A few hours after I finished setting up my new iPhone 12 Pro, the fingerprints were everywhere. This is — of course — an Apple device, and fingerprints are part of the aesthetic.
But unlike fingerprints on a screen, which can distract and annoy, the fingerprints on the side of the iPhone aren’t easily noticed on the dark — yet shiny — Pacific Blue stainless steel when using it.
I’m not sure if it’s the color, the new design, or if I’m just running into Apple fans, but I got the “Is that the new iPhone?” question a lot last week. This is arguably one of Apple’s most striking visual changes in years, and people are noticing. It’s also — I think! — my favorite.
The iPhone 12 Pro is one of the nicest looking and nicest feeling phones I’ve ever used. The Pacific Blue color was a little different from my usual Space Gray or Jet Black color picks, but I quickly became a big fan. I really hope the positive reviews on the Pacific Blue color embolden Apple to be a little more daring with future iPhone colors.
I prefer the shiny stainless steel sides of the iPhone 12 Pro to the dull matte finish of the aluminum sides on the iPhone 12, but this isn’t my only reason for choosing the iPhone 12 Pro. I needed more than 64 GB of storage, and I wanted the extra RAM, the telephoto camera, and, yeah, the shiny sides. As many reviewers have pointed out already, if you need to upgrade the internal storage of the iPhone 12 from the 64 GB base, the price difference between the two suddenly decreases by quite a lot. At that point, if you’re like me with disposable income to waste on a new iPhone every year, you might as well get the Pro.
And while the improved camera systems and larger battery of the Pro Max are important to me, the Max size is just too big. Before the pandemic I spent a lot of time in Apple Stores playing with all the different sized phones (and some Androids at Best Buy) and while I like the idea of a 6.7 inch display, I find it’s a bit awkward for my hand. I didn’t have an opportunity to try the Mini before ordering the iPhone, I did get to pick it up briefly and my initial impressions were very positive.
The physical design is really the marquee new feature of the iPhone 12 line this year, and that design, as I’ve said, is a favorite of mine. It’s a callback to the original iPhone 5, with rounded corners contrasted against the squared, flat sides of the body. The Face ID, multi-camera system, and OLED screen are all slightly refined from previous iPhones, but the technological leaps are mostly in the new A14 SoC processor, which most people will never see or think about. According to Geekbench, in the single core test, the iPhone 12 Pro scores 1587 while the three year old iPhone X scores 921. Meanwhile, the Samsung Galaxy S20, Samsung’s newest flagship phone with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, scores 878 — trailing even the iPhone X. Apple’s SoC team is ridiculously good at their job, and I think Tuesday’s November event is going to put the current line of Intel CPUs to shame, but I digress. The point is, the iPhone X remains a powerhouse with a long lifespan, making the iPhone — any iPhone — a good, longterm investment.
Let’s get into the rest of the phone now:
Face ID is still terrible when trying to use Apple Pay or even check a text message while in public. It’s not Apple or the phone’s fault, it’s just the world we’re unfortunately living in, and upgrading from a X, XS, or 11 doesn’t make the situation any better or worse. Mid-pandemic update: Apple has added the ability for the Apple Watch to unlock an iPhone connected to it. It’s a pretty good feature and has made unlocking the phone or using Apple Pay at the store a little easier.
The three cameras are all improved, and night mode is great, but of course Apple is doing sneaky things with the cameras. If you are in a low light situation and tap the 2x zoom, the iPhone doesn’t switch to the telephoto camera. In low light, it digitally zooms the 1x wide camera to 2x zoom. The digital and low light smoothing is so good (algorithms!) you don’t even notice the digital zoom happening. (You can test this by covering the 2x zoom lens with your finger when taking a photo at night zoomed to 2x.)
Night mode, regardless of Apple’s trickery, just keeps getting better. This time around the larger sensor is a major contributing factor to the improved night mode photography, but I’m certain the photo team has been refining the software over the past twelve months as well. Apple’s hardware-software one-two combo is what makes the iPhone camera system so incredibly good.
Battery life is about as good as the iPhone 11 Pro, although I don’t have the ability (or desire) to do strenuous, scientific testing on my battery. I rarely drain the battery on my phones to zero over the course of a day, so I don’t know if I’m the best person to listen to when it comes to battery life. I will say that after a year with the iPhone 11 Pro, the battery’s max capacity was still at 100% — specifically due to, I think, the Optimized Battery Charging setting. I don’t see any reason my iPhone 12 Pro won’t have the same result in a year, and I think this is a really underrated aspect of Apple’s battery and charging technology. The iPhones are designed to last for years — a lot of people still have iPhone 7 and 8s, and some are even older — but a battery powered device is no good if it can’t hold a charge throughout the day. The iPhone’s ability to smartly and slowly charge the battery and learn your charging patterns means these phones really can last for years, and that same smart battery technology is built into every iPhone at every price point.
And because Pizza Emoji is committed to fully testing and reviewing the iPhone 12 Pro, I also did a few drop tests with the new phone to test the ceramic shield. I can confirm that an iPhone dropped from about a height of three feet onto a pillow will not result in any noticeable damage to the screen. Your results may vary!
Okay, let’s talk 5G. 5G is one of the most disappointing new features, if we’re being honest, on the new iPhone 12 Pro. Verizon and the carriers advertise 1 Gbps or faster speeds on 5G Ultra Wideband, and it’s true, but those insane speeds only apply to 5G UW — the short range, outdoor only signal that you can only get in a handful of downtown cities. The vast majority of us won’t ever get to use 5G UW anytime soon. 1 Gbps 5G is slightly more than a marketing gimmick. But even so, with only 20 or 30 gigs of monthly bandwith on most cellular plans, why would you burn through all of your data just to download a few movies while standing on a street corner in downtown? Give us data plans to match the 5G UW bandwidth and we’ll talk. For us non-street corner loitering folks, the “regular” 5G is even more disappointing. Around town, I’m getting an asynchronous 50 to 60 Mbps with 5G; if I switch to LTE, I get 70 to 80 Mbps. (And, supposedly, better battery, but I’d wait for some serious battery tests for a definitive answer on that). Last week I spent a good deal of time driving around SoCal, streaming music and podcasts but I never noticed the phone’s network connection behaving any better compared to the iPhone 11 Pro. Everyone has already said this, but if you’re upgrading your phone for 5G, you’re upgrading for the wrong reason.
I don’t have an iPhone 12, so I can’t compare and contrast from a first person perspective, and I can’t even go to an Apple Store to test it out, but I spent a good deal of time debating internally between which to pre-order a few weeks ago. I’m very happy with my choice, but I think Apple’s in a tough spot these days making both the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Pro. On paper and from a stock photography perspective, there’s just not enough to differentiate between the two to justify producing two models. Even the price difference is barely notable. I like the Max and the Mini being at the opposite ends of the product line, as they serve two clear and distinct markets, but iPhone-in-the-middle and iPhone-in-the-middle-Pro are just too similar. I’m also not a fan of the Pro moniker at all, but I guess Apple’s committed to it.
Naming aside, the iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max are the gold standard for smartphone design, performance, and quality. The iPhone 12 Pro in this stunning Pacific Blue finish is my current favorite iPhone ever (replacing the iPhone 5 and the Jet Black iPhone 7 as the previous top contenders). Coupled with the iPhone SE 2, there’s a current-generation iPhone for everyone, at any size, price, or color. The iPhone stands as one of the most powerful consumer commuting devices ever made, and the iPhone 12 Pro is the best iPhone Apple has ever made. If you need, want, or crave the best new smartphone, the iPhone 12 Pro is the phone to buy.