Thinking of upgrading to the iPhone 12 Pro? Our review will help you make up your mind. Apple's iPhone 12 line came out at the end of 2020, and it included four new models: the iPhone 12, the iPhone 12 Pro, the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the all-new iPhone 12 mini. Whichever model you choose, you'll find changes aplenty, including an all-new design that shares its flat-sided aesthetic with the fourth-gen iPad Air.
We'll take you through the design, performance and camera capability of this excellent phone so you can decide if it's right for you. Not sure? Compare it with the phones already in our best camera phones guide, and the beauties in our best smartphones roundup, too.
iPhone 12 Pro Max: Design
The front glass of the iPhone 12 Pro now boasts Apple's Ceramic Shield, tech developed in conjunction with Gorilla Glass maker Corning, which promises four times better drop performance. The backplate glass is textured just like on the iPhone 11 Pro although the iPhone 12 now features a surgical steel grade band around its now-flattened edges to improve mobile reception. The aluminium band is also the only place you'll find any kind of markings, apart from the Apple logo, of course. In Europe, this is where the 'CE' and recycling symbols live rather than on the back plate as previously.
The iPhone 12 Pro is available in five colours – Pacific Blue, Gold, Graphite and Silver, and ranges in price from £999/$999 for 128GB of storage to £1,099/$1,099 for the 256GB model, and £1,299/$1,299 for the 512GB version.
The new design is now more water, splash and dust-resistant than before, earning it an IP68 rating and the ability to survive in up to 6m of water for up to 30 minutes. The previous iPhone 11 Pro could only take a dip down to 4m.
iPhone 12 Pro: Features
The Pro sports a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display, which manages to be slightly bigger than the 5.8-inch screen found on the iPhone 11 Pro, despite almost identical dimensions (146.7x71.5x7.4mm (iPhone 12 Pro) vs 144x71.4x8.1mm (iPhone 11 Pro). It's also 1g lighter than its predecessor at 187g even with its new and improved insides.
As is normal with recent iPhones, the headphone jack is conspicuous by its absence, however Apple has retained the iPhone's Lightning port – unlike other devices, such as the iPad Air, which have moved to USB-C. One thing to note: Apple no longer includes either a charger or a pair of Lightning headphones in the box, you now just get a Lightning to ISB-C cable instead. Apple says this is to help reduce its carbon footprint and cut the amount of e-waste, especially since most of us have chargers kicking around anyway. However, there is a caveat – what the iPhone 12 does now include is a ring of MagSafe magnets behind its back plate, the aim of which is to make its wireless charging efforts more efficient.
To that end, Apple also sells a new MagSafe charger (£39/$39), although you'll also need to add a 20W USB-C Power Adaptor (£19/$19) to that to ensure that MagSafe is capable of feeding to the iPhone 12. MagSafe can also be found in a new range of iPhone cases (from £49/$49) as well as a MagSafe Leather Wallet (£59/$59).
iPhone 12 Pro: Performance
All Apple's new iPhone 12 models now sport its A14 Bionic chip, the same one found in the iPad Air. It contains six processor cores and four graphics cores, plus Apple's next-gen 16-core Neural Engine, which makes things like adding details to photos using Deep Fusion 80 per cent faster than in the iPhone 11. That new chip also means the iPhone 12 series can shoot 4K video in HDR and Dolby Vision, making your home videos looks even more cinematic. Plus, because this is a Pro model, you get three cameras to help that happen: an f/2.5 Ultra Wide, an f/1.6 Wide and an f/2.0 Telephoto with 2x zoom.
The elephant in the room is 5G. All the new iPhone 12 models, including the Pro, support the latest mobile tech, promising super-fast speeds when you're connecting to the internet on the go – provided you're within reach of a suitable mast and have actually signed up to a 5G data plan. For most of us, 5G isn't really a practical proposition yet, but it will be – eventually. It's good to know that Apple's latest superphone is already onboard.
iPhone 12 Pro: Camera
The iPhone 12 Pro also includes a LiDAR scanner, which helps improve the quality of your images. While your iPhone uses machine learning and a lot of Neural Engine trickery (Apple calls it computational photography), to help your photos look their best, the improvements over the iPhone 11 are fairly marginal. The wider apertures, along with Night mode and LiDAR focusing, certainly help improve the quality of your low-light captures, though, and even enabled us to shoot handheld in a completely dark park and still capture something vaguely usable.
The largely point-and-shoot nature of Apple's Camera app means you miss out on more manual controls like those found in Camera+ 2 and Halide Mark II, although more help is coming – Apple's launching its ProRAW image format later this year, which will give you much more control over your iPhone captures. The only other thing that might give you pause is the Phone 12 Pro Max. Its camera setup is better still with a 2.5x Telephoto lens and a 47 per cent larger image sensor – for keen iPhoneographers, it's the one to have.
iPhone 12 Pro: Verdict
We love the look of the new iPhone12 Pro – it combines the best design elements from the iPhone X, XR and 11, and combines them with the flattened sides of the old iPhone 4 and 5. Having a Telephoto lens really makes a difference to the kind of photos you can take too.
This review originally appeared in MacFormat; subscribe to MacFormat here.
Read more: Smartphone Photography: Top tips to nail shooting with your phone.