At the tail-end of the strangest and least predictable year in recent human history, Apple brought a semblance of normalcy with the anticipated arrival of its new iPhones.
Reviews are finally here for the “regular” iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Pro, giving Apple-heads a glimpse into what they’ll be getting before the new phones ship later this month. The new iPhones are ushering in just one major new feature — 5G support — while mostly offering incremental changes to performance, display quality, and, of course, the cameras.
It can be difficult to figure out which new iPhone is right for you, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at what reviewers from around the tech world thought of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro.
Excellent performance, but disappointing battery
Mashable, Brenda Stolyar
If you’re upgrading from an older device with a previous chipset, like an iPhone XR or earlier, then it’s highly likely you’ll feel a jolt in speed when opening apps or scrolling through your phone. The LiDar scanner also helps to make sure those augmented reality apps run smoothly, too.
While it’s supposed to be more efficient for battery life, I can’t say the iPhone 12 Pro lasted me all that much longer than my 11 Pro. Even though I used both new iPhones simultaneously, I relied on the 12 Pro as my primary device since it included a SIM card. But both phones have the same “all-day” battery, so it’s likely to last the same amount.
Since I’m not on my phone as often during this pandemic, the iPhone 12 Pro managed to power me through an entire day at home using apps like iMessage, Spotify, Twitter, Telegram, Messenger, and Instagram. But the day I took the phones out into the world for camera tests, the 12 Pro’s “all-day” battery life fell short, lasting about seven and a half hours before reaching 22 percent.
Engadget, Chris Velazco
Even with the sheer amount of new stuff going on in this year’s iPhones, battery life for the 12 and 12 Pro is on-par with what we got out of last year’s small Pro model. In general, that means you can expect between 11 and 12 hours of consistent use on a single charge, and you may see those batteries lasting well into the following day over quieter weekends. Normally that wouldn’t be too bad for phones of this size, but this is one area where the iPhone 12 is actually a little worse than the 11 — last year’s budget flagship could last for a day and a half with very little fuss. If you want a new iPhone and demand the best possible battery life, you might have to wait for the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
The camera is great, as always
Wired, Julian Chokkattu
Video, however, is where Apple excels, offering some smooth-looking stabilization that’s rivaled . In the iPhone 12 Pro, you can now shoot HDR videos at 4K and 60 frames per second that are enhanced by Dolby Vision, a software technology that adds greater color depth and dynamic range. You need a display that supports Dolby Vision in order to see all of the enhancements the iPhone brings to these clips, but you can still see a difference between HDR and non-HDR footage side-by-side on a non-Dolby Vision display. It’s a small difference, but it is noticeable, and if you’re routinely filming on your iPhone, you’ll want the extended range of colors afforded. I should note, though, that this HDR video is also available for the cheaper , but that model is restricted to 4K at 30 fps.
CNET, Patrick Holland
The main wide-angle camera on both phones has a faster lens that lets in more light. The new lens, combined with Smart HDR 3, yields truly amazing photos with accurate colors and solid dynamic range. Night Mode is now on the ultrawide and selfie cameras. I’m shocked at how good some Night Mode photos came out, even the selfie portraits I took! The telephoto camera on the 12 Pro is a huge step up in zoom compared to the iPhone 12. But there are a number of phones that offer much longer zooms with better results.
Wall Street Journal, Joanna Stern
Both have the same ultrawide cameras, which are great for capturing a whole scene. Both also have new wide cameras, updated with a wider aperture to let in 27% more light, according to Apple. In my low-light scene tests I could see a noticeable improvement over the iPhone 11, and big improvement over the iPhone X and iPhone 8.
So what’s different? The Pro adds a telephoto camera for taking closer shots. Whenever I would switch back from the 12 Pro to the 12, I missed the flexibility of being able to zoom into a scene without disrupting the action—a big thing for people with kids and pets.
The Pro also has a new lidar sensor, which . This will improve augmented-reality apps but also enables Night Portrait Mode, photos with that nice blur around the subject, even in low light. It did a nice job, but Portrait Mode still generally struggles with tough backgrounds.
5G and Lidar are nice, but maybe not useful yet
Mashable, Brenda Stolyar
I’ve dedicated a separate section to this because I really need to make one thing clear: Please do not buy the iPhone strictly for the 5G connectivity. The entire iPhone 12 lineup supports both sub-6 (the slower 5G network) and mmWave (the faster of the two), but that doesn’t matter right now because neither of those are widely available. It’s also important to note that if you do have 5G in your area, you’ll also have to upgrade your carrier plans to access it.
CNET, Patrick Holland
I tested these phones in Greenville, South Carolina on both T-Mobile’s 5G network and Verizon’s Nationwide 5G (the non-mmWave version without the bonkers speeds). I was impressed with the coverage both carriers offered, but not always with the consistency of 5G speeds. Using the app SpeedTest, the iPhone 12 on T-Mobile recorded download speeds between 10.4 and 14.9 megabits per second, while the iPhone 12 Pro on Verizon clocked in between 97.9 and 104Mbps for downloads.
The Verge, Nilay Patel
Unless you are extremely committed to either AR gimmicks or night mode portrait photos, I don’t think you’ll get much value out of the iPhone 12 LIDAR sensor. When you take photos in regular light, the camera focuses just like always; the LIDAR sensor isn’t active. In many ways, it feels like LIDAR is mostly on the phone so that Apple and other people can figure out what to do with it in the future.
Upgrades are incremental, regular and Pro are very similar
Wired, Lauren Goode
If you have last year’s iPhone 11, as I do, or the iPhone 11 Pro, then you probably don’t need to upgrade to the iPhone 12. If your current iPhone is a few years old, you really want a better camera, and you have the disposable income for a new phone, then the iPhone 12 is a good choice. If you are considering upgrading to the iPhone 12 because you think having a 5G phone is going to change your life, you should absolutely not upgrade to the iPhone 12.
The Verge, Nilay Patel
So that’s the iPhone 12 Pro. Is it worth $200 more than the standard carrier-subsidized iPhone 12?
Yes, because it is shiny.
That’s the best answer I have right now: it looks cooler than the regular iPhone 12, and some people value that, just like some people value a telephoto lens, the ability to take portrait photos in night mode, and LIDAR AR tricks.
But my instinct is to hold off on recommending this slightly more expensive iPhone until we’ve tested the even more expensive iPhone. The iPhone 12 Pro Max has a much bigger display and what could be a huge jump in camera performance for another $100, which feels like a lot more value for the extra money. So we’ll see.