IPhone 12 Pro Review
iPhone 12 Pro: is it worth your purchase?
The battery life is not the best, but apart from this we are facing a very attractive smartphone with an extremely fast processor, exceptional cameras and the best mobile operating system. It also has a great future: the power of mobile phones, the LiDAR scanner and 5G will be very important in the coming years.
Retail price (RRP)
- From $ 999
IPhone 12 Pro Review
Postponed a month thanks to the ravages of 2020, Apple’s new iPhones are finally here, and there are four of them. In the first part of what appears to be like Sisyphus’ work, I have been able to test the iPhone 12 Pro.
It has the same size (6.1 ”) and technology (OLED) of the screen as the standard iPhone 12, but it costs considerably more. Does a powerful camera setup and other improved features justify the price?
I have been able to spend several days testing the photographic capabilities of the iPhone 12 Pro, as well as its battery, graphics card and performance to help you decide if this mobile is for you. If you prefer to know its cheaper alternative, do not miss our iPhone 12 review . For more generic advice, we have our iPhone buying guide .
Price and availability
The iPhone 12 Pro, which is already available, has a starting price of € 1,159 / MXN $ 27,499 for the version with less capacity. Below you will find the complete price list:
- 128 GB: € 1,159 / MXN27,499
- 256 GB: € 1,279 / MXN30,499
- 512 GB: € 1,509 / MXN35,499
As had been rumored, the 12 series terminals have a design with square angles that take us to the iPhone 4, and more recently, to the 2018 and 2020 editions of the iPad Pro. The curved angles of the 11 series, and of almost all iPhones since 2014 have disappeared.
In some respects, this is an aesthetic decision, and your opinion will depend on your personal tastes. Personally, I think it looks sleek and modern, although this may be because we’ve been around iPhones with curved edges for a long time. When a design has been the same for a long time, any change feels like a breath of fresh air.
But it also answers practical questions. From Apple’s point of view, we can imagine that working with straight edges is easier – the battery cells surely fit better in these circumstances, for example.
But the curved edge also has its advantages. For one thing, it makes the device more attractive and easier to grip than a flat surface. I am often bothered by the edges when I pick up my 2018 iPad Pro , which instead sits so well on a table.
However, this has not been a big problem for me with the iPhone 12 Pro, partly because it is much lighter and you can hold it with one hand, and partly also because most of the time I have used it with a silicone case , which gives friction.
Some iPhone 12 Pro users have complained that the edges make it less comfortable to hold, and some have even claimed that they have been cut with them. It seems unlikely to me, unless they are faulty terminals. Perhaps the new design is somewhat less ergonomic, but it seemed comfortable enough to me.
Lastly, it is worth asking whether the curved design is more or less resistant to damage. (To illustrate, let’s imagine an animal with a cuboid-shaped shell) True, there have been complaints of wear and tear from the use of the iPhone 12, although they are such isolated cases that they are hardly worth any.
The terminal that I have used has not suffered any perceptible damage during my tests, although, honestly, it is a very insignificant sample statistically speaking, so it is perhaps as valuable as the complaints on Twitter. And like I said, I’ve almost always used it with a cover, which I would recommend.
Generally speaking, the 12 Pro should be a tough nut to crack. It has the best water resistance of any other iPhone so far: it is not just IP68, which the company had already offered before, but it can withstand depths of up to 6 meters, more than last year’s 4 meters. It also has a new screen protection, which we will explore in the next section.
The screen is larger than the 11 Pro: 6.1 “, instead of 5.8”. Apple has achieved this without hardly increasing the size of the body by reducing the bezel. It is 2.7 mm longer and 0.1 mm wider, and thanks to its narrower profile, it weighs one gram less.
The resolution is proportionally larger, which means that the pixel density remains largely the same (it is now 460 pixels per inch, compared to 458 ppi last year). That translates to a display that is exceptionally sharp, as well as more colorful and brighter than ever.
The big disappointment is the refresh rate, which is still 60 Hz. We were hopeful that Apple would decide to include the ProMotion technology of the iPad Pros, which allows to use 120 Hz when necessary and return to 60 Hz to save battery.
But there has been no luck, which means that we will not have super smooth animations or scrolling , nor very precise touch functions that you do have with 120 Hz. (It is for this reason that a screen expert advises to wait for the iPhone 13).
The protection that we have referred to before is the so-called Ceramic Shield, which uses nano-ceramic crystals in the glass to improve its resistance. Combined with the design of the phone, which is aligned with the edge of the chassis, Apple says it will withstand up to four times more drops than the previous generation, and it will also improve scratch resistance.
All of that can hardly be noticed (the methodology to test it has not been disclosed) and it is difficult to evaluate with a single sample copy that I honestly do not want to break. (Aside from this, if you drop your phone and break it, it also doesn’t prove that there is four times less chance of this happening. You may have been unlucky.)
But other braver posts have been running surprisingly violent tests on the new terminals, and have concluded that the Ceramic Shield protection works .
The improvements in the camera are one of the criteria that users follow to buy a new mobile. The problem is that the iPhone cameras are so good, and so smart, that it is increasingly difficult to detect the differences between generation and generation.
If you now have, for example, an iPhone 8, it is clear that you will think that the photographic capabilities of the iPhone 12 Pro are incredibly good, since you will see all the improvements that have been achieved over the years at once.
They are capable of capturing many details, the color reproduction is wonderful and the automatic adjustments help us a lot for those of us who do not have much technical knowledge.
When comparing it to the also excellent iPhone 11 Pro , instead, we have had to work very hard to find very difficult (and rare) conditions to be able to differentiate from each other.
Last year, Apple talked a lot about next-generation Smart HDR and Deep Fusion with artificial intelligence features, which used the power of the iPhone 11’s A13 Bionic processor to analyze various exposures and select the best option for each part of the image.
This allowed, for example, to bring out all the details of shady areas without having more exposure than other brighter parts of the same photo. We were very impressed with the results.
In 2020, the next-gen Smart HDR has been replaced by Smart HDR 3, which supposedly has a much more refined image processor. This was the case in our tests, especially when photographing backlit subjects.
An example of this is this photo of a wall, lit from behind. Years ago, this wall would appear dark and without any detail because the camera would be compensating for the strong autumn light. The 11 Pro manages to expose the wall well (and differently from the sky), so you can see its details and colors. But the 12 Pro still does it better.
Here’s another example: a tree in broad daylight, with lower foliage in the shade.
Again, both mobiles manage to handle mixed conditions well thanks to Smart HDR. But the 12 Pro manages to bring out more detail in the dark area (note the dark green bush under the tree) and that results in a more realistic portrait of the wall.
But you may have noticed that the differences are small, and that they are only noticeable when the conditions are very demanding and when you compare the results side by side.
One last example, this time with somewhat more complicated conditions. It is a selfie , with two subjects, Portrait Mode and backlighting. Again, both get a good result, but I prefer the sharper focus that you can see on both subjects’ hair in the photo taken with the 12 Pro.
We think both selfies are good, but the rear camera’s Portrait Mode is extremely good this year thanks to the presence of the new LiDAR scanner. The sensor is used in augmented reality apps, but it also allows the mobile to more accurately reproduce objects around you and their distance from the camera.
We also found the iPhone 12 Pro’s bokeh to be extremely accurate, even when dealing with moving subjects.
The iPhone 12 Pro still includes the Night Mode introduced last year, and it is more effective and versatile than the 11 Pro. Regarding its effectiveness, take this photo as an example:
As with Smart HDR 3, the improvements are noticeable if you look closely (I like how it reproduces the streetlight and the houses and the street around it better), but they are very subtle. To tell the truth, these differences are better appreciated when viewing photos from mobile than on our website.
The difference in quality depends on the conditions. Here is another example where it is better appreciated:
In terms of versatility, the 12 Pro uses Night Mode also in selfies and time-lapse movies and even in conjunction with Portrait Mode, while none of that was possible with the 11 Pro. you can use Night Mode on photos taken with the ultra wide angle lens, although Apple has not publicly announced it.
Here is a selfie I took using Night Mode and Portrait Mode at the same time:
The selfies with Night Mode are not amazing in general and, in some cases, I prefer the night I took with my iPhone 11 Pro (no night mode, only Flash illuminating Retina display). This method usually captures photos of your face where you look your best, but it doesn’t take out much of your surroundings (which in many cases is too far away to be illuminated by the flash).
If you want to take a selfie and have your surroundings seen at a medium distance or even further away, then you should bet on the Night Mode of the iPhone 12 Pro.
And here is the best ultra-wide-angle photo I’ve managed to take with Night Mode. It looks good enough, but the illuminating effect is not much better than what is achieved with the main lens. The 11 Pro could not take photos of this type because it did not support Night Mode.
It is worth mentioning for those who have not used series 11, or who have simply forgotten that Night Mode is amazing. Here is a photo of a church that I took in the dark, and you could lead to think that I did it in the afternoon. (Note how smooth the camera shake results during a long exposure. For best results, use a tripod.)
It is so incredible, indeed, that I am going to say something strange: I do not like that this mode is so good. I don’t like that it completely changes the portrait.
Years ago, the artistic director of PC Advisor magazine , for which I worked, wrote a Photoshop tutorial on how to add sunbeams to daytime photos – rays that came out of the clouds and reached the Earth. The results were brilliant, but they had nothing to do with the original photo. It was art, not reality.
Obviously, then I understood that photography is art: you decide how to frame the portrait, what settings to use and, most importantly, where and when to take a photo. It would be naive to think that any photo is an objective portrait of the world without any intervention.
But it is all a matter of degree. And for me, turning night into day is the same as adding nonsensical sun rays: it’s creating something that just doesn’t exist in reality, and that’s strange to me.
The results are good nonetheless.
Preparing for 5G
This will seem anticlimactic, but like many other analysts, I cannot speak about the main novelty of the iPhone 12 Pro because my area has virtually no 5G coverage and my mobile rate does not include 5G anyway.
My inability to test this feature already says a lot, as it explains how little, at least in 2020, 5G is going to change the way you use your mobile every day.
This technology promises very fast connection speeds, but it has several drawbacks. In addition to poor coverage and it drains your battery more easily, you will most likely have to change your tariff, which may or may not cost more. Check with your carrier before buying the phone.
But this gives it a lot of future, since there is no doubt that you will want a 5G mobile when this technology is more established. My colleagues in the United States (Apple talked about the improvements to 5G coverage in this country in their keynote ) suggest that you should find speeds 50% to 100% faster than with current 4G LTE. Operators promise more but, as always, you have to take it with a grain of salt.
Speed and performance tests
The 12 Pro has the latest processor, the A14 Bionic, and a decent 6GB RAM. Compared to the standard offered by other flagships it is not much, but it is the highest RAM ever seen in an iPhone. (Both the iPhone 12 and 11 Pro have 4GB of RAM.)
Oddly enough, that higher RAM hasn’t made our speed test results higher on the 12 Pro than the standard 12 (in fact, the 12 scored somewhat higher), although the new processor did. feel. The 12 Pro scored 19% higher than the 11 Pro in both the single-core and multi-core tests.
Graphics tests were somewhat more confusing. Again, the 12 Pro should have relied on an improved GPU in the A14 (Apple claims it is “50% faster than any other smartphone ), but in my opinion its performance was practically the same as the iPhone 11 Pro.
Battery life and charging
Apple claims that the 12 Pro can last up to 17 hours of video playback (not streaming ). That’s slightly less than last year, as the 11 Pro could last 18 hours.
There are two possible explanations. For one thing, the battery is smaller: from the 11 Pro’s 3046 mAh to 2815 mAh. On the other hand, 5G consumes a lot of energy. But that can be addressed by the fact that each year Apple knows how to get more battery life from components of similar capacity thanks to better software optimization and new technologies.
But how does this translate into practice? My partner Lewis Painter put the 12 Pro through Geekbench 4 (not available on Geekbench 5) battery tests with the display set to 120 nits and it lasted 7 hours and 22 minutes. That’s more than the 5 hours and 33 minutes the iPhone 11 logged and the 11 Pro roughly 6 hours.
However, it is somewhat disappointing in the context of smartphones in today’s market. It is comparable to the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra (about 7 hours and 25 minutes), but it is very far from the 14 hours and 55 minutes of the Xiaomi Mi 10T. There are many differences in battery performance from current smartphones, with the 12 Pro being on the low end.
Keep in mind, however, that the battery life shown in Geekbench is not the real-life battery life. Mobile use is much more demanding than day-to-day use.
You can expect a battery above that average, although usage habits vary so much that it is impossible to give a realistic average of how long it will last for you.
On a typical test day (some heavy use of gaming, photography, web browsing, and speed testing), I unplugged the 12 Pro from the charger at 7:15 a.m. and when I went to bed at 11 at night, he had 11% battery left.
So this is a fairly reasonable day of use, even if you take it to the extreme, but again, this is the case when the smartphone is fresh out of the box. The battery will deteriorate and that will lead to worse performance in a year or two.
My sample copy came with a couple of accessories: a silicone sleeve compatible with the new MagSafe magnetic charging standard, and a MagSafe charger . You must pay for those extras, which are not cheap at all.
(In fact, the 12 Pro doesn’t even come with the conventional power adapter, just a Lightning to UBS-C cable to connect it. You’ll need to use an existing USB-C adapter, or buy a separate one .)
MagSafe is fun to use, like all magnetic systems. You should place the charger near your iPhone and it will dock in the right place.
You should no longer worry about not having placed the iPhone in the correct place on your wireless charging base , something that happened to me, curiously, with my iPhone 11 Pro the night before starting this review . I woke up to see that my battery was still red, which meant having to charge it before I could do my camera comparisons.
Both MagSafe and 12 Pro should support fast charging up to 15W, although in my tests it charged 0% to 20% in 30 minutes, which is pretty poor. You should also make sure that you have an adapter compatible with this load. Don’t miss our recommendations on which power adapter you need to charge your iPhone 12 .
The iPhone 12 Pro, like all iPhones this year, comes with iOS 14 installed. This version of the operating system presented several bugs in its release, but they have already been fixed. And the new features of 2020 (mainly the widgets , the App Library and the ability to configure the default email and browser apps you want) are worth it.
Generally speaking, iOS is a safe and easy-to-use operating system, although everything will depend on what you are used to. If you already have an iPhone, it will not cost you anything, but if you come from Android you may need some time to get used to it.
The iPhone 12 Pro is a good phone, there’s no question about that, and it’s actually the best Apple has ever released (something that will surely change when the iPhone 12 Pro Max is released). But that’s what you would expect at that price.
Everything about this phone is a small improvement. The cameras are better than the previous year, but the cameras were already so good that you have to find very harsh conditions to be able to find the differences when placing the photos side by side.
The processor is very fast, but you could also say that by referring to the A13 chip from 2019 and you will probably hardly notice the difference. The graphics improvements are so negligible that they didn’t even show up in our benchmarks .
All of this, we suppose, is the reason why Apple put so much emphasis on 5G, the great novelty of this generation. But for now 5G is not very exciting. Having a mobile with 5G ensures a great future but, unless you are lucky enough to live in a city with very good coverage, it will not change your life.
It may sound negative, but I am not. That “it has a great future” already says a lot about this product. Most of us don’t buy a new cell phone every year, so we want the one we buy to last for a while.
The iPhone 12 Pro will last you a while. Its power will manage to cope with the apps of 2022. Its LiDAR scanner will be even more important when the use of AR expands. And its 5G capabilities will work when coverage comes.
If you have an 11 series terminal, you should not update your iPhone, as the differences are minimal. But if you have an older mobile (and a lot of budget), this is more attractive. The battery is not the best, but apart from that, it is an attractive smartphone with an extremely fast processor, exceptional cameras and the best mobile operating system.
- Operating system: iOS 14
- Processor: A14 Bionic
- RAM memory: 6 GB
- Storage: 128 GB | 256 GB | 512 GB
- Display: Super Retina XDR OLED (2532 x 1170, 460 ppi, 2,000,000: 1, 800 / 1,200 nits, True Tone)
- Rear camera: 12 MP triple camera (ultra wide, f / 2.4) + 12 MP (wide, f / 1.6) + 12 MP (telephoto, f / 2)
- Front camera: 12 MP camera (f / 2.2)
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0
- Water and dust resistance: IP68 (6 meters for 30 minutes), Ceramic Shield
- Battery: 2815 mAh (Apple says it lasts up to 17 hours in video playback)
- Dimensions: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4 mm
- Weight: 187g