Excellent Night mode camera
Better 4G (and 5G) than previous iPhones
Solid battery life
Several similar but not-quite-the-same models
AT&T and Verizon 5G underwhelms
Charging and power adapter situation is confusing
|Operating System||iOS 14|
|Dimensions||5.78 by 2.82 by 0.29 inches|
|Screen Size||6.1 inches|
|Screen Resolution||2,532 by 1,170 pixels|
|Camera Resolution (Rear; Front-Facing)||12MP, 12MP; 12MP|
|Battery Life (As Tested)||12 hours 24 minutes|
Apple's iPhone 12 series is hard-edged phone for a difficult year. It offers a solid feeling, great screens, improved low-light performance and better network connectivity. This iPhone 12 series is America's best-selling smartphone. One of these four iPhones will be worth the money if you own an iPhone older than one year. It is not difficult to choose the right one.
I am the 5G guy. Apple spoke a lot about 5G during its iPhone 12 launch. Although the iPhone 12 is by far the most powerful 5G smartphone, Verizon and AT&T's "nationwide 5G" are not worth your time. T-Mobile's 5G mid-band does offer better performance. However, T-Mobile does not have a map that will help you locate it. I will tell you that the iPhone 12 series increases 4G performance in a significant way, which I will detail shortly.
You are currently reading our primary review of the iPhone 12 (starting at $799 for 64GB), which overlaps with our review of the iPhone 12 Pro (starting at $999 for 128GB)—the two October-released models. We'll be updating this review with more comparison analysis when the iPhone 12 pro max (starts from $699 for 64GB), and iPhone 12 mini (starts starting at $1,099 per 128GB) arrives in November. Pre-orders open on November 6.
Both the iPhone 12 and 12 mini appear very similar. Apple's specifications sheets show that they are identical, except in price and screen size. If everything else is equal, I believe that an iPhone slightly cheaper and smaller than the iPhone 6 or 7 models would be a winner. In anticipation of the mini, we'll hold off on the Editors' Choice award. We'll reconsider if the mini is a failure.
iPhone 12 Pro Max and Pro Max offer more features to photo enthusiasts, including telephoto lenses and Night Portrait mode. They also have better Dolby Vision and Raw image handling. The extra cost is worth it for photographers, but not for everyone. The Editors' Choice Award for Camera Phones goes to the iPhone 12 Pro because it offers all of that amazing image quality in a small phone. With its 6.7 inch screen, the Pro Max is too big for most.
You can get the iPhone 12 or 12 mini in white, black, green, red, and red. The blue model I received was a beautiful, rich navy. These phones' shiny, smooth backs attract fingerprints but not nearly as much as one would expect. The body has a matt metal border around its edges in the same blue as the back. There are also some antenna windows made of black plastic and all the buttons. You can see the square module of the camera from the back. If you drop the phone, it will crack.
You can get the 12 Pro or 12 Pro Max in blue, yellow, gray, silver, or both. I chose a gray one. The matte backs are complemented by a shiny, darkened stainless steel edge. It is comfortable to hold and does not attract fingerprints. Prints are not attracted to the edge band.
It's difficult to distinguish the Pro Max and the Pro 12 Pro from the front. The 12 Mini and Pro Max have different sizes. Each phone has the large notch at its top that Apple uses for Face ID. They also have very tiny bezels surrounding their gorgeous screens. They are smaller than the iPhone 11, but much wider than the iPhone 8 series, measuring 0.29 by 5.78 inches by 2.82 inches. The phones are small, which is surprising considering the current trend for flagship smartphones. However, those looking to feel more like an iPhone 6 or 7 should consider getting the 12 mini. Although the iPhone 12 Pro weighs 6.66 ounces, it is slightly heavier than its predecessor (5.78 oz). They are both lighter than the 11 but more heavy than the 8.
New iPhones feature the glowing, saturated OLED screens that have been a standard for premium smartphones over the last few years. The iPhone 12 mini's display measures 5.4 inches by 2,340 pixels by 1,080 pixels; the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max measure 6.1 inches by 2,532 and 1,170 pixels respectively; while the iPhone 12 Pro Max is 6.7 inches by 2,778 pixels by 1,284 pixels. They are higher resolution and more dense than the iPhone 11's predecessors. The 12 and 12 Pro have about the same resolutions as the 11 Pro.
At 625 nits maximum brightness, the iPhone 12's and 12 mini's screens appear slightly brighter that the iPhone 11. Pro Max and Pro Max have 800 nits each, however I didn't notice any visual differences between them (and the screen-testing equipment that we used to test for this purpose is still at our COVID-abandoned building). The panels all have 60Hz refresh rates, while the top Android smartphones have screens that are 90Hz and even 120Hz. The frame rate difference can be seen when you film screens in slow motion. However, this is not noticeable in daily use as scrolling speed has been better on iPhones than Android phones. Apple's 60Hz may be just as fast as Android's90Hz.
Ceramic Shield is a Corning product that covers the screens. Apple claims it's four times less likely for them to break than older iPhone glass. We do not evaluate durability because our lending agreement with Apple requires us to return phones unharmed. Allstate conducted drop tests and determined that the new material improved durability. However, both iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro broke when they were connected to a sidewalk six feet higher than them. The iPhone 12 was dropped face-down and suffered only minor cracks, which is better than the Galaxy S20 or iPhone 11 as well as the iPhone 12 Pro. Ceramic Shield does not seem to be able to protect from scratches and scuffs. It's more like a way station between you and the screen repair shop that will fix your screen. If you do not have AppleCare, the cost of a replacement screen will be $279. (Ouch!)
Face ID is the new authentication method for iPhones. It has been really frustrating in 2020 as it can't recognise faces with or without masks. The iPad Air this year has a fingerprint scanner at the power button. This is something I love, and Apple should use. These phones still come with Lightning ports but have no headphones jack.
iOS 14 can be installed here. It runs almost identically on all iPhones except the iPhone X. The iPhone 8 may run a little slower. You can read our complete review of iOS 14 to see all new features.
Apple's A14 processor is now available in the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro. It runs at 3GHz with 6GB RAM, 4GB and 5GB respectively. The same scores were achieved in benchmarking. They got 1,599 in Geekbench single core; 4,006 Geekbench Multicore; approximately 9,350 Geekbench Compute; and 600 in Basemark Web. This is a 16% increase over the iPhone 11 series, and similar speeds when it comes Web browsing. Geekbench Compute saw a remarkable 48% increase in computing power.
Strangely enough, both my phones had difficulty running graphics benchmarks. GFXBench as well as 3DMark produced inconsistent numbers that were sometimes hard to understand. Apple attempted to assist me but we couldn't agree on the solution.
Apple smartphones never feel slow after they are launched. More than anything else, the processing speeds are an investment in the future, preparing for applications in three or four years. Apple generally ends support for iOS version newer versions four to five years after the introduction of new CPUs. Even though the iPhone 12 has a faster CPU than the iPhone 11, I wouldn't buy it over the iPhone 11 for that reason alone; there are plenty others.
The 12, and 12 Pro have 2,815mAh battery packs. This is smaller than the iPhone 11's 3,110mAh battery, but these iPhones can last more time on a single charge. That's due to the OLED screens and the faster A14 processor. The battery of the 12 Mini is smaller than that in the 12 Pro Max, while it's larger for both models.
Apple didn't include a power adapter with the package this year. New iPhones can charge up to 20Watts. The new iPhones can charge at up to 20 watts using 9v and 2.22a. The old iPhone charger won't charge your new iPhone at this speed so get a replacement. The Anker Nano 20W ($19.99) was a cute little charger that charged my iPhone from 12 to 20% in just 10 minutes, 58% in 30 seconds, and 100% within 100 minutes.
The new iPhone can charge using your existing lightning cable and adapter. However, it will take a while. Older USB-A Lightning cables can only charge up to 12 W, while the old iPhone power adapters draw just 5 W. New phones come with a Lightning to USB-C cable that can be used with up to 20W USB-C adapters. A USB-C adapter will be included if you own a new iPad or MacBook. If not, an Anker Nano is recommended. Still confused? To help you, we have an explanation of full charges.
Apple's MagSafe Charger ($39) is magnetic and pops on to the back of your phone. MagSafe claims to be capable of charging at 15W. It turns out, MagSafe charges at up to 15W. The 20W Anker Nano charged in 11% and 52% respectively in 10 minutes. However, when I plugged in a 22W Samsung charger it gave me only 9% and then took over 80 minutes for me to reach 50%.
Although the battery performance of my iPhone 12 was slightly different, they both performed in line with flagship phones. The iPhone 12 was able to stream video on Wi-Fi for 10 hours and 8 mins. iPhone 12 Pro managed 12 hours, 34 minutes.
The iPhone 12's four members use Qualcomm X55 modems. This is the first all-Qualcomm iPhone line since the 6S. After years of inconsistent performance, I am happy to report that iPhones have returned to the top of the Android phone market in terms of network performance.
iPhone 12 series comes with a single SIM card slot, and software support to add a second SIM via eSIM. In terms of voice quality, it performs admirably with all of the normal high-end capabilities, including the best EVS speech codec, Wi-Fi calling, and relatively reliable Bluetooth 5.0.
You'll notice a marked improvement in data speed in low-signal areas if you own an iPhone 11 and earlier. This is due to 4x4 MIMO. This is a feature that was available in iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone XS and iPhone XR. It does not apply to iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone XR or older iPhones. Comparing the iPhone 11 and 12 devices in weak-signal LTE-only mode with T-Mobile showed a significant difference.
The iPhone 11 failed to pass a speed test in one area that was very low-signal. In contrast, the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro were able to score 6-9Mbps. Although it isn't as fast as the iPhone 11, this score beats that of the 11.
The iPhone 11 experienced a weak signal in an area where 4G was slow, however the iPhone 12 using LTE saw 44-48Mbps of downtime.
Wi-Fi performance seems more consistent, too. The weak signal Wi-Fi test was conducted against an iPhone 11 and 12. Both iPhones 11 and 12 reached speeds of 72Mbps. However, the 11 lost the signal, while the 12 could keep it. This makes all the difference. iPhone 6 is the first iPhone to offer Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, and the iPhone 6 series was also released in hotspot mode. The Wi-Fi 6 connection will be important when it comes to being able to return to work and to coffee shops. It also helps to prevent interference problems.
These phones include Apple's perplexing ultra-wideband technology. This is not to be confused by Verizon's 5G ultra wideband. Apple's UWB wireless system has no real purpose. Although it claims to allow two devices to determine each other's position relative to one another, Apple also says that it can do file sharing with nearby devices. However, I have found the system to be very ineffective since it was launched last year.
The situation with 5G is extremely complex in the US right now. T-Mobile's 5G mid-band is the most important. The carrier doesn't provide maps so it's hard to know if you have it. Note to self: Keep working on this story. Editor's note: Yes! All three major carriers use low-band 5G, which is a symbol without any real benefits. Verizon's ultra-fast, super wideband 5G (the one that was promoted at the iPhone launch) covers very small areas.
iPhone 12 can use any of the 4G and 5G bands currently available in Canada or the US. The iPhone 12 is the first US smartphone to be approved for band n77. This will allow it to access 5G networks across the country. It's also the last US phone that has been auctioned off at the end for additional coverage beginning in 2021. It's important because the C-Band will likely give AT&T and Verizon excellent mid-band coverage for 5G.
Google's latest Pixel phones list band n77 on their specs sheets. However, FCC documents do not show that it has been authorized for US use. Although Google might change their mind, they are more likely to include the band in their next batch of phones.
Wait! But it's not that easy. It would be so simple. This is a terrible idea. AT&T uses certain features on its network that won't work with Qualcomm's X55 Modems. They will require the company to use their X60 modems which are expected in 2021. There is strong possibility that the iPhone 13 on AT&T will perform better than the 12. Because I do not know the Byzantine black magic AT&T is planning to throw at its network next year, I am unsure.
All I can say is that 5G support on new smartphones on T-Mobile matters, but not AT&T. Verizon supports it only for those who are extremely lucky.
If you purchase an iPhone 12, you will likely see a 5G icon most of the time; nevertheless, this icon will typically have no bearing on performance. AT&T and Verizon's "nationwide" 5G has no better performance than 4G because it uses sliced bits of 4G channels. If you're not on T-Mobile, or in a Verizon UWB5G area, you may be able to turn off 5G to conserve power.
The iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro were tested against the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 as well as the iPhone 11 using the Verizon and T-Mobile networks. Both the 12 and 12 Pro have identical Qualcomm X55 modems as well as the same Qualcomm and USI antennas. They also perform on the same networks.
Verizon's 5G network averaged 84.6Mbps in places where the iPhone 11 with LTE received 93.7Mbps and my Galaxy Note (LTE) got 117Mbps. It is similar to our testing of the Google Pixel 5 where we received lower speeds with Verizon's 5G than 4G. Similar issues were observed with AT&T’s 5G network. While the carriers are technically not lying about 5G here – they are utilizing the 5G encoding method But they have created a 5G system with zero immediate customer benefits.
T-Mobile is an exception. T-Mobile's 5G mid-band system will immediately improve performance if you are in an area with it. This is rapidly expanding across the country. T-Mobile 5G averaged 266Mbps slower than my iPhone 12, which is similar to the Galaxy Note's 261Mbps.
T-Mobile 5G was the most noticeable difference. It worked in an area with poor 4G speed. Wow. At that time, the iPhone 11 without 4x4 MIMO achieved 2.8Mbps down, the iPhone 12 Pro with 4x4 MIMO in LTE mode achieved 48Mbps down, and the iPhone 12 with mid-band 5G achieved 261Mbps down.
Verizon's 5G network is extremely fast, with a short range and ultra-wideband band, although it has limited coverage. On average, we got 554Mbps less than the iPhone 12 Pro while on average 783Mbps for the Galaxy Note with VerizonUWB. When signal quality was exceptional, the gap widened; I reached a maximum of 1.7Gbps down on the Galaxy Note, but only 875Mbps down on the iPhone. The difference in speed between the platforms could be due to the code used for speed testing or another feature of the OS. Both of them are incredibly fast.
The Ultra-wideband coverage on iPhones doesn't differ from that of the Galaxy Note. However, the manner in which the operating system handled the edges of coverage was quite different. The difference in the time they dropped the 5G signal was only about 10 feet. However, the Samsung would take a bit longer to drop to LTE after it established a connection.
My camera skills are not my forte. Yes, I have reviewed many phones and numerous phone cameras. However, I admire many other reviews that have better understanding of "naturalism". I like sharp photos, with saturated colors and no graininess. In this regard, I am probably closer to the average smartphone user than an Instagram pro or obsessive photographer. This is what an actual photographer has to say about iPhone 12 and which camera model is the best. Here's what I have to say about the cameras.
New iPhones come with sets of 12MP cameras. Each iPhone 12 and 12 Mini have 12-megapixel front-facing cameras, as well 12-megapixel standard and wide-angle cameras. The 12 Pro has a 12-megapixel zoom of 2x and LiDAR scanning, while the 12 Pro Max comes with 2.5x zoom.
To determine the distance, LiDAR uses light pulses to bounce off objects. This makes Augmented-Reality apps more fluid. It also speeds up the processing of photos by improving autofocus and low-light photography.
Apple claims that the iPhone 12 has "2x optical Zoom" while the 12 Pro boasts "4x optical Zoom". This is true only if you know how every phone user has used "zoom" over the past decade. Apple counts its x's using the 0.5x ultrawide camera. This is something that no one else does in the mobile phone business. The ultrawide mode is not a default setting. It's used by specialized users because it makes subjects very small. It is sensible to count the cameras that are most used as 0.5x or 1x rather than pretending the main camera, which is the 1x default camera, is some sort of zoom.
Apple's Night Mode is a complete saboteur of most competitors. I compared the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 11 to see which was better. You'd be difficult pressed to see a significant difference in the top-of-the line cameras outdoors, especially in bright light. The photos below show that although the sky may be a different color on each camera, the images are all beautiful.
Zoom in, and you'll see that the iPhone 12 Pro is the winner. It has a dedicated zoom lens. With its 2x zoom, the 12 Pro gives you clarity not possible with the iPhone 12 or iPhone 11. It is oddly even better than the Galaxy Note 20. The Galaxy is the best. Note 20 features a 5x optical zoom lens. At 5x, all iPhones blur but Note 20 remains razor-sharp.
Night Mode is what makes the difference. Night Mode is supported by the iPhone 12 series' front cameras, while the iPhone 11 does not. LiDAR sensors on the 12 Pro Max and 12 Pro Max allow for better focus in low-light conditions and enable Night mode bokeh portrait shots.
Night Mode is not always necessary. Images taken with iPhone 11 and 12 looked grainy. However, the iPhone 12 shots seemed brighter and more clear when I switched it off.
Night Portrait Mode is also available on the 12 Pro. This blurs out background for night shots. The photo was more dramatic when I used Night Portrait mode with the 12 Pro.
Even though the iPhone 12 has night-capabilities, they are not magic. These cameras can achieve the Night mode's amazing results with extended exposures. However, they don't have the ability to capture moving objects. My model was blurred when she gamboled. This is true for all cameras, but Apple phones are the best in video recording. However, there's still a huge gap between pro and consumer level usability that I would like to close. You can use the Pro Video mode on your Galaxy S20 Ultra to do things such as turn microphones off and change aperture. You will need separate apps to do this on the iPhone. These are more advanced but more complicated and jargon-laden user interfaces. Regardless, serious videographers still insist on the iPhone. I don't disagree with them.
The iPhone 12 has really great cameras. The 12 series will make your old phone look better in low light. You will be able to use the 12 Pro's additional features, such as the sharper 2x zoom and Night Portrait mode.
There are a lot of features on the 12 Pro that most buyers will not care about. ProRAW is a brand new mode that allows pro-editors to have greater control over the way they edit. While the iPhone 12 supports Dolby Vision HDR at 60fps and 30fps respectively, the Pro supports DolbyVision video recording at 60fps. Dolby Vision is a feature that the 12 can support at 60fps for 4K video recording.
The Pro's pro-level photography is worth the extra price. Both the iPhone 12's Night mode and camera are excellent enough to satisfy most users. This is how I see it. The ultimate quality of the camera is not what I would spend on. I'd argue that 4x4 MIMO antennas are worth the extra expense.
Despite this, the iPhone is my first choice as a smartphone for professional photographers and YouTubers. Although they are not the "most people", they have a significant cultural influence. They will be able to take better photos thanks to the $150 upgrade from the 128GB iPhone 12 Pro to the 12 Pro. At the moment, $100 is a lot to spend on a large phone. But, maybe the Max will make me reconsider. My hands aren't that large, so probably not.
The iPhone 12's final verdict boils down into two simple ideas. If you are looking for better low-light capabilities or slow Internet speeds in congestion areas, then the iPhone 12 is an excellent choice.
It is remarkable to see the difference in low light camera quality between the iPhone 12 compared with anything prior to the iPhone 11. The jump from 2x2 MIMO and 4x4 MIMO significantly improves connectivity performance in areas where signals become blocked or congested. 5G is available on T-Mobile. However, even if you are not using T-Mobile 5G, it will help.
There are two closest Android comparisons: the OnePlus 8T and the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE. Both of these are excellent. Both are excellent. The iPhone 12's low light camera is clearly superior to either one of them. I also like the iPhone 12’s smaller body.
The iPhone 12 mini, which Apple describes as compact, is coming soon. It looks identical to the 12 except that it has a slightly smaller display and battery. Although I will not be able get one until the next few weeks, it is something I am very excited about. The 12 mini is a great option for iPhone 6-8 users.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max Max will also be available in November. It is identical to the 12 Pro, but has a 2.5x zoom lens. You'll see in my reviews from this year that I have been cautious about super-expensive smartphones for 2020. Also, I have never liked big phones just for the sake of large phones.
All of this together, and we'd recommend the iPhone 12 mini to the majority of people and the iPhone 12 Pro to serious photographers who know what ProRAW is and Dolby vision and why they are important. While we don't think Android and iPhone owners should change this year, the iPhone 12 or Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, both are great choices and should be able to remain in their comfort zones in 2020.