About a week after Apple’s iPhone 12 announcement, devices have now started shipping, which also signals reviews dropping out. What’s missing here is the iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 Pro Max, both models not available until November. Both are potentially more interesting, but likely the base iPhone 12 will be the top seller out of the four, regardless. I don’t know if we’re missing half the story here or not, but for now it’s the base iPhone 12 vs the iPhone 12 Pro.
And the base iPhone 12 and the Pro series have been reviewed and compared pretty widely, and while the longer-term reviews tend to get further below the surface, there’s some early good and maybe one or two concerns.
- Part of the balance of the reviews is figuring out if you should get the iPhone 12 ($829 with 64GB storage, or $879 with 128GB of storage) or the12 Pro (starting at $999 with 128GB of storage), all priced without fairly generous trade-ins and various plans.
- And actually, the reviews are saying that the gap between the default and the Pro is smaller than ever.
- While the Pro Max has a better camera than the Pro. So buying the Pro for the camera but not the Pro Max is a bit of a puzzle to figure out.
Some outlets went for dual reviews together, possibly because of how similar they are.
The CNET iPhone 12 review spends much of the time actively comparing both. It’s one of the highest-rated phones of all time for the outlet, the iPhone 12 scoring 9.2/10 and the iPhone 12 Pro scoring 9.3/10, with the note, “it’s best to think of the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro as “better” and “best” versions of the same phone.
Engadget follows the same path, but flips the score. The iPhone 12 gets a 91/100 with praise for the huge leap taken from the iPhone 11 and calling it the right choice for most people. With the higher price tag, the iPhone 12 Pro scores an 89/100, with the explanation: “compared to the iPhone 12, the new iPhone 12 Pro is a considerably tougher sell.”
Daring Fireball spent less time on scores and more ruminating about what it all means, but did offer this: “Camera system aside, the iPhone 12 is just as nice as the iPhone 12 Pro, and it costs $120 less for the same amount of storage.”
More specific reviews said similar things, but got into more depth about key features. By the way, all reviews love the new design unequivocally: flat sides, and flat screen are great. The rails are matte on the iPhone 12, glossy on the Pro models, and the matte is a little nicer it seems. But, people will put a case on their phones anyway. TechCrunch went further: “The 12 Pro is likely the most premium feeling piece of consumer electronics I’ve ever touched.”
And all reviews say the A14 Bionic chip is blisteringly fast, so there’s not much need to get into details there.
The other stuff that matters is well covered by The Verge:
- 5G: “it’s not a good idea to buy an iPhone just because it has 5G. It’s a nice bonus, but not more than that yet.”
- Camera: “The important changes to the camera in the iPhone 12 aren’t in the sensors or the lenses. They are completely unchanged except for the main […] camera going from an ƒ/1.8 aperture to ƒ/1.6 to allow in slightly more light. Instead, the bigger differences come from software and from unlocking new capabilities, thanks to the new A14 Bionic processor that runs everything on the phone … I definitely see a marked improvement over the iPhone 11, but they’re not enough to compel an upgrade”
- Battery: “Luckily, I don’t think the battery life on the iPhone 12 is bad at all. I can get through a full day without much issue. On the other hand, I have to admit that it’s easier to kill this thing with a full day of heavy use than the iPhone 11.”
- MagSafe: “…a very clever idea that needs some more bake time in the wild before it can actually replace the Lightning connector and deliver the port-less iPhone Apple seems to be headed toward in the future.”
- Camera: “Last year I said the iPhone 11 Pro had the best camera on a smartphone, and it’s not like the iPhone 12 Pro went backward. But it’s only a small step forward — enough to stay just ahead of the competition. Most of the improvements are fairly minor …. The problem is that the iPhone 12 Pro Max camera is coming out in less than a month. If you are the sort of person who buys a new phone for the camera, I would definitely wait.
- Dolby Vision HDR video: “the other big new camera feature across the iPhone 12 line is the ability to create Dolby Vision HDR video. There is no way to talk about this without falling deeply into the weeds of video formats…” (Read the review for those weeds which explain the large difference between photography HDR and video HDR!)
- Battery: “I think iPhone 12 Pro battery life is going to vary widely for people depending on how much they use 5G — especially mmWave 5G — so this is something we’ll have to track over time. But I would definitely not expect the “try and stop me” battery life we saw on the regular iPhone 11.”
More on the battery: It’s clear that if any iPhone 12 is connected to a 5G network, battery life does suffer, but it’s not just 5G that’s the stress.
- Over at Tom’s Guide, a testing regime found the regular iPhone 12 lasted 8 hours and 25 minutes over AT&T’s 5G network.
- Last year’s iPhone 11 lasted a whopping 11 hours and 16 minutes over 4G.
- Switching the iPhone 12 to 4G-only, it endured for 10 hours and 23 minutes.
- Apple deflects concerns by saying it’s still an all-day battery.
- We’ll find out battery mAh numbers once teardowns do their work.