It’s iPhone release week, with the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro hitting shelves on Friday, October 23. That means it’s also review week, and we’ve rounded up those early impressions of both devices.
Since the whole iPhone 12 range is now using OLED screens, there’s even less to differentiate between models this year. They both use the same A14 Bionic chip, come with 5G support, and have the same squared-off design that reminds everyone of the iPhone 4.
They even use the same 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR screen at 60Hz, and the camera setup is also similar, so there is no difference. That’ll change once the iPhone 12 Pro Max arrives with its larger, stabilized sensor, but until then, let’s see what this year’s iPhones can do.
Since the core design of both phones is shared, let’s dive into the differences. There aren’t as many as you’d think, with the main one being that the iPhone 12 has an aluminum frame, while the iPhone 12 Pro has polished stainless steel. Does that matter to you? Maybe not, but it’s nice to see that the more premium device has more premium materials in its construction, rather than just a price hike for the sake of it. That stainless steel is a fingerprint magnet though, according to The Verge, so maybe those with OCD tendencies will prefer the cheaper device.
Wired liked the new/old flat edges, saying they make it easier to grip. I can completely understand that, as my iPhone 11 Pro would easily squirrel its way out of my fingers unless I had a grippy case on it. Not great for a glass-backed device. They also echoed the propensity to catch fingerprints on the stainless edge of the 12 Pro, wishing it was matte finish instead of polished. MagSafe felt “satisfying to use” but then went on to wonder how a whole new accessory market changes Apple’s messaging around environmental impact.
Mashable weighed in on the ceramic shield front glass, saying: “The shield saved my iPhone 12 Pro from damage after it slid off my bed and onto the hardwood floor, but it’s still easy to scratch and scuff.” Guess we still need screen protectors then, but at least they’ll be easier to apply to the flat glass.
Okay, the only thing you need to know here is summed up perfectly by The Wall Street Journal – Do you want two cameras or three? See, both models have the same ultrawide camera, which is great for full scene shots. They’ve also got the new wide camera, which lets more light in, 27-percent more to be exact. WSJ said they could notice the difference in low-light versus last year’s iPhone 11 camera so that all sounds great so far.
The iPhone 12 Pro adds two things, one telephoto camera for taking closer shots, a “big thing for people with kids or pets.” It also has a LiDAR sensor (that’s Laser imaging, Detection, And Ranging), which creates depth maps that the iPhone uses to improve on low-light shots, assist with autofocus, and enable Night Portrait Mode for those low-light selfies. Only, you can’t really use it for traditional selfies as the sensor is on the back.
Okay, so are the new cameras any good? Techcrunch saw “some signs of improvement” versus last year’s iPhone 11 Pro, going on to say that because of the new blending of hardware and computational photography, it’s hard to tell just where the improvements have come from the hardware or the software. If they’re software-based, of course, there should be no reason that the new improvements won’t come to the iPhone 11 and its capable camera sensors. Oh, and Portrait Mode is far better at picking out edges around faces, as long as the background isn’t that busy.
YouTuber, Peter McKinnon, put the iPhone 12 Pro cameras through a full workout, so check that out if you want some in-depth examples of just how well the cameras fared under some tricky conditions.
Performance and battery
It goes without saying that the new A14 Bionic chip should be a speed demon. That’s what Techcrunch found with their usual standard benchmarks, showing a rough 20-percent uplift from the A13 in the iPhone 11 Pro in single-core CPU, just over 15-percent in multi-core CPU, and around the same uplift in computing/GPU tasks. They added that because of Apple’s leverage of the Neural Engine and background ML tasks, clock speeds mean less every new processor release. The iPhone 12 Pro has a couple more percentage points of uplift, probably due to the 6GB of RAM versus the 4GB that the iPhone 12 has.
All of that extra power doesn’t mean a drop in battery performance though, with Techcrunch finding they got 15 hours of “heavy usage” on the iPhone 12 Pro every day, and similar results on the iPhone 12. That was echoed by Wired, who found they were getting five to six hours of screen-on time, which is around what I get on my iPhone 11 Pro. Impressive stuff from a more powerful chipset and a slightly smaller battery.
Mashable’s Brenda Stolyer says it better than I could, “Having used the iPhone 11 and the iPhone 11 Pro as my daily drivers, my experience with the 12 and 12 Pro wasn’t all that different. It wasn’t until I compared specs on paper that I realized it wasn’t just me — the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are simply modest upgrades.” Ouch.
I guess that means that if you’ve got one of last year’s iPhones, you probably don’t need to worry about upgrading; unless you’re on Apple’s Upgrade Program, in which case go right ahead because you’re likely to be eligible to upgrade by now without changing your monthly payments.
For anyone on an aging iPhone, maybe say the iPhone 7 that keeps having issues with iOS updates, maybe this year is the one to upgrade. Just, unless you really, really need that telephoto camera and LiDAR, get the basic iPhone 12, since it’s pretty much the same as the Pro models.
Have any thoughts on the iPhone 12? Do you plan on upgrading? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.