A modern take on the beloved iPhone 4 design.
Big and bright but with a slightly disappointing refresh rate.
Some small but important improvements on last year's iPhone 11 Pro.
Possibly the most powerful smartphone on the market at the moment.
You'll find a range of useful features, such as VoiceOver and Mono Sound in the Settings.
It's not a cheap phone, but it's about the best money can buy.
The iPhone 12 Pro is Apple’s most advanced iPhone yet. Though it’s similar to the cheaper iPhone 12, which also offers a new design, faster processor, tougher screen protection and 5G connectivity, Apple’s flagship smartphone pulls out all of the stops to earn its “Pro” title.
The handset’s stainless steel chassis feels impressively high-end, while its upgraded camera offers huge improvements in low-light photography and stabilisation.
We've been using the new iPhone 12 Pro, one of Apple’s four new iPhones, to find out whether this is the model you should get.
The iPhone 12 Pro, much like the lesser-specced iPhone 12, introduces a new boxier design that’s a far cry from the rounded edges that have featured on every Apple smartphone since the iPhone 6. The new flat-edge design is industrial and premium, and although reminiscent of the iPhone 4, feels impressively different and “new”.
The stainless steel edges are solid and less-slippery than the curved edges of the iPhone 11 Pro, and although it’s thinner than its predecessor, the iPhone 12 Pro feels weightier and more durable in your hand.
Apple has managed to squeeze a 6.1-inch screen into almost the same size chassis as the 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro thanks to smaller bezels surrounding the display. However, we found the iPhone 12 Pro did feel noticeably wider than last year’s model, which means gripping it securely can take a bit of getting used to.
Thankfully, if you’re worried about dropping it, the iPhone 12 Pro now used Ceramic Shield glass on its display, which Apple claims is four-times more resistant to shattering than the glass used on the iPhone 11 Pro. Apple also claims the rear of the handset is twice as tough, and with an IP68 water resistance rating, the handset will be able to survive a drop in the ocean (or more likely, the toilet).
If our hands-on time is anything to go by, the iPhone 12 Pro is also more susceptible to fingerprints than its predecessor, particularly around its stainless steel edges. With that in mind, you might want to keep your iPhone 12 Pro in a case. Apple has introduced a number of new colour options with the iPhone 12 Pro; Graphite (our model), Silver, Gold and Pacific Blue.
As we’ve mentioned, the iPhone 12 Pro features a 6.1-inch screen, noticeably larger than the 5.8-inch display on the iPhone 11 Pro. The resolution is slightly higher too (460ppi vs 458ppi), though if you’re upgrading from last year’s model, it’s unlikely you’ll notice much of a difference in terms of quality. However, the so-called “Super Retina XDR” OLED panel is discernibly brighter and offers better visibility in direct sunlight.
Unfortunately, the iPhone 12 Pro still features a measly 60Hz refresh rate - despite Apple introducing a 120Hz panel on its latest iPad Pro. While this won’t be a deal-breaker for existing iPhone owners who know no different, this lowly refresh rate does feel lacking compared to the 120Hz panels on the likes of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and OnePlus 8T - particularly given the premium price of the iPhone 12 Pro.
Another feature that hasn’t changed is the notch, which also feels somewhat dated compared to the punch-hole cutouts handsets being introduced by Android handsets. This notch houses Apple’s Face ID system, which remains an incredibly fast and accurate tool for unlocking the iPhone and making Apple Pay payments.
However, while undoubtedly the best-in-class face unlocking system on the market, we’re disappointed that Apple didn’t reintroduce Touch ID with the iPhone 12, as Face ID becomes unusable when you’re wearing a mask.
While the iPhone 12 Pro’s camera doesn’t sound like a major upgrade on paper - it packs the same 12MP triple-camera setup as the iPhone 11 Pro, comprising main, ultra-wide and telephoto lenses - Apple’s incremental tweaks have made a huge difference.
The new faster f/1.6 aperture on the main lens, for example, makes for improved low-light performance (a 27% improvement, according to Apple). Meanwhile, the addition of Night Mode for the ultra-wide lens and Deep Fusion on every lens means the iPhone 12 Pro is much better at producing crisp, vibrant images in tricky lighting conditions than last year’s iPhone 11 Pro.
The new LiDAR scanner on the rear of the handset also makes a noticeable improvement to overall image quality; the technology, which can be used for augmented reality (AR) applications, helps the camera to focus faster than before and adds more depth to images, particularly those shot on Portrait Mode.
Our only gripe with the iPhone 12 Pro’s camera is its zooming capabilities. You get only 2x optical zoom, compared on 5x for the Note 20 Ultra. The 12 Pro does come with 10x digital zoom, but when you start using the latter, image quality starts to drop dramatically, and images become disappointingly blurry.
The iPhone 12 Pro boasts some major upgrades for videographers, too. It’s the first mobile device to shoot in Dolby Vision, HDR technology that’s typically reserved for Hollywood studios and AAA games. The results are incredibly smooth, and the cameras’ stabilisation - which has been completely reworked for the iPhone 12 series - is equally impressive.
Around the front of the iPhone 12 Pro, you’ll find the same TrueDepth cameras as the iPhone 11 Pro. However, it’s also received a big upgrade in the form of Night Mode support, which will turn on automatically when shooting a selfie in dim lighting. We noticed a huge improvement, with the front-facing camera capturing a much brighter and more detailed image.
Apple claims the iPhone 12 Pro is the most powerful smartphone on the market thanks to its custom-designed 5nm A14 Bionic CPU, which the company claims is up to 50% faster than Qualcomm’s equivalent mobile chips.
The handset lived up to these claims in our real-world tests. Just like the iPhone 11 Pro before it, the iPhone 12 Pro breezed through every task we threw at it, no matter how demanding. Once again, Apple’s new flagship iPhone is the most powerful smartphone currently available on the market.
The iPhone 12 Pro is also the first iPhone to support 5G, along with the other iPhone 12 models. Unlike other 5G smartphones, however, the iPhone doesn’t have 5G on all of the time. Instead, Apple has implemented “Auto 5G”, which turns off 5G when it’s not needed - if the screen is off, for example - in order to preserve battery life.
While it’s a big deal that the iPhone finally supports 5G, it’s worth remembering that it won’t be a feature that everyone can use yet. Despite living 20 minutes outside of central London in an area that claims to offer 5G coverage, our iPhone 12 Pro has offered only 4G connectivity during our time with it so far. Still, we managed to see average download speeds of around 75Mbps, and those who have access to a 5G connection should see speeds upwards of 200Mbps.
Given we were unable to access 5G coverage, we can’t vouch for the iPhone 12 Pro’s battery when connected to the high-speed connectivity, though it’s likely to take a toll. While connected to either 4G or Wi-Fi, our iPhone 12 Pro lasted between 11 and 12 hours on average - while the handset’s 2,815mAh battery is smaller than the 3,046mAh battery in the iPhone 11 Pro, we found that both offer roughly the same amount of juice.
Controversially, the iPhone 12 Pro doesn’t ship with a charging plug included in the box, as part of Apple’s efforts to be more environmentally friendly. While this won’t be a major issue for existing iPhone owners, some might have to fork out for a wall charger - particularly those who want to take advantage of 20W charging speeds, and those who want to try out Apple’s new magnetic MagSafe charger. Thankfully, Apple does include a Lightning to USB-C cable in the box, handy for MacBook and iPad Pro owners.
It’s also worth noting that the iPhone 12 Pro now starts at 128GB storage, double that of the iPhone 11 Pro. Lack of bundled charger aside, this makes the iPhone 12 Pro actually a little better value for money than the previous version, based on launch prices.
VoiceOver serves as the iPhone 12 Pro’s screen reader. This invaluable feature reads aloud everything that a person taps on, whether app names or web text.
VoiceOver also comes equipped with Braille accommodations, which is incredibly useful for anyone who needs it.
However, the downside of using VoiceOver is that, when activated, the feature changes the gesture settings, which can make things tricky if you have a physical disability. For example, if you wish to scroll through phone pages you’ll need to apply three fingers at the same time. For those who struggle to control finger movements, this is going to be a challenge.
A simple but effective tool is the device’s Speak Content option. If you’d like webpages to be read to you without the hassle of VoiceOver, simply head to Accessibility, tap Speak Content, and flick the toggle on.
The voices sound great and they can easily be changed to suit your preference. When you need content read, highlight your text and then scroll across the appearing menu until you see Speak.
Another useful feature is something called Zoom. This is the setting you’ll need if you want to zoom in and out on the screen.
This is not to be confused with another feature called Magnifier which is not for the screen, but a camera app meant to enlarge and make it easier to see the things around you.
Zoom is best used by enabling the Zoom controls. When switched on, the option provides an on-screen interface to let you zoom in and out, alter the zoom strength and apply colour lenses across the screen.
The controller also makes it a lot easier for those who struggle with three fingered gestures. Simply tap the Control and then select the option.
Mono Sound takes audio that would usually be meant specifically for either the left or the right ear and channels it to both.
The iPhone 12 Pro also gives you the option of setting a preference for either your left or your right ear via a slider. These options can be found, inside Audio/Visual, housed in Accessibility.
Apple’s offering is a match for most on the Android market. However it’s a shame to see that the company doesn’t have a Live caption equivalent.
The Google Innovation captions most forms of video regardless of whether it has a caption setting. The feature is handled by the phone itself and can accurately caption anything from Twitter videos to adverts.
The iPhone 12 Pro on the other hand, only offers a choice of caption font styles. However, a caption setting must be available on your chosen app and customisations may not take effect on some.
At 187g, the Pro is slightly heavier than the standard iPhone 12, which weighs in at 162g. This means that the phone shouldn’t feel too heavy to hold.
If you plan on splashing out for the Pro Max, that’s probably going to be a different story. The Pro Max is a big boy and weighs in at 226g. If this is your first foray into big phones, then it’s going to take some getting used to. It will likely feel better after a while, but it’s definitely going to feel heavy at first.
The Pro Max variant’s 6.7-inch screen will likely prove difficult to use one-handed. The 6.1-inch of the standard 12 Pro should be a more comfortable fit in your hand and is better suited for this purpose.
On-board software offers the likes of Assistive Touch and Switch Control. The former offers an on-screen button, which, when pressed, provides one tap options that would otherwise be triggered by physical actions or more complicated taps.
Options for this feature include, performing a pinch function, taking screenshots, and performing a phone shake.
Switch Control allows specialist buttons called Switches to trigger certain actions, like scanning along the screen. It also appears that an iPhone user can use body movements to trigger certain actions.
This apparently includes using the iPhone’s own front-facing camera, although it does not appear easy to set up for first timers. Try as we might, we couldn’t get the feature to start. The guidance on the handset was not particularly clear about what we had done wrong, or potential steps that had been missed.
The iPhone 12 Pro is an impressive upgrade; its new industrial design is striking and premium, its support for 5G is a great addition for those who can access it, and the camera setup is the best we’ve used on an iPhone to date.
However, if you’re mad about smartphone photography, it could be worth holding out for Apple’s soon-to-be-released iPhone 12 Pro Max, while those not too fussed about camera credentials might want to check out the iPhone 12.
We think that the iPhone 12 is the best of both worlds. While it’s still lacking some nice-to-have features, such as a 120Hz screen and a fingerprint scanner, the upgrades on offer will be sure to win over those in the market for a best-in-class smartphone, particularly when its price is taken into consideration. The iPhone 12 Pro is available with 128GB storage for £999 - the same price as the 64GB iPhone 11 Pro at launch.
"The iPhone 12 range is the first of its kind to introduce consumers to a new world with it being 5G ready. With a new form factor, camera enhancements and chipset compared to its predecessor, the iPhone 12 Pro is definitely worthy of an upgrade."
Ru Bhikha, Uswitch mobile phone expert.
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