This is the iPhone 12, what Apple Calls Blast Past Fast, whatever that means, and yet what I’m gonna call the iPhone most people should buy, even if a couple of the reasons that made its predecessor so popular took a back seat.
That more affordable price strategy that we praised which separated the XR from the 11 went down the drain; an odd move considering that the price drop happened even with the iPhone 11 being superior. 2020, being as tough as it’s been, would’ve made that strategy even more ideal, but it’s important to look at the bigger picture. In Apple’s defense, you can still buy the XR and 11 for less money, and it’s important to clarify that the iPhone 12 is NOT an iterative update. This is an entirely different animal that’s so much better than its predecessor, that for the first time ever, I’m seriously questioning if you need to go Pro.
I’ve always been fascinated by the purpose of the non-pro iPhones. In the past, the slogan was the right amount of everything, and that held true for the most part. It wasn’t the best looking phone but it resembled the Pro in many ways. The display wasn’t the best, but it nailed color accuracy like few at its price, and even if it didn’t have all the cameras, it had the most popular ones in tow.
By contrast, the iPhone 12 doesn’t really follow on any of that. It’s actually more similar to the 12 Pro than you think. If you were to stack them both side by side from the front, you wouldn’t be able to tell a difference. They share the exact same design language, the same size, and for the first time, some of the differences are kind of welcome. The aluminum build is not just lighter to hold, but also provides this matte finish on the sides that is gorgeous and not prone to fingerprints. And sure, the back glass is not exempt from smudges or looks as red as experts wish it did, but I don’t care, Product Red continues to be my favorite finish.
Seriously, a comparison with the iPhone 11 would be more to show the new vs the old, but not to measure similarities. This new flatter finish makes the old curves seem dated, and also contribute to durability in the process. It’s dramatically smaller than what we had before, but looks can be deceiving.
See, this is a way more efficient display than what we had on its predecessor. It’s the same 6.1-inch diagonal, but since the technology jumped from LCD to OLED, the bezels were trimmed. Rumors pointed to this also being an OLED made by a different manufacturer, but if Apple also dubs this as a Pro Display XDR, who are we to argue? We have the same color accuracy and contrast ratio, the same viewing angles, and even the same loud dual firing speakers to enhance content consumption. I know, odd move in offering their Pro display on a non-pro smartphone.
If only that efficiency extended to the entire display and that right antenna band were a fingerprint scanner during this pandemic. Many rumors surfaced over improvements to Face ID, or the reduction of the module, but nope. The same exact obstructive notch that’s been pretty useless all year while wearing a mask.
It’s also sort of Pro if you look at the internals. Same 5nm A14 Bionic chip that powers Apple’s next-generation products, but with a few things trimmed down. There’s a bit less RAM, and Storage tiers were cut in half, though upgrading to more storage is actually less expensive. Everything else, from the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, to the IP rating, heck even the support for all flavors of 5G is the same.
I’d give the hardware a solid A. The smaller footprint makes this an ideal one-handed phone, though keep in mind that even if the ceramic shield on the glass is harder to break, it’s still just as easy to scratch. Get a case, and if you want to enhance the flat design of this phone, channel sponsor SUPCASE has got the coolest case EVER. Here’s the perfect iPhone 4 bumper throwback with the new UB Edge. It’s a matte and scratch-resistant metal bumper with elevated bezels to protect the screen and the back along with cut-outs to make all features accessible. It’s also modular with a detachable clear back panel in case you want added protection, all for just $19 on Amazon. If you wanna go fancier and with full-screen protection, there’s the new UB Royal made of a shock absorbing TPU, faux leather, and a hand strap. Simply search iPhone 12 Case by SUPCASE on Amazon to find all their options. We’ve partnered with SUPCASE to give away an iPhone 12 mini and 12 Pro Max, so follow the link in the description to participate and enter promo code POCKETNOWMAX to enhance your chances to win.
Now, back to internals and performance, let’s be real, Apple knows its market and cares so little about most of the numbers that they rarely provide detailed specs. All people want is for the thing to work as advertised, and hey, I just reviewed the most affordable iPad a few weeks ago and realized it made no sense to go Pro. The experience using it was nearly identical to using an iPad Pro, and that’s kind of the same story here.
Can you really name an App that’s exclusive to the iPhone 12 Pro? None, right. That’s the beauty of iOS. All apps run, from the cheapest iPhone SE to the most expensive 12 Pro Max. Maybe they’ll launch a second faster on one than the other, but it’s not as if you’ll feel short-changed by any iPhone that’s still being sold.
The iPhone 12 may be shorter on RAM, but I bet you won’t be able to tell. Apps launch quick, games play just the same, and every single element of iOS 14 is here. From the picture in picture to the more compact Siri that has evolved a bit, to the new automated AirPod Switching and spacial audio, to widgets on the homes screen, it’s all here.
And since we began talking about it, you really gotta hand it to Apple for how good they are at locking you into their ecosystem. The Apple Watch continues to be my favorite Smart Watch, I edit videos on a Mac so AirDrop is crazy convenient, I handle my scripts with the new iPad Air, and now that Apple One came to town, it’s making it harder and harder to switch away.
That said, let’s talk about the state of iOS 14. It is a bit buggy, I know. I’m willing to forgive it for now given the much-needed changes in visuals. What I battle with is the state of widgets. I have more than 90 apps on my phone, at most 10% of these support the new feature. I wonder what’s the holdback?
Also, if you come from an iPhone 11 or XR, the other change to notice is endurance. You may complain about LCDs all you want, but those two phones were all-day battery champs thanks to how efficient the technology became, plus the larger power packs. I’d call the iPhone 12 a decent one day phone like the Pro. I’m sure the A14 is helping, but the smaller battery is not.
Phone calls are just as good as with every iPhone, and to not be bothered about which flavor of 5G to get is awesome. I’ve tested this phone on multiple carriers, and even if Ultra Wide Band is currently hard to find, at least I know my phone will support it down the line.
Now if there is one reason why you’ll debate going Pro, even more, is the cameras. Yes, you only get a primary and ultra-wide at the back, losing the added kick of the telephoto, but then the specifications between the existing ones are the same, and once you dig into the results, the dilemma only gets more complicated.
Apple’s new image processing proves major improvements to an already great phone. You’ll actually notice when you take a still that processing continues even after the fact. The result is a fantastic detail, crazy good dynamic range, and col ors that are so balanced that you’ll have an easy time editing in postprocessing to your preferred tone if need be. I’m not a fan of Apple not making it easy to switch focal lengths on this phone, nor would I recommend that you push it to 5X digital, but if you stick to the ultra-wide, primary and then fumble to 2X, I have photos where you won’t be able to tell if they were taken with the Pro or the regular. I’d even say that 2X digital is good enough for social media if you’re not too picky.
Night Mode now makes it to all cameras and what I’d call fairly usable from the primary or selfie, with the Ultra Wide being ok, but I do wish we had the option to select the mode, and not depend on the camera app determining that you need it or not.
I do like selfies and portraits from this phone a lot. The lens is wide enough to not bloat your face, it handles depth really well, and about the only thing to debate is how it handles skin tones. I’m sure most of you won’t complain, but yeah there is a tad of beautification going on here.
Seriously the reason I drift most to iPhones is for video, but first, go to Settings, Camera, Record Video, switch off HDR Video. Like sure this phone can do Dolby Vision HDR, but unless you’re a pro, you’ll wanna disable this. It’ll make your Instagram stories look blown up, and if you plan to edit these videos, apps like Final Cut still don’t support it.
Stick to regular video for now, which is the best from a phone in my opinion, with great stabilization and color, great dynamic range, no warping as you walk, and a very smooth operation to switch between focal lengths. At night I will recommend you get a gimbal to reduce the warping, I won’t recommend the ultra-wide, and yeah, Apple needs to do something about how it’s lenses handle flares with all these greens pots.
The thing is the selfie video on this phone, and the way it captures audio is so good, that if any of you are considering starting a YouTube channel, this should be your primary vlogging camera. Just spare yourself the complexity.
To conclude, I think it’s important to consider a few things. This is not the iPhone it used to be, and Apple has made it clear. If you’re on a budget and don’t care yet about 5G, you have the iPhone SE, XR, and even the 11 for a lot less money. You could even wait for the iPhone 12 mini and pay less money for that same 5G experience.
The iPhone 12 kind of reminds me of the “grow with your vehicle” mentality we’ve seen from car makers, where those who bought a Honda Accord as teenagers saw the later generations grow and evolve along with them. I actually think this phone is a very good deal even with the bump and price.
Think about it, you have the same aluminum and glass, the same display, the same complete 5G, and most of the camera experiences that will cost you four figures if you bought a Samsung Galaxy. It lags behind on 2020 essentials like high refresh rates, but we know a lot of services still don’t take advantage of it.
I think the iPhone 12 is not just all you need, but honestly, a dramatic leap forward when compared to its predecessor. It’s definitely not what I’d call as affordable, but the technologies used and its capabilities aren’t cheap either. The combination does so well in blurring the lines with the Pro, that I think it’s honestly the better buy, but expect that other review coming very soon.