you're on certain carriers (like Verizon), you'll need a special new SIM card to take advantage of this. But there's another problem, too: 5G seems to have a big impact on battery life, especially when you're riding that ultra-fast mmWave.
I don't recommend buying the iPhone 12 or 12 Pro just for the 5G features yet. I'm hoping 5G support will be expanded to more users, and future hardware iterations will surely make 5G data usage more efficient, lowering the negative impact on battery life.
If you aren't in a 5G-rich area, the phone will just use LTE like always. And there's also a feature called smart data mode (which you can disable, though it's on by default) that often uses LTE anyway when your current task doesn't clearly demand the maximum bandwidth possible. This is key for keeping battery life in check.
5G has the potential to really impress in its fastest form. But I think we're still at least a year or two away from starting to really reap those benefits—longer for a whole lot of people who aren't in major urban centers in developed nations.
So what else is there in terms of wireless tech besides 5G? There's Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5, obviously; those were both present last year. But I think it's also worth mentioning that Wi-Fi tethering is much faster than it used to be, thanks to the phone's ability to act as a 5GHz hotspot. It can even be faster than tethering with a USB/Lightning cable. And that could be a boon for those who later have access to 5G (which is not the same thing as 5GHz Wi-Fi, for the unfamiliar; ain't high-tech alphabet soup grand?).
Now, with specs mostly out of the way, let's move on to the iPhone 12's design.
I’ve written multiple times before that my personal favorite iPhone design was the iPhone 4 or the iPhone 5. Internet polls and articles often surface the same preference.
It will please many besides myself, then, to know that the iPhone 12 borrows heavily from the design aesthetic of the iPhone 4 and 5—the 5 in particular. This new phone is just a lot bigger, and it obviously has smaller bezels and uses Face ID instead of Touch ID. (It also doesn’t have a headphone jack, natch—but hey, it still has that Lightning port, which was actually introduced in the iPhone 5 back in 2012.)
Like the iPhone 5, the 12 has flat edges (also similar to those in recent iPad Pro and Air designs) made of aluminum. Unlike the iPhone 5, it has a glass back to facilitate wireless charging. The front is glass and what Apple calls a “Ceramic Shield.” Cupertino claims this solution is four times better at dealing with a drop. Initial drop tests around the Web today show that Apple’s not kidding around: the front of the phone is much more durable than what we got in previous phones.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the flat edges design lessens the likelihood of serious damage in a drop, too. Keep in mind, though, that we’re talking about the phone surviving a drop here—scratches may still be easy to acquire, and the phone is of course a fingerprint magnet.
(On another plus side for durability, though, IP68 water resistance returns.)
The iPhone 12 Pro has stainless steel edges that use the same PVD process that made those shiny edges for other recent high-end iPhones. It looks really nice. Also, it has a slightly different texture on the back that’s similar to what you might have felt on the iPhone 11 Pro last year.
The iPhone 12 just doesn’t feel quite as nice as the Pro does, and that’s because of the materials. Apple does a good job of making its higher-end phones feel appealing for the sort of people who like products that feel expensive to hold. Obviously, there’s no advantage to the Pro’s materials beyond aesthetic impressions, though.
Most people understandably won’t want to (or be able to) spend an extra few hundred dollars to have something that works the same but “feels premium.” Some people will eat it up, though; you probably already know which group you belong to.
So for those who care: yes, the iPhone 12 Pro feels much more premium in your hand than the iPhone 12. And to be clear, the iPhone 12 doesn’t feel cheap.
The iPhone 12 Pro’s camera bump is machined from the same slab of glass as the rest of its back, whereas the camera array in the iPhone 12 is nested in a separate piece of material. Most people won’t notice this, but as I said when reviewing the iPhone 11 Pro last year, the single-glass-piece design of the back is attractive.
Questions about which iPhone is the best-looking or best-feeling are always going to be subjective, but I have a feeling Apple has a winner here because the iPhone 4 and 5 come up so often when people are asked about their favorite designs. The iPhone 12 is essentially the iPhone 5 with a modern size and features. For many, that’s going to be quite welcome.
What's in the box?
If you’ve read one thing about the new iPhones on social media over the past two weeks, it might be this: the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro do not include either wired headphones or charging bricks in the box. All you get is a Lighting-to-USB-C cable.
Apple’s 20-watt USB-C power adapter costs $19, and its mediocre EarPods wired earbuds also cost $19—though it’s clear that Apple sees AirPods ($159) or AirPods Pro ($249) as the truly ideal solutions.
I'm about to do something unthinkable for many: I'm going to take a moment to defend Apple's removal of the headphones and charging brick. Bear with me. I promise to talk about the pain points and other motives, too.
While tech enthusiasts and consumers used Twitter to express their rage or Schadenfreude over the move, many environmentalists and sustainability experts have praised Apple’s choice. In fact, they’re calling on Apple to go further—but mostly in ways that consumers won’t find as irritating or costly.
Apple backed up its decision to exclude these two accessories from the box with arguments for the environment. A few of the key arguments include:
Removing these allows Apple to put the iPhones in smaller boxes, meaning they can ship 70-percent more iPhones on the same shipping pallet, reducing their global operation’s carbon footprint.
Many or maybe even most people buying new iPhones already have headphones or charging bricks from prior purchases, so this simply avoids introducing superfluous waste. To this point, Apple believes there are already two billion of its own iPhone-compatible power adapters in circulation and 700 million pairs of EarPods.
Some users will opt to use wireless AirPods anyway, leading them to simply discard the EarPods even if they didn’t already have some.
According to Apple's presentation last month, the new A14 system-on-a-chip isn't really about huge leaps in CPU and GPU performance over last year's A13. Cupertino's promises on that front are modest. Rather, the A14 emphasizes machine learning—something we know Apple has been thinking increasingly about.
As was said in the specs section of this review, the Neural Engine sports twice as many cores as before, and Apple promises up to 70-percent faster performance for machine learning tasks. That's usually going to be invisible to users, but it will open up new doors for app developers and future iOS features.
As usual, though, we're running our standard suite of synthetic benchmarks to compare the new iPhones to other recent Apple devices. The graphs below compare three generations of iPhone and iPad chips, including one beefed up iPad Pro variant. The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro have the A14; the iPhone 11 Pro has the A13; the 2020 iPad has the A12; and the 2020 iPad Pro has the A12Z