As far as price, the iPhone 12 Mini starts at $699, the same as last year’s 11. The iPhone 12 starts at $799. Prices for the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max stay at $999 and $1,099 respectively. (See the chart below for a full price breakdown, including international prices.) Meanwhile the iPhone 11 dropped to $599, the iPhone XR is $499 and an iPhone SE starts at $399.
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Between the prices, the choice in sizes, support for 5G and the cameras there’s a lot to be excited and confused about. Here’s a breakdown of all the major features on the new iPhones and what makes them different.
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iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Mini, Pro and Pro Max explained
All four phones have a new hardware design defined by squared-off edges similar to those on the iPad Pro. You could even say Apple took inspiration from the iPhone 5, 5S and original 2016 SE. It kind of looks like the bodies of the iPhone 11 and the iPhone 5 had a baby, and that’s not a bad thing.
Those boxy edges house the antennas for 5G and are made from aluminum on the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini. They’re stainless steel on the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max.
Compared to the iPhone 11, the 12 sounds like a Radiohead song: It’s smaller, thinner, lighter. Sadly, no mention from Apple about killing moths or putting boiling water on ants.
The 12 and 12 Mini come in black, white, product red, mint green and dark blue and the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max come in silver, graphite, gold (shiny C-3PO gold) and Pacific blue finishes. The Pros also have a textured matte glass back like the one found on the 11 Pro.
Baseline iPhone 12 and 12 Mini models come with 64GB of storage. I’ll be honest, I was kind of hoping this would be higher, especially since the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max start out with 128GB of storage.
Ceramic shield displays could be tough to crack
The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro both have a 6.1-inch OLED display. While the body of the iPhone 12 Pro and last year’s 11 Pro are roughly the same size, the 11 Pro only had a 5.8-inch screen. The 12 Pro Max also has a bigger display compared to the 6.5-inch screen on the 11 Pro Max. At 6.7 inches, the 12 Pro Max has the largest iPhone screen ever. Then there’s the iPhone 12 Mini and its 5.4-inch screen, which is larger than the display on the iPhone SE. But without those iPhone 8-esque bezels, chin and forehead, the body of the iPhone 12 Mini is actually smaller. I’m particularly excited about the 12 Mini.
All four phones have a ceramic shield display that’s made by infusing glass with nano ceramic crystals to make them more durable. Apple claims these displays have 4x better drop performance which could mean your iPhone has a better chance of surviving a drop out of your pocket. I look forward to seeing how these phones fare in a CNET drop test.
iPhone 12: To 5G or not 5G
Like most Android flagship phones released this year, all four iPhones support 5G. They support mmWave 5G which has some of the fastest speeds available right now, but you need to be pretty close to a 5G tower to use it. The phones also support low-band and midband 5G, which offer a longer range but less impressive speeds. Think of the difference as kind of like AM/FM radio — kind of.
Beyond hardware support for 5G and working with carriers, Apple optimized iOS to be faster and more efficient when on a 5G connection. The new iPhones also have a “Smart Data” mode that toggles between 5G and 4G LTE to save on battery life.
If you’re interested in getting any of the iPhones 12 solely because of 5G, I’d recommend checking out which carriers offer 5G in your area, what the speeds are like and what the carrier’s plans are for building 5G out further.
LTE speeds also get a boost: The new phones are able to support data speeds up to 2Gbps.
Lidar, Smart HDR 3 and a new camera
Normally, new cameras would be the biggest feature of any iPhone launch. And while the new design and 5G will get a lot of attention, the cameras deserve some as well. The main wide-angle camera on all four iPhones has a new lens with an aperture of f/1.6 and a new larger sensor. Apple claims this combo offers 27% improvement in low-light situations.
The ultrawide-angle camera on all the phones gets a boost via software to help correct distortion better.
Then there’s the tale of two different telephoto cameras on the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max. The 12 Pro has a similar 52-millimeter lens as last year’s iPhone 11 Pro. But the 12 Pro Max gets a new longer 65-millimeter lens which offers a 2.5x optical zoom instead of the 2x optical zoom on the 12 Pro.
Both Pro models also have lidar, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging. It will help AR apps detect objects, depth and spaces. But the camera can also use lidar for improving autofocus with photos and video, especially in low-light. lidar even allows for Portrait Night Mode photos.
All of the cameras are powered by the A14 Bionic chip. According to Apple the new brains of the iPhone 12 family are 50% faster than any other phone sold today. The A14 brings Smart HDR 3, which optimizes the dynamic range of photos, identifies scenes like skies and optimizes for people’s skin and hair. Smart HDR 3 and Night Mode work on the wide, ultra-wide and selfie camera. Deep Fusion which optimizes pictures on a pixel level to reduce noise and improve detail is now on every camera including the telephoto ones on the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max.
All four phones can record video in Dolby Vision HDR which automatically color grades your videos in the Dolby Vision standard. The Pro models support Dolby Vision HDR at all settings up to 4K 60fps and the 12 and 12 Mini support it up to 4K 30fps. All of this happens inside the Photos app which is kind of amazing.
The 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max will also be able to record a special RAW photo file called ProRAW. The idea is to provide the flexibility of a RAW photo file but with the smarts of computational photography. This feature that will come out later.
I’m glossing over a lot of detail with regards to photo and video capture. But once we get our hands on these phones, we’ll go into more depth.
Wireless charging meets MagSafe minus the power adapter
Remember MagSafe from your MacBook? If you tripped over the charging cable it would pop out, so as to not bring your MacBook crashing to the ground. The technology centered around cleverly placed magnets. To improve your wireless charging experience Apple used specially placed magnets to better align your phone’s position to improve charging efficiency.
There is a new line of MagSafe accessories including a charger that supports 15W wireless charging and cases that allow you to charge through them better. Apple even showed off a detachable wallet.
Apple is omitting the wired earpods and power adapter that would normally come in the box, but there is a fast USB-C to lighting cable included. That said, one of the arguments Apple made for not including the earpods and power brick was that there are so many already in existence. And I kind of agree. Except, how many people have a USB-C power plug at home? I have a bunch of old 5W ones but those were for USB-A.
I am excited to get my hands on the new iPhones and test them for an in-depth review.
iPhone 12 specs vs. iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max
Following a livestream on its YouTube channel on Friday, iFixit published a full in-depth breakdown of its teardown for both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro. And, it confirms what we basically already knew: Both phones are almost exactly the same on the inside and out.
For starters, the displays are interchangeable and can be swapped between the two phones (although, their respective max brightness a bit different). Considering the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro both feature 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR screens, this makes sense.
Apart from the camera shields, it’s tough to tell a difference between either phone under the hood. iFixit points out that these phones are actually so similar in layout, that where the 12 Pro has an extra camera sensor and LiDar scanner, the 12 packs a plastic spacer.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the new lineup, the iPhone 12 includes a dual camera module (a 12-megapixel wide-angle and 12-megapixel ultra-wide angle) while the 12 Pro has a triple camera setup with an additional 12-megapixel telephoto lens.
As for other similarities between the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro, the teardown points out that aside from a few serial numbers, the logic boards on both phones are also practically identical. Additionally, both phones feature the same Face ID, flash modules, and Lightning connector assemblies.
But the one component I was waiting for confirmation on is battery life — specifically the exact size. Both the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro have the same 2,815mAh battery, which is smaller than 3,110mAh on the iPhone 11 and 3,046mAh battery on the 11 Pro.
Apple claims the new A14 Bionic chip is supposed to help make up for that, but I can confirm from experience that battery life is iffy. In my review, I mention that the 12 Pro lasted me about seven and a half hours before reaching 22 percent on a busier day. The iPhone 11 Pro, on the other hand, lasted about three hours longer.
iFixit also notes the battery is no longer in an L-shaped design, as featured in its predecessors. According to rumors, Apple used parts that were cheaper in an effort to keep the cost low with the addition of 5G connectivity.
As for its repairability score, iFixit gave the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro a six out of 10 (10 being the easiest to repair). While its important parts are modular and easy to find or replace, the glass on the front and back make it super fragile — so you’ll most likely have gut the entire phone and replace the body itself if you break it.
Global tech market advisory firm, ABI Research, using the teardown expertise of System Plus Consulting, unpacked two 5G smartphones to confirm that smartphone OEMs are extending fully integrated modem-RF system designs to support 5G and LTE implementations over their flagship devices. The teardowns analysis shows that Qualcomm’s RFFE system design covers both sub-6 Gigahertz (GHz) and Millimeter Wave (mmWave) 5G options, as well as LTE frequency bands, which will enable OEMs to efficiently and cost-effectively integrate 5G with 3G/4G into complex form factors. Such a fully integrated modem-RF system design is vital to drive wider adoption of 5G beyond the traditional smartphone market.
“Of particular interest in these teardowns is the use of mmWave modules, which are showing signs of increasing adoption as they aim to reach markets beyond North America. The use of these modules will be even more crucial for enabling new and complex form factor designs, such as foldable phones, to support mmWave access,” states David McQueen, Research Director at ABI Research.
Smartphone OEMs favour integrated system solutions
With 5G smartphone sales expanding rapidly, the RFFE has now replaced the modem/chipset as the largest revenue growth opportunity in the industry.
“High design and RF components sourcing complexity are evident in 5G, so smartphone OEMs are seeking to favour integrated system solutions to accelerate time to market while differentiating in terms of performance and overall power consumption,” McQueen explains. “Optimizing integration between 3G/4G and 5G using a single supplier could not only provide a superior system design, enabling the production of cost-effective, smaller form factors, and low-power consuming devices, but it also has the potential to support newer features, such as 5G Carrier Aggregation (CA) and Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS). Furthermore, 5G mmWave ecosystem momentum is gathering pace as the complexity of integration in smartphones is addressed through a fully integrated and miniaturized mmWave RF module design, which appears to have already matured enough to support ultra-thin foldable smartphone designs.”
Handling the complexity of the entire cellular radio systems for OEMs can only be achieved if the modem-to-antenna system as a whole is taken into consideration, including co-existing mmWave/sub-6 RFFEs.
“However, these latest teardowns suggest signs in the industry that this approach has expanded to encompass an optimized design that now includes 4G,” McQueen points out. OEMs cannot ignore this level of integration to rationalize RFFE procurement. “Moreover, this approach ensures that OEMs’ devices can address issues such as integrating all network technologies without compromising the efficiency of the RFFE system designs and the overall device form factor. It simplifies the complex and costly sourcing processes associated with RF components, involving collaborations with multiple suppliers, which could lengthen the overall product development time and their time to market,” McQueen concludes.
As we wait for the iPhone 12 review embargo to lift later today, more pictures are circulating of the devices in real-world lighting conditions, providing a better look at the different colors available.
Leaker DuanRui has shared images on Twitter of the iPhone 12 in white, black, blue, green, and (PRODUCT)RED. The black and white colors are similar to the iPhone 11 colors, but the other…
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