"An iPhone is an iPhone, so you already know whether you are gonna buy it or not." Many reviews of last year's iPhone 11, and now this year's iPhone 12, from tech enthusiasts can be summarized in this way. Even if you instinctively are a bit wary of such a conclusion and think Apple were let off the hook, it is quite understandable that many reviewers end up with such a conclusion.
Apple has a very specific way of upgrading their technology year after year with one leg solidly planted in the past while the other tentatively tries to move forward. It is quite telling that for a while every second year introduced "S"-models instead of brand new designs, and formerly they have been criticized from veering away from their position as market leader and instead have become a market follower.
All this is probably true to a certain extent. I try to keep up with the market trends, and it's quite evident that Apple is not exactly blinded by ambition in this regard. At the same time, I have to surrender to Apple's focus on the well-known, on the safe, and on the ecosystem that is designed to save time and help you with all the essential activities. Maybe the fact that I now have a small child and less time for all the bells and whistles has helped me appreciate the central appeal of these phones. And iPhone 12 is probably the most comfortable phone that Apple has ever created.
I'm not saying this in regards to the specifications, for as the good old Mr. Mobile says, smartphones are a lot more than their internal components. It is not to give Apple a certain privilege not awarded to other phones, but it is the same argument that is also used to recommend Google's Pixel phones. It is about what you can feel rather than the knowledge that you are holding a Snapdragon 865+, 16GB RAM and UFS 3.1-memory.
And the iPhone 12 feels amazing. It starts with the construction that is flatter than ever before and feels like a combination of the old 5S design and the new iPad Pro. "Boxy" some might say, and that might not be completely inaccurate. The frame itself is made of aluminium, and the backside is still made of glass. It may take some time to get used to the frame that is more explicit than earlier models, but at the same time I can only applaud the more industrial approach to the aesthetic dimension. From every angle the iPhone 12 looks stunning, and it feels more comfortable in your hand than any other phone on the market, except the Pixel 4 and Samsung's Galaxy S20 Ultra. Of course there is also an IP68 certification.
This year it seems Apple's mission has been to forge a closer relationship between their Pro-models and the phone that most consumers will probably buy, the regular 12 model. That is why we no longer have to settle with a simple LCD screen. Instead we get a Super Retina XDR OLED. That means HDR10 and 625 NITS normal brightness with highlights exceeding 1200 NITS. The resolution is 1170x2532, or 1080p, and because the phone is "only" 6.1 inches that results in a pixel density of 460ppi. Besides, there is once again TrueTone and even Dolby Vision. All in all, Apple's colours, contrasts and lighting makes iPhone 12 ideal for gaming, watching YouTube videos or streaming Xbox Games thanks to the new application. However you look at it, it is just a fabulous display.
The construction is much better this year as Apple introduces "Ceramic Shield" that has been developed with Corning and apparently makes the phone four times less likely to break should you drop it on a hard surface. I didn't dare test this, but I would like Apple to next year focus more on scratches that surface more dynamically during a busy weekday. On the other hand, I do see a lot of iPhone 11 models with a cracked screen, so maybe it is the right place to focus. Unfortunately there is no 120Hz or even just 90Hz, and even though iOS is so smooth that it doesn't appear noticeable, we would have liked Apple to go with the flow and introduce a higher refresh rate in at least some of their models.
At the same time iPhone 12 of course gets the new A14 Bionic SoC, Apple's fastest chip to date. It is Apple's first SoC that has been produced through a 5nm process, and it is only logical that if the whole process is smaller that more transistors can be stored on less space. The chip consists of a six-core GPU, where two of the cores are 3.1GHz and the remaining four are 1.8Ghz, as well as a quad-core GPU. The result is... well, pretty overwhelming. In our test the A14 Bionic sits on a Geekbench 5-score of 1602 in single-core and 3904 in multi-core, and that is compared to S20 Ultra's 899 in single-core and 3066 in multi-core. Even the Asus' ROG Phone 3 must throw in the towel with a single-core score of 955 and a multi-core of 3295. At the same time, A14 Bionic sweeps away the competition in 3D Mark Wild in both fps and overall score. Here it scores 6577 compared with the Note 20 Ultra's 4204. It's simply crazy.
But again, if you care about the user experience, it is still smooth, despite the iPhone 12 still running with "only" 4GB RAM. It just doesn't matter, and not on a single occasion did I feel like I was waiting for the phone to load in any way. I will say though that it is kind of cheap to kick off the party with only 64GB of space. Yes, pictures, music and videos can be streamed, but applications can't, and you do not need to hit the install button many times before you get in trouble.
Before we move on, let's quickly address MagSafe. Behind the glass back sits a circular set of magnets that make it possible to attach various accessories to the phone. Apple has so far introduced a small wireless charger that of course sticks to the back, so you, in principle at least, can use your phone while it is charging. There are also some covers that utilize MagSafe as well as a wallet. None of these ideas are especially innovative, but the idea of magnets on the back of the iPhone 12 is still rock-solid and we can't wait to see what various third parties will come up with. For example, there is already a magnetised holder for your car produced by Belkin which I find rather neat.
5G! I almost forgot 5G. iPhone 12 has 5G like all of Apple's 2020 models, and there can be little doubt that 5G networks really are the foundation, whereon the communication networks of the future are constructed. But "future" is really the keyword here, for that future has simply not arrived yet. Yes, 5G might be knocking on the doors all over Europe, but on many occasions it is the so-called "sub-6" network that can be seen as a form of 4G+, and sometimes it is actually slower. Below you can see a clear example. When that is said, statistics do show that consumers tend to hold onto their iPhones for quite a while, often for 4-5 years, and the 5G capabilities all over Europe will probably look much better come that time. It is therefore hard to fault Apple for futureproofing their devices. Does it make sense in the short run? Probably not. But in a year or two? It might very well.
A14 Bionic, MagSafe, 5G, a new boxy design. iPhone 12 is a rather significant update, at least compared to the normal Apple standards, and that is exactly why I would recommend this phone for everyone expect the hardcore spec-gurus. The competition has been renewed on this step of the price ladder and for just about the same price you can also get a OnePlus 8T, a Samsung Galaxy S20 FE and many other solid phones, that each give you 120Hz or USB-C charging. But in terms of pure user-friendliness, convenience and as an all-rounder, well, this year's iPhone is an absolute home run.
The cameras have not been noticeably improved, but as the years have passed Apple have fine tuned their software, so they get the absolute most out of the 12 megapixel f/1.6wide and the 12 megapixel f/2.4 120 degrees ultra-wide. We are talking recording in 4K&30fps and 1080p/240fps with HDR, Dolby Vision and stereo sound. The result is quite excellent, and it is evident that the iPhone 12 is about to catch up with Google on the software side, and that is especially true for the Night Mode that this time works on both lenses. Besides, Apple's HDR 3-technology works rather well as the phone thanks to some AI-assistance understands the layers of your picture and can highlight certain layers in the foreground and background.
We would have liked to see recordings in 4K/60fps, which are reserved for the Pro series, but all in all you get an excellent camera with an understandable suite of features that benefits from Apples continued focus on user-friendliness. Just like a Pixel this is a "fire and forget" camera that you always can rely on. Naturally, you get more out of the S20 Ultra or even the OnePlus 8 Pro, but if you only got a moment to capture, well, this is a camera that delivers.
We would have liked to see 90HZ, we really would, but besides that it's hard to fault the iPhone 12 in any way. Thanks to iOS14, the software is more customisable than ever before, and thanks to a design overhaul the phone feels better in your hand than ever before. Combined with a reliable camera, decent battery life, a great screen, and the added possibilities of the Magsafe, it is very hard not to be excited.
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