Should You Buy an iPhone 12?
The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini are part of Apple's latest generation of smartphones, offering OLED displays, 5G connectivity, the A14 chip for better performance, improved cameras, and MagSafe, all in a new, squared-off design.
Announced in October of 2020, the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini are still among the newest iPhones in Apple's lineup, but they are approaching the middle of their product cycle. Apple tends to release new iPhone models every September, and despite the iPhone 12 and 12 mini launching a month later than usual in 2020, it looks as though new iPhone 13 models are going to launch as normal in September.
There are clear signs of an iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini arriving later this year with a number of upgrades and improvements, but the launch of these devices is believed to be around half a year away. This means that it is still a good time to buy the iPhone 12 or the iPhone 12 mini for the vast majority of people, but some customers may now prefer to wait until new models arrive in the fall.
While the iPhone 12 seems to be the best all-round iPhone option currently available, users who need pro-level camera features or want a more premium design should opt for the $999 iPhone 12 Pro. Similarly, for the largest and most fully-featured iPhone, there is the 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max, which dwarfs the iPhone 12 by over half an inch and starts at $1,099.
On the other hand, if price is your main concern, the iPhone 11 or iPhone XR may be more appropriate than the $799 iPhone 12, featuring the same 6.1-inch display size for as little as $499. There are some tradeoffs with the iPhone 11 or iPhone XR however, such as the LCD display and use of an older chipset.
Likewise, if you are looking for a more inexpensive alternative to the $699 iPhone 12 mini that still prioritizes one-handed use and pocketability, then the $399 iPhone SE may the best option.
iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini Overview
- Should You Buy an iPhone 12?
- iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini Overview
- iPhone 12 Price, Pre Orders, and Release Date
- iPhone 12 Reviews
Apple on October 13, 2020 introduced its newest flagship iPhones, the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini, which offer powerful features at an affordable price tag. Sold alongside the more expensive iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max, the iPhone 12 and 12 mini are ideal for anyone who doesn't need pro-level camera features.
The 6.1-inch iPhone 12 is a successor to the iPhone 11, while the 5.4-inch iPhone 12 is an all-new size and marks the smallest iPhone Apple has introduced since the 2016 iPhone SE. Aside from screen size and battery size, the two phones are technically identical. With its small size, the iPhone 12 mini is ideal for those who prefer an iPhone that can be used one-handed.
All iPhone models this year feature Super Retina XDR OLED displays for the first time, with an edge-to-edge design with the exception of the Face ID notch and small bezels around the edge. There's no difference in display quality between the standard iPhone 12 models and the Pro models.
The 5.4-inch iPhone 12 mini has a resolution of 2430 x 1080 with 476 pixels per inch and the 6.1-inch iPhone 12 has a resolution of 2532 x 1170 with 460 pixels per inch. The displays offer HDR support with 1200 nits peak brightness, Wide Color for vivid, true-to-life colors, Haptic Touch for feedback, and True Tone to match the color temperature of the display to the ambient lighting for a more natural viewing experience.
Apple overhauled the design of the iPhone 12 lineup this year, introducing flat edges that are a departure from the rounded edges of prior models and are similar in design to the iPad Pro. The front of the iPhone is protected by a new Ceramic Shield cover that replaces the standard cover glass. Apple says the Ceramic Shield is infused with nano-ceramic crystals and offers 4x better drop performance.
The back of the iPhone continues to be made from glass, with the two halves of the device sandwiching an aerospace-grade aluminum enclosure that comes in six colors: blue, green, black, white, (PRODUCT)RED, and purple, a new color added in April 2021.. Like the iPhone 12 Pro models, the iPhone 12 models offer IP68 water and dust resistance and can hold up to submersion in 6 meters of water for up to 30 minutes.
All of the iPhone 12 models in this year's lineup support 5G connectivity for faster downloads and uploads, better quality video streaming, improved gaming, and higher-definition 1080p FaceTime calls. 5G coverage is available worldwide, but only iPhone 12 devices sold in the United States support mmWave 5G, which is the fastest 5G technology available.
iPhone 12 models sold in other countries are limited to the slower but more widely available Sub-6GHz 5G connectivity. In the U.S., 5G speeds can be as high as 4Gbps, even in highly populated areas.
Gigabit LTE is supported when 5G isn't available, and to preserve battery life when using 5G, a Smart Data Mode reverts to an LTE connection when 5G speeds aren't necessary.
The iPhone 12 and 12 mini support WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0, plus they include a U1 Ultra Wideband chip for spatial awareness and interactivity with other devices that include the U1 feature such as the HomePod mini.
There's a new A14 chip inside the iPhone 12 models, and it is the first chip in the smartphone industry built on a 5-nanometer process for performance and efficiency improvements. Apple says the 6-core CPU and 4-core GPU in the A14 are 50 percent faster than the fastest competing smartphone chips. The A14 chip includes a 16-core Neural Engine that offers an 80 percent increase in performance for machine learning tasks.
The iPhone 12 and 12 mini are similar to the Pro models in most respects, but the camera is a major differentiating factor. While the Pro models include a triple-lens camera setup with a LiDAR Scanner and other bells and whistles, the iPhone 12 and 12 mini have a simpler and less advanced dual-lens camera setup.
That said, there are still significant camera improvements in the new iPhone 12 models compared to the iPhone 11. There's an f/2.4 Ultra Wide camera and a Wide camera that has a new f/1.6 aperture that lets in 27 percent more light for better performance in low-light conditions along with 2x optical zoom and 5x digital zoom.
The A14 chip powers new computational photography features with better than ever Deep Fusion for improved photos with more texture and less noise, and improved Night mode with better contrast in images. There's a Smart HDR 3 feature that adjusts the white balance, contrast, texture, and saturation in photos for more natural-looking images.
Like the iPhone 12 Pro models, the iPhone 12 models can capture 30fps HDR video with Dolby Vision, enabling cinema-grade videos to be captured, edited, and shared right on the iPhone. It also supports 4K video recording at up to 60fps. There's improved cinematic video stabilization and a Night mode Time-Lapse feature, along with Dolby Vision selfie videos using the TrueDepth camera.
Speaking of the TrueDepth camera, it continues to enable the Face ID facial recognition biometric authentication feature in the iPhone, and it offers a 12-megapixel selfie camera. The selfie camera now supports Smart HDR 3, Deep Fusion, Night mode, and Night mode Portrait shots.
When it comes to battery life, the iPhone 12 offers up to 17 hours of video playback, 11 hours of streaming video playback, or 65 hours of audio playback. The iPhone 12 mini offers up to 15 hours of video playback, 10 hours of streaming video playback, or 50 hours of audio playback.
Both of the new iPhones offer fast charging, which provides a 50 percent charge in 30 minutes using a 20W power adapter.
Alongside the iPhone 12 models, Apple introduced MagSafe accessories designed to work with a ring of magnets built into the back of the iPhones. There's a MagSafe charger, MagSafe iPhone cases, sleeves, and wallet accessories. MagSafe supports 15W wireless charging, an upgrade over the 7.5W charging available through standard Qi-based wireless chargers. The iPhone 12 models can also be charged using the Lightning port, which is unchanged.
Apple eliminated the power adapter and EarPods from the iPhone 12 box, and these accessories must be purchased separately. All iPhone models now ship with a USB-C to Lightning cable by default, with Apple doing away with the USB-A version.
Apple is selling the iPhone 12 and 12 mini alongside the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max, more expensive iPhone models that have stainless steel bodies and more advanced camera technology. More info on the iPhone 12 Pro lineup can be found in our iPhone 12 Pro roundup.
Note: See an error in this roundup or want to offer feedback? Send us an email here.
iPhone 12 Price, Pre Orders, and Release Date
The 6.1-inch iPhone 12 officially launched on Friday, October 23. It is priced starting at $799 for 64GB of storage, with 128 and 256GB available for an extra fee. The 5.4-inch iPhone 12 mini launched on Friday, November 13. Pricing on the iPhone 12 mini starts at $699 for 64GB of storage, with 128 and 256GB storage options available.
The $699 and $799 starting price points for the iPhone 12 models are only for Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint customers in the United States. For SIM-free models, pricing on the iPhone 12 mini starts at $729 and pricing on the iPhone 12 starts at $829.
The iPhones can be purchased from the online Apple Store, Apple retail locations, and third-party retailers like Best Buy, Target, and Walmart.
Apple in April 2021 introduced a new purple color for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini, which became available for order on Friday, April 23 ahead of a launch on Friday, April 30.
iPhone 12 Reviews
6.1-inch iPhone 12
Reviews of the iPhone 12 have been positive, with reviewers praising the refreshed design that's similar to the iPad Pro and the display, which is OLED and a major improvement over the LCD display in the iPhone 11.
Engadget called the display an "enormous" leap forward in quality with a higher resolution and colors that "pop more dramatically."
TechCrunch said that the squared-off edges of the iPhone 12 make it easier to grip and pick up from a flat surface, and it's comfortable to hold. Reviewers liked the bright colors, but several, including The Verge, mentioned that the glossy rear glass is susceptible to fingerprints and microabrasions.
Most reviewers found the camera improvements to be incremental compared to the iPhone 11, with Engadget claiming that photos don't really look much different from photos taken with the 11 Pro. TechCrunch said there are "signs of improvement" with the biggest change being the f/1.6 aperture for the Wide camera that lets more light in.
The Ultra Wide camera was also described as sharper and crisper with perspective correction to sort out any line distortion, plus there are improvements to Portrait Mode for things like sussing out fine detail.
Reviewers liked the MagSafe integration, which most found to be faster and less frustrating than dealing with a Qi-based charger, and the connection is strong enough that you can use the iPhone while it's charging.
When it comes to 5G connectivity, reviewers weren't too impressed because 5G connectivity is still limited in many places in the United States and other countries. Wired said that 5G isn't widespread enough for most people to "experience the benefit of faster wireless speeds," while TechCrunch pointed out that the fastest mmWave networks are only available on a few blocks in a handful of major cities.
5.4-inch iPhone 12 mini
Reviewers also love the smaller iPhone 12 mini for its form factor that makes it easy to hold in one hand, but battery life has been a disappointment.
At 5.4-inches, the iPhone 12 mini is the smallest of the iPhone models and thus it has the smallest battery of the bunch. Most reviewers found that it didn't quite make it through a full day and evening without needing to be charged.
Despite the smaller size of the display, iPhone 12 mini users won't be missing out on much - one or two lines of text that are cut off compared to the iPhone 12. Using the mini has been described as "far superior" to smaller iPhones like the original iPhone SE and the 2020 iPhone SE 2 because there's more available display space.
Reviewers found the iPhone 12 mini to be a solid deal, with Apple providing all of the power of the iPhone 12 in smaller package at a $699 price, but some did point out that last year, the same $699 price got you a larger 6.1-inch device.
For more reviews on the iPhone 12, make sure to check out our iPhone 12 review guide and our iPhone 12 mini review guide, both of which are useful for those who are still deciding whether or not to purchase one of the new iPhones. Make sure to also check out our first impressions coverage with thoughts on the new devices from MacRumors readers.
Some iPhone 12 models are suffering from an issue that causes the color of the aluminum body to fade. This appears to be primarily affecting PRODUCT(RED) versions of the device, but other colors could be impacted as well.
Some iPhone 12 customers are experiencing an issue with the device's display, which exhibits flickering, a green or gray glow, or other unintended lighting variations. Apple is telling repair shops to advise customers to wait for a software update, which suggests that a software fix is coming, and there are indeed signs of a fix in iOS 14.5.
Apple introduced a new flat-edged design for the iPhone 12 and 12 mini, which is a departure from the rounded edges that have been used since the iPhone 6. The iPhone 12 models look similar to the iPad Pro models, and the flat edges also harken back to the iPhone 4 and 5.
The all-glass front and glass back panel are held together with an aluminum frame, which features a matte design and is slightly different in appearance from the stainless steel band used for the Pro models.
At the front of the iPhone 12 models, there's a notch at the front to house the TrueDepth Camera, speaker, and microphone, and there's a slim bezel all around the edges of the iPhone 12.
There are antenna bands at the top and sides of the phone, along with the standard power button on the right and volume buttons on the left. Underneath the power button, there's a new 5G mmWave antenna, but this is a feature limited to the U.S. models that have mmWave support. iPhones in other countries do not have this antenna. iPhones purchased in European countries have regulatory information etched into the side.
The SIM slot that was on the right has been moved to the left side of the phone, and there are speaker holes and built-in microphones at the bottom of the iPhone 12 models. There's also a Lightning port that can be used for charging.
At the back of the iPhone, there's a square-shaped camera bump that with a dual-lens camera and flash. Below that, there's an Apple logo that matches the color of the device.
With the exception of size (and battery life) there are no differences between the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 mini. The phones are identical in functionality with the same feature set and design.
The iPhone 12 is available in a 6.1-inch size that's similar to the 6.1-inch size of the iPhone 11, while the iPhone 12 mini features a 5.4-inch display.
Compared to the iPhone 11, the 6.1-inch iPhone 12 is 11 percent thinner, 15 percent smaller, and 16 percent lighter, while the 5.4-inch iPhone 12 mini has no comparison because it is the smallest, lightest iPhone Apple has introduced since the 2016 iPhone SE.
The iPhone 12 mini is 5.18 inches tall (131.5mm), 2.53 inches wide (64.2mm) and 0.29 thick (7.4mm).
The iPhone 12 is 5.78 inches tall (146.7mm), 2.82 inches wide (71.5mm), and 0.29 inches thick (7.4mm).
The iPhone 12 and 12 mini come in white, black, blue, green, and (PRODUCT)RED. The black and white colors are similar to the iPhone 11 colors, but the other colors are new.
Apple in April 2021 introduced a new purple color option for the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 mini, which joins the other available colors. Apple previously offered a lavender version of the iPhone 11, and the new iPhone 12 purple color is a bit of a darker purple.
The iPhone 12 and 12 mini have a water resistance rating of IP68 and are able to withstand a depth of up to six meters (19.7 feet) for up to 30 minutes.
The iPhone 11 had the same IP68 water resistance rating but Apple said it could withstand water up to four meters deep for 30 minutes, so despite the similar water resistance rating, the new iPhones can hold up better to deeper submersion.
In the IP68 number, the 6 refers to dust resistance (and means the iPhone 12 Pro can hold up to dirt, dust, and other particulates), while the 8 pertains to water resistance. IP6x is the highest dust resistance rating that exists.
The iPhone 12 models can withstand rain, splashes, and accidental spills, but intentional water exposure should be avoided because water and dust resistance can degrade over time with standard device usage.
Apple's iPhone warranty does not cover liquid damage, and while AppleCare+ does, it requires a deductible to be paid for the damage to be fixed.
For the first time, Apple has introduced OLED displays across the iPhone lineup. All of the iPhone 12 models feature a Super Retina XDR display.
There's a 2,000,000:1 contrast radio for blacker blacks and brighter whites, and up to 1200 nits peak brightness for HDR photos, videos, TV shows, and movies. Typical max brightness is 625 nits on the iPhone 12 models.
The iPhone 12 features the same 2532 x 1170 resolution as the iPhone 12 Pro, with 460 pixels per inch. The smaller iPhone 12 mini has a 2340 x 1080 resolution at 476 pixels per inch.
With wide color support the displays offer rich, true to life colors, and a True Tone feature matches the white balance of the display to the ambient lighting around you for a paper-like viewing experience that's easier on the eyes.
There's a fingerprint resistant oleophobic coating to keep the display free from grime, and support for Haptic Touch provides haptic feedback when interacting with the display for actions like long presses. The Taptic Engine that powers Haptic Touch is smaller this year.
Rather than standard cover glass, the iPhone 12 and 12 mini are protected by a "Ceramic Shield" material that offers four times better drop protection. The Ceramic Shield display cover is made by infusing nano-ceramic crystals into glass to improve durability.
The ceramic crystals were manipulated to optimize for clarity while maintaining toughness, with the display created in partnership with Corning. According to Apple, Ceramic Shield is tougher than any smartphone glass, with a dual-ion exchange production process ensuring protection against scratches and everyday wear and tear.
Early tests have confirmed that Apple's estimates appear to be accurate, and the iPhone 12's Ceramic Shield is more durable than the glass protecting the iPhone 11, better resisting force tests and drops. In a drop test, the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro displayed more durability than previous iPhone models, outperforming the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro in drop tests, but it's still vulnerable to breaking.
Though more resistant to breakage when dropped, the Ceramic Shield does not appear to be able to better hold up to scratching, and in a Mohs hardness test, the iPhone 12's display scratched at a level 6 with deeper grooves caused at level 7. Apple has not said that the new iPhones offer better scratch protection.
A14 Bionic Chip
The A14 Bionic chip used across the iPhone 12 lineup is the first A-series chip built on a smaller 5-nanometer process, which brings speed and efficiency improvements. The A14 features 40 percent more transistors (11.8 billion) than the A13, for better battery life and faster performance.
According to Apple, the 6-core CPU and 4-core GPU in the A14 Bionic chip is 50 percent faster than any other top smartphone chip on the market in 2020.
Early Geekbench benchmark results suggest the A14 chip in the iPhone 12 is more than 20 percent faster than the A13 chip in the iPhone 11.
There's a new 16-core Neural Engine that's 80 percent faster than the prior-generation Neural Engine, and the machine learning accelerators are up to 70 percent faster. The Neural Engine can complete 11 trillion operations per second, so tasks like applying Deep Fusion improvements to photos are faster than ever.
Other improvements include a new image signal processor for Dolby Vision recording support, Smart HDR 3 for more true-to-life color shifts in photos, and advanced temporal noise reduction that cuts down on noise in videos.
The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini are equipped with 4GB RAM.
TrueDepth Camera and Face ID
For biometric authentication, the iPhone 12 and 12 mini use Face ID, the facial recognition system that was first introduced in 2017. Face ID components are housed in the TrueDepth camera system in the display notch.
Face ID is used across iOS tasks for unlocking the iPhone, allowing access to third-party passcode protected apps, confirming app purchases, and authenticating Apple Pay payments.
Face ID works through a set of sensors and cameras. A Dot Projector projects more than 30,000 invisible infrared dots onto the surface of the skin to create a 3D facial scan that maps the curves and planes of each face, with the scan read by an infrared camera.
The facial depth map is relayed to the A14 chip where it is transformed into a mathematical model that the iPhone uses to authenticate identity. Face ID works in low light and in the dark, and with hats, beards, glasses, sunglasses, scarves, and other accessories that partially obscure the face.
Face ID data is stored in the Secure Enclave, and it is not accessible to Apple, third-party apps, or anyone who has your phone. Authentication happens on device and no Face ID data is uploaded to Apple.
Unlocking Face ID iPhones With Apple Watch
The iOS 14.5 and watchOS 7.4 updates introduce an "Unlock with Apple Watch" feature that's designed to allow an iPhone with Face ID to use an unlocked and authenticated Apple Watch as a secondary authentication measure when a mask is worn.
Face ID is not able to work when a person is wearing a mask, so the Apple Watch authentication method prevents iPhone users from having to constantly enter a passcode when wearing a mask. It's similar to the Apple Watch unlocking feature on the Mac and can be enabled in the Settings app under Face ID & Passcode.
An unlocked Apple Watch paired with Face ID can unlock the iPhone when a mask is worn, but it's only for mask usage. The Apple Watch cannot be used to authenticate Apple Pay or App Store purchases, nor can it be used to unlock apps that require a Face ID scan. In these situations, the mask needs to be removed or a passcode/password needs to be used instead.
When the Apple Watch unlocks the iPhone, there's a haptic tap on the wrist and with the iPhone sending a notification to the watch, much like how it works when using the watch to unlock a Mac. Unlock with Apple Watch is limited to those running iOS 14.5 and watchOS 7.4 or later.
In addition to powering facial recognition, the 12-megapixel f/2.2 camera in the TrueDepth camera system is also a front-facing selfie/FaceTime camera with many of the same features that are available for the rear-facing camera.
The A14 chip in the iPhone 12 models brings new photographic features to the front-facing TrueDepth camera. Night mode works with the front-facing camera for the first time, enabling nighttime selfies.
Deep Fusion, Smart HDR 3, and Dolby Vision HDR video recording are also supported. Deep Fusion introduces improvements in color and texture in mid to low-light scenes by pulling out the best pixels from multiple exposures to make one great aggregate image.
Smart HDR 3 improves highlights, shadows, white balance, and contouring in every image for more natural lighting, and Dolby Vision HDR support allows for recording and editing Dolby Vision video.
4K video recording at up to 60 frames per second is supported, as is 1080p slo-mo video at 120 frames per second for taking "slofie" videos. Other front-facing camera features include support for Memoji and Animoji, time-lapse video, Night mode time-lapse, QuickTake video, and lens correction for removing any photo distortion.
Dual-Lens Rear Camera
There's a dual-lens camera available in the iPhone 12 and 12 mini, with camera technology being the major differentiating factor between the standard models and the iPhone 12 Pro models.
There's a 12-megapixel Ultra Wide camera with an f/2.4 aperture, a 120 degree field of view, and a 13mm focal length, which is ideal for landscape shots and unique, artistic shots with a super wide-angle field of view. Apple has added a lens correction feature that sorts out any distortion caused by the super wide angle.
The Ultra Wide camera is accompanied by a standard 12-megapixel Wide camera with a 26mm focal length and an f/1.6 aperture that lets in 27 percent more light than the f/1.8 aperture in the iPhone 11 camera. This is a new 7-element lens that is an upgrade over the 12-megapixel lens that was in the iPhone 11.
The iPhone 12 Pro models also have Wide and Ultra Wide cameras, along with a third telephoto lens that's missing from the more affordable iPhone 12 models. With no telephoto lens, the iPhone 12 models support 5x digital zoom and 2x optical zoom out (with the Ultra Wide lens) but no optical zoom in.
Optical Image Stabilization is supported to cut down on camera shake when you're snapping a photo, and camera features available in prior models like Portrait mode with Depth Control, Portrait Lighting for adjusting lighting effects, panorama, and burst mode.
New Camera Features
The A14 chip in the iPhone 12 and 12 mini includes a faster and more powerful Image Signal Processor that enables new camera functionality.
- Night Mode for Ultra Wide - Night mode in the new iPhone 12 models works with both the Wide and Ultra Wide lenses so you can get nighttime wide-angle shots.
- Deep Fusion - Deep Fusion now works with the Ultra Wide and Wide lenses to bring improvements to color and texture in mid to low-light scenes. With Deep Fusion, multiple exposures are analyzed on a pixel level to bring out detail in all objects in the image.
- Smart HDR 3 - Refines highlights, shadows, white balance, and contours for the most natural color and lighting in any scene. Smart HDR comes into play when there are differences in lighting, such as when photographing a scene with a lot of sky.
- HDR 3 Scene Recognition - Scene Recognition lets the camera recognize everyday scenes and adjust different parts of the photo accordingly for more true-to-life images. The iPhone can distinguish buildings and sky, snowy mountains and clouds, food on a plate, and more, optimizing the scene to make it look as close to real life as possible.
- Faster processing - The iPhone 12 models have faster image processing thanks to the A14 chip.
There are also new video features in the iPhone 12 powered by the A14, such as Dolby Vision recording at up to 30 frames per second. Dolby Vision grading is done frame by frame as you film, and the captured video can be edited right on the iPhone using Photos or iMovie.
Standard 4K video recording at up to 60 frames per second is supported, as is 1080p and 720p recording. There's Slo-mo video support for 1080p at 120fps or 240fps, along with a new Night mode time-lapse video for taking night time video when a tripod is available.
Other video features include standard time-lapse, extended dynamic range, continuous autofocus, QuickTake video support for capturing videos even when you're not in video mode, and optical image stabilization.
The battery life of the iPhone 12 is identical to the battery life of the iPhone 12 Pro, offering up to 17 hours of video playback, up to 11 hours of streaming video playback, and up to 65 hours of audio playback.
Because the iPhone 12 mini is smaller, it has a shorter battery life. It lasts for up to 15 hours with standard video playback, up to 10 hours with streaming video playback, and up to 50 hours with audio playback.
The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini support fast charging and can charge to 50 percent within 30 minutes using a Lightning to USB-C cable and a 20W power adapter.
Apple's iPhone 12 models are the first iPhones to support 5G networks, and are compatible with both mmWave and Sub-6GHz 5G, which are the two types of 5G.
mmWave 5G networks offer the fastest 5G speeds and are the speeds you most often see advertised when people talk about 5G connectivity. Unfortunately, mmWave is short range and the connection can be interrupted by buildings, trees, and other obstacles, so its use is limited to major cities and urban areas along with venues like concerts, airports, and other places where people congregate.
Sub-6GHz 5G is much more widespread and available in urban, suburban, and rural areas across the United States and other countries. For the most part, when you use a 5G network, you'll be using Sub-6GHz 5G. It's generally faster than LTE and will get faster as 5G technology evolves, but it's not the super fast 5G you might be expecting. All carriers in the U.S. are offering both mmWave and Sub-6GHz 5G networks, though availability varies.
The iPhone 12 and 12 mini support both mmWave and Sub-6GHz networks in the United States, but mmWave connectivity is not available in other countries. iPhone 12 models purchased outside of the United States do not have the mmWave antenna on the side and are not able to connect to mmWave networks.
The iPhone 12 models use Qualcomm's X55 modem, but Apple created custom antennas and radio components to enhance connectivity, and through software optimization, Apple claims apps can benefit from 5G without using additional power or impacting battery life.
5G allows for faster download and upload speeds, which speeds up everything from loading websites to downloading TV shows and movies.
It also increases bandwidth for streaming services so you can watch in a higher resolution, and it brings improved FaceTime call quality. Over 5G or WiFi, FaceTime calls work in 1080p. In areas where LTE speeds are slow because of the sheer number of people, 5G frees up bandwidth and reduces congestion for faster usage speeds.
5G Battery Drain
Battery tests suggest the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro see much faster battery drain when connected to 5G networks compared to when connected to LTE networks.
In a test using the same parameters, the iPhone 12 lasted for eight hours and 25 minutes, while the iPhone 12 Pro lasted for nine hours and six minutes when connected to 5G.
When connected to LTE, the iPhone 12 lasted for 10 hours and 23 minutes, while the iPhone 12 Pro lasted for 11 hours and 24 minutes.
iPhone 12 models in the United States support up to 20 5G bands.
Sub-6GHz: 5G NR (Bands n1, n2, n3, n5, n7, n8, n12, n20, n25, n28, n38, n40, n41, n66, n71, n77, n78, n79)
mmWave: 5G NR mmWave (Bands n260, n261)
Along with 5G, the iPhone 12 models also support Gigabit LTE, so you can still connect to LTE networks when 5G networks aren't available. The following bands are supported:
FDD-LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 32, 66, 71)
TD-LTE (Bands 34, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 46, 48)
Data Saver Mode
Data Saver Mode is a feature that swaps the iPhone's connection over to LTE when 5G speeds aren't needed in order to preserve battery life.
As an example, when the iPhone is updating in the background, it uses LTE because super fast speeds aren't necessary, but in instances where speed does matter, such as downloading a show, the iPhone 12 models swap over to 5G. There is also a setting to use 5G whenever it's available rather than using the automatic Data Saver Mode.
Dual SIM Support
Dual SIM support allows two phone numbers to be used at one time, enabled through the inclusion of a physical nano-SIM slot and an eSIM. eSIM functionality is available in many countries around the world, and Apple has a list of carriers that support eSIM on its website.
Dual SIMs work with select carriers in Austria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, India, Spain, the UK, and the United States.
When using Dual SIM mode on the iPhone 12 models, 5G connectivity was not available at launch with speeds limited to LTE, but that changed with an iOS update. Apple enabled Dual SIM 5G support through the iOS 14.5 software update that was released in the spring.
5GHz Personal Hotspot
When using Personal Hotspot on the iPhone 12 models, devices are able to tether over faster 5GHz WiFi compared to the 2.4GHz limit on prior iPhones. The 5GHz option is enabled by default and has the potential to bring speed improvements to devices able to connect to 5GHz networks.
There is an option to disable the 5GHz connection to allow 2.4GHz devices to connect.
WiFi, Bluetooth, and U1 Chip
The iPhone 12 models include the same Apple-designed U1 chip that was first introduced in the iPhone 11 lineup. The U1 chip enables Ultra Wideband technology for improved spatial awareness, allowing the iPhone 12 models to precisely locate other U1-equipped Apple devices.
Apple has likened Ultra Wideband to "GPS at the scale of the living room," because the technology is designed for improved indoor positioning and location tracking.
The U1 chip may come in handy with the rumored AirTags launch, as it allows for the precise tracking of lost devices. It's also used for directional AirDrop and interaction with the HomePod mini, which also has a U1 chip.
As for Bluetooth and WiFi, the iPhone 12 models support Bluetooth 5.0 and WiFi 6, the newest and fastest WiFi protocol.
The iPhone 12 models have a spatial audio feature that's designed to simulate surround sound for a more immersive audio experience. Dolby Atmos sound is also supported.
The iPhone 12 models are equipped with a barometer, three-axis gyroscope, accelerometer, proximity sensor, and an ambient light sensor.
GPS and NFC
Support for GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, and BeiDou (new this year) location services is included in the iPhone 12 and 12 mini.
NFC with reader mode is included, and there's a background tag feature that allows the iPhone models to scan NFC tags without the need to open an app first.
The iPhone 12 and 12 mini start with 64GB of storage, with 128GB and 256GB available as upgrade options.
The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro models have a built-in magnetic ring that is designed to work with a MagSafe charger and other magnetic accessories.
The MagSafe charger snaps right onto the back of the iPhone 12 and charges at 15W, up from the maximum 7.5W wireless charging available with Qi-based chargers. The charger is compatible with older iPhones, but is primarily designed to work with the new iPhone models.
Other magnetic accessories are compatible with the magnetic ring, including cases, snap-on wallets, and more, with third-party companies also able to make accessories for the iPhone 12 lineup. For more on MagSafe, make sure to check out our MagSafe guide.
Testing suggests the MagSafe charger charges more than two times slower than a wired 20W USB-C charger. With the 20W charger, a dead iPhone was able to charge to 50 percent in 28 minutes, and the same 50 percent charge took an hour over MagSafe.
Battery testing comparing the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro models with the iPhone 12 Pro, Pro Max, and iPhone 11, saw the Pro Max and Pro outperform this years iPhones. Rankings were as follows:
- iPhone 11 Pro Max: 8 hours and 29 minutes
- iPhone 11 Pro: 7 hours and 36 minutes
- iPhone 12: 6 hours and 41 minutes
- iPhone 12 Pro: 6 hours and 35 minutes
- iPhone 11: 5 hours and 8 minutes
- iPhone XR: 4 hours and 31 minutes
- iPhone SE (2020): 3 hours and 59 minutes
Apple warns that MagSafe Chargers can leave a circular imprint on its leather cases, and a similar effect has been seen on silicone cases. Apple also says that credit cards, security badges, passports, and keyfobs should not be placed between the iPhone and MagSafe charger.
Like all iPhones, the iPhone 12 models with their MagSafe technology can cause interference with medical devices like pacemakers and defibrillators. Apple recommends keeping iPhone 12 models and all MagSafe accessories a safe distance away from implanted medical devices.
A safe distance is considered more than 6 inches / 15 cm apart or more than 12 inches / 30 cm apart if wirelessly charging. Though there are more magnets in the iPhone 12 models, Apple says that they are "not expected to pose a greater risk of magnetic interference to medical devices than prior iPhone models," and the U.S. FDA has said that the risk of MagSafe interference with pacemakers is low.
MagSafe Battery Pack
Apple is developing a magnetic battery pack attachment designed for the iPhone 12, with code for the feature spotted in iOS 14.5. Apple has been working on the battery attachment for more than a year, and it will connect to the iPhone 12 models using the MagSafe system.
Apple has in the past designed battery cases for iPhone models, but this would be a battery pack component only and would not include a protective case. It's not clear when the battery pack might see a release as Apple has had problems with overheating.
No Power Adapter
The iPhone 12 and 12 mini do not come with a power adapter or EarPods in the box, as Apple eliminated them to lower its environmental impact. The new iPhones ship in a smaller, slimmer box and come with just a standard USB-C to Lightning cable.
iPhone 12 Pro
The iPhone 12 and 12 mini are being sold alongside the more expensive iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max. All of the iPhone 12 models are similar in design, but the 12 Pro and Pro Max use a more premium stainless steel frame and have three-lens camera setups rather than dual-lens camera setups with more advanced photographic capabilities.
The iPhone 12, 12 mini, 12 Pro, and 12 Max share 5G connectivity, edge-to-edge OLED displays, and the A14 chip, with the 12 and 12 mini being better choices for everyone except for those who are looking for the ultimate iPhone photography experience.