A new look iPhone.
Excellent camera array boosted by powerful processing.
Smooth performance, long battery life and 5G capabilities.
A range of features to make life easier.
Another strong showing from Apple.
The new iPhone 12 has hit the stores. Fresh from the reveal, pre-orders were made in droves and Apple’s latest smartphone is now out in the wild. Along with the Pro version, and the soon-coming mini and Pro Max, 2020 has seen four new iPhones (five if you count the new SE too).
The iPhone 12 is the ‘regular’ model of the family, following on from the iPhone 11 last year and the iPhone XR before that. So how do the specs stack up? What does it look like? Should you get one? Let’s switch it on, dive beyond the homescreen and see how good the iPhone 12 really is.
The iPhone 12 has a new design that’s the biggest change we've seen since the iPhone X way back in 2017. Gone are the curved sides of the last few iPhones and in comes a squarer look with flat aluminium sides. Look familiar? Well it’s a throwback to the iPhone 4 - and we think it looks great.
There’s no doubt the curvy charms of the iPhone 11 and XR were aesthetically pleasing, but they were a bit slippery to hold, especially without a case. Well that’s certainly not the case with the iPhone 12. It feels solid in your hand and the metal sides definitely enable you to get a firmer grip. You might still want to get a protective cover though, just in case.
On the display front, It’s got the same 6.1-inch screen as its predecessor, but the new iPhone 12 has thinner bezels than the iPhone 11 giving you more screen real-estate. It’s lighter too, weighing 32 grams less than the iPhone 11. Capped off with a glass back, the iPhone 12 looks closer to its premium Pro sibling than ever before. And it’s closer in other ways too.
Where the iPhone 11 had an LCD screen, the iPhone 12 has been upgraded to the same Super Retina XDR OLED tech found on the pro models. Resulting in clear, sharp details and colours that pop off the screen. Blacks are blacker, pixel density is improved - it’s a big step up and you’ll really notice the difference.
Not only does the screen look better, it’s tougher too. Apple has joined up with Corning (of Gorilla Glass fame) to give the iPhone 12 something dubbed a “Ceramic Shield”. This new material has been infused into the display to make it four times stronger than any previous iPhone. We’re going to take Apple’s word on that though, no matter how tough your phone is dropping it is never really something we’d try out on purpose.
The new iPhone 12 has a dual 12MP camera on the back and a 12MP selfie cam on the front. This is much the same as the iPhone11 but Apple has made some tweaks, added some features and boosted the processing power so you still see an improvement in picture quality.
The main camera now has a faster lens and a wider aperture, which improves sharpness and picture in lower light settings. Night mode, which Apple introduced last year, is now a feature that works on every lens - the main camera, wide, ultrawide and selfie. So no matter what type of picture you’re taking, you can snap it after dark and get genuinely brilliant results.
If you love taking pictures of natural landscapes you’ll notice improved dynamic range which you can attribute to the inclusion of Smart HDR 3. For everyday mobile photography, you’ll struggle to find a smartphone that does significantly better.
The iPhone 12 excels on the video front too. Whether you’re just capturing moments or doing something more creative, videos are clear, smooth and can be shot and edited in a range of styles. You can even shoot in 4K Dolby Vision HDR, should you want to try your hand at more professional recording.
So whilst the actual camera setup hasn't been changed, the tech has been enhanced to give the iPhone 12 another big win.
The iPhone 12 runs on the same A14 Bionic chip processor found in the iPhone 12 Pro. If you’re into the techier side of smartphones, you’ll be pleased to know it is easily one of the most powerful chips ever seen on any smartphone.
Not only is it noticeably fast and smooth when you’re doing all your usuals like scrolling through socials, loading up apps, taking photos, but it’s also a seamless operator if you’re playing heavyweight games or using other larger apps. If you’re upgrading from an 11 you’ll see a decent improvement. If you’re upgrading from anything earlier, you’ll be blown away.
It’s futureproof too. A chip this powerful does not become obsolete in a year, so the iPhone 12 is a phone that will be up there with the best in terms of performance for years to come.
Of course, there’s another big feature on the performance front - 5G. Fashionably late, biding its time, waiting for the right time, however you look at it Apple is probably the last mobile phone maker to release a 5G device. Now, every device in the iPhone 12 range is 5G enabled. So as long as you live in an area that has 5G (it’s still not available everywhere in the UK) and have a 5G plan from your network, you can finally take advantage of connection speeds that make 4G look seriously slow.
We’ve been able to test Vodafone's 5G on an iPhone, and it really is very fast, as this speed test shows.
Apple hasn’t released official battery specs, but early tests are looking good. The battery lasted from day to night without running out, and that was with constant use and lots of apps. Spotify, Google Maps, Gmail, Safari, various socials, WhatsApp - I barely put the phone down and after 12 hours i was pleased to see the battery was only down to 30%.
When you do need to charge, getting from zero to 50% takes around 25 minutes although it took longer than an hour in total to reach 100% - that’s using the regular charging cable. The iPhone 12 also supports Apple’s reborn MagSafe wireless charging, but we’ve yet to test the charging speed.
However, in a bid to cut down the packaging, Apple has removed a mains adapter, so all you get is the aforementioned charging cable. This may sound like a pain, but who doesn’t have a charging cable already? And the box really is much smaller than before so it’s reducing waste and extra materials.
The iPhone 12 has a number of features to help out people who may have difficulty using a smartphone.
The iPhone 12 has some useful features that help people who have accessibility impairments get the best from this device.
Smart Invert, like the regular Invert feature, flips from black text on a white background, to white text on a black background.
With standard Invert, non-text items such as pictures and icons sometimes become distorted. Smart Invert flips text, but ignores the home screen and your photo library. It works well with online images too. This feature can help with your viewing experience whilst reducing eye strain.
Zoom magnifies the screen and is a useful feature if you struggle to see smaller text/images. When turning the feature on, look for ‘Zoom’ in the ‘Accessibility’ section. Be careful not to get confused with ‘Magnifier’, which is a camera app designed to help you see items around you.
Zoom on the other hand magnifies the screen itself giving you a better look at anything that might previously have been too small.
The on-screen control allows you to zoom in and out, set zoom strength, and set colour filters such as greyscale. It’s nice and straightforward and avoids the hassle of having to use multi-finger taps.
There’s also a feature called ‘Titled Spoken Content’ which reads out text. Once enabled, highlight your chosen text, scroll through the popup menu and press speak. Your phone will then read out the highlighted text.
As well as hearing aid support, iPhone 12 users can also take advantage of options like captions and subtitles. This setting means you can alter the caption style to help you better enjoy your favourite shows and content.
Although you can change the font style for apps like YouTube, for some apps you may also need to switch captions in that specific app’s settings.
Mono sound meanwhile, takes sounds that would usually have been intended specifically for the left or the right ear and transfers it to both. Users also have the option to set a bias between their left and their right ear using a slider.
The standard iPhone 12 has a compact design, and houses a 6.1 inch display. It feels comfortable to hold at only 162g.
Most people will be able to hold the iPhone 12 with one hand comfortably, but if not, the 5.4-inch 12 mini might be worth a look.
The iPhone 12 also has features to make single-handed use easier. One is reachability, which enables you to pull down the screen, while the other is a left or right-handed keyboard.
For the latter to work your display must be set to standard and not zoomed. Head to ‘Display’, then ‘Brightness’ to alter the setting.
Two more handy features are Assistive Control and Switch Control.
Assertive Control is an on-screen interface which allows you to trigger options with single taps, that would otherwise be triggered by physical buttons or more complicated taps.
Switch Control enables you to use special buttons or ‘switches’ to activate options like scrolling through the home screen.
The iPhone 12 is brilliant. It’s a step up from last year’s iPhone 11 in practically every way. It looks better thanks to a new design, it's tougher, it’s faster, the screen is clearer, it’s lighter, it’s easier to hold and it’s got 5G. The camera takes better photos, and it looks more like its premium counterpart than ever before.
Whilst previous new iPhones have stuck to similar design themes and offered modest improvements, the iPhone 12 really does feel like a new iPhone. At £799, it’s £200 cheaper than the iPhone 12 Pro and all you’re missing out on is a telephoto lens and a few premium design touches.
If you’re been holding out on upgrading over the last few years - now is the time.
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