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Apple iPhone 12 Review: The iPhone that most people should buy

The iPhone 12, a true successor to the iPhone 11, comes with a bunch of new upgrades and features. Here's our in-depth Apple iPhone 12 review.

December 14, 2020 / 03:55 PM IST

Do you know which smartphone has been the best-seller of 2020 so far? It is the Apple iPhone 11. Launched in late 2019, the iPhone 11 became the number 1 smartphone worldwide, dethroning the iPhone XR, which topped the charts for several quarters before the iPhone 11 launched. The primary reason for the success of the iPhone 11 (and even the iPhone XR) from a consumer’s perspective is its price. While we called the iPhone 11 Pro a complete package of a smartphone in our review, the standard iPhone 11 was not far off from being one.

The iPhone 12, a true successor to the iPhone 11, comes with a bunch of new upgrades and features. It also comes with an all-new design. However, the iPhone 12 is priced slightly higher than the iPhone 11 starting at Rs 79,900. Is the new design, coupled with the features packed inside the iPhone 12 a good reason for you to upgrade over older iPhones? Is the iPhone 12 the iPhone for everyone? We will answer these questions and more in our iPhone 12 review.

Apple iPhone 12 review

Design and Display 

Apple has taken a page out of the iPhone 4s/ 5/ 5s’ design brochure for the iPhone 12 series. The iPhone 12 sports a matte-finished aluminium frame with squared-off edges that surrounds the 6.1-inch full HD+ flat screen. Apple claims that the iPhone 12 is 15 percent smaller, 11 percent thinner, and 16 percent lighter than the iPhone 11.

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Keep the boxy iPhone 12, which stands without any support, next to the iPhone 11, and you will notice the marginal difference. The glass back feels not only feels premium but also very light at 162 grams. This is coming from someone who used an iPhone 11 Pro for almost a year.

What I miss about the iPhone 11 Pro is the matte finish, which is possibly the only complaint about the iPhone 12’s glossy rear panel. While the boxy design was not a problem for me, I do not like my phones covered with fingerprint smudges. If you are a daredevil who uses an iPhone without a case, try grabbing the White colour option instead of this fingerprint-friendly Blue variant.

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The power and volume keys on the adjacent edges aren’t as chunky as the iPhone 11 series but do feel a lot more clicky. I have got fairly large hands but even for someone with average-sized hands, these buttons are easily accessible.

At the back, there is a dual-camera setup same as the iPhone 11. However, the 12MP main camera has a wide f/1.6 aperture compared to f/1.8 on the 11. The secondary 12MP f/2.4 ultra-wide camera remains the same but now comes with support for night mode.

The bottom edge houses the lightning port sandwiched between the mic and the speaker grille. Personally, I would have loved seeing a USB Type-C port to avoid carrying multiple charging cables. However, looks like Apple will launch iPhones with the lightning port until it figures out a way to come up with a port-less iPhone.

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At the front, the iPhone 12 has received an upgrade over the iPhone 11. No, it's not a 90 or a 120Hz refresh rate support but an OLED panel. The iPhone 11 had the best LCD on a smartphone but the Super Retina XDR display on the iPhone 12 takes the viewing experience a notch higher. By the way, the notch for the Face ID sensors is still there but you are unlikely to get bothered by it if you have been using older iPhone models.

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For the spec-nerds, iPhone 12’s display has a max brightness of 625 nits and hits its peak at 1,200 nits while playing HDR content. For the practical ones who want to know if the display is bright enough, yes, it is. During my 10-day usage period, I did not face any issues while viewing content on the iPhone 12.

The viewing angles on this True Tone-enabled display are excellent, colours are accurate and vibrant. Even the auto-brightness setting adjusted the levels accurately most of the time depending on the ambient light. I held the iPhone 12 next to the brighter iPhone 11 Pro and noticed that the former is slightly warmer. This was with the True Tone setting off, by the way. On a regular day, you are unlikely to notice the warm tone of the display. 

There is also a layer of what Apple calls Ceramic Shield on the iPhone 12. The glass on the front features nano-ceramic crystals that maximises toughness and offer 4x drop resistance. Additionally, because the display sits flush to the edge of the iPhone, it offers better protection.

iPhone 12 is splash, water, and dust resistant, courtesy of the IP68 rating that lets you use it up to 6 meters under water for 30 minutes. I doubt if there is any other mainstream smartphone that can be used under water this deep.

Performance and iOS 14

When it comes to performance, Apple iPhones have always been ahead of the competition. The iPhone 12 sports the same A14 Bionic chip you get on the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max models. The 5nm-based processor is well optimised for the new iPhones and is so powerful that you are unlikely to experience any performance issues for the next three years at least. There is just 4GB RAM on the iPhone 12, which is 2GB lesser than the Pro counterparts. However, in the real world, you are unlikely to notice any lag or major snag in the performance of the iPhone 12.

The iPhone was never about only the specifications. It has been more about the synchronisation and optimisation between the hardware and software that when combined, offer a smooth, seamless experience. And this level of performance is not limited till the next iPhone’s launch, but for three to four years at least. I said this in my iPhone 11 Pro review, and the same applies to the iPhone 12.

I played a bunch of games during my iPhone 12 review. These included graphics-heavy titles like Call of Duty Mobile, Asphalt 9, and even lite games like 2048, Stick Cricket. Gaming on the iPhone 12 has been smooth sailing and there wasn’t any sign of lag.

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This, combined with day-to-day tasks like scrolling through Twitter and Instagram, sending snaps on Snapchat, watching movies, attending video calls, etc., gave me an average screen-on time of seven hours. The iPhone 12 took close to two hours to charge completely using the 18W fast charger I got with the iPhone 11 Pro. Keep in mind that Apple does not ship the iPhone 12 with a charging adapter and earphones. You only get a USB Type-C to Lightning cable, which can be used with your older chargers or you could buy one from Apple. 

There is also a MagSafe charger that attaches with the magnets on the back of the iPhone 12 to charge wirelessly at 15W. You would need Apple’s 20W fast charger for the MagSafe to work at its full capacity. Using the 18W fast charger, the MagSafe connected iPhone 12 charged too slowly and did feel a bit warm, which is why I preferred charging it via the lightning cable. MagSafe is a great feature and can be used as a secondary mode of charging your iPhone. While the speed is slow, the tech could develop in the future and could lead to Apple offering us an iPhone that ditches the lightning port and charges with the MagSafe adapter.

iPhone 12 runs on iOS 14. We have listed out all the major iOS 14 features here. Apart from the keyboard sometimes refusing to pop-up in the App Library window, we have not come across any major bug or glitch in iOS 14. And because it's Apple, I am expecting a fix very soon via a software update. With the iPhone 12, you are likely to get software updates for the next three to four years at least, if not more. Also, that one more thing where iOS feels so good is smooth animations that makes up for the 60Hz refresh rate.

Coming to the audio quality, the speakers on the iPhone 12 are among the best that I have heard. The bottom edge speaker works as a primary, whereas the earpiece speaker doubles up as an equally-loud speaker. The speakers are not only loud but also deliver clear sound.

The microphones on the iPhone 12 do a great job. The hardware managed to capture crisp sound in the videos that I recorded on the iPhone 12. While we are at videos, let’s jump to the camera performance.

Camera 

Apple iPhone 12 sports a dual-camera setup at the back. There is a 12MP main camera and a 12mp ultrawide camera - same as the iPhone 11. However, on the iPhone 12, the main camera performs better in low light, thanks to the wider f/1.6 aperture. Another upgrade is that the ultrawide camera now supports Night mode.

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How good is the iPhone 12 camera? The short answer - Excellent. I shot multiple photos using the iPhone 12 camera in both day and night time. The 12 MP main shooter clicks exactly what you see - real and natural colours. The dynamic range is excellent and so is the sharpness levels. Not many phone cameras give detailed and colour accurate shots with the sun in line with the subject. The iPhone 12’s camera managed to give us great results in multiple scenarios.

When it comes to accuracy, the ultrawide camera is at par but falls slightly behind the main camera in terms of details. Nonetheless, the iPhone 12's ultrawide camera is still among the best in the segment, if not the best. The barrel distortion is close to none, as the software tries to get maximum details around the edges.

During the night and in low light, the main camera’s performance is improved, courtesy of a wider f/1.6 aperture. This means that the sensor can take in more light and help get better details. The output is best in pitch dark conditions, where the iPhone 12 clicks multiple exposures and you get a brighter, detailed image. Noise reduction too is quite good.

Lens flare would be my only complaint with the iPhone 12’s camera. You are likely to see green dots when you are shooting directly at something with high luminance or maybe a golden flare if a warm source of light is right above you. This does not happen all the time but can be annoying when you try and adjust the shot to avoid the flare and miss out on the moment.

Portrait mode on the iPhone 12 continues to be my favourite among all smartphones. There are several portrait lighting modes like natural, studio light, contour light, stage light mono, high-key mono, etc. on the front and rear camera. Stage light mono and High-key mono continue to remain as my favourite portrait modes on the iPhone 12.

The normal “Photo” mode of the 12MP front camera shoots sharp and detailed selfies with true to life colours. Click on the Flickr slideshow below to check some of the photos shot on iPhone 12.

Shot on iPhone 12

Verdict

If you have read this iPhone 12 review, you must have judged already that the iPhone 12 is a brilliant device. For the ones who simply skipped to the verdict, here’s a short summary:

The iPhone 12 gets points for its new design that reminds us of the iPhone 4S/5/ 5S days. The display too has received an upgrade over the iPhone 11, and now comes with an OLED panel. There is no high refresh rate though.

The camera and performance of the iPhone 12 are the best in its segment, and you get absolute value for your money with software support that will last for another 3-4 years.

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iPhone 12 starts at Rs 79,900 for the 64GB variant. We would recommend adding Rs 5,000 more and getting the 128GB variant priced at Rs 84,900. There is also a 256GB variant priced at Rs 94,900.

The deal gets a lot sweeter when you compare the iPhone 12 with the iPhone 12 Pro, which starts at Rs 1,19,900 for the 128GB entry-level model. 

While the gap in the prices of iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro is huge, the differences in terms of features aren’t as many. iPhone 12 Pro has an additional telephoto lens, a slightly brighter display, 6GB RAM, and a stainless steel frame.

Keeping the similarities and differences in mind, we would certainly recommend the iPhone 12 to the ones who want more value from their device without making compromises.

If you are an iPhone 11 user, we don’t see a need to upgrade to the iPhone 12. For the ones who have been using an iPhone 7/8/X, the iPhone 12 with its all-round performance is certainly worthy of an upgrade.

You can also check the iPhone 12 mini, which sports a more-compact 5.4-inch screen but offers less battery life. Click here to check our Apple iPhone 12 mini review.

Overall, we think that the iPhone 12 is the iPhone that most users should buy to get the absolute value for their money.
Pranav Hegde
first published: Nov 10, 2020 07:58 pm

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