Apple iPhone 12 vs iPhone 12 Pro full review

Apple unveiled its latest versions of the iPhone at its Hi, Speed event on 13 October. The range introduces the new iPhone 12 Mini along with the standard iPhone 12 and its Pro brethren. We take a look at the middle children in this expanding family, seeing how the iPhone 12 compares to the iPhone 12 Pro.

Price & availability

As you would expect, Apple offers the iPhone 12 in a few different storage configurations, which break down like this;

  • Apple iPhone 12 64GB - £799/$799
  • Apple iPhone 12 128GB - £849/$849
  • Apple iPhone 12 256GB - £949/$949

You can pre-order the iPhone 12 from 16 October, with a release date of 23 October.

It’s a similar story with the iPhone 12 Pro that can be had in one of the following flavours;

  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro 128GB - £999/$999
  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro 256GB - £1,099/$1,099
  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro 512GB - £1,299/$1,299

You can pre-order the iPhone 12 Pro from 16 October, with a release date of 23 October.

If you want a larger or smaller device, then there are the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the iPhone 12 Mini, both of which make their debuts on 13 November. We have details of the iPhone 12 mini here).

Design

Following on from the success of the squarer edges of the iPad Pros and the new iPad Air, Apple has brought the more angular aesthetic to all new iPhone 12 models. In many ways, it’s reminiscent of the iPhone 5/5S and original SE, but the look is definitely modern. 

iPhone 12 vs iPhone 12 Pro: iPhone 12 Colours

Colour has returned to Apple’s palette once more, with the iPhone 12 sporting five gorgeous liveries - White, Black, [Product] Red, Green, and Blue - rivalled by the more austere Graphite, Silver, Gold, and Pacific Blue of the Pro. 

iPhone 12 vs iPhone 12 Pro: Pro colours

The iPhone 12 has an aluminium chassis while the Pro has a mixture of surgical-grade stainless steel and glass. The dimensions are smaller than each of their predecessors, but both retain 6.1in displays, resplendent on Super Retina XDR panels. 

Part of the secret for the reduction is that the 5G antenna components have been built into the band around the chassis, hopefully with better success than the iPhone 4 that resulted in the ‘you’re holding it wrong’ controversy. 

There are still notches at the top of either display due to the Face ID cameras, but Apple has upgraded the glass to a new Ceramic Shield material that it boasts has four times the drop performance on the previous iPhone models. 

iphone 12 vs iphone 12 pro : pro cameras

The iPhone 12 comes with dual cameras on the rear, an ultra-wide and wide compliment, while the Pro gets an additional telephoto lens. More on those later on. 

One interesting addition is the return of MagSafe. Now, this was only on Macs before for holding the chargers in place, but now it’s built into the back panel of all the iPhone 12 models for a similar application. The new feature allows the magnetic attachment of wireless chargers so that you won’t return later to find that the device wasn’t sitting quite right and still has a flat battery. 

iphone 12 vs iphone 12 pro: waterproofing

Waterproofing has been upgraded to an IP68 rating, meaning the devices can survive being submerged to depths of six metres for up to thirty minutes. Finally, the charging ports on both devices remain Lightning rather than bringing it into line with the iPad Pros, iPad Air, and all new MacBooks that use USB-C. Scratching our heads on that one, have to admit. 

Features

Apple has put the introduction of 5G connectivity as the headline feature across the iPhone 12 range. It brings increased speed on LTE connections, saving you from using potentially unsafe public Wi-Fi when out and about (if we do that anymore), plus the ability to play online games with low latency, and download movies, TV shows and music in a fraction of the time it would have taken on 4G LTE. In ideal conditions, Apple boasts that the new models can reach speeds of 3.5 gigabits per second. Not too shabby. 

The company also asserts that the iPhone 12 models have more 5G bands than other smartphones, and employ Smart Data Mode to automatically switch between 5G and 4G LTE depending on what you’re doing and how fast you need the connection to be. 

Displays

On either model you’ll find a 6.1in Super Retina XDR OLED display, which Apple says features a specular 2,000,000: 1 contrast ratio and pixel per inch counts of 460, that dwarfs the 326 found on the iPhone 11. 

iphone 12 vs iphone 12 pro: iphone 12 pro display

Both have HDR, True Tone, Wide Colour display P3, Haptic Touch, but the Pro has a max brightness of 800 nits, while the iPhone 12 has 625, although both can reach 1,200 nits for HDR playback. 

Processors

As expected, Apple includes the A14 Bionic processor across the range, calling it the ‘fastest chip ever in a smartphone’. It’s the first chip Apple has deployed on the 5nm process technology, which again aids the size reduction of the devices. During the launch presentation, Apple made some huge claims about speed and performance of the chip in relation to others on the market, with GPU speeds up to 50% faster than everything else, but we’ll need to test that before accepting some frankly mental looking gains.

Cameras

iPhone 12 users will have to settle for a dual-camera arrangement rather than the triple on the Pro models, but we think the Wide and Ultra Wide combination will be more than enough for most people. There’s also Smart HDR 3 which brings increased control over detail, contrast and noise reduction, plus a new Night Mode for after-hours photography and Night Mode Time-Lapse for arty video creations.  

iphone 12 vs iphone 12 pro: iphone 12 cameras

If you can’t live without a Telephoto lens, then the iPhone 12 Pro brings that to the party, alongside advanced Optical Image Stabilisation that moves the sensor rather than the lens. Deep Fusion image processing brings, well, Pro level detail to photos and editing, while the upcoming Apple ProRAW will be of great interest to serious photographers who desire the highest level of control over their images.  

HDR video recording also appears for the first time on iPhone, with 10-bit HDR, and Apple also revealed that the 12 Pro is the first smartphone that can record Dolby Vision HDR running at 4K and 60fps. Oh, and the engineers also threw in a LiDAR scanner to create depth-maps of your surroundings for use with AR software and Night Mode portrait photography.   

Here's a breakdown of the technical specs for both devices;

  iPhone 12 iPhone 12 Pro
Display 6.1in Super Retina XDR OLED,
2532x1170-pixel resolution at 460 ppi
6.1in Super Retina XDR OLED,
2532x1170-pixel resolution at 460 ppi
Processor A14 Bionic A14 Bionic
Storage 64GB/128GB/256GB 128GB/256GB/512GB
Rear Camera Dual 12MP, Ultra Wide: ƒ/2.4 aperture
Wide: ƒ/1.6 aperture
Triple Pro 12MP, Ultra Wide: ƒ/2.4 aperture
Wide: ƒ/1.6 aperture
Telephoto: ƒ/2.0 aperture
Front Camera 12MP TrueDepth, f/2.2 12MP TrueDepth, f/2.2
Video Recording 4K video recording at 24 fps, 30 fps or 60 fps, HDR Dolby Vision up to 30fps 4K video recording at 24 fps, 30 fps or 60 fps, HDR Dolby Vision up to 60fps
Biometric Security Face ID Face ID
Wi-Fi Wi-Fi 6 Wi-Fi 6
LTE 5G 5G
Wireless Charging Yes, with MagSafe Yes, with MagSafe
Bluetooth 5 5
Apple Pay Yes Yes 
Waterproofing IP68 IP68
SIM Dual  (nano and eSim) Dual  (nano and eSim)
Dimensions 146.7mm x 71.5mm x 7.4mm 146.7mm x 71.5mm x 7.4mm
Weight 162g 187g
Price £799/£849/£949

£999/£1099/£1299

Verdict

The new design for the iPhone 12 range is a subtle refinement that is very welcome. Add to this the A14 Bionic chip, the Ceramic Shield display and improved waterproofing, means the devices are not only pretty but powerful and robust. The iPhone 12 will be more than enough for the majority of people, but if you want that extra camera and the software enhancements that go with it, then it could be worth spending the extra money.

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