iPhone 12 Review Roundup: Impressive But Not Because of 5G

BY Rajesh Pandey

Published 20 Oct 2020

Ahead of the launch of the iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 later this week, the first set of reviews of both devices have gone live. In this article, we have rounded up the thoughts of what some major publications think about the iPhone 12.

The iPhone 12 is expected to be among the most popular devices in the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro lineup. With a faster A14 Bionic chip, a bigger 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display, and improved cameras, the iPhone 12 does offer a lot of features. Below is what reviewers think about the device.

iPhone 12 Review Roundup

The Verge

iPhone 12 review

The design of the iPhone 12 is a step up from the iPhone 11 thanks to its flat sides and display. The lighter body and compact chassis have a notable impact on in-hand feel as well. The corners are also beveled to ensure they are comfortable to hold and unlike the iPhone 12 Pro, the non-Pro model has a matte finish on its edges.

Despite all of those flat edges, the seams and the corners are beveled just enough to make it comfortable to hold. The rails on the iPhone 12 are matte finish aluminum, and I prefer them to the glossy steel on the Pro models. Unfortunately, the rear glass is super glossy, super prone to picking up fingerprints, and as susceptible to picking up tiny little micro-abrasions as ever.

Overall, though, this design just feels more elegant and confident than the past few years of iPhones, including even the big iPhone X redesign. And the smaller size is the best part; the iPhone XR and iPhone 11 always felt just a little too big. If this is the design we’ll be living with for the next six years, I won’t complain.

The display on the iPhone 12 is impressive to look at and the slightly lower brightness, when compared to the iPhone 12 Pro, should not be a cause of concern.

The iPhone 12 Pro does have one screen advantage over this phone: it can reach a higher level of brightness in regular use. I didn’t have any complaints about screen brightness on this iPhone 12, however, even outdoors. And when watching HDR content, both phones can still reach peak brightness of 1,200 nits.

Overall, the OLED screen is a noticeable improvement for me mainly because of its improved contrast and HDR, not the pixel count. I’m also happy to report that Apple hasn’t compromised on its color science either — colors are as accurate as ever.

MagSafe is easily one of my favorite features of the iPhone 12 lineup and it impresses Bohn from The Verge as well.

It’s the difference between wireless charging being annoyingly slow and being acceptable. In my testing, I would get around 40 percent charge in an hour. That’s slower than the fastest wireless charging systems out there and much slower than a cable, but it’s also easy and convenient.

As for the MagSafe cases, well they are not that game-changing, especially the wallet case.

There’s also a wallet that can hold three cards with special shielding to keep them from getting de-magnetized. It’s nice enough for what it is, but you have to take it off to get a card out or to wirelessly charge the phone.

5g has been one of the highlights of the iPhone 12 lineup and well, it is going to be useful only if you live in an area with a 5G tower nearby.

In my testing in Oakland and San Francisco on both T-Mobile and Verizon, I found myself with an LTE signal as often as I did 5G — if not more. When I did get 5G, my download speeds varied from just barely better than LTE to about two times faster. But when I consciously sought out the sidewalks where Verizon’s mmWave network is live, the speeds were mind-boggling.

All of which is to say that your experience with 5G is completely dependent on where you are, what network you’re on, and how lucky you are in finding the right signal. Getting 2,400Mbps and using it to download an entire Netflix season really is awe-inspiring. Walking half a block and seeing speeds drop down to plain old LTE speeds is not.

The Smart Data mode in iOS 14 does a good job of keeping the device on an LTE network when 5G speeds are not needed but it will still show the 5G indicator in such scenarios which is misleading.

What’s weird is that when the iPhone is limiting you to LTE speeds, it will still display the 5G icon in the status bar. It’s now an indicator of the best speed available to you, not the actual type of connection that’s actively in use. You can turn Smart Data off if you like, but I left it on and honestly never really felt like I was being throttled.

Coming to the cameras, the improvements come from a slightly wider aperture and Apple’s improved image processing. The company is more aggressively using Deep Fusion this year which allows the photos to retain more fine detail.

In general, the iPhone 12 does a better job on fine detail in regular lighting conditions. Apple says this might be because it is applying its Deep Fusion algorithms in more situations this year. I still like the Pixel’s signature, contrast-y look, but Apple seems to be moving in its direction just a little. The iPhone 12’s photos seem to finally be stepping back from over-brightening shadows on faces. But it’s a minor tweak, the bigger changes come in more extreme conditions.

For me, the bottom line on the cameras is I definitely see a marked improvement over the iPhone 11, but they’re not enough to compel an upgrade. That doesn’t mean the iPhone 12 isn’t a massively good camera. It is, and the combination of performance, simplicity, and just plain good quality continues to impress.

Lastly, in the battery life department, the iPhone 12 seems to be slightly inferior to the iPhone 11, though it is still good enough that it should not be a cause of concern.

Battery life is good but does seem to be a small regression from the iPhone 11 (an absolute battery champion). The fact that Apple felt the need to create a special mode for silently turning off 5G is a little worrying in terms of battery life. Luckily, I don’t think the battery life on the iPhone 12 is bad at all. I can get through a full day without much issue. On the other hand, I have to admit that it’s easier to kill this thing with a full day of heavy use than the iPhone 11.



iPhone 12

The publication notes that the difference in build quality between the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Pro is not as big as last year.

But I digress. The point is, the iPhone 12 is every bit as sleek as the 12 Pro. In fact, some of Apple’s new cases can be used on both phones interchangeably. The only thing keeping the 12 from feeling as nice as the 12 Pro are the materials: Apple went with aluminum on the 12, while the Pro’s body is made of stainless steel.

The display on the device is also a big improvement over the iPhone 11’s Liquid Retina display.

That’s especially good news for the 12, because this screen is an enormous improvement over the Liquid Retina displays Apple used in the XR and 11. Not only does it run at a higher resolution, its colors pop more dramatically, and its brightness peaks at 1200 nits when you’re watching HDR content.

While there was no drop test done, an accidental drop did not shatter the front Ceramic Shield glass. However, the new glass only features improved drop protection as it can still scratch pretty easily.

There are two things I’ll note though: One, I’m a total klutz and have accidentally dropped both phones, and the screens are still in one piece. Second, Apple’s “Ceramic Shield” only seems to matter for drop protection — I’ve been shoving these in and out of pockets and backpacks, and they’ve already developed tiny nicks and scratches. If you’re the type who likes their phones pristine, a screen protector is still a good idea.

MagSafe makes wireless charging useful and fixes many of the issues with it.

It doesn’t hurt that the MagSafe connector latches on so strongly that you can still pick the iPhone up and use it while charging “wirelessly.” In fact, that magnets are probably strong enough that you could probably mount the charging puck on the wall and just hang your iPhone from it.

MagSafe accessories will need some work though.

Apple has a series of cases for the 12 and 12 Pro with pass-throughs to help align the charger, though I’m not sure how much the magnets are helping to keep the case in place. There’s also a nifty card case you can slap on the back of your iPhone 12, and I gotta tell you, it’s better on paper than in practice. For one, it holds two to three credit cards — or one of those thick NFC keycards for offices and such — and they can be tough to remove without pulling the case off the phone entirely. And that’s another thing: Maybe my pants are just too tight, but the case already came off a few times when pulling the phone out of my pocket. I don’t think a MagSafe Pop Socket is such a great idea, not that it’ll stop companies from making them.

Again, 5G is going to be a hit or miss.

And mmWave has some intrinsic issues, too: just outside Bryant Park, I was downloading hours of music in seconds on Verizon’s mmWave network, but you really need to be standing in just the right spots. When I tried mmWave again in a park under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, just a single step in the wrong direction meant the difference between 900Mbps and 100.


Check out some video reviews of the iPhone 12 below as well.

What are your thoughts on the iPhone 12 based on the review above? Do you still plan to buy it? Drop a comment and let us know!