I’ve been an Android user for my whole life since I got my first smartphone in 2012. Later, I purchased the iPhone 6s in 2016, but there wasn’t much to like apart from the cameras, so I switched to the OnePlus 3T. At that point in time, you needed to spend almost double the amount on an iPhone for the features that you could get on an affordable Android (read OnePlus) smartphone. It’s 2020, and while Android is more flexible, it is no more objectively better than the Apple offerings, and here’s why in our iPhone 12 review rebuttal.
Unlike previous years, the iPhone 12, which is the least expensive 6-inch+ iPhone of 2020, provides almost the same experience as the Pro variant. You no longer need to compromise on display and camera quality to purchase the latest iPhone on a budget. In my 11-day usage, I never once had the urge to switch back to Android. Here’s why I think Apple has released an iPhone that could sway many Android users like me to the Apple ecosystem with the iPhone 12.
iPhone 12 review: Design and Display
Right out of the box, you’ll notice how compact the iPhone 12 actually is. I never thought I’ll be calling a 6.1-inch display clad phone “compact” but with time, the perspective for the term has changed. In a world of 6.7-inch+ Android smartphones, the iPhone 12 is a breath of fresh air. It fits well in one hand, and the thumb can reach the top of the display without doing any acrobatics. Despite the same display size, the iPhone 12 is smaller than the iPhone 11 and lighter than any of the Android flagship that I’ve used in 2020. It weighs just 162 grams.
The phone sports flat edges with aluminum railings on all four sides. There’s no fancy curved glass and your palm won’t touch the display. It will mostly rest on the edges. When I hold my phone, my pinky finger sits at the bottom of the device, and if you are anything like me, you won’t have troubles reaching the top of the display.
The volume rockers, speakers, power button all reside at their usual position, while the back is made of glass. It attracts smudges, but I like using the phone without a case for its size. Coming to the front, there’s a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display that comes with a resolution of 2,532 x 1,170 pixels. The display itself looks gorgeous, the blacks are deep and the colors are bright. It is easily visible under direct sunlight and goes down to a level where it’s easy for the eyes to read books on the Kindle app before sleeping.
In my opinion, the display is a huge leap forward from the LCD display of the iPhone 11. However, when you compare it with the latest Android smartphones, it doesn’t look like much of a leap. It still comes with a 60Hz refresh rate. By 2020 standards, 60Hz might look like an outdated number on paper, but it’s a different story when you experience the device. I’m not saying you won’t notice the absence of 120Hz but the iPhone 12’s 60Hz display feels smoother than the 60Hz display on any other Android smartphone. Hence, it is not a deal-breaker.
There is still a notch at the top that houses the selfie shooter and the tech for Face ID. It’s obtrusive while watching videos, to say the least. Meanwhile, it is quite useless in 2020 since everybody’s wearing a mask, which means FaceID doesn’t work when you are out of your house. I’d prefer Touch ID any day over it. But credit where it’s due, FaceID works very well even in low light conditions when you are without a mask.
Apple has put on a ‘Ceramic Shield’ over the iPhone 12’s display. The company says that it makes the screen four times harder and less likely to break. I couldn’t put those claims to test for obvious reasons, but glass is glass. That said, I didn’t manage to scratch the panel.
iPhone 12 review: Performance and Battery
The iPhone 12 is powered by the in-house A14 Bionic chipset, which is built on the 5nm process. We at Pocketnow don’t care about the benchmark numbers but report the day-to-day usage. And, I had absolutely no problems while using the device. The apps launch instantly. They don’t get cleared in the memory. Switching between apps is a breeze. Plus, it is one of the best phones you can game on. The speakers are loud, but they are average at high volume in terms of clarity. Further, the phone calls sounded clear as well.
The iPhone 12 comes with 5G but there is no 5G in India yet so I couldn’t test the feature. My usage mostly included me connected to the WiFi or at times LTE. My unit gave me a screen on time of around 7 hours consistently, where the usage includes jumping between WhatsApp, Telegram, Slack, and Twitter, using the camera for 20 minutes, and streaming two episodes of The Office on Amazon Prime.
The iPhone 12 easily lasted me a day, and at times, there was 40% battery left at the end of it. I’m very happy with the battery life I’m getting on this device. I’m amazed how well the iPhone 12 is optimized since it comes with a battery that is almost half the size of Android flagships but still doesn’t fail to impress.
You can charge your iPhone 12 via the Lightning cable or the MagSafe charger, wirelessly. Notably, you don’t get a power adapter in the box. Frankly, I don’t get the “it’s for the environment” argument since the adapter ships in its separate box with its own booklets! The iPhone 12 supports 20W fast charging with the cable and 15W fast charging with the MagSafe charger. If you compare it with any Android flagship from OnePlus, OPPO, or Xiaomi, it might feel like a big let down. It did to me. But again, the on-paper numbers don’t justify the experience.
I used the MagSafe charger, and it charged my iPhone 12 in almost 110 minutes from 10% to 100%, while wired charging takes about 90 minutes. This is a respectable number, but it still lags behind what Chinese OEMs are doing with their fast charge tech. For instance, my OnePlus 8T charges from zero to full under 80 minutes. I wish the iPhone 12 had better fast charging capabilities. I only used the cable twice as I used the MagSafe charger more so I’m fine with my iPhone not having a USB-C port. However, if you are traveling it’s always better to carry just one USB-C charger for all your devices, but that isn’t the way it is for now at least.
The iPhone 12 sports a dual rear camera setup of 12MP primary and 12MP ultra-wide-angle lens. These are the same as the ones used on the iPhone 12 Pro. Hence, blurring the gap between the two devices. These two cameras explain that the Android ecosystem is just playing the number game and quality is better than quantity. Moreover, the main camera has an f/1.6 aperture that gives it the ability to take in more light. This results in better low-light photos. Still, there is one thing I’d like Apple to fix.
In broad daylight, the difference between a Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy S and Note series, and the latest iPhones, is blurring. The iPhone 12 captures sharp, and detailed images in broad daylight. It’s the night and indoor lighting conditions where the difference with the competition is noticeable.
As for portrait shots, the iPhone 12’s edge detection is very good, and it gives a natural-looking depth-of-field.
As for the ultra-wide-angle camera, the distortion is lesser than its Android competitors. Plus, the iPhone 12 now supports Night Mode in the secondary camera, which gives more use-case scenarios to the already-versatile camera setup. However, the images aren’t as detailed as the primary sensor, and sometimes they aren’t color accurate either. I’ll still prefer this ultra-wide camera since it exposes the subject better and there is less noise.
The one issue I faced on the rear camera at night was lens flare. As you can see from the images above, it seems as if the lens has some dirt on it, but it is in fact glare from multiple sources of light. The flare is visible in images as well as the videos captured at night.
The iPhone 12 doesn’t pack a telephoto lens, which means zoom shots rely on digital zoom. It is usable till 2x but anything over that, and you’ll start noticing significant loss of detail. However, I’m happy with the inclusion of an ultra-wide angle lens over the telephoto camera as I use the former more than the latter.
When it comes to videos, the iPhone 12 hits it out of the park. I have never noticed such stabilization on an Android phone. Plus, Apple has now given you the ability to shoot in Dolby Vision. However, the videos shot in this format will only be viewed as they are meant to be viewed on other iPhone 12 displays as they aren’t compatible with every screen. But I expect software applications to adapt to the new standard sooner than later. That said, if you’ve been wanting to start a YouTube channel, and all you’ve got is your phone, make sure it is this one.
The Android-domination story continues to the selfie shooter. Above is a sample shot on the iPhone 12 and the OnePlus 8T. As you can see, the iPhone 12 not only exposed the subject better but it captured more details. It doesn’t smoothen the skin with any beauty effect, which is found on most Android phones.
iPhone 12 review: Software
I like Android because it gives me the freedom to customize my phone the way I like it. In contrast, iOS is a restricted territory. However, it has improved over the years. You can now place widgets on the homescreen. This is mainly useful because I like to have the calendar widget tell me the date and events for the day. Just one look at the screen and you know the info you were looking for. It is on top of my main screen.
However, I don’t feel like iOS is designed to be used single-handedly. Firstly, you can’t place apps at the bottom of the screen. You have to arrange the apps the way Apple wants you to and not the way you want, that is, in a top-down, left-to-right grid. Secondly, despite having one of the best haptics engines on a phone, Apple decides to not provide haptic feedback on the inbuilt keyboard. I switched to Swiftkey for this very reason.
I noticed that several apps I use daily are designed better for iOS than for Android. Heck, even Google’s own apps feel better on iOS. Twitter and Instagram are the other two apps that I use a lot, which are better designed on iOS. Plus, the seamless connectivity Apple ecosystem offers is a godsend. I mean, I can access photos I clicked on my iPhone 12 directly on my Mac within seconds! My first reaction was: “Whaaaat?” And, one of the best parts about iOS is the longevity you get. The iPhone 12 is likely to get at least five years of major iOS updates, which is easily much more than any Android manufacturer.
iPhone 12 review: Verdict
The iPhone 12 is one of the most powerful compact devices I’ve ever used. It features a great display, an excellent set of cameras, offers exceptional performance, and robust battery life. It ticks all the right boxes, and in my opinion, this is the best phone you can buy for under $850. Even for Indian readers, this is the best phone under INR 85,000 (128GB variant).
But who should upgrade? If you are using iPhone Xs or anything below it, you’ll be very happy with the new iPhone 12. This is the phone to buy if you are looking to upgrade since there is not much of a difference between the vanilla and Pro variant this year. If you are an Android user who has a Mac and have been contemplating making the shift to iOS like me, I’d say, “do it!” The seamless experience with the Mac feels so rewarding.
iPhone 12 photo gallery
Right out of the box, you’ll notice how compact the iPhone 12 actually is. I never thought I’ll be calling a 6.1-inch display clad phone “compact” but with time, the perspective for the term has changed. In a world of 6.7-inch+ Android smartphones, the iPhone 12 is a breath of fresh air.