The iPhone 12 is the default new iPhone from Apple, by which we mean it is the model that most consumers are likely to buy thanks to its price-to-performance ratio. The iPhone 12 is the direct successor to last year’s iPhone 11 (review) and the upgrades are more visible compared to the iPhone 11 from the XR. This year’s iPhones come with a new design language, performance upgrade, and improvements to the display as well. In fact, the iPhone 12 is so good that you won’t really envy the ultra-premium iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max models.
With the iPhone 12, you get an OLED display, A14 Bionic chipset, dual rear cameras, a lightweight build, MagSafe support, and 5G. The only area where the iPhone 12 Pro has an advantage is with regards to the camera. This also means that the gap between the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro is much narrower now. Does that mean the iPhone 12 is the best iPhone for most people? Read on to find out.
The short answer is yes, the iPhone 12 is the best iPhone for most people. This year, the default iPhone comes with a bunch of improvements that actually make it worth buying over the iPhone 12 Pro. The OLED display, blazing-fast performance, all-day battery life are just some of the reasons that make it a great value, even though the price is still quite high in India.
Design and display
The iPhone 12’s biggest draw is the design, which is fantastic. Not only has Apple brought back the classic aesthetics of the iPhone 5 era, but has also managed to make it work in today’s day and age. The boxy design and flat frame make the iPhone 12 feel great to hold, and no, the edges are not sharp enough to cut your hands as some reports might suggest. The cherry on top is the weight, which at 162 grams, is absolutely light and a delight to hold. The iPhone 12 is much lighter than the iPhone 11 and is also slightly smaller despite sporting the same 6.1-inch screen size. This is because the bezels have been trimmed, making the iPhone 12 more compact for easier one-handed use.
Apple has protected the iPhone 12 with something called Ceramic Shield on the front. As the name suggests, the glass is infused with nano-ceramic crystals to offer improved durability. Apple says Ceramic Shield is stronger than the regular glass on phones, which means the iPhone 12 should withstand low drops and accidental scratches from coins and keys. I didn’t have the courage to drop the phone, of course, but I did notices a few minor scratches over the course of the week. The glossy glass on the back is not Ceramic Shield and should be protected by a cover.
The aluminium frame offers a matt finish and doesn’t pick up fingerprints and smudges as opposed to the stainless steel frame on the iPhone 12 Pro models. The iPhone 12 gets a familiar elongated power button on the side, Lightning port on the bottom, and volume keys, mute switch, and a SIM tray (single SIM card) on the left side. Interestingly, the Indian unit does not come with the mmWave antenna window on the right side as you might have seen on the US model. This is because only the US version supports mmWave while the iPhone 12 in every other country is limited to sub-6GHz 5G.
Let’s talk about MagSafe
MagSafe is a major new feature for the iPhone 12 lineup that has gotten everyone talking. The iPhone 12 phones are equipped with magnets around the wireless charger coil, allowing you to attach MagSafe accessories. This opens up a world of new MagSafe-supported products and Apple has already gotten the ball rolling with its MagSafe Charger, MagSafe Leather Wallet, and MagSafe cases. Apple will also be releasing the MagSafe Charger Duo soon, which is the AirPower-alternative that can simultaneously charge the iPhone and Apple Watch.
I received the MagSafe Charger which snaps on to the back of the iPhone 12. The circular magnets align themselves and firmly stay in place. Unfortunately, the MagSafe Charger charges the iPhone 12 at just 15W power using a 20W adapter and 13W using an 18W adapter. Both are slower compared to wired charging on an 18W or 20W adapter. I was honestly disappointed with the charging speeds over MagSafe, especially if you’re going to be paying Rs 4,500 for the charger. That said, the MagSafe Charger is quite convenient to use if you’re not too bothered about the charging speed.
The iPhone 12 comes with a similar camera setup as the iPhone 11. You get two 12MP sensors, one being a standard wide-angle lens and the other an ultra-wide-angle lens. Since I didn’t have an iPhone 11 with me, I couldn’t do a side-by-side comparison to see how much better the cameras on the 12 are. But I can safely say that you’re getting an excellent pair of cameras with the iPhone 12, especially for video recording.
When it comes to daylight stills, the iPhone 12 offers excellent true-to-life colour reproduction with good dynamic range. Colours look livelier on the OLED screen as well. There are good detail and clarity in the images and this is because of Apple’s software prowess combined with the A14 Bionic’s processing power. It takes a second or two for the final image to process, but the wait is usually worth it.
The ultra-wide camera is a solid companion that is able to capture a wider frame when needed with a simple tap of the 1x icon on the viewfinder. What I liked about the ultra-wide lens is that I didn’t notice a major shift in colour temperature from the main camera, which is pretty common on most other phones. You get a good amount of detail, but you will notice some noise and blurring around the edges of the photo.
Night mode seems to be about as good as it was on the iPhone 11, which means it is good, but not necessarily better than the competition. I did like a lot of the night shots I was able to capture, though in a very limited capacity due to the current pandemic situation. Night mode is able to automatically detect the shutter delay in order to make the image look brighter and clearer and the result is often pleasing. The ultra-wide camera also supports Night mode, but images appear darker compared to Night mode on the main camera.
The 12MP front camera also captures similar selfies as last year’s iPhone 11. In daylight, I was able to capture pleasing selfies with good colour reproduction and details. This time around the front camera also supports Night mode, which automatically kicks in when the light is low. I was able to capture brighter selfies in low light, though images will appear soft.
iPhones have been excellent at videography over the years, but Apple has taken it up a notch by adding HDR video to the iPhone 12 lineup. This means you can capture Dolby Vision HDR videos using the iPhone 12, which looks fantastic. Simply put, an HDR (high dynamic range) video is able to offer brighter and more colourful videos compared to an SDR video. You can see the difference when you view an HDR video on your iPhone and you’ll even see the Dolby Vision logo if you can view the video on a Dolby Vision-supported TV.
Performance and software
The iPhone 12 is powered by the newest A14 Bionic chipset which is based on a 5nm process. As expected, the A14 Bionic is Apple’s most powerful chipset and can crush rival flagship processors in benchmarks. The A14 Bionic is so powerful that it may just power new Mac laptops that Apple plans to announce on November 10th. It doesn’t come as a surprise that the iPhone 12 is blazing fast when it comes to day-to-day usage, gaming, and pretty much anything you throw at it.
In fact, you probably won’t be able to utilise the full power of the chipset yet. For the average user, the iPhone 12 will feel just as fast as the iPhone 11 which felt just as fast as the iPhone XR out of the box. You will likely see the benefit of the A14 Bionic a year or two down the line when the iPhone 12 will still feel fast. You’ll also notice I haven’t mentioned 5G much, but that’s because 5G isn’t available in India yet. But the iPhone 12 supports 5G and that’s nice.
Apple is probably the only company that can get away with not offering a high refresh rate on a premium phone. The iPhone 12 comes with a standard 60Hz refresh rate, but it’s easily one of the smoothest 60Hz display you’ll see on a phone. Scrolling, opening apps, and browsing through the UI feels fluid and not once did any of it stutter, crash, or feel unresponsive, which is also thanks to the A14 Bionic SoC.
iPhone 12 ships with iOS 14, which comes with some of the biggest changes in iOS in years. The most notable one is Widgets, which makes the iPhone look just a little more like an Android phone. You get a bunch of nice widgets to add to your home screen, including weather, Apple Music, Podcast, Google Search, and more. They look nice and add more character and appeal to the home screen now, but I hope to see more third-party apps offer widget support soon. iOS 14 also brings features like App Library, which is a good place to move all your rarely-used apps and forget about, and a newer Siri animation which doesn’t take up the whole screen.
Apple never reveals the battery capacity in its iPhones for good reason. Announcing a 2,815mAh battery unit on stage could sound strange too. But this does not translate to poor battery life. Quite the opposite, in fact, the iPhone 12 delivered anywhere between 6-7 hours of screen time on intensive use and around 5-6 hours of screen time on normal usage, consistently. It can easily take you through a full day and then some thanks to its excellent standby time. You will be happy with the battery life for about 9-10 months, following which the battery life is bound to start degrading.
Since Apple no longer ships a power adapter in the box, you will have to use a PD charger that you may have lying around your house or you will need to buy a 20W charging brick from the Apple Store online in order to fast charge the device. A 20W charger will juice up the iPhone 12 to 50 per cent in 30 minutes.
The iPhone 12 just makes sense as the default iPhone for most people. From its lightweight build and new design language to the improvements under the hood, the iPhone 12 is the perfect upgrade for iPhone XR and 11 users. This time around, Apple has made the vanilla iPhone even more compelling by adding a stunning OLED display. On top of that, the device also supports MagSafe, 5G, and almost all the features that you get on the more expensive iPhone 12 Pro model. This makes it an easy recommendation for anyone looking for a new iPhone. That said, one still wishes for features like a higher refresh rate and faster charging.
The iPhone 12 comes with very few compromises compared to the iPhone 11 last year, so the price bump is justified here. The device is priced at Rs 79,900 in India, which makes it more expensive than the iPhone 11 last year. Yet this is the one to go for if you want the best value-for-money flagship iPhone right now.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Excellent OLED display
- Blazing-fast performance
- Good cameras
- Lacks a high refresh rate screen
- High price tag in India
- Smaller battery compared to iPhone 11