The iPhone 12

Apple announced its next generation of iPhones today and they were in line with many of the rumors. There are four iPhone 12 models spread across two tiers and three sizes. All models share a common design and nearly all the same technologies with the two Pro models including a few extra features. Starting with the smallest we have the 5.4″ iPhone 12 mini, the 6.1″ iPhone 12, the 6.1″ iPhone 12 Pro, and the 6.7″ iPhone 12 Pro Max. The mini is new this year, bringing in a form factor that is smaller than the iPhone SE/8/7/6 but with a larger edge-to-edge display.

Apple’s new lineup. One at every price point (until the Pro).

All four phones share the same basic design and features:

  • A new design with “smooth, flat edges” that are “simply stunning”. The sides are flat like the iPhone 4/5/SE without the chamfered edges. The backs are glass.
  • Super Retina OLED XDR displays (all larger than their predecessors in the same form factor or smaller)
  • 5G for faster internet where available (spoiler: not in most places)
  • Ceramic Shield coating on front glass that makes it 4x more impact resistant
  • Improved splash resistance
  • Faster A14 CPU that enables more machine learning, better gaming, improved HDR photos, better portrait mode, and 4K HDR shooting and editing with Dolby Vision
  • Dual cameras (wide and ultra wide) with larger apertures to bring in more light
  • MagSafe magnet that enables precise charging and magnetic accessories like cases and wallets
  • The Pro models add a telephoto lens, a LiDAR sensor that allows for better AR, Night Mode Portraits, 60 fps 4K Dolby Vision capture, and support for Apple’s ProRAW image format
  • The Pro Max model includes a larger sensor, a longer telephoto lens, and sensor stabilization
The iPhones 12 Pro

I really like the design of the iPhone 12. It’s a return to my favorite iPhone 4 form factor and design. I’ve always really liked the glass back and flat sides of that design and never really enjoyed the rounded edges and aluminum back introduced with the iPhone 6. There are minor differences between the 12 and 12 Pro here – the 12 has a glossy glass back, bold colors, and aluminum sides while the Pro has a frosted glass back, muted colors, and stainless steel sides. I really like the colors of the standard iPhone 12 – they are crisp and clear. The blue and red are bold, the white is clean, and the black is deep. I’m not a huge fan of the muted colors on the Pro or the frosted back. I wish they were less “elegant” looking, but it is what it is.

So what phone do I plan to get? It’s a tough call, actually. I like the size of my iPhone X, so I have a choice between the “standard” iPhone 12 and the Pro. Either way, I’m getting a screen size increase from 5.8″ to 6.1″ and a few extra pixels of screen space to go with it. The other differences are more difficult.

Look at that stainless steel BAND. #OMG

The biggest differentiating feature between the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro last year was the screen. The 11 had a “Liquid Retina” LCD and the Pro had an actual OLED. The extra circuitry required for the LCD made the 11 larger than my iPhone X and the resolution was lower. The Pro had the telephoto lens like my X but everything else was very similar. The iPhone 12 does away with the screen and case size difference, making the Pro a harder sell, even for me. If the Pro had included a high-refresh ProMotion display like the iPad this wouldn’t even be a decision, but that feature didn’t ship this year. That leaves the 12 Pro a bit less… pro. Unless you really want that extra camera, ProRAW, video capability, or you need that largest “Max” size, an iPhone 12 is a really, really good phone.

Let’s see what I mean in the form of a table. These are the two phones I’m choosing from. I’d buy a 256 GB model to match what I have in my X which results in a $150 difference between them.

iPhone 12iPhone 12 Pro
Pre-Order / ShippingFriday 10/16
Friday 10/23
Friday 10/16
Friday 10/23
Price (256 GB)$950$1,100
Monthly Price (Apple Upgrade Program)$46$54
Screen6.1″ Super Retina XDR OLED, True Tone, P3Exactly the same*
Dimensions146.7mm x 71.5mm x 7.4mmExactly the same*
MaterialCeramic Shield front, glass back, aluminum sidesCeramic Shield front, glass back, stainless steel sides
ColorsDeep Blue
Radiant Product Red
Crisp White
Classic Black
Light Green
Faded “Sophisticated” Blue
Guady Gold
“Why Can’t I Be Black” Graphite
Not-So-Bright Silver
Cameras12 MP, Ultra Wide, Wide, 2x optical zoom*
Night mode, portrait mode
12 MP, Ultra Wide, Wide, Telephoto, 4x optical zoom
Night mode, portrait mode, night portrait mode (LiDAR), Apple ProRAW
Video4K up to 60 fps
Dolby Vision up to 30 fps
Extended dynamic range
240 fps slow mo
The same except for 60 fps Dolby Vision
RAM4 GBRumored to be 6 GB
CPU / 5G / No Power Adapter / Face ID / Water Resistance / MagSafeApple A14 Bionic / Correct / YES / 6 Meters / YESExactly the same!!!
* iPhone 12 Pro screen is about 29% brighter at 800 nits vs 650 nits. These models are a few mm taller and wider than iPhone X/XS and a few smaller than iPhone 11/XR. Pro model is 25 grams heavier. The iPhone 12 can simulate portrait mode without a Telephoto lens just like the iPhone 11 can. The Pro model can use LiDAR to focus faster in low light.
The colors of the standard iPhone are SO MUCH BETTER!

As you can see, the standard and Pro iPhone 12 are very, very similar. I like the color choices of the standard iPhone 12 better. I could care less bout 60 fps Dolby Vision and probably won’t be taking too many Night Mode Portraits. That said, I really prefer having a real telephoto lens and I am ecstatic that Apple is going to provide a real RAW format for its phones that incorporate all of their computational photography while still allowing broad editing in post.

At only $8 more per month on the upgrade program I might as well go with it anyway. So while the standard model is so very close, the Pro will win it for me. If I have to choose from one of those dull colors I think I’ll go with the blue. The silver is too dull, the gold is a “no”, and the graphite is too reminiscent of the space gray everything I’ve had lately.

Sally is going squarely with the standard model. She doesn’t need the extra camera features and likes the colors better. Hers can be pre-ordered this Friday 10/16 and ships next Friday. I have to wait three weeks later to order mine. Both of use will benefit from the features missing from our current phones – the extra wide camera, Night Mode, Deep Fusion, faster Face ID, improved Portrait Mode, 5G (maybe), stronger cases, and MagSafe accessories. They will be good upgrades for both of us and will usher us into the yearly-upgrade club. I can get my ProMotion display next year.

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