Disclaimer: I tried to use large images on this page, things might load a bit slow, it will be okay.
Yes, I’m one of those people that gets the new iPhone every year. I am on the Apple Upgrade program, where I pay monthly and swap out my iPhone for the latest and greatest as soon as possible. I fully understand that is not what the average person does. At Notnerd, we try to take the average person into consideration. So while I will be comparing it to my iPhone 11 Pro, I will keep you normals in mind.
On October 16th, I had two alarms set, one for 4:45, one for 4:50. Preorders started at 5 am Pacific time and I didn’t want to be late. The great thing is the Apple Store App on my phone let me get everything ready for my order including what I wanted, which carrier, and how I would be paying for it ahead of time. All I had to do was open the app, refresh until about 5:03, hit order, then try to get back to sleep knowing I would have a new iPhone a week later.
The release day was October 23rd. My phone was loaded on a UPS truck for delivery and then I ‘patiently’ waited until about 2:30 when they finished circling my neighborhood enough times and decided to deliver my phone. Now, on to the good stuff.
The Box and Unboxing
There has been a lot of talk about Apple slimming down the box this year by removing the EarPods and charging brick. For me, it’s a non-issue. I’ve used AirPods since the December morning in 2016 when I lined up for them at the Apple Store on release day (I’m on my third pair, I use them A LOT). I also have dozens of chargers around. For some, it might be an issue, but Apple is offering discounts on the missing products in case you need them. There are also plenty of 3rd-party options.
The box being smaller is great for the environment and saves Apple money on shipping. It’s a win-win in my book.
Here’s what’s still in the box:
- The iPhone – phew!
- USB-C to Lightning charging cable
- Cute little envelope with a sticker, disclaimer, and SIM ejector tool
- Opaque screen cover explaining the buttons
Quick Side-Step: The Elephant and Mouse in the Room
Apple is doing a staggered release of the iPhone 12 models this year. The iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 Max are both very appealing for their size. They are not available until mid-Nov (Preorders Nov. 6). I will probably end up with the Max for a few camera advantages, but I really like the size of the 12 and 12 Pro.
The Look and Feel of the 12 Pro
I really love that Apple went back to the flatter edge design of the iPhones 4 and 5 with the iPhones 12. It appeals to my design eye and looks great (it also stands up on it’s edge). While watching the announcement with Dave we were excited to see the matte metal sides of the 12, when I saw the shiny sides of the 12s Pro I wasn’t as excited, but I knew my phone would go right into a case, so I got over it. I went for the graphite model, I know it’s boring, but again, case. To my eye Graphite is identical to the Space Gray iPhone 11 Pro.
After turning on the phone for the first time I was instantly impressed with the new screen. In a very slightly larger body than my old phone, but they expanded the screen from 5.7 to 6.1 inches, reaching ever closer to the edge of the screen. The quality of the screen isn’t a huge improvement over the 11 Pro, but if you’re coming from an older model, you’re in for a treat.
I will also mention that the screen is 4x stronger against cracking, the jury is out on how it holds up to scratches. The iPhones 12 are also IP68 which means they can be underwater 6 meters up to 30 minutes.
Apple introduced MagSafe on iPhones this year. It allows for better wireless charging via some magnets on the back. It also will allow for magnetic accessories. I think this is a great feature. I picked up one of the charging cables and am liking it. You can still charge via lightning, but I think this is a great option. I never bought into wireless charging, mostly because it made it difficult to use the phone while charging, which probably means I need to use my phone less.
I did purchase one of Apple’s Magsafe cases. It is nice, but they are expensive and I’m returning mine. I have talked to some people who are excited about the magnetic wallet accessory. It will be interesting to see what companies come up with to utilize the feature. Sadly the magnetic car mount in my phone almost holds my phone, it slips off after about a minute, I will be looking for a new one that will also charge instead of just holding my phone.
The Setup Process
I cannot stress this enough, the process is so easy now coming from an older iPhone. You turn the new one on, bring it near the old one, and after a few screens and an iCloud password, the process is started. You can even transfer everything from your old phone over wifi and Bluetooth (though I would recommend making a backup, because #OneBackupIsNoneBackup). It doesn’t take long before you can start using the phone, then it will slowly get everything set up for you, this can take some time depending on how much of a digital hoarder you are.
I will note it took me a bit longer, mostly because I still had my old phone on the beta version of iOS. My brother in law, who was bragging because UPS liked him more and delivered his much earlier in the day, was up and running in less than 30 minutes.
The Speed and 5G
The iPhone 12 Pro is noticeably faster than the 11 Pro. There is a new A14 Bionic processor and more memory, but still, I don’t know how Apple does it every year. Everything just seems faster. With as much as we use our phones, this is always welcome. Once again, if you’re coming from an older iPhone, you are in for a treat.
Apple is really promoting the 5G capabilities of the new iPhones. For most people, it is not going to make much of a difference for a while. There are two types of 5G, I won’t bore you with details, one is here for a lot of people now and is a bit better than LTE. The other type is super fast and amazing but it’s hard to find at this point.
The Cameras (What you really clicked for)
Like the 11 Pros, the 12 Pros have 3 cameras on the back and a selfie camera on the front. This year they improved the cameras and added Lidar to the back. With the improved processor and memory, they are also able to do more ‘computational photography’. Both Night Mode and HDR have improved. You can read all of the specs if you would like, but trust Apple, what they are doing with the cameras on these phones is impressive. I take a ton of photos and videos, especially with an entertaining 4-year-old daughter around.
Here are some comparisons between the new phone and my iPhone 11 Pro, my wife’s 8 Plus, and my daughters 2016 Gen 1 SE (I know, I know, but I got an amazing deal on it)
All photos were taken handheld and I tried to be at the same distance. No cropping or enhancement, all resized to 1920×1440 and exported from Photoshop as a high-quality jpeg.
If there are other things you would like me to compare, let me know. I’m hoping to get someone to stand still long enough to test Portrait Mode with the Lidar.
Painting, look at the textures
Jackolanterns at night. The 8 Plus does not have Night Mode
Pumpkins, again look at the detail and texture
Sago Mini Friends city with ultra-wide lens
Trees, a lot more detail on the 12 Pro
Ultra-wide lens at night. The 12 Pro adds Night Mode for Ultra Wide
The selfie camera. I can’t see a difference, I just wanted to get my sweet outfit and moustache into the article
My Take on the iPhone 12 Pro
This phone is great, I’m not sure what there’s to complain about. I would be very happy if this was my iPhone moving forward… If it wasn’t for the slightly better cameras on the 12 Max, I would stick with it. The 12 Max has 2.5x vs 2x on the telephoto lens and better stabilization on the regular lens. Photography and video is very important to me, so even though I’m not excited about the huge phone, I think that’s where I’ll end up.
What Should You Buy?
You really have to look at the Holistic Cost of what makes the most sense for you.
- Your current phone is doing what you need, you don’t have to upgrade. Even if it pains me to say that.
- You want the best and/or you plan on keeping it for several years, spend the extra for the 12 Pro or Pro Max
- An iPhone 12 impacts your ability to pay your bills, look at the iPhone SE
- You’re looking for the smallest phone, wait for the 12 Mini
- You want the largest and extra bestest, go for the iPhone 12 Pro Max (slightly better camera than the 12 Pro)
Apple has a lot of options for iPhones right now, from the iPhone SE starting at $399 to the 12 Pro Max, going up to $1399. You need to weigh out what’s important to you.
A few things to consider when buying:
- If you have the Apple Card, you get 3% back and can do 24-month 0% financing
- Check with your carrier, or consider switching carriers, to see what they might offer you
- Want to upgrade every year? look at the Upgrade program
- Not sure what to do? Ask Notnerd
Looking for what the tech press has to say about the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro? 9to5Mac has a good roundup.
Comments, Questions, Answers?
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Did you get a new iPhone? If you want to add to this review, it would be great to have more perspectives.