Apple’s latest smartphone – the iPhone 12 – introduces a lot of firsts for the iPhone family such as 5G connectivity, a new MagSafe charging system, Night mode for the front camera, and Dolby Vision HDR video capture among others. But the more important question is – are those changes worth upgrading if you already have the iPhone 11 in your pocket? Or, if you have been holding on to your years old iPhone, which one should you pick between the iPhone 11 and iPhone 12? We try to answer the iPhone 12 vs iPhone 11 debate here, now that the reviews of Apple’s latest offerings are out:
Design: Curved sides or a flat frame?
The iPhone 11 has a rounded profile alongside the edges that provides a more comfortable in-hand feel. As for the iPhone 12, you get flat sides with sharper lines akin to the iPhone 4 and 5 family. The polished flat sides look appealing, but ultimately it would boil down to your personal preference.
The color palette is slightly different here though. If you like the light purple and the bright yellow shades of the iPhone 11, you won’t find that on the iPhone 12. The latter, however, offers an exclusive trim of its own in blue that also looks gorgeous. The rest of the color options that include white, black, green, and PRODUCT(RED) are shared between both phones.
However, it is worth noting here that the iPhone 12 is smaller and noticeably lighter than the iPhone 11 despite packing the same size display. But there are a few more subtle aesthetic differences between the two devices. Pocketnow’s Jaime Rivera noted in his iPhone 12 review that ‘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.’
Durability: Better water-resistance and stronger display
While both phones are made using Aerospace-grade aluminum and glass, there a couple of major differences between both phones. The iPhone 12 comes with what Apple calls Ceramic Shield on the display that is claimed to offer 4x higher drop protection.
Plus, the iPhone 12 can survive water immersion at a depth of up to 6 meters for 30 minutes, while the iPhone 11 can only go up to a depth of 2 meters for the same span. So, if you value a phone with a higher degree of mechanical strength and resistance to water damage, the iPhone 12 should be the one you should choose.
Display: Of course, the OLED is better!
The screen size is identical on both the devices and so is the wide notch, but the quality is vastly different. The iPhone 11 rocks a 6.1-inch Liquid Retina HD (1792-by-828 pixels) LCD display that translates to a pixel density of 326PPI and a contrast ratio of 1400:1. The iPhone 12, on the other hand, features a more pixel-dense Super Retina XDR OLED display that has a higher 2532-by-1170 pixels resolution and is HDR-certified. It has a significantly higher contrast ratio of 2,000,000:1 and a much higher 1200 nits of peak brightness output.
It goes without saying that the iPhone 12’s OLED display will produce much deeper blacks, better contrast, and more punchy colors compared to the iPhone 11’s LCD display. The iPhone 11’s screen is not bad by any means, (It is – in fact – one of the best LCD panels you can find on a smartphone right now), but the iPhone 12’s display beats it on almost every quality parameter and even durability. So, if you watch a lot of videos and look forward to playing games on your new purchase, the iPhone 12 is where you should put your money.
Performance: Do you really need all that firepower?
Now, this is a part where the need to upgrade or pick a favorite makes little sense when day-to-day usage is concerned. The A13 Bionic chip inside the iPhone 11 is still among the fastest mobile processors in the industry, and it can handle whatever task you throw at it with ease. And thanks to that prowess, the iPhone 11 will continue to be a solid performer for at least another year, and even two, if you are not a power user.
The A14 Bionic powering the iPhone 12 is just blazing fast and feels almost overpowered. It has faster cores that deliver up to a massive 50% performance boost, a more capable GPU, and has twice the number of neural engine cores for much faster AI and machine learning-based operations. More importantly, the iPhone 12’s A14 Bionic chip is based on the more advanced 5nm process, while the A13 Bionic inside the iPhone 11 relies on the 7nm process.
If you’re after a future-proof device that will be able to run even the most demanding apps and operations out there for the next couple of years, the iPhone 12 will serve you perfectly. However, if performance is your sole criterion, the iPhone 11 is still one mighty capable device. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether that added dash of firepower is worth the $200 premium.
Cameras: Yes, the upgrades are meaningful
One of the biggest reasons for picking up the iPhone 12 over the iPhone 11, at least for me, is the camera prowess of Apple’s latest and greatest. Both the phones have a dual 12MP camera setup at the back, but there are a few notable differences here that are worth highlighting. First, the iPhone 12’s main 12MP wide camera now has a wider f/1.6 aperture compared to the f/1.8 lens on the iPhone 11. The wider aperture allows up to 27% more light, something that Apple claims will help capture better low-light photos and videos.
The 12MP ultra-wide-angle camera is shared between the two devices, and so is the 12MP (f/2.2) front camera. But there are a few more areas where the iPhone 12 takes the lead. For example, the latest Apple offering can capture Dolby Videos HDR videos at up to 30fps via both the rear and front cameras, something the iPhone 11 can’t.
Likewise, the iPhone 12 introduces the new and improved Smart HDR 3 feature and can also be used for Night mode Time-lapse capture. Plus, the iPhone 12 brings the Night Mode and the Deep Fusion image-processing tech to the front camera as well. Here’s what Pocketnow’s Jaime Rivera noted in his review of the iPhone 12 regarding the camera performance:
“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 colors that are so balanced that you’ll have an easy time editing in postprocessing to your preferred tone if need be.”
Battery: MagSafe is new, but is it worth $200?
Surprisingly, the rated battery longevity of the iPhone 11 is identical to that of the iPhone 12, which stands at 17 hours of local video playback and 65 hours of audio playback on both phones. The iPhone 12 takes only a small lead with an additional hour of video playback over a streaming platform. Both the phones support up to 20W fast charging that can top up the battery up to the halfway mark in 30 minutes.
The major change in the battery department has happened under the hood. The iPhone 12 comes equipped with a magnetic ring under the rear panel that forms the foundation of the MagSafe charging system. Sure, it is a convenience, but it is nothing groundbreaking and neither drastically more advantageous compared to your regular Qi wireless charging pad. So, you’ll have to really be enamored by the MagSafe charging system and how the wallet case snaps at the back of the iPhone 12 to burn a few hundred dollars.
The iPhone 12 starts at $799 and comes in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB variants, while the iPhone 11 can be purchased starting at a much more palatable $599 in identical storage configurations. But do keep in mind that the storage upgrades will cost you more for the iPhone 12 compared to the iPhone 11, so choose wisely.
To sum things up, buying the iPhone 12 over the iPhone 11 (or upgrading from the latter) only makes sense if you find it hard to resist the blocky design and really want those camera upgrades to lift your photography game. Of course, 5G is a major evolution, but you need to consider whether 5G reception in the area you live (or work. or frequent) is good enough to get those blazing fast speeds and worth truly paying the premium.
Need more clarity on how the iPhone 12 performs, and whether you should finally jump the bandwagon if you’re an Android user? Read this excellent rebuttal of the iPhone 12 review by my colleague Parky or watch the video below: