iPhone 12 Reviews: Major Design and Display Improvements, Mixed Experiences With 5G and MagSafe
The first iPhone 12 reviews have been shared by various media outlets and YouTubers, and the overall consensus is that the iPhone 12 is surprisingly similar to the iPhone 12 Pro. Reviewers praised the iPhone 12's new design and Super Retina XDR display, but had mixed experiences with 5G and MagSafe.
The reviewers were impressed with Apple's new squared-off design on the iPhone 12. TechCrunch's Matthew Panzarino lauded the ergonomic benefits of the new design:
The squared-off sides make it far easier to grip and to pick up from a flat surface than the iPhone 11's rounded edges... Over time, it could lead to less grip fatigue among those who go caseless because less pressure is required to secure it.
He also approved of the striking new blue color:
The back color on the blue model I had was also very well chosen. It's deep indoors, bright in the sun and feels like part of a modern palette.
However, The Verge's Dieter Bohn expressed some disappointment at the iPhone 12's glossy rear glass.
Despite all of those flat edges, the seams and the corners are beveled just enough to make it comfortable to hold. The rails on the iPhone 12 are matte finish aluminum, and I prefer them to the glossy steel on the Pro models. Unfortunately, the rear glass is super glossy, super prone to picking up fingerprints, and as susceptible to picking up tiny little micro-abrasions as ever.
CNN's Jacob Krol also noticed the glass's tendency to acquire scratches. Nonetheless, Bohn praised the overall design improvements:
This design just feels more elegant and confident than the past few years of iPhones, including even the big iPhone X redesign. And the smaller size is the best part; the iPhone XR and iPhone 11 always felt just a little too big.
Moreover, Panzarino noted the lighter weight of the iPhone 12, which he said was more noticeable than expected:
One thing worth mentioning here too is that the iPhone 12 Pro is 189 grams where the iPhone 12 is 164 grams. While it may seem silly to note a 25 gram difference, I can say that in practice it does feel quite a bit lighter.
Chris Velazco of Engadget reflected that the iPhone 12's Super Retina XDR display is a significant upgrade over the iPhone XR and iPhone 11:
This screen is an enormous improvement over the Liquid Retina displays Apple used in the XR and 11. Not only does it run at a higher resolution, its colors pop more dramatically, and its brightness peaks at 1200 nits when you're watching HDR content. The screen won't be that bright most of the time, though — its max brightness for everything else is 800 nits, which is still plenty for easy readability outdoors.
Most of the reviews observed that the iPhone 12's camera is only incrementally better than the iPhone 11 Pro's camera. Velazco believes that the camera is generally not much better in use than on the iPhone 11 Pro:
Honestly though, most of the photos I’ve taken don’t look that much better than what I got from last year's 11 Pro. The biggest difference I noticed during daylight shoots is that the 12 and 12 Pro’s photos are just a touch warmer than the 11 Pro, but not enough to notice at a glance. I also expected night-shooting to be better since this sensor can capture more light. But, that only seems beneficial when you make it a point not to shoot in Night Mode. When you do, the differences mostly boil down to the way Apple uses neural networks to process those images.
Panzarino said that there were some improvements, but they were difficult to notice:
I saw some signs of improvement here but it can be difficult to tell for a few reasons. The iPhone 11 Pro was already very sharp across the image field, for one, and there is so much computational blending happening that it can be hard to differentiate between something that the software improved and something that the hardware has improved...The other big upgrade in the Wide camera, though, is a new f1.6 aperture, which allows an Apple-quoted 27% more light in. In my testing I found the image quality to be pretty spectacular but without nullifying the iPhone 11 Pro except in some specific conditions. Simply put, the iPhone 11's camera is already very, very good, but the moves forward in the iPhone 12 slot in above what would normally be a 'one cycle' difference.
Instead, the more noticeable camera improvements were seen with the Ultra Wide lens and in Portrait mode:
The practical benefits can be seen in the iPhone 12's increased Ultra Wide lens quality... The Ultra Wide is sharper edge-to-edge, crisper overall and has some very judiciously applied perspective correction built in to make sure that you don't get distracting distortion along architectural lines in your images.
The portrait mode on iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are greatly improved in one major respect: they do a much better job of segmenting images along the border of things like leaves, hair, fur and other areas of fine detail.
The reviewers were interested in Apple's new MagSafe charger, which Panzarino described as "way faster than fiddling with a Qi charger, and way less frustrating." Velazco remarked:
Wireless charging is generally too finicky and inefficient to be worth my time, but MagSafe fixes enough of the pain points that I’m starting to change my mind.
However, he was unsure about the practicality of MagSafe charging:
It doesn't hurt that the MagSafe connector latches on so strongly that you can still pick the iPhone up and use it while charging "wirelessly."... All of this is somewhat beside the point, though: If you're in a rush, MagSafe is still no substitute for a proper USB cable and a good charger.
Opinions about MagSafe accessories, such as Apple's MagSafe Wallet, were much more mixed. Velazco was unimpressed with Apple's card wallet, saying that in practice it was temperamental, and he expressed concerns about how well other MagSafe accessories would function:
There's also a nifty card case you can slap on the back of your iPhone 12, and I gotta tell you, it's better on paper than in practice. For one, it holds two to three credit cards — or one of those thick NFC keycards for offices and such — and they can be tough to remove without pulling the case off the phone entirely. And that's another thing: Maybe my pants are just too tight, but the case already came off a few times when pulling the phone out of my pocket. I don't think a MagSafe Pop Socket is such a great idea, not that it'll stop companies from making them.
The reviewers also had a varied experience with 5G on the iPhone 12, but this was more so due to network coverage rather than the iPhone 12's capabilities. Wired's Lauren Goode said that "5G networks aren't yet widespread enough in the U.S. for you to experience the benefit of these faster wireless speeds." Panzarino explained:
The fact is that my experience will be shared by the vast majority of iPhone 12 buyers this year. The fastest flavors of 5G are available only on a few blocks of a handful of major cities at the moment and though the speeds are absolutely incredible there, that will have very little to do with the wider experience of buyers over the next 6 months. And, of course, millimeter wave 5G is not live for customers outside of the U.S. currently.
- The Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern
- The Telegraph's James Titcomb
- CNET's Patrick Holland
- CNBC's Todd Haselton
- Input's Raymond Wong
- Pocket-lint's Stuart Miles
And for early unboxings and first impression videos, check out our summary where we've pulled together well over a dozen videos.
The iPhone 12 is available to pre-order in the United States and numerous other countries, with deliveries to customers and in-store availability beginning Friday, October 23. The iPhone 12 mini, which offers all of the same features in a smaller package, will be available for pre-order on November 6 with a launch following on November 13.