The iPhone 12 small, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max are the four new iPhones that will be released by Apple in 2020. While each has its own niche and potential buyers, the iPhone 12 was the obvious best all-around option. Neither too huge nor too little; neither too pricey nor overloaded with unnecessary bells and whistles.
The Apple iPhone 12 follows in the footsteps of the iPhone 11 and the iPhone XR before it. It has a new flat, boxy form with squared-off corners, but it retains the same fundamental ideas as its predecessors: all the essential iPhone features, without the gimmicks that drive up the price of the Pro versions.…
Current price: $599 on contract
Display: 6.1-inch OLED (2532×1170)
CPU: A14 Bionic
Storage: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
Rear camera: 12MP wide (ƒ/1.6), 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.4)
Front camera: 12MP (ƒ/2.2)
Battery: 2,815 mAh
Battery life: 8:25 (5G), 10:23 (4G)
Size: 5.78 x 2.81 x 0.29 inches
Weight: 5.78 ounces
The iPhone 12 is now almost two years old, having been replaced by the iPhone 14 last year. And yet, that doesn’t mean it’s dead; Apple is still selling it, making it one of the more affordable ways to buy an iPhone that’s more than up to the challenges of iOS.
With its sleek new OLED screen and rounded corners, the iPhone 12 is a sight to behold. It also includes full 5G connectivity, high-quality cameras, and Apple’s speedy A14 Bionic processor.
Still, it has certain flaws, such as inadequate base storage and a frame rate of just 60 frames per second (fps). Furthermore, battery life is subpar.
Despite this, the iPhone 12 remains a top-notch smartphone, particularly considering its record low price. Read on for the whole analysis.
iPhone 12 review: Release date and price
After debuting in October 2021, the iPhone 12 is still sold by Apple and various carriers. With the new pricing structure, the 64GB model now begins at at $599 (or £649 or AU$1,049), with 128GB and 246GB models now available.Check out our Apple Store coupons page for the most up-to-date deals and savings.
You can rely on us to keep tabs on the best prices for the iPhone 12 and other Apple products. If you’ve got an iPhone 7 or later and decide to purchase an iPhone 12 from Apple and trade in your old one, you may save $40 to $720. (Newer models fetch the highest return.)
The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini are still available from Apple, but at reduced pricing. As could be expected, the iPhone 13 is $100 more expensive than the iPhone 12. However, the iPhone 13 is still $599, so Apple is demanding more payment for either a larger display or more advanced hardware.
For the iPhone 12, Apple does not provide a charging cable or headphones in the package, so you’ll have to shell out additional cash if you want or need any of those accessories. To be fair, it holds true for every iPhone model since the iPhone 12.
iPhone 12 review: Design
Apple rarely alters the physical design of the iPhone from generation to generation, and thus any change — no matter how small — is typically received with enthusiasm. You can chalk up the iPhone 12’s flat-edge aesthetic as one of those more modest revisions from previous editions.
The flat sides are a welcome departure from the rounder iPhones of recent years, and they do provide a certain aesthetic appeal. In addition, they work in unison with Apple’s new Ceramic Shield material to increase the iPhone 12’s durability, which was previously lacking due to the rounder frames of earlier iPhones’ increased fragility.
The display protected by the Ceramic Shield held up nicely during EverythingApplePro’s YouTube stress test. When dropped from hip or shoulder height, neither the iPhone 12 nor the iPhone 12 Pro cracked, and even when dropped from 10 feet, just the back of the normal iPhone 12 cracked, but the screen remained unharmed.
Having saying that, I still haven’t gotten used to the crisper design. The iPhone 12 is a good reminder of why curved rather than flat smartphone displays are the norm now. The edges are sharp, making it uncomfortable to hold the gadget with one hand. For instance, the Pixel 5 is 0.31 inches thick, and the iPhone 12 is 0.29 inches thick, so they’re almost indistinguishable. The Pixel 5, on the other hand, has a slimmer feel in your hand since it conforms to the shape of your palm.
Furthermore, as a long-time user of the iPhone 11 Pro, I couldn’t help but believe the 6.1-inch iPhone 12 is a bit taller than it actually needs to be. I won’t blame you for dismissing this as a nitpick. The 5.8-inch size is ideal for me since it provides enough of viewing area while yet fitting comfortably in my pocket, but Apple has seemingly abandoned it with the iPhone 12 series. Those who want a more portable smartphone will have to settle with the iPhone 13 mini’s smaller screen size of 5.4 inches. (The iPhone 12 mini is no longer around.) I applaud Apple for keeping a compact flagship option available, but I can’t help but think that a 5.4-inch screen is too small for today’s consumers.
However, the overall appearance of the iPhone 12 has me completely captivated. I like that Apple has significantly reduced the bezels compared to the iPhone 11 and XR, however a smaller notch would have been welcome. Not being a major lover of navy in general, I do like the mint green option and the refined simplicity of this design. Black, white, red, and purple are the other available iPhone 12 hues.
iPhone 12 review: MagSafe
Magnets may continue to perplex the brightest brains in the world, but Apple has incorporated them into the core of the iPhone 12. Apple’s MagSafe ecosystem of accessories, including wireless chargers, cases, and wallet attachments, are all made possible by a ring of magnets located in the device’s center on the back of the iPhone 12.
Apple’s method of wireless charging is not much different from other systems. Its own $30 MagSafe charging puck employs the same Qi standard as any other wireless charger for any other phone; it simply adds magnets, too. Although the iPhone 12 is backwards-compatible with Qi wireless charging accessories, in order to get the maximum 15-watt charging speeds, you will require a first- or third-party solution that uses MagSafe.
Unfortunately, MagSafe is far slower than Apple’s 20W wired charging. Quite a little slower. An independent testing organization found that the iPhone 12 could be charged to 50% capacity with the 20W fast charger in only 28 minutes. It took an hour to charge the 15W MagSafe.
Even so, it is not to discount the sensible principles underpinning MagSafe. The iPhone 12’s magnets make it easier to connect cases and other accessories to the phone while it’s charging. It’s far more convenient to charge your phone by placing it down on a puck that snaps into place than to fumble with a little Lightning cable next to your bed.
I think it’s going to take more third-party involvement and experimentation before we really see MagSafe reach its full potential — and that’s happened a little bit in the two years since the iPhone 12’s release. Still, the magnets within my iPhone 12 weren’t quite strong enough to keep Apple’s MagSafe wallet rigidly attached in all instances. In fact, the friction of pulling the iPhone 12 out of my jeans pocket was enough to knock the wallet off center on a few occasions, which to me doesn’t evoke very Apple-like design.
iPhone 12 review: Display
The iPhone 11’s LCD display was unquestionably the Achilles’ heel of Apple’s entry-level premium iPhones, but the iPhone 12 alleviates that. It’s all thanks to a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display that matched what you got in the iPhone 12 Pro.
This screen has a far higher resolution than the iPhone 11’s (1792×898), with a whopping 2532×1170 pixels. HDR10 certification means that footage shot with the device’s Dolby Vision back camera may be seen in its native color space and contrast range.
The teaser for Monster Hunter left me feeling mostly unimpressed, although the video’s depiction of a Black Diablos with its scales, horns, and fangs sparkling in the desert sun was a notable exception. The LCD screen of the iPhone 11 wouldn’t have done the black smoke from an explosion justice because of its inability to show genuine black.
Anyone who has used a recent Galaxy, Pixel, or OnePlus phone for any period of time will understand why the iPhone 12’s screen isn’t ideal. Despite months of speculation to the contrary, Apple has opted not to include high refresh-rate screens, which have been more widespread in the premium smartphone market over the last year, on any of the iPhone 12 models. (Even if you choose one of the new iPhone 14 models, you’ll need one of Apple’s Pro phones to enjoy quicker refresh rates.)
As a consequence, the iPhone 12’s animations aren’t as fluid, and its responsiveness to taps and scrolling isn’t as instantaneous, as they are on, example, the 90Hz Pixel 5 or 120Hz Galaxy S20. To some extent, the iPhone 12’s slower display makes it seem slower to operate, even if it is more powerful than other smartphones (as we’ll explore in a little more of this review).
Despite Apple’s claim that the iPhone 12 can reach 625 nits, our light meter measured a maximum of 569 nits at its brightest setting. It could only reproduce 114.5 percent of the sRGB color space, compared to 122.8 percent on the Samsung Galaxy Note 20, although this suggests that colors are rendered with a little more restraint and naturalness than on the Galaxy Note 20.
According to the Delta-E test, the iPhone 12’s color accuracy isn’t quite as good as the iPhone 11’s, scoring 0.29 instead of 0.22. However, to my untrained eye, the colors seemed about right, and the transition to OLED alone makes this a huge improvement over the previous iteration.
iPhone 12 review: Cameras
Judging from the outside, you wouldn’t think a whole lot has changed in the camera department for the iPhone 12. The dual-lens rear shooters are arranged in a similar fashion as they were for 2019, and both of the wide and ultrawide optics are backed by 12-megapixel sensors.
Don’t be fooled, however; enhancements have been made. The main camera, in particular, takes use of the iPhone’s /1.6 aperture, the greatest of its time, thanks to its 7-element construction. In combination with improvements to Smart HDR and Deep Fusion, these modifications should allow for more information to be rendered under less-than-ideal lighting circumstances, resulting in a 27% boost to low-light performance.
Thus, to get things off, here are a few of Night Mode images that show how far the iPhone’s low-light capabilities has come in the last year. Both of these shots capture breathtaking nighttime vistas, but the iPhone 12’s rendering is somewhat clearer overall, with more true-to-life colors within the shadowed brick and superior sensitivity to specular highlights, as shown in the way the brick reflects the light from the lamps above. Although the current phone is somewhat superior, the iPhone 11 Pro is not a huge step down.
In other words, Apple has some fixing up to do. If we compare the best performance of the iPhone 12 with the Pixel 5, Google seems to have the upper hand at night. Google’s algorithms provide a more noticeable outcome across the board, in tandem with far reduced overall noise, but Apple’s software emphasizes object boundaries, giving everything in the frame a little more depth. The image captured by the iPhone 12 has unsightly vignetting around the edges, which is absent from the one captured by the Pixel.
The primary camera on the iPhone 12 is quite difficult to fault while shooting in natural light. It’s true that the Note 20’s rendition of this bucolic lakeside picture is somewhat more detailed, especially in the background trees, but I much like the iPhone 12’s effort due to its more naturalistic use of color throughout. As is always the case with Samsung’s post-processing, it went too far here.
However, the iPhone 12’s shortcomings become immediately apparent when we zoom into that fountain off to the right. You’ll have to go for the more expensive iPhone 12 Pro or 12 Max if you want an optical zoom feature. The 3x hybrid zoom on the Note 20 captures every little detail, from the individual drops of water to the ripples on the lake’s surface and the dense wall of trees in the backdrop.
Here we see the same lake captured by the ultrawide lenses of the iPhone 12 ($999) and the $749 OnePlus 8T (displayed below), both of which fail in different ways: the iPhone 12 messes up the white balance, giving the water and clouds a green tint, while the OnePlus 8T’s photo isn’t sharp enough at all, and heavily distorts the image along the perimeter.
Also included in this autumnal photo shoot are two photographs of my coworker Jesse, done with my iPhone 12 and Google Pixel 5. Unlike the Pixel 5, which crops photographs by default, the iPhone 12 defaults to a more relaxed viewpoint.
Though the version on the iPhone 12 seems somewhat more crisp, with more accurate rendering of Jesse’s skin tone and a more nuanced handling of the contrast between the deep shadows on his right shoulder and the rest of his hoodie thanks to Smart HDR, I still prefer the appearance of the original. The iPhone 12 further improves upon the difficulty of producing convincingly fake narrow depth-of-field pictures by applying bokeh to Jesse’s hair and ears.
I took a picture of a painting on canvas using the iPhone 12 and the Pixel 5 to see how well they handled the medium-light conditions that are ideal for Apple’s Deep Fusion mode. Surprisingly, given that Deep Fusion is meant to combine many exposures of varying durations to get maximum sharpness, I found that Google’s phone produced the most exact result here, rendering the canvas’s hatchwork pattern with a crispness that the iPhone 12 couldn’t equal. Nonetheless, I find that the iPhone’s overall color treatment, especially the warmth it gives to the reds, whites, and neutral-toned backdrop, resulting in a more attractive picture.
If you want to see Deep Fusion in action, have a look at this selfie I shot as the sun was setting; the iPhone 12 does a far better job of capturing the subtleties of the threads in my sweater than the Note 20 does. While the 12MP front-facing camera on the iPhone 12 captures more information than the 10MP sensor on the Note 20, I also like that Apple’s algorithms don’t uncannily over-brighten shadows and leech contrast from my face. It wouldn’t be hard to choose which one to upload on Instagram if I had to.
For its price range, the iPhone 12’s camera is among the finest available, albeit it isn’t always the best. Still, a Pixel wins out as my preferred night-time camera because of its ability to render similarly complex pictures with noticeably less noise. For long-range work, I’d choose either the Pixel 5 with its better digital Super Res Zoom or one of Samsung’s handsets, the Galaxy S20 FE or the Note 20, with their 3x optical and hybrid zoom capabilities.
With the iPhone 12, Apple went all in on supporting 4K HDR video recording. Dolby Vision video recording isn’t exclusive to the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max; the standard iPhone 12 (and the smaller iPhone 12 mini) can do it, too, although at a lower frame rate of 30 fps. Dolby Vision is a kind of high dynamic range (HDR) encoding that improves upon the color depth of the more common HDR10 format while guaranteeing a visually consistent presentation that is as faithful to the original as possible regardless of where or how the video is watched.
If you’re having trouble imagining the difference between HDR and SDR, believe us when we say that it’s obvious when you compare the two versions of the same video. In a park, I shot a brief film as the sun set behind the trees, and the difference in lighting between the two times was striking. Firstly, the sky was much brighter and I could pick out individual leaves and trees in the Dolby Vision shot, as they glistened in the sunlight. The SDR version dulled, washed out, and concealed these details, and as someone who has been shooting video on an iPhone 11 Pro for the better part of a year, I had no clue what I had been missing.
It’s true that the iPhone 12 isn’t the only smartphone capable of HDR video recording. But it’s the only one that’s Dolby Vision-certified, and I can tell unequivocally that the HDR footage I’ve taken on our Galaxy S20 Plus has never looked as amazing as what the iPhone 12 produces out of the box.
iPhone 12 review: 5G
Lots of smartphones support 5G, especially in the two years since we first published this iPhone 12 review. You don’t even really need to pay more for the privilege anymore. However, Apple’s philosophy toward 5G is what distinguishes the iPhone 12 from all other 5G phones.
While most competing 5G devices at the time supported either one kind of 5G or only the bands required to run on a certain network, the iPhone 12 went all out, supporting all bands and all types of 5G. The most bands supported by its design out of any 5G phone indicates better chances of actual 5G service in the real world. Furthermore, the iPhone 12 is compatible with both sub-6GHz 5G, the countrywide 5G that has formed the backbone of T-Mobile and AT&T’s service as of yet, and millimeter-wave 5G, which Verizon has concentrated on implementing in America’s cities due to its substantially higher speeds but shorter range.
This two-pronged approach to 5G is crucial because it will ensure that your 5G-capable iPhone is not limited by a modem that only supports certain networks when 5G finally becomes prevalent. Keep in mind that day did not occur during my first testing of the iPhone 12 in 2020. With a two-bar signal and AT&T’s service in a Pennsylvania suburb, I was able to get download speeds of about 85 Mbps on our iPhone 12. Good enough for most uses, but far slower than even the worst LTE Advanced network we’ve tested by a factor of three.
5G does increase demand on the iPhone’s battery, however, and so to that end, Apple developed Smart Data Mode. This feature intelligently switches between LTE and 5G depending on whether or not the device really needs the extra speed. For example, if you’re simply streaming music over Spotify with the screen off, your iPhone 12 may elect to remain on 4G to save power. But the second you begin actively web browsing or attempting a FaceTime HD call, 5G will kick in in full effect. Smart Data Mode is totally optional; if you’d rather have 5G firing at all times, you can deem it so in the phone’s settings.
iPhone 12 review: Performance
The iPhone 12, powered by Apple’s A14 Bionic, the world’s first smartphone processor built on 5-nanometer technology, guarantees unrivaled, consistently excellent performance. In comparison to Qualcomm’s flagship 2020 silicon, the Snapdragon 865 Plus, the A14 Bionic processor in the iPhone 11 series is much more impressive. In 2022, Android devices are finally catching up to the iPhone 12, but the iPhone 12 is still competitive.
Our video encoding test, which involves downscaling a brief 4K movie to 1080p using Adobe’s Premiere Rush app, takes most smartphones about a minute to finish. The iPhone 11 Pro took 46 seconds, whereas the Galaxy S21 Ultra with the same 888 processor took 1 minute and 2 seconds. But what about the iPhone 12? In a brisk 26 seconds. That time has not yet been matched by an Android phone.
Apple’s newest CPU also performs better than its competitors on the Geekbench 5 test, which evaluates the system as a whole. The iPhone 12’s multicore score of 3,859 was the highest of any smartphone. In comparison, the Galaxy S21 Ultra scored 3,440.
With regards to visuals, Apple hasn’t scrimped either. Apple claims the A14 Bionic’s graphics processing unit (GPU) is 50% quicker than the A13’s. It’s true that the newest mobile games don’t always make the most of phone manufacturers’ quick innovation, but I can report that Asphalt 9 Legends, which can sometimes be chuggy on certain higher-end Android phones, seemed fluid and crisp on the iPhone 12. (A quicker refresh-rate display might have helped sell the sense of responsiveness and immersion, but that’s another problem.)
The 3DMark Wild Life graphics test provides a more accurate picture of performance since it challenges devices in real-time with generating graphically intensive scenarios. The maximum frame rate the Galaxy S21 Ultra can achieve is 34 fps. During our tests, the iPhone 12 reached a maximum of 39 frames per second.
iPhone 12 review: Battery life and charging
Apple never reveals battery capacity figures for its devices, which makes it challenging to glean any insights regarding longevity from a spec sheet. A teardown (opens in new tab) suggested the iPhone 12 could be working with a 2,815-mAh unit, which translates to roughly 200 mAh less capacity than the iPhone 11 Pro had at its disposal.
Nevertheless, larger screen iPhones tend to perform decently in our custom battery test, where devices continuously surf the web over cellular at 150 nits of screen brightness.
We consider results more than 11 hours to be excellent; the iPhone 11 lasted 11 hours and 16 minutes in our test. However, the iPhone 12 only lasted an average of 8 hours and 25 minutes in the same test, which seems like a major drop.
In any case, there’s more to the tale than that. Apple estimates that the iPhone 12 will have the same 17 hours of video playback and 65 hours of music playback as the iPhone 11. The iPhone 11 didn’t have to compete with 5G, however. The iPhone 12 also fared better in our tests when we disabled 5G in favor of LTE.
Compared to its 5G counterpart, the iPhone 12’s 4G endurance is 10 hours and 23 minutes. Possible causes include the increased battery requirements of 5G or the inability of iPhone 12 to maintain a stable 5G connection due to the dispersed nature of existing 5G networks, necessitating frequent transitions between the higher-speed technology and the slower but still fast 4G.
With the release of the iPhone 13, Apple made significant improvements to battery life, so if you’re looking at used Apple products because they’re cheap, you can rest certain that you’ll have alternatives that will last a long time.
The elephant in the room, Apple’s decision to no longer provide a charging brick or wired headphones with every iPhone, casts a darker shadow over the iPhone 12 battery narrative.
You can attribute as much or as little of this to Cupertino’s green initiative as you like, but the fact remains that anyone interested in purchasing an iPhone 12 will be forced to spend an extra $20 on Apple’s 20-watt USB-C adapter if they want the fastest-possible charging solution. Even worse, the Lightning-to-USB-C connector that Apple includes with the iPhone 12 is incompatible with earlier chargers, rendering it useless unless you also purchase a new power supply.
In the United Kingdom, the charging scenario is same. potential purchasers, with Apple asking $39 for its MagSafe charger and $19 for its connected 20-watt charging block.
After 30 minutes of charging with the 20-watt adaptor, the iPhone 12 went from dead to 57% charged in our tests. This is far faster than Apple’s own prediction of 50%, however it’s unlikely you’ll get these kinds of results if you continue to use the 5-watt charger you got with your first iPhone. The maximum wireless charging power of the iPhone 12 is now 15 watts, which is a significant increase above Apple’s previous, sluggish 7.5-watt requirement.
iPhone 12 review: iOS 16
iOS 14 was the latest Apple phone software when the iPhone 12 debuted, but these days, it’s all about iOS 16. And as you can see in our iOS 16 review, there are some noteworthy changes. You can customize the iPhone’s lock screen, copy text out of a video in Live Text and even edit your texts in Messages after you’ve sent them.
All of these capabilities are available to the iPhone 12 just as they are on newer iPhones. We imagine the iPhone 12 has at least three more OS updates, meaning you’ll likely still have an up-to-date phone in 2025.
iPhone 12 review: Verdict
Regarding the iPhone 12, I can’t make up my mind. Without a doubt, this is a fantastic smartphone, and the improvements Apple has made to its flagship model are welcome. In comparison to the lackluster LCD displays of earlier models at this price range, the new Super Retina XDR screen is a huge step forward. The iPhone 12 also receives great praises for its design, MagSafe technology, and outstanding dual-camera system.
It’s regrettable that Apple hasn’t been more open to change in certain critical areas. Almost all smartphone manufacturers now provide adequate amounts of storage space in their basic models. Considering the increased storage capacity of the iPhone 13, it’s almost criminal that the base model of the iPhone 12 remains at 64GB.
By all means, certainly. There isn’t much of an advantage to getting the Pro version of the iPhone 12 unless you’re dead set on getting the iPhone 12 Pro Max. If that’s the case, however, you surely wouldn’t give the iPhone 12 a second thought.
It’s also likely that you’ll be able to get your hands on an iPhone 12 for a steal during the second half of 2021, thanks to a variety of sales and carrier promotions.