REVIEW: Apple iPhone 12, 12 Pro
Apple may have entered the race late, but it hopes to overtake everyone else with their first 5G phones
Well, it's finally here. Took a while but... well, we all know Apple and how they do things their way.
It's been a week since we've been treated to the first virtual iPhone launch, and we all saw what they've served up this time: The iPhone 12 line-up, made up of four devices, the biggest number to date.
However, not all four were made available for pre-orders and actual sales this Friday. The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro are going first, with the 12 Pro Max - Apple's biggest device by far at 6.7 inches - and the new, interesting 12 mini, starting pre-orders on November 6 and sales on November 13.
Still, buckle up because we have a lot to cover. Trust us, this is already an 'abridged' version as we want to keep things straight and simple.
TALE OF THE TAPE: iPhone 12
iPhone 12 Pro
Aside from the fact that there are a number of shared specs between the newbies and their predecessors, there are also certain ones shared across all. And yes, you only get one sticker this time.
All iPhone 12 models are a throwback to the geometric design last seen on the iPhone 5; the rounded corner edges are gone in favour of flat ones, which gives them an even more solid look. Apple also decided put the 12 Pro's display at par with the 12 - remember, the iPhone 11 Pro was at 5.8 inches - and comparing it to the same 6.1-inch iPhone 11, the newbies are 11 per cent slimmer, 15 per cent smaller and 16 per cent lighter.
And while the buttons stay on their usual places - mute and volume on the left, power on the right - the card tray has been switched to the left. For the uninitiated, to power off the iPhone, you need press the volume up and volume down buttons, then press and hold the power button; holding the latter on its own will call Siri.
The 12 uses an aluminium frame, while the 12 Pro dons a stainless steel one. When it comes to finishes, here's where they diverge: The 12 has matte edges and a glass rear, while the 12 Pro comes with glossy edges and a matte rear. Both, however, are gorgeous; putting them side-by-side provides an interesting contrast.
Those complement these iPhones' newest physical defence system, called Ceramic Shield, which Apple says gives these devices four times more protection from drops. We tried dropping it from a height of 10 metres to find out if... no, just kidding; take good care of your gadgets, please.
Oh... and in case you missed it or noticed why those boxes are rather smaller, it's because you won't get the wall plug and EarPods anymore. Apple says the move is part of its efforts to become carbon-neutral by 2030 and help reduce electronic rubbish. That could be polarising, but since the iPhone is targeted at iPhone users or those who want to switch allegiances in the higher-end category, it makes sense since we're quite sure you've got a stack of wall plugs.
Now here's the problem: While you still get a charging cable in the box, it's a Lightning-to-USB-C type, meaning you either have to (a) buy a wall plug that has a USB-C port, or (b) ensure you have somewhere to plug it in (this makes it fully-compatible with the latest MacBooks that don't have USB-A). There goes your 'polarising' argument.
At least Apple kept the Lightning port on the iPhone 12; it was widely speculated that Apple would be switching to USB-C, just like it did with its iPads as early as 2018. This means that while your old wall plugs have been rendered useless when it comes to the new cable, you can still use your old USB-A-equipped Lightning cables. Hey, that means those plugs aren't useless after all. And by the way, you also get one less Apple sticker. Bummer.
And tucked underneath their rear is MagSafe charging tech. While not technically new - these are the same gear used to charge MacBooks other than those newer ones that now use Thunderbolt/USB-C ports - it's the first time it's been used on iPhones to replace traditional wireless charging methods.
It's similar to the ones used by Apple Watches, albeit a bigger version. Simply snap it onto the iPhone and you're good to go; it's built so secure that you won't have to worry about it falling off.
We avoid to be too technical and geeky, but we have to point out certain things sometimes. Well, actually it's the A14 Bionic that wants to introduce itself.
That's because Apple's new chipset - powering all iPhone 12 devices - is another significant bump-up from the A13: It's the world's first 5nm processor on a smartphone with over 11 billion transistors crammed in it, is up to 50 per cent faster performance and graphics compared to the competition, and has a Neural Engine with more cores that is 80 per cent faster and can crunch 11 trillion processes in a second, which Apple says is enough to challenge even laptop performance.
Now you may not notice this performance upgrade if you compare to different models - iPhones work smoothly in general - but continuing to boost chipsets is critical in the long run, in the sense that, for example, among others, storage will pile up, requiring more robust hardware in place to handle it. The Neural Engine will also be key in the iPhone's machine learning capabilities, learning your patterns as you continue to use it. To use a crude comparison, think of it as a container wherein you drop marbles (or anything else) inside: The bigger it is, the more space those marbles will have to move freely.
Complementing this better hardware is, of course, iOS 14. A number of new features have been added to it including, among several others, a new App Library that groups everything into their proper categories (with search too), more customisable widgets that you can now drag onto the main homescreens, a minimalistic Siri experience that doesn't require it to take over your entire screen and a smarter overall experience.
As an added bonus, Apple also doubled the base storage of the 12 Pro to 128GB, but, sadly not for the 12. I've been batting for this on the premium models for years now, and here I go again wishing for it to happen next year (12s? 13? 'F' for foldable?).
And going back to the display, both boast a contrast ratio of 2,000,000-to-1. While not new for the 12 Pro since the 11 Pro already had that, it's a big - no, herculean - deal for the 12, because the iPhone 11 only had a puny 1,400-to-1 figure. Basically put, this allows the iPhones to let you see greater detail even in dark areas, without messing up with the brightness of other pixels.
CEO Tim Cook said that in order for 5G on an iPhone to work at its maximum absolute best, there needs to be harmony between hardware and software - and all the R&D to back it all up.
Sure, Apple is 'late' entering the 5G race (sure feels kinda weird yet gratifying to see the '5G' indicator pop up on an iPhone's upper-right corner just now), but they didn't just take their sweet time or just tripped out; an interesting and extensive process was in place behind the scenes (we'll clue you in on that real soon).
Apple included what it calls Smart Data Mode, in which the iPhone 12 automatically switches to LTE if a 5G connection isn't needed, and vice-versa. That helps conserve battery life and unnecessary data usage.
5G still isn't available everywhere in the UAE, but compared to other 5G phones we've tested before, it's considerably more accessible right now. Etisalat and du are racing for a wider rollout - and we can expect that hyped-up experience once it's in place.
While all lenses across the iPhone 12 models all have 12MP sensors, the main difference between the 12 and 12 Pro is that the former has two cameras and the latter has three. Both share the same super-low f/1.6 aperture, an enhanced night mode, Smart HDR 3 and a whole bunch of other stuff.
And of course, being the premium one, the 12 Pro has additional goodies, including, among others, up to 10x digital zoom (the 12 maxes out at 5x), the end-to-end compatibility with cinema-grade Dolby Vision (shoot, edit, play) and that much talked-about Lidar scanner - first used by Apple in the iPad Pros launched earlier this year - which enhances the camera system even more and is a boon for those involved in augmented reality and the sort. Also, when using night mode, both models capture 27 per cent more light; if that already sounds big enough, wait 'till we find out the deal with the 12 Pro Max, which boasts a ridiculous 87 per cent improvement in low light.
Alright, enough of the technical stuff; let's (camera) roll. First, the iPhone 12:
Clear as day and natural-looking.
At night, expect some grain as you zoom in further (typical anywhere).
Meanwhile, the 12 Pro wouldn't want to be left behind.
Now for some comparative shots, particularly at night. Shots on the left are from the 12, while the ones the right are from the 12 Pro:
With the same wide f/1.6 aperture, it's basically a dead heat, though depending on what you're taking, the lighting situation and where you focus on-screen, there is a tendency that results become a bit overexposed.
Those are more natural-looking shots. And we have to point out that these are dark areas, and the light-capturing mode of these iPhones don't disappoint.
Apple didn't give specifics regarding how long exactly we can expect battery life on the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro, but rummaging through its technical specs, it's basically the same compared to their predecessors.
So we'll keep this simple: With minimal use, you can stretch either phone up to two days (early evening), but on average it's good to keep you company until mid-afternoon the following day. However, as what we've observed when we tested their cameras, it does drop off considerably faster; by late afternoon they were down to 20 per cent.
Meanwhile, in our standard one-hour YouTube-at-full-brightness test, both the 12 and 12 Pro lost a very good eight per cent. That's a significant improvement from the iPhone 11, which lost 12 per cent. We can't provide a comparison for the 12 Pro, since we didn't review it last year, but it could be safe to say we'd get the same improved results.
And when it comes to charging, Apple says the new iPhones can zip to 50 per cent in half-an-hour, the same figure they gave last year, for wired charging. We also have to point out that charging these iPhones required leaving it on since we can't see the battery percentage when it's off, though we put it on flight mode to get maximum results. Also, for this one, we used a 30W Apple charger that comes with the newest MacBook Air.
Hmmm... the iPhone 11 last year finished up at an hour and 25 minutes using an 18W Apple charger. Interesting.
And here we go - MagSafe wireless charging.
Alright, enough, let's stop it right there.
Well, wireless charging isn't fast by any means compared to wired; at this pace, it may well take over three hours to attain full power using this method. While indeed MagSafe charging on an iPhone is quite cool - and safe, of course - you'll get basically only half of what you can achieve compared to wired. Also remember that USB-C enables faster transfer of power and data.
Apple did all the right things with the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro: A classic design reinvented, stronger builds, souped-up innards and, of course 5G. We're also happy that Apple decided to put the 12 Pro's screen at par with the 12, but we're still sad the 12's base storage is still stuck at 64GB.
Both the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro are wonderful starts to this year's iPhone season. Question is, are you ready to buy or wait for the mini and 12 Pro Max?
And since they're so similar save for form and the camera, we think we can rightly pack the goods and goofs together.
GOODIES: Sleek form, improved cameras, full Dolby Vision support, excellent displays
GOOFIES: Battery drops fast when cameras are used for an extended period, MagSafe charging needs more speed, camera tends to overexpose shots at night
iPhone 12: We were expecting a higher base storage for this one. For all the power that will compel you to do more with it, you'll definitely need more storage especially if you're the type who's on a really tight budget but want the best. 4.5/5
iPhone 12 Pro: Put it this way: You know you're going to spend more for the 12 Pro Max. But since the 12 Pro has almost everything the 12 Pro Max has and you don't mind a smaller screen, this is the real deal for you. 5/5
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